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Red Lake, White Earth to be second, third tribal nations in US to host Indigenous Parent Leadership Initiative

Child development, leadership, democracy and culture are the core of the Indigenous Parent Leadership Initiative that will soon make its debut at the Red Lake and White Earth Nations come March.

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An indigenized version of the NPLI logo created by artist Jessica Hoselton. Contributed.
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RED LAKE -- Child development, leadership, democracy and culture are the core of the Indigenous Parent Leadership Initiative that will soon make its debut at the Red Lake and White Earth Nations come March.

Funded through the Community Solutions grant , created to address challenges related to healthy child development within Indigenous and communities of color, a free 21-week program will be offered to parents and caregivers looking to empower their voices and reconnect with their culture.

“IPLI hopes to inspire parents to be empowered to use their voices as agents of change within their community,” IPLI Facilitator and Civic Design Team Member Kris Manning said. “This will benefit not only (the parents') lives and their children’s lives but also their community and future generations.”

The IPLI is a nationally accredited and evidence-based parenting leadership curriculum that has unique cultural elements customized for tribal nations.

Nonprofit organization Indigenous Visioning has partnered with the National Parent Leadership Institute to bring the IPLI to Red Lake and White Earth, making them the second and third tribal nations in the U.S. to receive this opportunity and the first of its kind in Minnesota.

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Acknowledging the importance of culture, Ojibwe Professor at Bemidji State University, Anton Treuer created an Indigenous Foundations curriculum to complement the NPLI curriculum based on Anishinaabe teachings with guidance from Red Lake and White Earth elders.

According to a release, “the IPLI is being offered through a cultural lens to acknowledge our Anishinaabe identity and the effects of historical trauma due to the boarding school era. By adding a ‘traditional teaching’ each week, the IPLI supports the revitalization of Ojibwe values, teachings, language and a healthy traditional lifestyle for participants.”

Treuer and other tribal members helped design the IF curriculum into four sections representing seasons in the Ojibwe calendar with five classes for each season.

The NPLI curriculum is designed in two phases, the first being a 10-week course on parent leadership and self-perception with a focus on voice, difference, values and family strength. The second 10-week study focuses on how change occurs within educational, tribal, state, federal and local governments.

Built on interactive learning, a self-selected community project will engage participants in practicing their civic and cultural teachings. They also have a chance to enter an alumni program after graduation.

Exposing participants to Ojibwe culture begs the opportunity to incorporate cultural activities into their daily lives and carry on those traditions for future generations.

“For those who lean into the teaching provided here, there is a real opportunity to acquire critical tools that will leverage their efforts to build healthy, happy lives,” Treuer said in the release.

Group effort

IPLI relies on several Civic Design Team members tasked with informing and recruiting parents, selecting and interviewing potential participants, mentoring parents throughout the course and facilitating a seamless experience for all those involved.

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“We’re currently in the planning stages and recruiting families by going to community events and having a presence at conferences,” White Earth CDT member Megan Lhotka said.

Lhotka is an Ojibwe Culture and Language Specialist at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Schools , an experience she partly credits for her motivation to become involved with the IPLI.

“Because of historical trauma, we’ve had a history of family division and I believe this initiative will help build unity,” she added. “There’s such a disconnect because of that trauma and (this initiative) will give the next generation of parents an opportunity to connect back to the culture.”

NPLI Senior Implementation Specialist Zulema Gomez said in a Facebook livestream that there’s, “a restoring and healing to the work (IPLI) is doing. When we seek to create this change in NPLI, we look back to our personal history. But culture is often missed and I love that (IPLI) is putting this at the very front of this work to restore culture and honor culture.”

'It's about empowerment'

With hopes to motivate Indigenous parents to take a more active role in their communities, Manning points to a certain ripple effect that leadership can create.

“Each community member brings their own strength and gift to the community. For them to become leaders and mentors for the children, and for (the children) to look up to our members and say, ‘when I grow up, I want to make a change in my community just like my dad, auntie, grandma,'" Manning added.

IPLI Project Coordinator and White Earth member Beth Dodds echoed Manning’s statements pointing to increasing knowledge of local government.

“For me, it’s about empowerment,” Dodds said. “If parents and caregivers know how local structures work, the knowledge will help them navigate the system to help them create change and I feel that empowered parents and caregivers help raise empowered children.”

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Each nation has its own Civic Design Team as well as three community facilitators who will head the leadership classes.

Red Lake Nation facilitators include Susan Ninham, Dan Ninham and Katie Northbird, and White Earth facilitators are Manning, Felecia Bellanger and Lisa Johnson.

Each facilitator became certified by the NPLI after completing applications of interest and undergoing an interview process. Once accepted, they attended 18 hours of training over a three-week span via Zoom.

How to participate

Those interested in becoming class participants must apply and undergo an interview process. Upon admission, participants must attend all 21 classes expected to start in March 2022.

The program will provide a meal, child care and a weekly stipend. There is no registration deadline, though the class size is limited to 20 participants.

Applications are also open for more Civic Design Team members, which meet monthly depending on need. CDT members receive a small stipend for their work throughout the duration of the initiative.

Interested participants or CDT members can attend an open house complete with a meal, a chance to meet the facilitators and a mini-IPLI session. Upcoming information can be found on the IPLI Facebook page .

Anyone interested in becoming a class participant or CDT member can apply at www.indigenousvisioning.com . Applications may also be mailed. More information on mail-in applications can be found by emailing beth@indigenousvisioning.com .

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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