I attended the Time to Talk forum sponsored by the Mille Lacs Area Human Rights Commission at the casino on Oct. 18. I enjoyed a thought-provoking and well-delivered speech by Don Shelby, and I took part in an interesting discussion with the diverse group of people who shared the table the Messenger sponsored.
Maybe what I’ll remember most, though, was a little story Mary Sam told about the late Jim Clark, a Mille Lacs Band elder who died last year. She talked about the healing garden at Mille Lacs Health System, which she said was one of the first projects that the Band undertook in conjunction with the wider Mille Lacs community.
When they were looking for a name for the fountain in the garden, Clark came up with one, an Ojibwe word: Wii doo koo daa dii daa.
The translation, Mary said, is “Let’s help one another.”
It would make a nice theme for the Mille Lacs area as we move forward, from an era of divisiveness and lawsuits and tension to … something else. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I do believe things have changed for the better and there’s a new feeling in the air.
When I came back to the area two years ago, it was clear that many folks had moved on, and some of the divisive voices had disappeared or quieted down. I believe more and more people acknowledge that diversity is one of our community’s strengths and are interested in using that strength to help one another.
One of the discussion prompts at the forum asked us to consider what we could do as individuals to enhance the dialogue in the community. Well, that’s what we’re all about in the newspaper business, and I think the Messenger has done a good job of it — since long before I came around.
I had a thought that we could use our website to foster productive dialogue about where the community has been, where it is now, and where it’s going.
As an experiment, I put a story up on the front page of the website titled “Time to Talk — An online forum.” First question: What did you think about the Time to Talk forum? If you were there, go online and tell others what you thought. You can use your name or comment anonymously.
If you weren’t at the Time to Talk forum, visit anyway to see what you missed and comment about others’ posts. If we have a fruitful discussion, we’ll move on to another question next week.
Speaking of the website,there have been hundreds of comments during the past week or so, mostly discussing reservation issues. I’ve stepped in a few times about the nasty tone of some of the comments.
So far, I’ve been erring on the side of “almost anything goes,” but I’m getting tempted to start deleting comments that seems to be strictly personal with no real value to the wider community.
In this new forum, I’ll be much more picky. If it’s clear that a comment doesn’t advance the dialogue, I’ll delete it, so if you add your two cents, you won’t need to worry about being attacked by an anonymous online thug. Hope to see you there.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.