Jan 14

“First Speakers” Documentary Night Tomorrow, Upcoming Snow Snake Workshop!

Greetings, friends!  I hope you are staying safe and warm after this icy, chilly weekend.

Last Tuesday, we gathered at the Rail River Folk School for a wonderful presentation by Shirley Nordrum and Simone Senogles on indigenous food systems.  Shirley, who works with the Indigenous Foods Coalition at Leech Lake, and Simone, from the Indigenous Environmental Network, started off their presentation by sharing with us some information about food sovereignty, why it is so critical, and what it looks like in our area.

In talking about food sovereignty and resource issues, Shirley and Simone connected food issues to the growing Idle No More movement.  Below is a short video we watched that explains this critical movement:

And if you’re interested in further reading, here’s a great piece on Idle No More in CommonDreams.

The final portion of the presentation was a segment from Shirley on indigenous foods, health, and sustainability. Shirley had some wonderful information about programs being offered on Leech Lake and ways that they are engaging youth. The stories that Shirley shared with us were incredibly moving and helped our group draw important connections between health, culture, sustainability, and native food.

Special thanks to both Shirley and Simone for their engaging presentation!  We had a fabulous night of discussion and interaction following the event, and it was great to see so many people connecting over this topic.  Thank you to all that came out!

Tomorrow, we are having a documentary night!  Join us on Tuesday, January 15th from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the Rail River Folk School to watch “First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language,” and chat with special guests involved in the documentary, Leslie Harper and Kim Anderson from the Niigaane Immersion School.

Our program tries to explore sustainability from a number of different directions, and language may not seem related to the environment and sustainability at first — but it truly is.  Come learn about the interconnections between culture, language, and sustainability – all things we need to be concerned with as we move into the future!

“First Speakers,” which first aired in 2010, was awarded a Midwest Regional Emmy for Artistic Excellence.  It features the Niigaane Immersion School and other educational programs in the area, showcasing the creative ways they are restoring the Ojibwe language.

Please join us for this amazing documentary showing!

When: Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 15th from 5:30 to 7:30pm

Where: Rail River Folk School (303 Railroad St SW, across the Irvine bridge and to the left)

Looking ahead to the rest of the month ….

Next week, on January 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30pm, Sustainable Tuesdays is carving snow snakes!  Robert Shimek will be joining us to share the story behind the snow snake tradition–an Ojibwe winter game–and show us how to carve our own snow snakes.  We will only be making snow snakes at this event, but community members can later use them for a snow snake competition coming up in early March on Bemidji State University’s campus.

Everyone is welcome to come to the Rail River Folk School and learn from Bob how to carve a snow snake.  Participants who would like to carve their own snow snake during the session should bring a round, straight piece of wood, ideally 2-3 inches across and anywhere from 3 to 6 feet long.  Bob has suggested that wood from a live sapling is the easiest to work with, but dry wood picked up from the ground will also work.  Ash, oak, birch, maple, basswood, poplar, pine, or just about anything will work.  Denser, harder types of wood will work best for distance throwing.  Softer types may not go far, but the traditional game does not count on distance.

Bob will be bringing tools and a few extra pieces of wood, but if you would like to work with your own, you may want to bring a draw knife, wood rasp or sure form, and sand paper (from coarse to very fine).

This is a great opportunity for families to hear the story behind the snow snake tradition and learn how to make your own.  Please contact me at cschuchhardt@bemidjistate.edu if  you have any questions about this event.

Also, don’t forget that the last Tuesday of the month is our Native Foods Cooking Class with Black Sheep Chefs!  There are still spots available, and you can register by emailing Caitlyn at cschuchhardt@bemidjistate.edu or calling 755-3765.

And, in case you missed it, there was a great feature on the Hunt Utilities Group in the New York Times! Check out this awesome article, a great shout-out to the amazing stuff happening here in Minnesota: “In Rural Minnesota, a 70-acre Lab for Sustainable Living”

A view from a lower window of the Old Main building, constructed from straw bales and cob, toward two energy-efficient rental units on the Hunt Utilities Group campus.


It was so exciting to see this feature on Paul Hunt and the Hunt Utilities Group!  The HUG campus, also home to the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) and Happy Dancing Turtle, is a wonderful example of what can be done with renewable energy here in Minnesota.  Take a moment to read about the amazing work of Paul and Lynn Hunt!

And if you’d like to learn more about sustainable living, don’t forget to register for Happy Dancing Turtle’s 7th annual “Back to Basics” workshops, coming up soon on January 26thClick here for registration information and session workshops.

That’s all for this week!  We hope to see you at tomorrow’s Sustainable Tuesdays event, and hope that you have a wonderful week.

As always, our program depends on your input and feedback, and we welcome your ideas and suggestions to broaden our community. Sustainable Tuesdays feature a variety of learning opportunities focused on sustainability that connect our beautiful, vibrant community and is a partnership program with the Indigenous Environmental Network, MN GreenCorps, Rail River Folk School and BSU’s Sustainability Office.

For more information, contact Caitlyn Schuchhardt at 755-3765 or Simone Senogles at 751-4967.

With peace,