Survey shows race relations problems in Bemidji
Bedeau says back then, racism against Indians was blatant.
"You were treated very rudely," said Bedeau. "I can remember people hollering at us, calling us names and people telling us to get out of town and things like that. Clearly you were not welcomed there."
Things have improved a lot since then, according to Bedeau.
But at a Bemidji gas station just a few years ago, Bedeau saw something that angered her.
While several Indians were gassing up their cars at the pumps, the store clerk was outside jotting down the numbers from their Red Lake tribal license plates.
"When I went in to pay for my gas, I asked them what they were doing," Bedeau said, "and the clerk said, 'Until you people stop stealing, we will do this.' And I was just taken aback. It goes back to the way I had experienced things years back. So those types of things still exist."
The study found that 80 percent of whites rated race relations as fair or good. But more than half of Indians surveyed in Bemidji said relations were poor. That number was even higher for Indians living on neighboring reservations.
Nearly half of Indians surveyed said they regularly experience discrimination in retail stores and by law enforcement. Half of them said they faced discrimination in the job market and in housing.
For more on the subject, see 40% of Whites Are Prejudiced and Everybody Is Racist (including those who deny it).
Below: "This metal sculpture of an American Indian sits near the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe on the Bemidji waterfront. There's been longstanding racial tension between the two cultures the statues represent." (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)
Juxtaposing the two statues is potentially a problem, since it links real people with fictional characters.