DULUTH – A celebration of Indigenous culture and pride this week culminated in a series of thunderous drum and dance songs at a West Duluth high school.
American Indian educators at Duluth Public Schools organized the third-annual Minawaanigoziwin round dance at Denfeld High School, where a group of no-microphone-needed singers and drummers hammered out songs in the school’s gym while attendees danced clockwise around them.
The dance was preceded by soup and frybread in the school's cafeteria, plus a hand drum contest that saw more than a dozen singers compete for cash prizes. Judges considered a singer’s rhythm, the quality of their first and second push ups — think verses in a song — and awarded bonus points for singers who offered an explanation for the song they chose for the competition.
The winner was Keveon Kingbird, who’s the lead singer of the Battle River Singers from Red Lake Nation. St. Paul resident Hokie Clairmont, who is the lead singer of The Boyz, took second place. And Mike Rainey, who sings with Raining Thunder from St. Croix, Wiscconsin, placed third.
Preceding Friday’s dance was “Rock Your Mocs” week at Duluth Public Schools.
Beyond wearing moccasins to work, staff at Lowell Elementary taught students there about round dances, which feature dancing and drumming like a pow wow but are generally less formal and don’t include competitive dancing. They also hosted a drum and dance performance for students there on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Their counterparts at East High School and Ordean East Middle School distributed literature about land acknowledgements and Indigenous culture and language. They also made turquoise ribbons students could wear in lieu of the traditional footwear.
The theme of the week was Nimiigwechiwendan — “I am thankful for” in English — and students who designed moccasins on paper and wrote down something for which they were thankful could win a “Rock Your Mocs” tee shirt.
And at Denfeld, beyond the moccasins and ribbons, staff organized a wall where students could write about who they are, what they believe, and so on. They also had a photographer take lighthearted photo booth-style pictures of students.
November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month since then-president George H.W. Bush signed
a joint resolution
declaring it so in 1990.
Held for a week within that month since 2011,
Rock Your Mocs
is a social media campaign that bills itself as a “worldwide Native American & Indigenous Peoples virtual unity event” that presents an opportunity to celebrate tribal unity via moccasins. Participants are encouraged to take photos of themselves wearing moccasins and use the hashtag “#ROCKYOURMOCS” to create a wide-ranging virtual photo album.