While the word “medicine” elicits a wide range of thoughts and feelings, “good medicine” to Indigenous peoples has always been synonymous with a life lived in a good way. Hence, good medicine to the Anishinaabeg people is intertwined with mino-bimaadiziwin, or living the good life. Following this path not only requires reflection about our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, but also includes a commitment to our cul- ture, values, and community. Even though positive change in any one direction is encouraging, inadequately addressing any of the other base elements results in an imbalance of the whole. True wellness requires opening the heart to a holistic mindset as we look in all directions, waasa-inaabidaa.
Established in 1990, Leech Lake Tribal College’s (LLTC’s) mission is to provide quality higher education grounded in Anishinaabe values. This commitment to students extends far beyond academics, as we strive for an environment that strengthens our culture and traditions, as well as every individual. The core value of zaagi’idiwin (love) serves as a daily moti- vator to consider others as we walk together as a campus community. Initially designed to offer dedicated support to student parents, the Mino-ayaawigamig Wellness Center opened at LLTC in 2012. With parents comprising greater than 60% of the college’s total enrollment, they bring along additional barriers, as well as embody a host of possibilities. Mino-ayaawigamig is now open to all on campus, although the center maintains individual and group support for student parents to help them throughout the school year.
With Mino-ayaawigamig acting as a catalyst, LLTC has incorporated an array of health initiatives, including the implementation of a campus-wide commercial tobacco-free policy in 2014. The policy includes cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and vaping, but also proudly embraces and supports the ceremonial uses of asemaa (tobacco) on campus. Continuing to strive for healing, LLTC became the first tribal college to join the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Healthier Campus Initiative. This three-year effort is focused on 23 guidelines surrounding improved food/nutrition, physical activity, and programming on campus.
LLTC also began an exciting new project this fall that is focused on demystifying healthy eating. The project is commit- ted to improving access to Indigenous fare prepared in a healthier way, as well as including relevant stories and language. The initial effort has found success by leveraging the community’s connection to culture and locally accessible staples through incorporating both modern and traditional methods. Although the endeavor is relatively new, the campus response has been positive. Students, staff, and community members alike have voiced their appreciation for the new insight, as well as for the respectful
blending of modern methods and traditional foods. Average participation at weekly meals has been more than double that of last year’s attendance, even though enrollment has remained relatively the same.
Long-term sustainability for Mino-ayaawigamig is still a work in progress. Yet it has been very encouraging to see the young and old alike find healing on their path to mino-bimaadiziwin while at Leech Lake Tribal College.