Ojibwe People, Culture Honored on Minnesota Town’s Murals

Ojibwe People, Culture Honored on Minnesota Town’s Murals



The paintings stretch 108 feet long and 8 feet tall, wrapping around two exterior walls of the city Department of Utilities Building in Virginia, Minnesota.

The familiar names and images stretch into history and heritage of the Ojibwe people in this part of northern Minnesota.

The latest in a series of murals commissioned in Virginia was recently unveiled and features the Ojibwe culture.

City Council member Nevada Littlewolf, Leech Lake Ojibwe, and Tracey Daegen, Bois Forte Ojibwe, helped to lead the search for images to use on the mural. There are paintings of clan animals and of the logos for the Bois Forte, Grand Portage and Fond du Lac bands of Ojibwe. There are also images and names of people, some better known, like singer Keith Secola, Bois Forte Ojibwe, and 1960s Golden Glove boxer Francis “Cedric” Littlewolf, Leech Lake Ojibwe. Others are best known in their communities, like elder and traditional dancer Mavis Drift, Bois Forte Ojibwe.

The mural project was undertaken by the Virginia Community Foundation—it plans at least 10 murals with a variety of themes, including athletics and veterans. To fund some of the murals, people submit photographs along with donations to get relatives commemorated on the walls. For the Ojibwe-themed mural, funds were raised before the images chosen.

The call went out for photographs, but there was only a small response. Local photographer Ivy Vainio then stepped forward with a number of possible images and many of the portraits were painted based on her photographs—including one of her husband, Dr. Arne Vainio, a physician with the Fond du Lac Ojibwe.

Mural artist Sue Martinsen painted this mural; she’s well-known for her work in Ashland, Wisconsin, and other local communities.

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