Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin poses with car with Ojibwe signage
Published March 13, 2018
To Protect and Serve – Ganawenjigeng miinawaa Naadamaageng
BEMIDJI, MINNESOTA – In late February, Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin invited Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Project Founders Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle for a cup of coffee. His idea was to add the words “To Protect and Serve,” (a common phrase among Public Safety offices) to all City of Bemidji police cars. But he wanted to do more. He also wanted to have the familiar phrase written in the Ojibwe language.
Over the past week that’s just what Mastin did. “We added a decal that affirms our purpose in the Bemidji community. The decal simply states “To Protect and Serve” but then also has it printed in Ojibwemowin “Ganawenjigeng miinawaa Naadamaageng.”
Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Project has over 200 businesses and organizations who have agreed to post some kind of Ojibwe/English signage at their place of business. The City of Bemidji was one of the first to participate posting signage at City Hall, the Sanford Center, and the Chamber Building. Every school in the Bemidji School District including charter schools, BSU and the Vo-Tec post Ojibwe signage. Sanford Health and Beltrami County also are participants along with scores of small businesses.
The Ojibwe Language Project continues to snowball across Northern Minnesota, most recently Park Rapids, who has formed a team to promote the idea to Park Rapids area. Other communities participating in Northern Minnesota include, Duluth, Detroit Lakes, Kelliher, Walker, Grand Marais, Grand Rapids, Cass Lake and more.
“We are so pleased to see this happen,” said Michael Meuers of Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Project. “It is a symbol of great importance, and symbols are powerful in their simplicity. I don’t think I have to explain how important such a symbol is for Bemidji’s Police Force to take this step. Hats off to Chief Mastin.”
Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Volunteers Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle
Rachelle Houle, also from the language project, commented that, “We hope that American Indians will feel more welcome in the community as a result of this effort, that the non-Indians will learn a bit about the Indigenous Peoples of this area, and of course tourists just love it. Hopefully this will help facilitate conversation and build bridges between cultures.”