By Mikayla Schaaf Inaajimowin Guest Writer
On July 28, motorcyclists took to Minnesota highways to honor the seven Anishinaabe values and bring awareness of these teachings to the community.
The Riders began their journey at the District I Community Center. As they gathered to register, the Mille Lacs Area Partners for Prevention (MAPP) team handed out bottled water, and the office of District I Representative Sandi Blake provided a wonderful brunch. Joe Nayquonabe Sr. said a prayer, and Dan Wind sang a drum song. During the fueling point at the Mille Lacs Convenience Store, the Keep Tobacco Sacred Team handed out t-shirts and wished the riders a safe journey to their next stopping point, which was at the Aazhoomog Community Center in Lake Lena. District III Representative Wally St. John met the group in Aazhoomog with a lunch provided by Commissioner Percy Benjamin and prepared by Joyce, Wendy, Della Benjamin, and Kim Big Bear. Wally said, “I firmly believe it is a great start. People were willing to take time from their life to show support for others. It felt very good to be a part of this effort.
The riders then continued on the next registration point, at the Meshakwad Community Center in Hinckley. Clearway and Colleen McKinney handed out “Anishinaabe Values” headbands and designed flyers for the event. Wristbands were donated from the Wraparound Program. The final stop was in Minisinaakwaang, East Lake, at the Gii-Ishkonigewag Powwow.
Rich Hill, who is passionate about raising awareness about the seven values, took the lead in organizing this motorcycle run. He was consistent from start to finish, bringing communities and programs together to make it all happen. Rich said, “The amazing thing about this event was that we had riders from all over show interest in this event. We had interest from other tribes as well as having, at one point, over 18 riders and passengers. Our riders ranged from pastors from the Cities, a doctor from District I, and non-Natives riding in the event. We had riders join us in Sandstone and Lake Lena and through rain and shine, who rode to support awareness of our seven Anishinaabe values. We had Rusty Thomas Jr., who had surgery and was not physically able to ride, so he followed us with his truck and trailer through the whole route in case we had a breakdown. We also had a car with supporters follow in case we had other emergencies so that they could assist us.” Rusty Thomas Jr., who is an avid rider, mentioned, “Even though I couldn't ride, it felt really good being the tail gunner, seeing all the brothers and sisters coming together to be proud of our culture and people.”
Rich also mentioned the support and help of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, Joe Nayquonabe Jr., and Beth Gruber — who assisted in the production of the logo. “After a couple attempts in finding someone to volunteer to design our logo, and running out of time to get a design and find support in producing it, I came up with our logo on my own. The reality of the logo only came to life after the support of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. Without them, we would have never been able to make our logo a reality.”
The group plans to schedule more rides in the future to continue to bring awareness of our values.
PHOTOS BY MIKAYLA SCHAAF: It was a beautiful day for a ride on July 28 when the first-ever Anishinaabe Values Motorcycle Ride toured the region. The ride started in District I and traveled to Aazhoomog and Hinckley before winding up at the Gii-Ishkonigewag Powwow in District II.