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'Our new beginning': Bemidji State, Northwest Technical College host Day of Welcome

With around 100 students, staff and faculty congregating by the American Indian Resource Center, a short program featured several speakers and well-wishes for a successful start to the fall semester.

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The Eyabay drum group plays a song during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Though the sky was overcast with rain pounding the pavement earlier Wednesday morning, Bemidji State University's annual Day of Welcome still kicked off the 2022-2023 school year as a new beginning.

With around 100 students, staff and faculty congregating by the American Indian Resource Center, a short program featured several speakers and well-wishes for a successful start to the fall semester.

“Everybody woke up this morning to the rain. In our traditions, we were taught that rain always comes before there’s something new,” AIRC Executive Director Chrissy Downwind said during an address. “That rain comes in and washes away all that is old and all of that bad stuff of this earth for a new start. This is our new beginning today.”

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Chrissy Downwind, AIRC executive director, gives opening remarks during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The Eyabay drum group from the Red Lake Nation played a drum song before the main speaker, Michael Dahl, took to the microphone to discuss his experiences through college and life in general.

A member of the White Earth Nation, Dahl grew up in Cass Lake and attended Concordia College in Moorhead after graduating from Cass Lake-Bena High School.

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Dahl noted that around 95% of his high school was made up of Indigenous students. At Concordia, however, Dahl said he was one of five Indigenous students out of the 3,000 total student body during his freshman year.

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Michael Dahl speaks during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

This shift changed Dahl’s perspective regarding his career goal of becoming an educator and encouraged everyone in attendance to make use of the AIRC as an educational resource.

“Whether you’re Indigenous or not, this building is focused on Indigenous people. It’s not just Indigenous people,” Dahl said.

Estimating his four years of college cost as much as one year of public college this year, Dahl emphasized the importance of investing more than just the money for tuition, room and board, and other expenses.

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Attendees listen to a speaker during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“You are about to pay $20,000 (for the school year), so be selfish. Be selfish with your time for the next four to five years and take care of yourself,” he added. “This is your time to realize and achieve and maintain your greatness. That’s what college is about.”

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Attendees listen to a speaker during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Other speakers

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Allen Bedford provided the university’s land acknowledgment statement at the top of the event, which details BSU residing on land originally inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples.

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Allen Bedford, provost and vice president for academic affairs, speaks during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“It is fitting that we start the academic year at the AIRC,” Bedford said. “I value very much the opportunity to be here at BSU and having the opportunity to learn from the people whose home is here.”

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As his first experience with Day of Welcome at BSU and Northwest Technical College — which held its own event on Tuesday — President John Hoffman spoke on the connection to land.

“What a gift to be here in this space in the midst of Minnesota’s three largest Indigenous nations, in a space where we begin acknowledging the land, acknowledging the people that make up BSU and make up this part of the state,” Hoffman said.

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BSU and NTC President John Hoffman speaks during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

As part of welcoming all students Native American and non-Native alike, members of Hoffman’s presidential board provided remarks on their respective departments on campus.

Bedford stated that part of his role in academic affairs is to ensure academic programming meets the needs of students and the broader region.

“What we need as a region in this part of the state, part of it is cultural awareness and the ability to work together across cultures,” he added. “This Day of Welcome is a very important piece of that puzzle.”

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BSU administrators introduce themselves during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

At the end of both events, attendees were invited inside to enjoy a taste of manoomin — wild rice — and students could meet with various faculty and members of student social services.

For more information on the AIRC and its upcoming events, visit www.bemidjistate.edu/airc.

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Students make their way through the food line to try wild rice jambalaya during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Students check out the info tables during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees listen to Michael Dahl speak during Bemidji State’s Day of Welcome event on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the American Indian Resource Center.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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