Community Profile: Bemidji, MN

By Emily Anderson

Bemidji, Minnesota is a city of 13,431 residents in the North Woods of Minnesota. Only a few miles away from the starting point of the Mississippi River, Bemidji is known for the natural beauty of its woods and lakes and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Founded in 1897, the name Bemidji is derived from an Ojibwe word that means “lake with cross waters” in reference to the Mississippi River crossing Lake Bemidji.

Bemidji is a hub between the Red Lake, White Earth, and Leech Lake Indian Reservations of Northwestern Minnesota, and the city honors the Native cultures within and around it by including signage in Ojibwe as well as English throughout the city.

Concordia Language Villages
Le Vent Du Nord performing at Concordia Language Villages, photo by Shigeyo Henriquez.

Ojibwe is not the only language with a strong presence in Bemidji. The Concordia Language Villages are language immersion schools near the town of Bemidji with programs for children and adults. The presence of the school in the community has led to a culture of appreciation for languages, with groups meeting regularly at local coffee houses to practice conversation in French, Norwegian, German, and Italian.

Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College, and Oak Hills Christian College lend a charming “college town” atmosphere to this small city in the North Woods.

Community Partner

Headwaters School of Music & the Arts, Arts Midwest World Fest’s community partner in Bemidji, enriches the lives of individuals in the community by offering exceptional music and art education programs.

Headwaters School of Music & the Arts is a full service community school that was established in 1992. The school provides a welcoming and positive atmosphere that nurtures its students’ commitment to music and art. The school exists to contribute outstanding music and art education as well as comprehensive programming and performance opportunities to their broad community base. They offer quality private instruction tailored to the needs of individuals of all ages, and they continually adapt course offerings to build community and encourage new participation.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Paul Bunyan and Babe. Photo by wonder_al CC BY-2.0.

Fun Fact

Bemidji is home to an 18-foot statue of the legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his companion Babe the Blue Ox. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places. The pair of sculptures was erected in 1937 as part of a Winter Carnival meant to encourage tourism to Bemidji and have become two of the most photographed statues in the United States.

Residency Dates

Le Vent Du Nord | Sep 29 – Oct 05 2013
Baladino | Mar 16 – Mar 22 2014
Paulo Padilha and Group | Oct 19 – Oct 25 2014
Shanren | winter/spring 2015


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