Bezh Butler brings vision to All Nations

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Cole Nicholls

Butler helps Abel Martinez conjugate Ojibwe verbs. Though he only started at South this year, he talks to his students like old friends.

You may have seen him roaming around the Commons, in what he describes as “full regalia – drums, dancing, everything.” That’s Bezh Butler, the new coordinator for the All Nations program.

A Wisconsin native, Butler moved to Minneapolis, after getting his BA in Psychology from the University of Green Bay, in order to learn Ojibwe. He ended up working at the Division of Indian Work for seven years. Butler never had any intention of teaching, but after being recognized by higher-ups at the DIW for his skills as an educator, he was employed for a year as a first grade teacher at Bdote, a Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion school in South Minneapolis. However, “as a teacher, you really get put in a box,” he said, so after learning of the job opening here at South, he decided to make the move.

“[South] is a really good fit for me,” said Butler. Day to day, he helps teachers to provide curriculum through an Indigenous lens, and makes sure that students and their teachers have good relationships. “I’m not only teaching kids, but I’m kind of teaching teachers too,” he said. He also helps organize and facilitate large events in the All Nations program; like the recent back-to-school celebration, or the upcoming three-day trip to Camp Widjiwagan. And although he’s new, Butler has known some of these students for a long time. “The kids that I work with that are sophomores now are kids that I used to work with when they were fifth graders [at the DIW].”

When asked about what he sees as the future of the All Nations program, he said he wants all his students “to know that they have the power to seek what they need. We want to build students into leaders as young as we can.” By walking through the Commons, beating rhythms on his own homemade drum, engaging students by disrupting business as usual, he hopes to show students that they can “take the initiative to represent themselves.”