Today we’re joined by Colleena Bibeau, Indian Services Student Advocate and Tutor at Grand Rapids High School. This month she had the opportunity to accompany local students as they traveled to Washington D.C. to see the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree. Here’s her experience.
When I saw the U.S. Capitol holiday tree from Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe on Capitol Hill, I was amazed and I said to our students, “look there is the tree!” As a tutor in American Indian education, I worked along with many Native American and non-Native American leaders from northern Minnesota to make this trip a success for our youth from all over Minnesota–Leech Lake reservation to urban, suburban, and rural areas alike. Simultaneously in the early 1900s, my great grandfather and great great grandfather made their living by timber logging and resided near Ball Club lake on Leech Lake reservation. I have a sacred spiritual and familial connection with Leech Lake as a place I call my home. Moreover, the history of my Ojibwe grandfather’s work in forestry a century earlier interestingly relates to the 2014 holiday tree along with the crucial roles of the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Band serve in taking care of our sacred land today.
This rewarding experience was a once in a lifetime chance for 135 Native American students to see our 88 year old, White Spruce tree on Capitol Hill. Our youth visited the United States Capitol headquarters, danced at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and viewed several monuments. I had the pleasure to chaperon a handful of well behaved and intelligent Grand Rapids High School students. I think the students were most excited when the Holiday tree was finally lit at the official ceremony and the U.S. Navy played music to accompany the delightful cheers and laughter of our group of over 200 elders, children, and adults. Along with the tree ceremony, our students were so happy to join together in celebrating our Anishinaabe traditions in a dance performance at the National Museum of the American Indian.
To see the more photos from the students’ trip to Capitol Hill, visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Flickr page.