Grand Portage Students Create Their Own Capitol Art, This Day in History, and More!

Elementary school students from Oshki Ogimaag Community School in Grand Portage took up the challenge to create new art for the Minnesota state capitol. Art teacher Belle Janicek assigned her students the task of creating artwork to represent their community to the rest of the state. You can see the Oshki student artwork and listen to interviews on WTIP North Shore Community Radio.

The student artwork grew out of a Healing Minnesota Stories project called: Indians in Public Art: Myths and Misconceptions.

Oshki students are the third group to participate in this project, following North View Junior High in Brooklyn Park (2014) and North Woods School in Cook (2015). Each school has loaned its student art to Healing Minnesota Stories for a traveling art exhibit that attempts to draw attention to some of the more controversial pieces of art in the state capitol and suggest some alternatives. The traveling art exhibit is currently on display at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, 1935 ST. Clair Avenue in St. Paul.

There’s no guarantee the student art will get shown in the capitol. In fact, right now, the capitol is closed for a major renovation. And that makes this the perfect time to engage students in this creative process. The state has created an Art Subcommittee to make recommendations about existing art and adding new art.

We are trying to encourage wide participation in this debate. You can follow this discussion on our blog at:

This Day in History: Indian Citizenship Act

On this day, June, 2, 1924, President Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act into law. Up until this point, citizenship had been done in a piecemeal fashion. Wikipedia provides the following background.

  • At the time the Act was passed, many Native peoples already had become citizens by other means, such as serving in the armed forces, giving up tribal affiliations, and assimilating into mainstream American life. The Indian Citizenship Act granted citizenship to an additional 125,000 Native peoples. They did not have to apply, they just became citizens–whether they wanted to or not. They did not have to give up their tribal citizenship, but some feared this was another government effort get Indians to give up sovereignty and cultural identity.
  • The Act passed with little lobbying from Native Americans. Progressive Senators supported the Act because they thought it would reduce corruption in the Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA would no longer be in control of citizenship regulations if citizenship were automatically granted. They also hoped to empower Indians through citizenship.
  • While the Act theoretically extended citizenship and voting rights to more Native peoples,  states maintained control over voting laws. Some states refused to allow Native peoples to vote. According to The Wild Rivers Teaching American History Project: “Regardless of the 1924 federal act, American Indians continued to be denied the rights of citizenship in several states. By 1948, with three states (Maine, Arizona, and New Mexico) still denying full citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Trujillo v. Garley that states were required to grant American Indians the right to vote. However, full constitutional protection under the law was not explicitly extended until passage of the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968 that gave constitutional protection to American Indians living under tribal self-government on reservations.”

Maine Tribes Withdraw Legislative Reps in Historic Break with State

(Note: Interesting to learn from the article below that the State of Maine had dedicated seats in its legislative branch from Native tribes. It would be like Minnesota having seats in our House of Representatives for the Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples. While the idea seems to have run its course in Maine, it’s worth discussing for Minnesota.)

From Indian Country Today:

The Penobscot Indian Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe took history into their hands last week when they permanently withdrew their representatives from the Maine legislature, ending almost two centuries of participation in the state’s political process.

Reading a statement to the House on May 26, Wayne Mitchell and Matthew Dana II, the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy representatives, respectively, thanked their House colleagues for their efforts to improve the tribal-state relationship and explained why they could no longer continue working with them.

“The Maine tribes have reached a very critical juncture in our history. As sovereign nations, we must find a better path forward, one that respects our inherent tribal authority and allows for our people to prosper in all areas of their life, and most importantly, one in keeping with our cultural identity and values as Wabanaki people,” Mitchell said.


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