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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Ojibwe Mural Completed At ERATS
by Angie Riebe - Staff Writer Mesabi Daily News
Students Collaborate On Artwork

Virginia, MN— A makwa looks out from her den and a gookookoo’oo is nestled inside a hole in a tree trunk. Meanwhile, a family of waawaahkeshi prance nearby and a migizi soars overhead.

The bear and owl, deer and eagle — along with many other animals — all have a home at the East Range Academy of Technology and Science.

They are part of the school’s newest — and only Ojibwe-themed — mural.

Students from Karen Oseland’s Ojibwe class gathered Wednesday to put the finishing touches on the artwork they’ve been painting since November.

Students involved in the mural signed their name at the bottom. And “5-6-15” was painted on the trim to “stamp” it with the date of completion.

The 12-foot-8-inch-by-3-foot-3-inch mural atop a wall inside the Eveleth school depicts an outdoor scene, complete with a lake, trees, blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds, and a bright yellow sun.

The landscape is alive with various animals. Their English and Ojibwe names are stenciled along the borders of the mural. There are rabbits (waabooz), a wolf (ma’iingan), a fox (waagosh), and a butterfly (memengwaa).

A maang, or a loon, swims in the lake decorated with water lillies, where an Ojibwe woman paddles a birch bark canoe, her baby aboard a cradleboard in tow, and a teepee, campfire and wigwam are shown in the background.

The colors of the four sacred directions — white, black, red and yellow — which also represent the races of people, make up the border, with white at the top (north), red at the bottom (south), black on the left (west), and yellow on the right (east).

Ojibwe Mural Ccompleted At ERATS
East Range Academy of Technology and Science students pose with their Ojibwe teacher, Karen Oseland, in front of a cultural mural the students painted at the Eveleth school. (photo by Mark Sauer)

The mural is an “original design,” said Jenna Campbell, the main leader of the project. She, along with fellow Ojibwe student, Christina Snyder, the second in charge, directed the team endeavor.

A total of about 18 students, a few who are not in the Ojibwe class, participated, but the original main crew also included the third in charge, Samantha Breckenridge, along with Dani Witcher, Cheyenne Snyder, Nikki Heinrich, and Vanssa Campbell.

The mural not only serves as a colorful adornment at the school, but also honors the Ojibwe culture and Native American students and teachers at the academy, Jenna said.

A turtle symbol is included in the bottom left corner to pay tribute to ERATS teacher Mr. Goodrie, who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe in Belcourt, N.D., and who also has a tattoo of the turtle, the tribe’s unofficial emblem.

The students involved in the mural got together in October to pick animals for the artwork, Jenna said.

Critters native to Minnesota were chosen, and some have further significance, such as the loon, which is the state bird, and the eagle, which represents America, she said.

Additionally, some of the animals were selected because of their significance in Native American culture and daily life, such as deer, which are a food source, Christina said.

The art was first designed on a laptop and the image projected on the wall to be sketched. The students then began the job of painting.
“We used the paint we already had at the school,” Oseland said, and additional paint and brushes were donated to the project.

A number of the students “had no artistic experience,” Jenna said. Many “had never held a paintbrush.”

Yet, “it turned out good in the end,” Dani added.

The students enjoyed the project, they said, working on it little by little during Ojibwe class time, as well as when they had free time or had finished work in other classes. They often listened to music and munched snacks as they painted.

The other teachers were supportive, too, said Jenna, adding that all the ERATS instructors deserve “a special thank you.”

The mural “is one of the first things you see walking into the school. It pops out,” Oseland noted.

The Ojibwe class is “very awesome,” Jenna said. Oseland’s students have worked on a number of other traditional projects, such as creating birch bark art and dream catchers. And the class has taken several field trips, including one to learn about making maple syrup.

“It’s a lot of hands-on learning,” Christina said.

Not a lot of schools even have an Ojibwe class, said the students, adding that they feel “lucky” to have the opportunity to learn the language and culture.

Completing the mural took a lot of teamwork, Dani said.

“The best part was doing it with people we like,” Christina said. “We became friends and created friends,”

“They should be proud,” Oseland said of the students who made the mural come to life. “I’m very proud of them. It turned out so beautiful.”

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