MINNESOTA – Millie Baird, Chippewa National Forest civil engineer, jumped back into being a college student and this spring received her Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Baird, a lifelong resident of the Leech Lake Reservation and an enrolled member of the White Earth Band, realized she had limited knowledge of laws and policies regarding Native Americans.
“The program was a very fulfilling way to learn the history and reasons for various laws and regulations, and how these still impact tribes and tribal members today. This program has also given me a solid foundation for understanding the complexity of tribal relations in a government to government setting,” stated Baird.
Graduation week was full of celebration and tradition. A blanket ceremony was held at UMD Alumni Center for all Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community scholars. Large star quilts in maroon and gold were presented by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribal Council, wrapping graduates in the blankets as was done with buffalo robes in days past. The star quilts are given to honor someone that has completed a major accomplishment.
The UMD American Indian Studies department held a graduation reception where the students received an embroidered medallion of the MTAG program, hand-sewn stoles in the traditional colors of the four directions; yellow, red, black and white, adding to the regalia worn at the official graduation ceremony. The students were also presented with an eagle feather, a high honor. It is believed that an eagle flies higher than any other being and carries prayers to the Creator.
To cap off the celebrations, Tadd Johnson, Director of the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program, hooded each student with a black and red velvet Master’s hood during the UMD graduation ceremony.
“I was excited to graduate with a much better awareness of my own heritage, and new skills in leadership, management and finances,” says Baird.