Students participate in Anishinaabe Knowledge Bowl

Students from across Minnesota tested their knowledge of the Ojibwe language, culture and history Wednesday during the annual Cass Lake-Bena Anishinaabe Knowledge Bowl.

Students from across Minnesota tested their knowledge of the Ojibwe language, culture and history Wednesday during the annual Cass Lake-Bena Anishinaabe Knowledge Bowl.

Sponsored by the Cass Lake-Bena High School Indian Education Program, the all-day competition was held at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University campus. About a dozen teams were expected to compete.

Half of the questions presented to the students during the knowledge bowl focused on the Ojibwe language and the other half focused on other aspects of the Ojibwe culture.

"The Ojibwe language is very dear to us and very important to us," said Harold Annette, moderator for the competition.

Annette, the director of multicultural student affairs at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, said the competition provides students an incentive to learn more about the Ojibwe language, culture and history.


He said surveys taken at the state Anishinaabe competition held annually in Cloquet, Minn., show that language-based knowledge bowls have a positive impact on students.

The surveys, for example, show that the knowledge bowls help students to better understand and speak the Ojibwe language, Annette said. They also show that many students' grades have improved since joining knowledge bowl teams.

"The main thing is kids think this is fun," Annette added.

On Wednesday morning, AIRC Executive Director Lee Cook offered a prayer and the Cass Lake-Bena School Drum Group performed a song to open the knowledge bowl. During the competition, a panel of elders served as the judges.

Besides the main knowledge bowl, one team member from each school participated in science and math competitions.

Mark Kingbird, an Ojibwe language instructor at Cass Lake-Bena High School who is a coach for the school's Anishinaabe knowledge bowl teams, said each team consists of four members and one alternate.

And, he added, each team submitted 50 questions for Wednesday's competition.

Luann Frazer, director of Indian education for Cass Lake-Bena Schools, said the topics of the questions ranged from language to reservations to literature to tribal government.


Senior Jack Warren, captain of the Detroit Lakes High School Anishinaabe knowledge bowl team, has participated on the team for six years.

"It's just been great," he said.

He said he enjoys traveling to different competitions. Meanwhile, the team is learning about the Ojibwe language, culture and history, he said.

"We study every Tuesday and Thursday after school a couple of hours," Warren said.

Junior Brady Fairbanks of Cass Lake-Bena High School got involved in Anishinaabe knowledge bowl about 2½ years ago. He said it's a great experience.

"It's really fun," Fairbanks added. "You learn a lot."

He said he has learned about the Ojibwe language and the past of the elders while on the knowledge bowl team.

Sophomore Amelia Howard of Northland High School has participated in Anishinaabe knowledge bowl for one year.


She said the school's two Anishinaabe knowledge bowl teams took first and second place at a recent competition.

"We study a lot," Howard said. "I like learning about the Ojibwe heritage and culture."

Senior Devin Larson traveled to Wednesday's competition from Bagley as part of the Bagley High School Anishinaabe knowledge bowl team.

Larson said she believes all the members of the team enjoy getting in touch with their culture. She said the team practices after school twice a week.

"We want to win," she added. "We've been trying really hard."

But, she said, the team will be satisfied even if they don't win the competition.

"Because we learn a lot and we try our best," Larson said.

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