Students Capture Different Perspectives from Speaker
A variety of student reactions to an on-campus speaker event
By Amanda Otto, Meagan Katchmark, Clayton Anderson, Katie Walker, and Drake Frikken
As part of a class assignment, students in Bill Breen’s college writing course attended a speaking event on campus to hear from Clyde Bellecourt, an Indian rights activist, and wrote newspaper-style articles about the event. The Campus Eye had previously published an article about the event and the following are excepts from student articles to give a variety of perspectives about the impact the speaker and event made on campus.
“As college students filed into G201, native drums played while the Little Thunder Birds passionately sang in their Ojibwe language, and the young children danced their traditional native dances. Soon the audience was encouraged to sing and dance along with the Little Thunder Birds. Courtney Dobbs, a student at Anoka Ramsey who got to dance with the band, remarked, “I thought the music was so much fun and learning to dance was a neat experience.” However, for the Native Americans, it took years to finally retrieve their rights to their culture and traditions from the United States Government.
Once Christopher Columbus set foot on America, everything was taken away from us,” Clyde Bellecourt, an Indian Rights activist, explained to the college students at Anoka Ramsey. Native Americans were forbidden to practice their traditional dances, language, religion, everything. The natives were held captive in Reservations, while foreign invaders tore up their beautiful land and polluted it.” – Amanda Otto
“The dancers and singers were a part of the Little Thunderbirds from the Red Lake Reservation. In the September 30th event “Pride or Prejudice” they showed off many of their cultures dances: the grass dance which originated in Oklahoma, and the butterfly dance. They then introduced the speaker Clyde Bellecourt, or “Thunder Before the Storm.” Clyde Bellecourt begins with his mother’s story in her homeland, “when my mother was a child at the age of 9 she was taken 100’s of miles away from her homeland to a boarding school. They tried to take away our language, music, culture, our way of Native American life.” He then went on to pray before serving us traditional Native American food. The prayer lasted for around 10-15 minutes. After, we all came back and Clyde began telling us about his and his “brothers and sisters” lives. Bellecourt founded AIM in July 1968. He shared some statistics with the audience. Native Americans in that time were expected to live to about 43-45 while Whites were up to 65+. 75% of the Indian housing had no plumbing, and no running water. Native Americans were not even considered citizens.” – Meagan Katchmark
“Later on during the event, Native American activist Clyde Bellecourt spoke to us about his people. He talked about, “bad medicine,” which is what we call alcohol. “Bad medicine” wasn’t allowed on reservations. Apparently, that law didn’t last long because alcohol made its way into the reservations. Once alcohol was in, people started to get lazy and turn into drunks. White men would get Native Americans drunk, so they would sign over land and goods.” – Clayton Anderson
“His firm words grabbed hold of the students. When asked what she thought of the presentation, student Denali Bahe said, ‘It was really informative, and really cool to see the culture!’
The Native American people are a vibrant, yet vastly underestimated and underrated culture. They have been beaten down, but they are not out. They march to the beat of their own drum, and will continue to do so, whether we help them to be accepted or not.” – Katie Walker
“This equality was not easy to gain though. In one instance, a very powerful, federal attack force was sent in to a protest in Wounded Knee illegally, which resulted in Bellecourt being arrested. While it was not easy, and it took a long process, justice prevailed in this circumstance and this mistreatment was taken to court, in which Bellecourt won. Due to the courage and strength that Bellecourt has, his organization, The American-Indian Movement, now represents almost four-million native people, even outside of the US, to ensure that racial inequality is met with justice. Through this, the racist climate over America has been shifted to become a more accepting and respectful one toward every group of people.” – Drake Frikken