May 21, 2014 - Battling bigotry is not new to Grand Forks by Hillary Davis Kempenich

Battling bigotry is not new to Grand Forks or any other place. Stereotypes, racism, and prejudice have been part of this area for some time. That doesn’t mean Grand Forks is a horrible place, but it means we have a lot of work to do.

In recent weeks, once again this negative behavior has come to surface. It isn’t a handful of people that are “stirring the pot.” The pros and cons of technology means the accessibility of the good, the bad and the ugly is a lot more broad than we’d like to think or acknowledge.

The “Siouxper Drunk” tshirt was not the only inappropriate shirt that circulated at Springfest; as many preorders were available to similar shirts weeks prior. I personally sent emails to UND officials alerting them to the disrespectful absurd nature of their own students towards a specific race and culture. This could have been an opportunity for UND officials to be proactive in nature versus reactive. In fact this was one of many opportunities over the past decades.

While we continually strive for better conditions and way of life all people including American Indian/Indigenous people, we are continually undermined by the ignorance which has become the social standard. This needs to change.

Last Spring, I had the opportunity to have an art show & exhibit where I did an installation called “Run to the Trees.” It was an amazing experience to acknowledge a piece of my own family history with our Grand Forks community. I was happy to address histories that are not addressed in our schools.

If we took the time to educate the past and current accurate histories, perhaps the disconnect amongst one another would disappear. While there are events such as UNDIA’s Annual Time Out week, these events are not well attended by the general public- which is very unfortunate as this would give people a chance to understand versus undermine people. The efforts behind this event come from full time college students who all volunteer their time, which should be acknowledged. We need more than one Multi-cultural Awareness night in our Grand Forks Public Schools; a night is most certainly not enough to bring our children together. Implement it into curriculum.

As we become more Globally diverse, we seem to become more anxious. We need to learn to celebrate one another’s differences.

Yes we have rights, such as Freedom of Speech, but that shouldn’t use that as an excuse or reason to mistreat one another. If we put more effort into cultural education, maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in.

Hillary Davis Kempenich (Ojibwe)

Last Real Indians