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Olympic-style ski jump plans in works for PIIC
Thursday, September 14 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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skilongview.jpgThe Prairie Island Indian Community (PIIC) is in negotiations with the Friends of American Ski Jumping organization over plans by the latter group to build an Olympic-style ski jump on the Community’s Mount Frontenac near Red Wing.

Ski jump enthusiasts and Red Wing area boosters have been raising money from private sources for the project. Heading into August, organizers had raised $1.2 million and had another $1 million in pledges for what is estimated to be a $6 million year-around ski jump training and competition facility.

A second phase of development with more recreation venues and concern facilities is also being considered.  

Shelley Buck, president of the PIIC Tribal Council, said the Community and ski jump group are still finalizing business arrangements for the group to build on the Community’s land. But, she added, “We are excited to see the project moving forward and are encouraged by the growing interest and support.”

The idea for the ski jump facility came from the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame that is housed in the St. James Hotel in downtown Red Wing. Norwegian immigrants started American ski jumping at Red Wing in the 1880s on the bluffs above the Mississippi River.

skijumptop.jpgRegardless how business ties between the groups are resolved, the ski jump facility would expand PIIC’s activities in the hospitality industry. The site is connected to the Mount Frontenac Golf Course and its club house and event center, and is convenient to PIIC’s Treasure Island Resort and Casino.

Buck said diversifying the Community’s economy is a top priority.

“Gaming has been a successful economic development tool for our tribe and many other Native communities; it’s helped us become self-sufficient and allowed us to share our success with our neighbors,” she said. “But we don’t want to bet our future on gaming alone.”

Prairie Island’s economy is already one of Minnesota’s most diverse destination and entertainment attractions with gaming, golf, water sports, bowling and concerts, Buck said. “This project would add exciting elements to what we’ve already created and drive even more visits and positive impact to the region, she said. 

Ski jump backers are estimating as many as 100,000 people may be drawn to the site annually. Red Wing and Rochester newspapers have stressed this would economically benefits communities throughout southeastern Minnesota.
The Hall of Fame inducted six new members in early August at ceremonies at the golf club. A special guest at the Red Wing ceremony was Steve Collins, a Canadian Olympian ski jumper who has family ties to the PIIC.
Collins is a member of the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ont. Peter Collins, a first cousin of the skier, is the elected chief of the Ojibwe First Nation. ­However, the Hall of Fame notes on its website that a grandfather of the celebrated Canadian Olympian was Charley Collings, a member of PIIC before migrating to Canada.

More information about the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum is available at: ;
the ski jump project is at, and Prairie Island Indian Community at .  

Indian Land Capital Co. helps tribes reclaim ancestral land
Thursday, September 14 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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businessstoryroy.jpgAn unusual finance company based in the St. Paul suburb of Little Canada is playing a big role in helping tribes repurchase ancestral lands that should never have been sold or taken away.

The Indian Land Capital Co.  (ILCC) is legally a for-profit venture owned by two nonprofit organizations, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation in Little Canada and the Native American Community Development Corp. of Browning, Mont.

There are a variety of legal reasons why the ILCC is incorporated that way, said Rjay Brunkow, chief executive officer. But mostly, it allows ILCC to work with commercial banks and other lenders to allow creative financing packages for tribes that aren’t secured by land collateral.

“This has always been a problem for sovereign nations,” Brunkow said. “Lenders always want collateral supporting the loan. It takes some ‘getting used to’ for banks to recognize the full faith and credit (pledge) of sovereign nations.”

Founded in 2005, ILCC has helped tribes finance 17 land acquisition projects. The purchases have been in a dozen states but California is a major client base for ILCC activity. That comes from California’s large number of small Rancherias (reservations) and California Natives’ peculiar experiences with federal laws that disbanded the tribes and later restored federal recognition. 

Some ILCC loan have been small purchases of a few acres within reservation boundaries or a nearby mountain that has cultural importance but no economic value to a tribe. Others have been large purchases such as the 22,237 acres of timberland in 2011 that doubled the size of the Yurok Tribe at Klamath, Calif.

Land repurchases to date are important both economically and culturally but are a mere pittance of the 90 million acres pulled away legally and illegally from sovereign tribes, Brunkow said.

The most recent ILCC financed land purchase was two months ago when the Pinoleville Pomo Nation at Ukiah, Calif., acquired 9.3 acres of its original Rancheria land with a $2.7 million loan.  

“We couldn’t have done this without Rjay’s and the land company’s help,” said Leona Williams, the tribal chairperson.

