Political Matters: Washington's 'R' word


mordecai_specktor_some.jpgThe rhetoric is escalating in the

run-up to the Minnesota-Washington NFL game. A new stadium is under

construction downtown on the site of the former Metrodome, so the

Vikes are playing their games at TCF Bank Stadium (“the Bank”) on

the University of Minnesota campus.

As the Washington Post reported in

early August, the Bank complex features a Tribal Nations Plaza, which

honors “the 11 Native American tribes in Minnesota. It was built

with a $10 million donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux

Community — the largest private gift ever to Gophers athletics.”

Last month, tribal officials released a statement expressing

opposition to the Redskins’ name “and other sports-related logos,

mascots and names which degrade a race of people,” according to the

newspaper. The Shakopee band and other Minnesota Indian bands are

working with the university to prepare “appropriate responses” to

the NFL game and “minimize the damage that could be done by

invoking the [“R”] name in a place that respects and honors the

Minnesota Native American community.”

American Indian Movement (AIM) leader

Clyde Bellecourt has threatened to organize mass civil disobedience

to stop the Nov. 2 game, if Washington comes here with the Redskins

name and logo. Bellecourt, who is the director of the National

Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, also has threatened to sue

the University of Minnesota if the Washington franchise doesn’t

tone it down. The coalition organized a large march to the Metrodome

last November, when Washington visited Minneapolis for a

nationally-broadcast Thursday Night Football game.

For their part, U of M officials say

they have no control over what the Vikings do in the leased stadium;

but they have requested that Washington wear throwback jerseys that

don’t feature the team name or logo, for the Nov. 2 game with the

Vikings. The university also has asked that public address announcers

not utter the word “Redskins,” and that the epithet not appear on

the scoreboard or program guide for the game. Likewise, the U of M

does not want Washington selling jerseys and souvenirs with the

demeaning name and logo at the Bank.

Katrice Albert, the college’s vice

president in the office of equity and diversity, has stated that

Vikings officials have been receptive to the U of M requests,

according to news reports.

Mount Polley and Minnesota

As a final environmental impact

statement is being prepared for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel

mine in northeastern Minnesota, a major waste spill occurred at the

Mount Polley sulfide mine in central British Columbia.

In early August, a tailing pond

containment was breached, and 10 million cubic meters of contaminated

mine waste water spilled into Hazeltine Creek. News reports out of

the province dubbed this the “worst environmental disaster in

British Columbia’s history.” A water ban affected about 300 local

residents in the rural area, where much of economy is based on

tourists flying in to fish.

A CBC report last month said that

waterways affected by the ban had been expanded to include the entire

Quesnel and Cariboo river systems “right up to the salmon-bearing

Fraser River. Authorities are asking people in the region to stop

using water from both rivers.”

There’s a YouTube video which shows

the extent of this major mine waste spill at: bit.ly/sulfide-mess.

Mining Truth, the Minnesota environmental coalition campaigning

against PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet project, stated: “The Mount

Polley mine in British Columbia was a state of the art, modern copper

mine that had been touted as a shining example of how sulfide mining

can co-exist with clean water. Now, the head scientist at Vancouver

Aquarium’s ocean pollution research program says it is ‘virtually

impossible to clean up’ the mess left behind after this


It seems that PolyMet, the Minnesota

Department of Natural Resources, and the other agencies involved in

the NorthMet environmental review should examine how the Mount Polley

spill occurred.

Imperial Metals, the Canadian firm

that owns the Mount Polley mine, assured the public that its Mount

Polley facility develops a “comprehensive environmental monitoring

plan on an annual basis. This plan includes surface and groundwater

quality monitoring, lake profiling and sampling, dust fall

collection, biological monitoring, and wildlife monitoring.” The

mining firm’s website also features come claptrap about its

involvement in the “Toward Sustainable Mining (TSM)” program,

with its “globally recognized environmental practices, and a

commitment to the safety and health of employees and surrounding


The Mount Polley disaster is a graphic

illustration of the potential dangers of copper-nickel mining. We

can’t say that we haven’t been warned.