Our journey there passes through Ogema, Minnesota, population 134. The GPS tells us to take the next right. We pause. And discuss. Then debate. The next right is a dirt road. There are many dirt roads in this part of Minnesota. So we proceed, taking the GPS directive. More than a mile down a dusty, pockmarked path it becomes apparent that Biimaadiiziiwiin has outwitted the GPS. The dirt road is not a road at all, but a driveway to a farm house that’s not visible from the road. Such is life in remote, rural, west central Minnesota — the lines on the map do not always align.
Established in 2005, Biimaadiiziiwiin represents an important element of UCH’s mission. We are there because we’ve been called to step in, step out and step up. No other line of reasoning makes sense.
Biimaadiiziiwiin was carefully and jointly named by the tribe and United Church Homes. It’s the indigenous word describing the concept of “the good life.” That’s our intent for being there. The community is designed to be home for residents age 62 and older who meet strict maximum income requirements. It is a place of peace, wholeness and community. It’s a safe haven from some harsh realities of life on the sparsely populated White Earth reservation, issues that include widespread poverty, substance abuse and a population that often does not live long enough to qualify to live there.
Traditional tribe members speak passionately of their seven core values — love, honesty, courage, wisdom, respect, truth, humility — each linked with a specific animal. These values closely parallel those of United Church Homes. And the native people continually draw upon tribal traditions for sustenance and encouragement.
As they search to find their place in the modern world, one made more challenging by technology and change and progress, they’re also cognizant of the need to find value and meaning in their traditional culture. Biimaadiiziiwiin is among our most noble and admirable endeavors, and something that is worthy of additional support and attention.
United Church Homes has recently added its voice to the tribe’s efforts to protect its lands and sacred wild rice growing wetland areas from transcontinental pipeline development. Maintaining the integrity of creation and protecting wilderness areas from potentially destructive oil pipelines is a key concern of the native people in Canada and northern Minnesota.
It’s where our mission converges with the White Earth Band of the Chippewa tribe. It’s where Biimaadiiziiwiin, the good life, comes to life.