The reacquired land was split between 8.8 acres of commercial property and 3.5 acres that Williams described as “cultural heritage land.”

All of the property, however, is significant for the Pinoleville Pomo citizens and for members of 16 other Rancherias in California, she said.

Part of the land formerly belong to Tillie Hardwick, a tribal member who challenged a 1958 federal law that resulted in terminating the California Rancherias in 1966. In winning that 1979 case, tribal status was returned to the Rancherias and their members regained federal recognition as American Indians.

“We really wanted to save this land but we didn’t have the means,” Williams said. “Then, an attorney we knew from Colorado suggested we find out if that group (ILCC) in Minnesota could help. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it was true.”

Small and less economically successful tribal nations like the Pinoleville Pomo make the primary client base for ILCC financing and originated loans with other partners. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community “really don’t need our help,” he said, and they have all the internal expertise they need to work financing and business ventures.

Meanwhile, Brunkow said the capital company is gaining access to participating lenders with each passing land deal. The track record with tribes is what does it.

“We’ve never had a tribal client default on a loan,” he said.

That would impress bankers. Brunkow would know.

Brunkow, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, is a former investment banker specializing in Indian Country business for Wells Fargo. He has a business economics degree from South Dakota State University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Before joining ILCC two years ago, Brunkow had previously served as solicitor general for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and as chief legal counsel for the Turtle Mountain Band.

One reason for the success of ILCC’s loans is that Brunkow and his predecessors serve as the loan originators when bringing other participants in on the loans. “When we know Indian Country, we know what will be done with the land and we know the politics, the culture of a tribe, that tells us the tribe will follow through on obligations,” he said.

That isn’t significantly different from other banking and lending practices. “What we are looking for is stability,” he added.

ILCC is housed at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation office in Little Canada. It also gets staff help from the parent organization.

While the Foundation, with its 76 percent stake in the company, and its Native American Community Development Corp. partner could be taking profits out of the for-profit lending institution, it doesn’t. And it won’t, explains Chris Stainbrook (Oglala Lakota), president of the Foundation and board chair for ILCC.

“ILCC was formed as a for-profit company to demonstrate to outside lenders that tribes are good credit risks and full-faith-in-credit lending to the tribes could work. It was not formed for the two non-profit owners to be supported by ILCC profits,” he said.

“ILTF and NACDC will not take a single nickel out of ILCC until the 90 million acres of lost reservation lands are returned to Indian ownership, management and control,” he added.

That shows the magnitude of the work remaining for the capital company and its parents.

More information about the Indian Land Capital Company can be found at ; Indian Land Tenure Foundation at , and Native American Community Development Corp. at .    

Native Caucus = Strength in Numbers
Tuesday, August 08 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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native-american-women-minnesota-legistature.jpgFrom winning state bonding funds for redesign and improvements for the Minneapolis American Indian Center to preserving funding for Indian education programs, the newly-formed Native Caucus in the Minnesota Legislature is showing again there is strength in numbers.

Voters in the last election added two more Native Americans to the Minnesota House of Representatives, making a small Native Caucus of four women. They, in turn, joined with House and Senate members from Hispanic/Latino, Hmong and other Asian, Somali and Black American heritages to form a 14-member People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus to fight collaboratively for racial and economic equality issues during the 2017 legislative session.

New to the Legislature are Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn, of Roseville (District 42B); and Mary Kunesh-Podein, New Brighton (41B). They joined Reps. Peggy Flanagan, St. Louis Park (46A), who won a special election in 2015 and a full term in November; and three-term veteran Susan Allen, of Minneapolis (62B) 

All Native and POCI members are DFLers. That means they are minority individuals combining talents within the minority party of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature. It also means they needed to work offensively and defensively with Republican lawmakers and committee chairs to seek new programs and funds while preserving programs and funds already serving their constituents and communities.

“It is hard for me to imagine doing this job without the Native Caucus and the POCI caucus,” said new House member Becker-Finn. “I think there is strength in numbers, but it also gave me strength as an individual to look across the House floor and see Representative Flanagan and know that I was not alone in what I was fighting for.”

 Reaching out and banding together worked, at least in the eyes of Mary LaGarde, executive director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The caucus coauthored and supported legislative efforts for the Center's $155,000 renovation pre-design funding that was led by Rep. Karen Clark (62A), who represents that area of south Minneapolis.

