Dundee-Crown high school is where my roots are. That high school is where my mind opened up, where I made the best friends anyone could ask for, where I was challenged, where I was surrounded by teachers who care, and most of all, where I was exposed to people of all kinds. My high school is in district 300, a.k.a., one of the poorest districts in the state (poorest 5% to be exact). The test scores are definitely nothing to brag about, but the students, on the other hand, are.
Located directly next to the projects, my high school is known most of all for its diversity. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians- we had a pretty broad spectrum of people. Racism? Well, we really don’t have any. I grew up not understanding racism. How on earth could someone not like someone else, because of their race? What?
Everyone got along, ate lunch together, dated; and all documents or updates the students received had a Spanish translation on the back; we thought nothing of it.
So discussing and reading books in class about how racism against Native Americans has been and is still going on…well, it was a slap in the face. I forgot the inevitable fact that not everyone matures.
However, I came across an article that gave me a little hope for the people of our country.
Bemidji, Minnesota is a town surrounded by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and White Earth Indian reservations. It’s a town that has always had problems with racism, even today.
One day at Red Lake High School, a student broke out in gunfire, killing seven fellow students. After the chaos, a Red Lake flag was found on one of the shelves at the school. To show sympathy and compassion, the city flew the Red Lake flag half-mast at City Hall for a week. After the positive comments the city received for flying the Red Lake flag, Michael Meuers, who works for the “Red Lake Band of Chippewa in government and public relations” (source 1, pg 1), decided it was necessary to acknowledge the Native Americans and unite the races. Paying for this himself, Meuers, changed the restroom signs of 20 businesses so that they were not only in English, but in Ojibwe as well.
Since the project started in 2005, 119 businesses now have their signs in both English and Ojibwe! And the translations are not limited to only restroom signs: ”a food market has labeled all of its food in Ojibwe; a fabric store has bilingual labels for all of its threads and abrics; the hospital intends to use Ojibwe signs in the new emergency room being built; a funeral home wants to display a prayer for the bereaved in Ojibwe” (source 1, pg 2). This trend has also spread to Bemidji State University. The University has not only Ojibwe restroom signs, but also Ojibwe parking lot signs and even varied “greetings and posters with translations of common words in Ojibwe on campus” (source 1, pg 3). BSU is also the “first college in the U.S. to offer an Ojibwe language program” (source 1, pg 3).
Being a city that used to have signs reading “no Indians allowed”, Bemidji has come a long way. Though the inspiration for this equality movement was originally sparked from a lethal event, it got people to wake up. The city is finally progressing, and the positivity and acceptance of the people is clearly visible. Props to Michael Meurers for making this progression happen.
Picture sources: 1) http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/LO-RES-FEA-PHOTO-Bemidji-IMG_0365-615×479.jpg