Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 24, 2001 - Issue 30



LaDuke Leads Lesson in Culture


by Scott Thistle Duluth News Tribune Staff Writer


Diversity is on display in 1,000 students gathered at Omnimax Theatre

The black velvet vest that Winona LaDuke is making by hand for her partner is going to take a long time to complete, she said.

"He calls it his old man's vest because by the time I finish it he will be an old man,'' LaDuke told a group of area schoolchildren gathered for a celebration of the region's cultural diversity at the Omnimax Theatre on Thursday.

On the vest are images made with tiny, colorful beads representing her tribe's place in ecology, she said.

"And sometimes it takes a long time to do things that are nice, but that's the way it is, and you just got to go along with it,'' she said.

The vest, along with other decorations the Ojibwe wear when they dance, are part of her culture, said LaDuke, the two-time Green Party vice presidential candidate.

"In my culture, there really is no word for culture,'' she said. "It is just the way we live our lives.''

Sitting in the curved rows of the cavernous theater were people of many cultures.

There were blacks and American Indians, Hispanics and Asians, Saami and whites.

"I do consider you all to be my relatives because we are all related in a greater way,'' LaDuke said.

Those who didn't know the words of her language tried to speak it anyway. They shaped their mouths and their voices to the new sounds.

"Boozhoo'' is Ojibwe for "hello'' and "bizindan'' is "listen,'' she told the children. "Gaag'' is "porcupine'' and "miigwetch'' is "thank you.''

"And this is the language that this land has known for a long, long time,'' LaDuke said.

More than 1,000 students -- some coming from as far away as Cambridge -- took part in at least one of several talks during the day.

"I really consider it just a privilege to meet her,'' said Isaac Maki, a Cloquet High School junior.

Some students said they enjoyed learning about different people and their ways. Others said LaDuke was an inspiring politician.

"We need more females in office,'' said Shannon Farrell, also a junior at Cloquet High School.

After LaDuke's talk, students watched the documentary "Great North'' on the Omnimax screen. The film is about the lives and culture of the indigenous Inuit and Saami people of the Arctic.

There are many people of Saami descent in Minnesota because of its ties to Scandinavia, said Gladys Koski Holmes of Angora, who had set up a display about the Saami in the theater's lobby.

"Saami heritage over the years has just been kept under wraps, though,'' she said.

The younger children were interested in the clothing and Caribou bone toys she had.

"A lot of them have Saami blood whether they know it or not,'' Koski Holmes said.

Bill Howes, a fifth-grade teacher at the Nettleton School in Duluth and a member of the Fond du Lac Tribe, said he incorporates diversity lessons in his class daily.

"It's very important to me and not just my own culture, but all cultures of the world,'' Howes said.

He agreed with LaDuke about the time it takes to make something nice -- especially when that thing is cultural understanding.


Winona LaDuke-All Our Relations




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