Groundbreaking Held for Ombimindwaa Gidanawemaaganinaadog

On Tuesday May 10, 2022…oh, around noon, a groundbreaking ceremony and celebration was due to commence for Ombimindwaa Gidanawemaaganinaadog, Red Lake’s New Intergenerational Service Building. Several visitors from architects to county social service workers came from Bemijigamaag and elsewhere to join the Red Lake Tribal Council, tribal staff, community members, and honored guests.

Ombimindwaa Gidanawemaaganinaadog translates to English as Uplifting our Relatives. It was formerly known as Children and Family Services.

Visitors coming to Ogaakaaning (Place of walleye) aka Red Lake Village, were directed to turn north between the old…and new…Red Lake Trading Posts. Turn toward the lake known locally as Miskwaagamiiwizaaga’iganiing. (Lake of Red Liquid) If travelers looked about, they saw lots of new and exciting things. They saw new construction. They saw a widened Highway #2 with turn lanes, curbs and streetlights. Red Lake Nation did not sit idle during the pandemic.

Mino-Giizhigad! (It is a good day) It was the warmest day of the year so far at 72 degrees, a clear sky met the lake horizon. There, overlooking the south shore of the Sacred Lake, work had already begun. Perhaps 20 laborers worked on the footings and foundation of the building. Cars parked bumper to bumper on each side of the road hinted at a good crowd.

Entering the area, hills of dirt were piled high to the east. To the west four cabana like tents covered heavy hors d’oeuvres, salads, fruits, fruit drinks and water to be served after the ceremony. To the north, in front of the construction, was a podium surrounded by flowers and a balloon arch.

While waiting for members of the tribal council to break from their monthly meeting, Little Bear Drum sang several songs.

Meanwhile, the land and water were recognized in a traditional way through ceremony, smudge, pipe, and drum. Fred DesJarlait Jr., Spiritual Advisor spoke about the importance of the day. “We want our ancestors to know what we were doing and why we are doing it. I asked the Creator and our ancestors to bless what we are doing for future generations.”

Upon the arrival of members of the Tribal Council, Ombimindwaa Executive Director Cheri Goodwin lip pointed saying “Ambe omaa,” (come here) pointing to the chairs out front.

Goodwin, clearly excited, spoke of the building’s amenities, then proceeded to thank all who made the day possible, tribal council, state and federal governments, site workers, and staff.

Tribal Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., emphasized the importance of all working together. “Chi Miigwech to Cheri Goodwin and her staff…all the ones behind the scenes…for doing what you have to do to get this building going, and all of you, and the whole tribal council. Working together we create many opportunities for you, our tribal members, of the great Red Lake Nation.”

Tribal Secretary Samuel R. Strong also spoke highlighting the importance of utilizing the strength of community, the strength of the elders, and the strength of the lake for healing. “This is a place for our families to heal. We always talk about intergenerational healing, and this is where it’s going to happen.”

programs

Ombimindwaa has grown tremendously in recent years. It now offers an array of Intergenerational Family Wellness Healing resources, services, supports, teachings, and connections.

Ombimindwaa programs include child welfare, ICWA, vulnerable adult and elder services, behavioral/mental health, public health, elderly nutrition, elderly maintenance, and the Children’s Healing Center. Ombimindwaa also provides support to the community through various federal and state grants like Native Connections, the Reducing Recidivism Initiative, and the Community Hub.

The practice model, “If they (our relatives) need to be taken care of, it will happen,” encourages program staff to engage as relatives with those who need services and to provide culturally meaningful support for lasting reunification success, family wellbeing and community healing.

Staff work to identify, assess, and implement promising and evidence-based practices that address the individual and collective needs of birth families with children in foster care. The interventions implemented through the program support successful reunification of families by preserving, nurturing, and strengthening parent-child relationships and supportive community connections and resources, including meaningful engagement of birth parents, extended family, foster families, youth, alumni of foster care, and other stakeholders.

“When the whole family receives support and service they need, they are more likely to achieve timely, stable, and lasting reunification,” said Goodwin. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to reimagine child welfare through a focus on comprehensive, culturally responsive, family-centered, community-based solutions.”

The Building

The building design aligns with the Tiwahe Initiative which supports families through coordinated services and where culture is integrated into practices. The building will be two stories with rooftop access. The building will feature state-of-the-art technology. There will be a drive-up drop-off awning. “The largest Memengwa (butterfly) you’ve ever seen,” says Goodwin, “will grace the front of the building similar to the Migizi (bald eagle) theme at the college and tribal headquarters. Memengwa symbolizes the free-spirit of children. Our culture is our children.”

First Floor:

The first floor will provide services in public health, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It will have a handicap access tub for use by those who may have challenges with a handicapped relative at home. It even has a lift for the family or staff help into the whirlpool bath. There will be a beauty shop. A dental hygienist will be on staff to clean teeth for all ages. It will teach kids how to floss and not be afraid to go to the dentist.

There will be an exercise room with a wet/dry sauna. A small bedroom apartment will teach skills about independent living. There will be Swimex therapy pool to provide aqua therapy regarding mental health, perhaps the only one of it’s kind in northern MN said Goodwin.

The circular Culture Room, with large windows overlooking the lake, will have a mini-library computers, and educational/art opportunities. It will also have large TV’s, and tech screens or video walls that will feature moving videos constantly on culture, stories, history, and more.

Second Floor:

On the 2nd floor, there will be meeting rooms and staff offices. The pandemic has changed a lot in the way of the workplace, the building will adopt and expand many of those practices. There will be “google hangouts”, workstations with glass dividers, while staff are encouraged to go into the community to do their work.

Roof top:

Official Groundbreaking

Child proof rails will grace the public part of the rooftop access. The northside, (the accessible area toward the lake) will be a place for meetings or family get-togethers or picnics, and a place for staff to enjoy lunch. The middle part will host the “penthouse” or mechanical room. And on the southside, an array of solar panels for heat and electricity. Outside, there will be plugins for electric vehicles. Four Tesla automobiles were secured through a grant written by Solar Bear, Red Lake’s contractor for solar installations on the reservation.

“Stay tuned for future surprises,” says Goodwin with a wry smile.

The completion estimated for the new intergenerational service building is set for July 2023.

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