LaGarde said design work and mechanical upgrade plans will be prepared by late fall at the earliest. Ever a diplomat, LaGarde said she was pleased that Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, included the Center’s funding in his state bonding bill recommendations, and that Clark and Allen were able to get Republican legislative leaders to study and accept the proposal. Key among them was Rep. Dean Urdahl (18A), R-Grove City and the House Capital Investment chair.

Given that there are now enough Native heritage members of the Legislature to actually work as a caucus, The Circle asked the four lawmakers to assess what was accomplished, what wasn’t, and how working together in Native and POCI (pronounced “posse”) caucuses worked.

Allen provided a long list of bills either passed or incorporated into larger, omnibus legislation from the state’s Revisor of Statutes Office that included:

  • Tax exemptions for tribal clinics in cities off of tribal lands, and including income earned by tribal members working on reservations for eligibility for Minnesota Working Family Tax Credits.
  • Tribal contract school aid for 2018 and 2019.
  • American Indian education aid and American Indian teacher preparation grants for the next two years.
  • Tribal college grants and an Indian scholarship program administered at Bemidji State University.
  • Opioid Abuse Prevention Pilot projects across the state that include Native communities.
  • Funding for the Indian Affairs Council for a variety of programs, including to preserve Dakota and Ojibwe language, support for the Niiganne Ojibwe Immersion School, Wicoie Nandagikendan Urban Immersion Project, Baby’s Space and other Indian Affairs Council partners.
  • A grant to the American Indian Council to carry out responsibilities for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
  • Grants for the American Indian Opportunities and Industrialization Center, in collaboration with the Northwest Indian Community Development Center, to help reduce educational disparities for American Indian students and adults.
  • Funds for the state’s Housing Finance Agency for use in encouraging housing projects for American Indians and communities of color, and for a home ownership assistance program for those communities.
  • And, $1.5 million in funds for the Department of Natural Resources as part of an agreement in which the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will acquire 45 acres of aquatic and wildlife habitat at an historic meeting place between explorer Henry Schoolcraft and Anishinabe people. The land will be open to the public and not put in federal trust through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Of course, nearly everything else that passed the Legislature and was signed into law will have an impact on Minnesota Indian Country along with all other communities within the state.

For Allen, the “dean” of the Native Caucus, there was as much frustration over what wasn’t done as there was satisfaction over what she deemed to be accomplishments.

The Legislature mostly ignored the chaos in Washington and how federal programs in transition might come back and harm state and local governments and their shared programs, she said. As a result, she added, the Legislature “squandered most of the $1.65 billion (state) budget surplus by redistributing it to the wealthy and further widening inequality between the wealthy and people struggling to secure and maintain regular employment that pays a living wage.”

The two caucuses working together did hold off legislative efforts to prohibit local governments, such as the city of Minneapolis, from addressing economic inequality issues such as raising minimum wages. They also were instrumental in preventing legislative efforts aimed at disallowing citizen protests.

The strength in numbers didn’t just come from the members of the Legislature. It was also reflected by citizens who came to support the caucus members. For instance, a House debate on an oil pipeline amendment drew Native people and environmentalist allies, “and was the most powerful day of my legislative career thus far,” said Becker-Finn.

“To hear the drum reverberate in our State Capitol – it was a very powerful and also effective at showing how much people in our communities care about the issue,” she said.

Kunesh-Podein, meanwhile, said being able to tell personal stories from family experiences helped other lawmakers grasp how public policy plays out in human terms. When funds for American Indian students and tribal schools were being excluded from initial budget bills, “being a member of the POCI caucus gave me the courage and voice to raise this ‘oversight’ on the House floor.

“It also compelled me to share my family’s history of trauma related to being removed from the Standing Rock Reservation and being sent to the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania. At the end of the session, and after our collective perseverance and personal conversations with committee members, I was elated to see that monies were put back into the education omnibus bill.”

Four members of the House help make other legislators aware of tribes and indigenous people, the members said. But even greater strength comes from teaming with POCI members who represent other “marginalized” communities in Minnesota, Kunesh-Podein said.

Immigrants live in constant fear of deportation; and women’s reproductive rights and economic opportunities are under constant attack, she said. With POCI, she said, “we have a powerful, collective voice for these constituents.”



Riding the Line: Enbridge and the horse nation
Tuesday, August 08 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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native-american-horse-ride2.jpgI am a traveler, for sure, but my love of the horse, the sound of horses on our Mother Earth,  the chance to see a monarch butterfly, a back trail, and a ride with my grandchildren brings me to horse. And on Sandy Lake, it brings me to canoes. We have become a people who travel very fast, and many of us rarely stop to taste the fresh raspberries, harvest the medicines, or swim in our lakes. And perhaps we have forgotten our relationship to the natural world and the horse nation.  

