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Red Lake youths to perform in Minneapolis during Super Bowl week

The Little Bear Drum Circle performs in May 2017 for the opening of the Red Lake Nation Youth Conference at Red Lake High School. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS—As football fans pack the Twin Cities ahead of the Super Bowl the next two weeks ahead of the Feb. 4 game, a group of Red Lake youths hopes to introduce the audience to its culture and seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

The group of about 44 students is composed of members of Red Lake's Little Bear drum group and the Red Lake Elementary dance troupe. Both will perform during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

"It's a really good feeling," said Alyss Mountain, who works with Red Lake's at-risk youths. "It gives hope that we're able to represent Red Lake, the Red Lake Nation, in a good way."

The Little Bear group came to the attention of Anne McKeig, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, while she was searching for craftspeople willing to make beaded lanyards to give to the football players.

McKeig wanted local Ojibwe culture to be represented and was also searching for Native drum groups and dancers, Mountain said, so she helped the Little Bear group throw its hat in the ring.

The group—which is composed of the relatives of Red Lake's prestigious drum group Eyabay—was selected, and is now set to perform at Nicollet Mall Jan. 28.

"So there was Eyabay, Eyabay had their children ... their children ended up forming a drum group," Mountain said. "So we kind of told their little story about what happened with the Eyabay drum group and how it transformed into the Little Bear drum group."

Like Eyabay, the Little Bear group has performed at high-profile events across the country. Mountain said the group performed at the White House for the Tribal Youth Gathering hosted by the Obamas.

The Red Lake Elementary dance troupe will perform just two days before the Super Bowl, on Feb. 2.

Each of the youths traveling to Minneapolis will create a lanyard that will be given to Super Bowl staff and athletes.

Most of the youths are nervous and excited, and happy to represent their people, Mountain said.

"I hope it gives the youth a really good opportunity to experience new things, and to continue to pursue their dreams and their goals," she said.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or

(218) 333-9796