Announcer: This is Minnesota Native News. I’m Marie Rock. This week, a Bemidji resident receives an unsung hero award, several Minnesota Indigenous leaders were chosen to participate in the 2023 Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort, and Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan becomes the first Native woman to lead a national party committee at the Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, D.C., and the National Hockey League gets called out for more racist policies against the Native American community.
Emma Needham: The McKnight Foundation, in partnership with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, announced four Minnesotans as recipients of the 2023 Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award—one of those recipients is Natasha Kingbird from the Red Lake Nation. The Foundation awards individuals who have had a significant impact on the state of Minnesota and its communities but have not been widely recognized for their work in the past. Each recipient was recognized for having given time and effort to help others without expecting a material reward, and each exemplifies the life-changing difference one person can make through service.
According to the McKnight Foundation’s website, Natasha Kingbird single-handedly supported, advocated for and served dozens of Native women who returned home after incarceration. Through her work with the Northwest Indian Community Development Center, she ensured women receive support in reunifying with their children and community. Her commitment comes from her lived experience with life’s challenges after incarceration. Natasha understands what it is like to be in dangerous situations and believes that positive changes are possible through cultural healing and culturally appropriate spiritual guidance. In addition to her work with the center, Natasha advocates for Native women through her involvement with Mending the Sacred Hoop, the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women task force, and community efforts that address opioid addiction. She also supports victims of sexual and domestic violence and trafficking.
December sixth and seventh was the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, D.C. More than 500 tribal leaders spoke directly with high-level federal officials during the two-day in-person event. The Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association elected Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan as their chair. She is now believed to be the first Native woman to lead a national party committee.
Minnesota’s Indigenous people aren’t just winning awards, they’re also working together to make change for their communities. The Native Governance Center’s Native Nations Rebuilders program is a two-year, cohort-based leadership training experience for Indigenous changemakers. The cohort members share a common desire to use seventh generation thinking, or care for future generations.
The program aims to strengthen Native leadership and equip changemakers with Indigenized tools and frameworks that they can use to help rebuild their nations. Applications for next year’s cohort will open in January 2024 via the Native Governance Center website.
The leaders selected for the Native Governance Center’s Native Nation Rebuilders program’s thirteenth cohort represent 22 native nations sharing geography with Mni Sota Makoce, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This year’s Minnesota Tribal Nation cohort members include Tea’ Drift and Jaylen Strong from the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Andrea Reese from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Tawnya Stewart from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Cyndy Milda and Carissa Pickit from the Mdewakhaton Sioux Community, and Wendy Spry, Rita Walaszek-Ardnt, and Angela Vig from the White Earth Nation.
In Sports news, Minnesota Wild player Marc-Andre Fleury was told that he couldn’t wear a specially designed mask for the Minnesota Wild’s Native American Heritage night, even for warmups. The mask was designed to honor his wife, Véronique, who is of Abenaki and Mi’Kmaq decent. However, Fleury wore the mask, designed by Mdewakaton Dakota artist Cole Redhorse Taylor, during warmups before the team’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The NHL prohibits players from wearing specialty jerseys, masks, stickers, decals, or tape for theme nights. Fleury offered to pay whatever fine he’d receive, but the NHL threatened to levy the organization with an “additional significant fine.” It is not clear yet how much either of those fines will be or if they will be charged fees at all. The mask will go up for auction as part of the Wild’s annual Prairie Island Indian Community Native American Heritage Auction and is expected to fetch over $16,000.
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