Linda Legarde Grover
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
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For their outing to UMD where they would be special guests in the American Indian Women class that I teach, the three Native American Barbie dolls had changed from their usual at-home wear (poufy prom gowns with sparkly accessories and tiny high heels) into their original Mattel-designed versions of American Indian dresses, the ones that they wore when they were new.
Winter is beautiful here in Onigamiising, and like each season it changes a little every day in preparation for the next. Although the gardening and growing season is still months away, here in the Northland the daylight hours have very recently begun to grow longer, and every day brings us closer to planting time. It is not too early to begin thinking about seeds, seedlings, flowers ...
Last week the annual "Steps to the Future" career fair and powwow was held in the Nettleton-Grant school gymnasium and was hosted by the students of the combined Nettleton-Grant elementary schools. The event was very well-attended by school community and friends from all over the Duluth area as well as all ages from tiny infants to Elders, and the spirit was celebratory. That was, of course, not unexpected, in light of the traditional Ojibwe values of thankfulness, humility, generosity and the awareness that we are all created with gifts and abilities that determine our place in the cosmos.
Here in Onigamiising , the place of the small portage (Duluth), we are at the time of year when we start to see signs that dagwaagin, autumn, will arrive before long. Although the calendar says that the official first day of fall is still weeks away, just a week ago one of my daughters told me that just north of here she saw a tree beginning to turn color, a small mountain ash. And school begins. The children of Onigamiising will return to the world of pencils and crayons, teachers and books, classrooms and recess, to be schooled in preparation for the future, ours as well as theirs.
On hot summer afternoons many of us quench our thirst and cool off with a soft drink. That carbonated deliciousness goes down easily, soothing the mouth and throat; the cola, lemon-lime and root beer flavors please the palate, and our thirst is satisfied. But only temporarily: within ten minutes the ingredients in soda pop can actually make us feel thirstier than before we drank it. There are a few Ojibwe words for pop. For me, the easiest one is the simple "shii-waaboo," sweet water.
The little white baby moccasins I bought recently are adorably cute, and I am picturing them on the feet of the oshkii-abinoojiiyens, the new baby who will arrive soon to a young family I know. The expected baby is a girl, and so I chose the pair with beaded pink wild roses as a new baby gift. Perhaps someone will take her picture wearing them; perhaps she will look at the picture when she is a big girl and marvel at how her feet fit into such tiny shoes. This pair of moccasins is from New Mexico, where I saw them while attending a Native literature conference.
The documentary film "Carl Gawboy Portrait: The Art of the Everyday" premiered last Friday at UMD's Weber Music Hall. It was a magical evening, with a full house of friends and fans eager to see this labor of love so beautifully scripted, directed and produced by Lorraine Norrgard. Carl Gawboy is an artist and a Bois Forte Ojibwe. A UMD alumni, he is a former professor of American Indian Studies at UMD and St. Scholastica.
The following is an excerpt from "The Road Back to Sweetgrass." (See below.) Michael's father got to his feet when the girls walked into the cabin, picking up his blanket from the wooden chair next to the woodstove (the warmest spot in the room). He chivalrously spread the blanket on an old green velvet sofa -- over the stuffing and springs that were coming through its cushions -- and pulled it closer to the stove. "Biindigen, namadabin," he murmured, nodding toward the sofa. "Come in, young ladies, and sit down.