By Brett Larson, July 1, 2015
The Mille Lacs Band was once again well represented at Cultural Night June 30 at the National Congress of American Indians midyear conference in St. Paul. The event took place at the Band’s Crowne Plaza Hotel and featured stories, songs and dance from Band members.
Joe Nayquonabe, Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, opened the evening with a talk about vision. He introduced elected officials and Mille Lacs Band commissioners and thanked them for their service to the Band.
Amik (Larry Smallwood) served as Master of Ceremonies and told the story of the jingle dress.
Swamp Nation drum group (Aaron Buckaanaga, Anthony Buckanaga, Jeremiah Churchill, George Crazy Thunder, Anthony Killspotted, Christopher Gahbow, Algin GoodSky) played while Band members Valareya Leecy, Ahnung Matrious, Karla Downwind and Darcie Big Bear danced in traditional jingle dresses and then were joined by Amanda Spears in a fancy jingle dress. They also danced a side-step and were joined by several Band members, including District I Rep. Sandi Blake and Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin.
Also on the agenda were Ho Chunk Chairman Jon Greendeer, NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson Pata, https://www.gilariver.org/index.php Waylon Pahona (founder of Healthy Active Natives),Wayland Gray and Susan Shown Harjo, who talked about the importance of protecting sacred places.
The evening before, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures and Red Circle Agency hosted another event in the Crowne Plaza with entertainment by A Tribe Called Red. Bunky Echohawk, a renowned American Indian visual artist, created a painting while the band played. The painting was auctioned off, and the buyer, Attorney Brendan Ludwick of Los Angeles, donated the work to Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures.