By Adrienne Benjamin (Amikogaabawiikwe)
I recently was selected as one of 50 “Young Cultural Innovators” for the Salzburg Global Forum series held in Salzburg, Austria. The purpose of the program is to bring together young people from around the globe to share, discuss, learn, and network with the common thread of community building through the arts and culture.
The idea of “culture” and “culture sharing” is so much bigger than we like to think it is in the United States. We talk about culture in terms of work atmospheres and dance fads. To others, it is sacred rituals, language, and songs that have been passed down over generations. There are such unique blends of culture, belief, history, and lifestyle that are still thriving and existent in our world today. They are not history lessons, they are current, active, and contribute to the vibrant beauty of mankind. They also are rapidly shifting and evolving in a newly far more accessible world.
This experience made me think deeply about cultural narratives.Where are we gaining our information on the cultures that exist in the world?Are we going directly to the sources to learn about these narratives directly from the people who lived/live them? Who is telling these stories for the world to know? It interested me as an Indigenous woman to hear the global perspectives of my own culture.
This hits home with the work of MnEEP, and especially in theMille Lacs Region where I work with three very unique local school districts. A part of equity work in education is the inclusion of all, and the narratives of world history and local history should also include all perspectives, not just one.
One of the greatest takeaways from this and other national fellowships that I have been a part of is the deeper understanding and the need for empathy about difference. Not just racial difference, but sexual preferences, long-held community values, religious beliefs, etc. It is imperative to understand that not everyone thinks like you, nor do they understand the world in the same context that you might. To have had the opportunity for discussion and understanding around that is truly what the world needs right now in every way. The Salzburg Global program is making major headway by providing the opportunities that they do.
I feel so lucky and grateful to have had this life changing experience and to be able to share this small bit of such a large learning adventure. Miigwech bizindaawiiyeg.
Adrienne Benjamin (Amikogaabawiikwe), the Mille Lacs region Promise to Act “Equity Champion” is also a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. She is a proud mother of two daughters, Isabella and Taliya. Her professional career has spanned a variety of intentional and successful community driven revitalization efforts of cultural education and leadership building with youth, elders, and outward communities.
She currently sits on the MN Indian Education Association Board, Onamia Public Schools LIEPC Committee and is studying in the Executive Program for Arts and Culture Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a past National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellow, a Bush Foundation Native Nation Rebuilder, and a Blandin Reservation Leadership Alum.