An ‘Ogichidaa’

Duane Meat was proud of his Ojibwe heritage

Clarence D. “Duane” Meat ’05-’07, a leader in the campus Native American community, died from a fatal gunshot wound in Minneapolis this May. He was 24.

He once served as president of Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC) and served as co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee of The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations as a sophomore from 2002 to 2003. Leah R. Lussier ’07, NAHC president, called him an “ogichidaa”—the word for “leader” in the language of the Ojibwe tribe, to which she and Meat’s family belong.

Meat had been spending the semester at his home at Leech Lake Reservation—“Tha Rez,” he called it on his Facebook.com profile—and had been planning to return to Leverett House in the fall to write his economics thesis on Native American reservation cash flows.

A RUN-IN WITH A GANG

Meat’s friends were reluctant to reveal details of his death at the annual Harvard Powwow, where mourners placed money, tobacco, and wampum on a blanket to deliver to his family.

Weeks before his death, Meat had been walking on a South Minneapolis street when members of the Sureno 13 gang allegedly harassed him. On May 5, Meat and two friends returned to the house. As he spray-painted “derogatory remarks,” a suspected Sureno 13 member emerged and shot Meat and his friend, said Mike Keefe, a homicide detective in the Minneapolis Police Department. Meat died minutes later in Hennepin County Medical Center’s emergency room, according to the local medical examiner.

Alejandro Luna, 17, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree assault and is now awaiting a June 20 preliminary trial to determine if he will be charged as an adult, said Ross E. Corson, spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney.

‘HE COULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING’

From his roots on the reservation, Meat traveled a long way, leaving the local public system to graduate with the top award from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass. He told friends he wanted to return to Leech Lake to aid in economic development after—he hoped—graduating this coming fall.

Lussier’s family, also from Minnesota, was friends with Meat’s family.

“Where we come from, for an Indian student to make it this far and to have the same aspirations and goals and the ability and perseverance to do these things—I mean, he could have done anything, anything he wanted to do,” she said shortly after his death.

—Staff writer April H.N. Yee can be reached at aprilyee@fas.harvard.edu.