Native American Awareness Working Group

REFLECTION:  Trying to understand the Hiawatha Encampment of Native Americans Experiencing Homelessness today

Driving past the current Native American encampment along Hiawatha Avenue, my thoughts go back to my own Indian ancestry.

As I grew up, I only knew his mother as a “half breed” of Winnebago (now known as Ho Chunk) descent.  Thanks to the internet, I have found a newspaper article dated 1919 in which my grandmother, Emma Prescott (1873-1951), talked about her grandfather, Pierre Pauquette (1775-1836), a well-known French fur trader from Portage WI. This week I discovered that her name was Ho A Me No Kau, born about 1757.  Her father was Chief White Crow of the Rock River band.  How very important a name is!  Now I can research her.

And how can we get to personally know any of the residents of the current tent city?  Their plait is so anonymous.

I have also learned that Ho A Me No Kau was known as Angelique Boudriaux.  Why wasn’t her given Native name sufficient?  Ho A Me No Kau’s great grandchildren worked for the government Indian Bureau toward the end of the 1800’s, earning $1,200 a year.  Then our government decided to only hire white people to work on the various reservations as teachers, etc. and my relatives & many others lost their jobs.

During this same period, the Native children were being put into boarding schools to hopefully forget their Native heritage – hoping for assimilation.  They did indeed learn English and some job skills but they were no longer being nurtured by their own parents.  They were removed from their homes, and what long term effects may this have had on Native American children?  How might these children’s disrupted family upbringing be possibly impacting their Native American families today as adults?

As I visit the current Native American encampment along Hiawatha Avenue, I am disturbed by the conditions of the encampment.  I wonder how this past history is part of the picture of the residents that we see at the encampment.  How do we work toward justice & reconciliation of all of these centuries of misdirected & insensitive programs?


Mission and Goals

The Native American Awareness (NAA) Working Group aims at raising consciousness and increasing knowledge about Native American culture, especially in Minnesota.  We study the history and special challenges experienced by Indians who remain marginalized in contemporary society. We share what we learn with each other, with other Sisters, Consociates, and interested others and take action when appropriate.

To carry out this mission, the Native American Awareness (NAA) Working Group hopes to:

  • Raise awareness of and increase knowledge of Native American culture within the non-native population of Minnesota, especially in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
  • Study the true history of Native Americans as told through Native American oral history.
  • Explore the special challenges experienced by Native Americans in Minnesota.
  • Share with the wider community what we have learned from the Native Americans.
  • Invite others to participate.
  • Continue to collaborate with the Justice Commission’s Task and Working Groups (e.g. the Dismantling Racism group) and with appropriate community groups to heighten awareness and our ability to “walk with the Native Americans,” honoring the beauty of their language, recovering and retelling the history, remembering, and celebrating who they are.

Goals:

  • Support the outreach of the Archdiocesan Indian Ministry Ministry (particularly with the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri) to the Native American tribes in Minnesota and the larger Native American Community.
  • Co-sponsor events to raise awareness of Native American issues.
  • Continue our support the mission and our involvement with Dream of Wild Health.
  • Gain an awareness of the complexity of historical and current issues impacting justice for Native American populations.
  • Stand in solidarity and support advocacy and action on Native American issues.
  • Submit articles to CSJ publications regularly and maintain NAAWG webpage as appropriate.

For more information contact Marty Roers at mroers@csjstpaul.org.


Past Events

A Call to Action from a Woman of Justice and Joy

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig joined nearly 200 community members for a rich evening of conversation, ritual, music, justice, and indigenous food on February 8th hosted by the Native American Awareness working group of the CSJ Justice Commission, the church of Gichitwaa Kateri, and Wisdom Ways.  The room was filled with Larry and Claire Martin’s gifted flute music and singing along with the smell of sage carried by Native youth for smudging to purify and cleanse the space.  As Shawn Phillips from Gichitwaa Kateri said, “Let the sage wash over us and cleanse us.”  Larry and Claire Martin, La Courte Oreilles Nation gifted us with flute music and singing of “The Pipe-filling Song” and “The Song of Four Directions” in the Ojibwe language.  Maureen Headbird, a member of Leech Lake Nation, pipe carrier and Kateri trustee, blessed the group and opened our evening with a Pipe Ceremony.