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Miigwech-Ojibwe for thank you.
It's not every day that you get a chance to say thank you to someone that has made a difference in your life. But several UW-Superior Native American students were able to do just that, and in the process honor those who have helped them along the way.
Elders are a treasure of wisdom and experience that needs to be recognized and honored and it is through those close relationships with a friend, family member or parent these elders are able to not only make a difference one day, but continue to do so even today.
The Circle of Native Nations and First Nations Center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior held their 2nd annual Honoring Our Elders Day on Wednesday, Feb 26. The program was at the Multicultural Center in Old Main room 232.
UW-Superior students honored four elders who have been an influential part in a UW-Superior Native American student's life or who have made an impact on the lives of others in the community. They honored the following elders at the event:
· Lynda Riedasch
· Babette Sandman
· Vern Northrup
· Skip Sandman
This program honors not just Native American elders, but it is also open to everyone on campus that wanted to highlight someone special in their life that is older.
The Circle of Native Nations student chairman at UW-Superior is Alex Gokee and for him, that is one of the special aspects to the ceremony is that it is a campus wide event. "These people have the wisdom, and the special experience and influence in your life. This is an important day not only for the students, but for those people who have made a difference."
Gokee and Gary Johnson wanted to get this program up and running years ago, but were finally able to make it happen last year. In the inaugural year, Gokee nominated and honored Ojibwe instructor Dan Jones who has made a difference in his development and in many others as well. Gokee admires Dan and what he stands for. "He is well known in this area, and I felt we needed to honor him because he is always there. He is always there for Gary (Johnson) and always there for us students as well." Jim Northrup was another one honored and nominated by Ivy Vainio a year ago.
Gokeee is this year's Native American Scholarship recipient and has been very active in campus life. Along with his duties with Circle of Native Nations, he has been involved with athletics, intramurals and officiating. In October of last year, he presented research at the National Indian Education Association's annual conference in Rapid City, South Dakota
Terry Schultz has known Skip Sandman as a family friend for just about his entire life. Skip worked with Terry's father when Terry was a young boy. Skip was more than willing to share native history and culture with Terry and his family and the bond between Terry and Skip continues to this day. Terry said Skip was always there for advice. "When I was between the ages of 6-8 I received my native name, Makoons 'Little Bear' Schultz said, I lost contact with him for many years. It wasn't until I got here, and enrolled at UW-Superior that I got in touch with Skip again through Gary and others."
Schultz is now a council member of the Circle of Native Nations student organization and is also the secretary of that group. "I was going through some stuff. I was having some trouble processing and went to talk to him about it, and the different dreams that I had and he helped me realized what I was seeing, and why I was seeing it and how it affected me. So he has helped me out quite a bit. It was hard for me to approach him two and ahalf, three years ago. When I had met him again and we reconnected."
Schultz is a Proctor, MN native and is a Native American health major and said Skip helped him learn more in-depth about his native culture then he had done before.
Schultz said Skip was always patient with him and feels a program like this is necessary. "Definitely needed, by honoring the elders they have a lot to offer, if we are willing to listen to them." For him, the opportunity to say thank you to someone who has been a positive role model in his life was certainly something he wanted to do.
All four Elders were honored to be chosen and attend the event. Skip Sandman had some deep words of passion for helping others and helping people along the path of life. Skip said, "We are here to help, and I just want to say miigwech for this honor."
Lyndia Riedasch especially was honored, her granddaughter Brittany Klein nominated her and Lyndia is learning more about the Native American culture with each and every encounter with her granddaughter. "My granddaughter is teaching me what it means to be Native American and I hope she continues to teach me her ways."
Vern Northrup was nominated by his niece Kristina Lafave. He said, "I'm very humbled, I feel honored that I was picked to be here. I have tried all my life to live like my mother and father wanted me to. I hope I can continue to keep doing that."
Babette Sandman was nominated by Terry Schultz as well and was thrilled to be honored with her husband of 25 years, Skip Sandman. She said her heart was filled with love and was proud to be an elder. "As an elder I want to do my best. I want to be like my Mom, I want to be Grandma Babette to everyone. She was so cool."
Music was provided by Superior native Dan Adams. The students presented their elders with certificates and gifts. Refreshments were served following the ceremony and the event was free and open to the public.
Gary Johnson is the director of the First Nations Center and he can be reached at (715) 394-8132 if you wanted to nominate someone special in your life next year.
UW-Superior has earned a prestiou honor as one of the top schools in the country for Native Americans. UW-Superior was listed among the top 200 colleges and universities throughout the United States that support Native American students in the Winds of Change 2012-13: Top 200 Special College Issue, published by Nativevillage.org. UW-Superior was just one of two UW System schools to earn the honor.
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