Dear editor,

Hello. I live in the city of Cloquet; I attended Cloquet High School and have spent a number of years living and breathing this Potlach air. I am college educated, write and speak English well, serve as a community board member, a voter, a taxpayer, a meeting attendee and teacher. I work full time, walk my dog, celebrate my family and love sunny days when we get to work in the yard as much as the next person. On paper, that sounds pretty good, but that’s where the similarities end and differences begin.

At first, you might notice my effeminate nature, long hair or innate abilities, but that is my two-spirit nature you are honing in on.

Additionally, you might notice my blue license plates marking tribal enrollment. That is because I am Anishinaabe; my spirit name is Red Sky from the marten clan. I participate in sacred ceremonies and practice the Ojibwe language. I have an “Indian card," an eagle feather hanging from my rear view mirror and a big oval sticker stating my heritage in my rear window. These are the things that can separate you and me.

I have experienced overt, covert, intentional, unintentional, perceived, micro and macro versions of racism. Usually in the form of sideways looking, sideways speaking or sideways acting. Regardless of its presentation, it is still racism. I have been accused of being a nuisance, an intruder, a sinner, a snake in the garden, the coyote waiting to trick you.

I have relatives on the other side of an invisible border who claim I am a mentor, an inspiration, resilient, thriving and compelling. It takes more than three minutes to make that determination.

I promise, I am not pedaling drugs during my lunch break. I am not staking out your home, conniving or planning to commit a crime. I am not conspiring, keeping score or calculating my next move to destroy other’s lives. I am simply eating my salad and walleye under the trees in Pinehurst Park during my personal lunch hour.

However, a car rolled up behind me, waited a few minutes, pulled up alongside me and declared “The Feds” are surveilling, along with recording my license plate and car description, I was “warned” by a not-so-friendly neighbor. This is your neighbor, Cloquet. This is your neighbor, Minnesota.

Do some neighbors think they are superior? Do your neighbors think all Native people are unworthy, broken and likely to fail? Do they dislike the sight, scent or scene of “others?” If so, those are broken race relations. I have experienced discrimination, accusations, aversions, conversions, angst, confusion and adversity of varying sizes — this time I am speaking out.

Racist comments are always demeaning; racist attitudes always suppose a higher opinion of self over others.

Here is a daily thought: Let us share in the responsibility of responding to the trauma stemming from racism. I am not alone.


Mesko Gizhig