Cass County Board: Youth donates painting depicting Native American culture

The Cass County Board accepted the painting during its meeting on Tuesday April 6th. The painting has several meanings inspired by Native American culture, from the colors used to the representation of women to the length of the hair. Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk requested a plaque explaining the meaning of the painting so that residents can better understand the meaning when looking at it.


According to information from officials at the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center, the mural expresses Anishinaabe’s ancestry and shows unity and friendship.

“The mural focuses on the relationship between humans and the aadisookaang (plural for spirits), ie other human persons, the four winds, the sun as the giver of life and the sanctity of water (nibi) for human life. The picture conveys unity and friendship with the three women facing Nigaabiwaanoong (West) to express the appreciation of a good day by Minobimadiziwin (Good Life).

“The three women wear traditional braids with long hair to be close to Mother Earth – Aki. The women show the important roles in the Anishinaabe culture as carers of the family who pass on survival knowledge and techniques for each subsequent generation. The white and black dots in a linear position below represent the generations from pre-contact to the future, from right to left.

“The women offer continuity to the aesthetics and motifs that are linked to the past through the colors of their covers. Yellow and orange tend to be a positive color that represents the bravery and determination of the person who wears them. The color green represents perseverance and healing.

“The red ribbon among women stands for faith, beauty and happiness and the blue ribbon for wisdom and intuition.

“The purple clouds that all three are looking at are a sacred color and symbolize power, mystery and magic.

“The black lines are perceived as lively color and are intended to convey strength.”

Mindy O’Brien, Superintendent of the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center, shared the annual report with the board along with a program update. The annual report found that spending increased for the year, although there were 30 fewer revenues in 2020 from 2019 onwards. The majority of the children who participated in the program were between 14 and 17 years old and of Native American descent.

O’Brien also shared various programs that the center offers. She said the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center applied for a $ 5,000 grant for craft supplies but received $ 20,000. With this money, they bought paints, canvases, beads, and other various craft supplies that the youngsters can use. Two young people from the center also attended the meeting to share the residents’ paintings, beadwork and hand-sewn moccasins. They shared that beads and other crafts were useful triggers for their emotions. When you’re angry, put that anger into a constructive project and it distracts your mind from what you’re feeling.

O’Brien noted that the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center has many other programs that teach Native American youth their heritage and traditions, although these programs are open to all youth who reside at the facility. Other programs offered at the center include Bible studies, on-site fruit / vegetable gardens, and community volunteering.

The board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding for a Joint Partnership for the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative between Cass County and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. It was shared that this agreement had been wanted for some time, but the state believed that each government must have its own individual program. At the annual joint meeting last November, the two governments decided that it was in the best interest to work together and have the support of both judges.

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