Benesikwe (Shirley Ann Nordrum), age 60, journeyed to the Spirit World on Thursday, May 4, 2023 at her home in Laporte, MN.
My sister lived the most fullest life of anyone I know. She was vibrant and vivacious, had a contagious laugh and the dumbest sense of humor. She thought she was funny. We would joke because I thought I was funnier; well, more people did laugh at her stories, so maybe her humor was better than mine. Her laugh and smile will be greatly missed.
What didn’t Shirley do? She quit school in the 8th grade and at 17 received her GED. She worked and went to Rainy River Community College, getting her AS in 1986. She then went on to BSU where she received her BS degree. In 1992, she talked Rich Robinson and the Tribal council into letting her start an Environmental Department at DRM at Leech Lake. She held that position until 2008, when he took her current job as a Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Educator for the University of Minnesota Extension. She was very proud and honored to serve White Earth, Leech Lake, and Red Lake in this position. She just recently started working exclusively with Red Lake on a woodland Indigenous Ecological Knowledge based program. She was excited to be working with her tribe to get this new project off the ground. Part of her project was re-establishing the Red Lake Trail.
Shirley was not all about work; she was very active in the community working with youth and planting fruit trees and shrubs, seed saving and recently establishing pollinator gardens. She was knowledgeable in so many subjects and would gladly share that knowledge with anyone who wanted to know about them. She would talk about the fact that knowledge was to be shared so our communities could become better and stronger. Melissa Pond-Benesh wrote this, “Her passion for her work, for the land, for the community, for the interconnectedness of everything, was evident in everything she did, and she had a true gift and a powerful generosity for sharing teachings and wisdom with anyone willing to listen and to learn.”
Shirley touched so many lives. She made a difference every day of her life. She was a force to reckon with, her love ran strong and fierce. She never backed down from protecting those she loved and cherished. She was very proud of her nephew, Andreas Nordrum. They were two peas in a pod, so much alike in so many ways. They held a community Sugar Bush for the last 4 years. They would sucker fish and had hoped to go fly fishing. They took a class on it and thought it would be fun. They just did not get a chance to fulfill that plan.
Sharing some words that have been left on her Facebook page. Shirley was one of the first people I met when moving back here “she was at all events smiling, laughing and teaching with her bubbly personality.” “My heart is broken. You were one of the kindest and most compassionate sisters I had.” “Such a shock to hear of her crossing over. She is a great loss to our walk here on earth and will be missed by so many from all over.” “You will be greatly missed. You are an amazing friend. I always enjoyed talking with you! I loved watching you at agility practice with your dogs, especially Small Paul.” “She was a great woman and friend, loved by all.” “Standing out here, in the woods, I know we will never be alone. She’s here, she’s in everything. I know every time I am outdoors doing stuff we love, she will be there. Always.” Her last post was “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” Rachel Carson.
My sister was the recipient of both Minnesota’s Unsung Heroes and a 2022 Bush Fellow. She was attending college to attain her master’s degree. Her dream was to teach at the Red Lake Tribal Nation College.
My beautiful sister put everyone before herself, she would do anything for anyone. My hope is that we carry on that generosity she so freely gave. My hope is that all her teachings she shared will live on and be passed on to others, so we can make this world a beautiful place again. She was scared for the future and what it held for our people, let us all work together to carry on her dreams.
I am so thankful we got to do that one last dog seminar together. You did not feel the best, neither did I, but we went, and we saw a new place, learned new training methods, and laughed and had so much fun. Thank you for always being ready for my crazy adventures.
We love you, Shirley, with all our hearts. We know that you will still be with us. I hope that wherever you went, you are pain free and are being greeted by all those that went before. Love you.
Shirley leaves behind many, many friends and family, her sisters Sharon and Violet, and nephew Andreas, whom she was very close to. Special friends are so many, you all know she loved you so very much. She leaves behind several nieces and nephews and their children.
Wake will start at 4:00 PM on Monday, May 8, 2023 at the New Red Lake Community Center with traditional service starting at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Burial will be at St Mary’s Cemetery.
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