American Indian Summer Language Camp

June 23, 2020 |


Diversity & Inclusion, American Indian Affairs and the American Indigenous Studies program at Minnesota State University, Mankato are in the midst of hosting a virtual American Indian Summer Language Camp from June 16-18 and 23-25.

The Summer Camp was first established in 2013 as a cooperative effort between American Indian Affairs and the Four Dakota communities of Minnesota. The reason for starting was to give American Indian high school students a chance to visit and experience a university campus, so they may begin envisioning themselves attending. In 2017, just over half of American Indian high school students in Minnesota graduated in four years. Research shows that attending culturally-centered summer camps increases college attendance outcomes for American Indian students. Since then, the camp has opened to any student entering grades 9-12.The camp is free to students.

With the current global health crisis, the event has moved online and is held as a virtual camp this year with 12 registrants from across the United States, including Arizona and Utah, as well as Canada. Students choose either the Ojibwe or Dakota language breakout session, then the group comes together for a virtual lunch and social hour to discuss college, life and other topics of interest.

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Presenters include:  Alphonse Pitawanakwat (instructor of Ojibwe at University of Michigan.), Dr. Chelsea Mead (Professor of Anthropology and American Indigenous Studies at Minnesota State Mankato), Glenn Wasicuna (Dakota elder and Dakota Language instructor at Minnesota State Mankato in the World Languages & Cultures Department.

Ojibwe Language Sessions are facilitated by Alphonse Pitawanakwat and Dr. Chelsea Mead, with student mentors Lidia Vassar (American Indigenous Studies student) and Alex Lucier (doctoral student). Dakota language sessions are facilitated by Glenn Wasicuna, with student mentor Clare Caroll.

Alphonse Pitawanakwat is a fluent elder and instructor of Ojibwe at University of Michigan. He and Dr. Chelsea Mead (Professor of Anthropology and American Indigenous Studies at Minnesota State Mankato) are hosting the Ojibwe language sessions. Lidia Vassar is an advanced Ojibwe language student who just completed her second year of learning Ojibwe language here at Minnesota State Mankato and she is assisting with the camp as a student mentor. Alex Lucier is doctoral student and Minnesota State Mankato alum who took the first Ojibwe language class offered on campus and has continued learning his heritage language over the past few years. 

Glenn Wasicuna is a fluent Dakota elder and the instructor of Dakota language at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Clare Caroll, an American Indigenous Studies major and junior, is also assisting the Dakota language classes as a student mentor this summer. She's been studying the Dakota language for the past two years at Minnesota State Mankato.

Ojibwe language at Minnesota State Mankato is taught by Bemidji State University professor Dr. Anton Treuer and supported Dr. Mead and the American Indigenous Studies program during the school year. Students can complete a full 100 or 200 level series of classes through the BSU/Minnesota State Mankato partnership.  Minnesota State Mankato also offers 100 and 200 level classes in Dakota language.

View KEYC's coverage of this year's event.

For questions about the camp, contact Megan Heutmaker, Director of American Indian Affairs at Minnesota State  University, Mankato at or 507-389-5230.

Questions about the American Indigenous Studies program and Indigenous language offerings can be directed to Dr. Chelsea Mead at or 507-389-1302.

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