HOPKINS — The upcoming American Indian Culture Celebration on Saturday, May 19, will paint a richer picture of a people often misunderstood, event organizers say.

The celebration is a part of the Hopkins Public Schools American Indian Education Program. As the Parent Advisory Council brainstormed how to grow the program, it came up with the culture celebration.

Considering Minnesota’s history of institutionally severing Native Americans, it is important to nourish native students’ cultural identities, said organizer Allegra Smisek.

“There’s an urgency of making kids feel proud and connected to who they are,” Smisek said. “We wanted to do something large scale for students and families. A statement that we’re here and we’re proud.”

Organizers decided against holding a traditional powwow, an event with meaningful, but precise, etiquette, in favor of an educational fair.

The celebration will be taking place throughout the high school.

Austin Bartold, a Native American chef from the Gatherings Cafe will be whipping up eats. Tables set up with educational booths will highlight American Indian inventions.

A craft table will teach how to decorate Ojibwe bandolier bags with a traditional art form, a process which is almost like a coloring book on a bag, Smisek said. The Minnesota Historical Society is involved in bringing the craft to the celebration.

Thanks to a grant from the Hopkins Education Foundation, children will have the chance to read books written by native authors.

“We want to make sure we’re getting great books in kids’ hands that are honoring the people,” she said.

Toya Stewart Downey is a member of the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe.

“I think it’s really important to share the history and the culture of the Native Americans,” Downey said. “And this event is a perfect opportunity to do that.”

She said the event will expose others to the richness of the culture. Her son, Dallas, 10, was eagerly involved in the planning process, Downey said. She’s excited for him to see the outcome.

Dallas said he’s noted inconsistencies in history textbooks about Native Americans. Some, he said, make the statement that Columbus wiped them out.

“We’re still here,” he said. “We’re still around.”

Downey said educational opportunities help break down stereotypes, such as the assumption that the Native American culture doesn’t exist anymore. Or old, tired imagery perpetuating inaccurate views of who native people are.

The 20-minute documentary on the jingle dress is a showcase of delicate beading and dancing Downey is looking forward to.

“It’s considered a healing dress,” she said. “It’s fascinating and I think people will really appreciate what they see and what they learn.”


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