Wiconi Ohitika Project accentuates the positive while it addresses tough issues

Louise Oleson, Editor
Brandon Jackson laughs as a hip hop hippo sits on his lap at the Healthy Living Day of Prayer event held at the Spirit Lake Casino Auditorium Tuesday, August 10.

The topics were serious, although some of the methods were funny as the Cankdeska Cikana Community College Wiconi Ohitika (Strong Life) Project met on Tuesday afternoon on the Spirit Lake Nation.

Following the opening ceremonies, flag song, victory song sung by the Rhythm Riders and the posting of the colors by the VFW Post 6547 and welcome address by Tony McDonald the “animals” of the Bear Project were introduced.

That included Hip Hop Hippo, Break Dancing Frog and a mischievous and naughty Dog. They brought their friends - a lion, an eagle, a huge mouse (wearing a dress and a bow in her hair), a purple crocodile and, of course, a couple of big Teddy bears.

The hip hopping hippo went down into the crowd and tried to dance with one of the members of the drum group seated at the front of the audience.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get Brandon Jackson to dance with her.

So she returned to the stage and brought all the other “animals” down to the audience floor and asked all the children to come forward to dance with them.

Meanwhile the narrator continued her message to the audience calling them to love one another and to respect themselves.

Their message is one of encouragement for families, “Love your children, respect them,” the narrator says.

She talked about the benefits of learning how to read, no matter what your age, stressing the importance of literacy in self esteem.

She also talked about the importance of prayer and not just asking for things, but talking with the Creator, Grandfather, God - whatever name they knew to use.

Another topic addressed by the narrator was suicide. Most of the children in the auditorium raised their hands when she asked them to if they knew someone who had taken their own life.

It was at that point in the afternoon that Cora Whiteman took the microphone and talked about her daughter’s suicide. She shared the story of their family’s tragedy, she said, in hopes that other young people would realize that suicide is not the answer for their problems and that young teens should not be in intimate relationships because they cannot handle the adult situations that arise.

She travels around now and tells her daughter’s story in hopes that young people on the reservation will hear her and find a different way to handle their troubles.

Following her presentation Skye Sanchez addressed the topic, “Bullying is not the Dakota way.”

Tackling some very serious topics like teen suicide, family dynamics and bullying Wicozani Oigduhe Anpetu means “healthy living day of prayer.” The Winconi Ohitika Day of Prayer is held each month and features various topics, speakers and themes to help strengthen native families and individuals. The day includes traditional prayers, smudging and a shared meal.

Literature handed out at the event speaks of the youth of the community as its strength and gives thanks to the many businesses in the Lake Region that support the project, “Please support these local businesses; they are giving back to the Spirit Lake community.

Praying together, supporting each other and voicing our needs is a start in strengthening our community, building resilient families and eliminating loss of lives to suicide.

Many faiths . . .one Creator.

We are on a good path!”

The project is sponsored by Cankdeska Cikana Community College of Fort Totten.