These past three weeks I have had the privilege of riding with great horsemen and women, mostly Dakota and Lakota who came to ride the proposed Enbridge pipelines – this time in Wisconsin, where Enbridge has two main lines – a triangle from Superior which stretches across Bad River, Lac Courte Orielles, and into Ho Chunk territory. The line turns towards the Great Lakes and to the proposed Line 3 route in Minnesota and through the heart of our manoomin (wild rice) territory. It is an epic time and in an epic time, we must be at our best.

I am inspired by courageous people. I believe that we all are, whether Delores Huerta, Nelson Mandela or the Crow Creek Boys who we came to know at Standing Rock.  At 21, Mason Red Wing is young for a leader. Standing Rock changed his life as it did for many of us. We remember Mason and his brother Talon Voice from the early videos of the horses and dogs at Standing Rock. “Many of those who travel, saw the grammas being arrested and thrown to the ground by Morton County. …I went out there to protect the women and children, to put our  bodies in front of them,” Talon Voice tells me.

“The dogs came straight for the horses, as soon as they released the dogs. We had to drive them back..” he said.

Asked why they ventured so far into the woods and lakes to support us in our battle against Enbridge, Mason said, “You guys helped at Standing Rock, so I said why not return the favor and come support you.”

native-american-horse-ride3.jpgThe men of Crow Creek, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Sisseton, and Santee are seasoned and weathered for their young age. Their lives are much more tragic than many, yet their love of the horse and the restoration of horse culture inspires all and heals them.

We remember who we are when we see our relatives on horse back. It is not only a healing for Lakota people. What brings us together is often the spirit, the need for redemption, and the horse nation.  

Tracy Hsu is from Elgin North Dakota, a K-12 Librarian in the school system. She rides through Minnesota with us. “What really prompted me to go to Standing Rock was the kids on horses. I saw that on FB [Facebook],” said Hsu. Those kids are Mason Red Wing, Talon Voice, Kaler Kirkie, Judson Stadel, Jason Skinny Bull,  Elliot, Matt Pumpkinseed, and many more.  

Tracy brought two half Percheron, half thoroughbred horses to ride along the proposed Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline. “ I wanted to show my support. You guys came to North Dakota.” She pauses, “I also wanted to represent what you call ‘the Deep North.’ That there are a few of us that are here, who support you, who are conscious and are good people.” 

To Tracy, the violence of the oil industry was wrong. “When they sicked dogs on people and closed the highway, I was all in. You don’t get to do that to people... Our family ranch was on the Cannonball…” she added.

The Black Snake

I became committed to ride this 200 mile stretch from Rice Lake Refuge in Minisinakwaang to Rice Lake at Gaawaabaabaanikaag, five years ago.  For those years I have ridden, always with other riders better than I, this route proposed for the pipeline. The Keri Pickett film, “First Daughter and the Black Snake” tells much of our story in the ride against the current of the oil, and our commitment to face Enbridge on a long battle.

native-american-horse-ride4.jpgA journey is not always in your planner. Each day is like a journey to me, that is if I am able to take the Creator up on the offer. We stop at the East Lake Powwow and probably for the first time in years, 20 horses circle through the Dance Arbor, and the host drum, Swampy Cree, sings a jingle dress song for the horses. After all, many jingle dress songs are related to horse songs.

Half way through the ride we got word that our Great Elder, Anna Gibbs, had passed on. The Dakota remembered her and asked to escort our Waasabiik, Anna Gibbs, to her final resting place at the family cemetery in Ponemah.  Tracy Hsu drives her white percherons to carry the casket, and the riders escort Anna. The ride and the journey are beautiful.

Let’s be clear that what is being proposed in the failing days of the fossil fuel industry is a disaster of epic proportions. It is the same with the extreme mining proposals, the Confined Animal Feeding Operations, and the proposed Back Forty Mine of Wisconsin. They are all part of an extreme way of life, one which is not sustainable.  A disaster of epic proportions, requires an epic answer, and courage.  On the horse, and on the land and water, you find that courage.

Most of us have had little faith in a state or federal regulatory process. And it turns out that we are related. The proposed Line 3 would add more tar sands to Enbridge’s Mainline system, and would feed into a proposed 42 inch Line 66, called a “twin” to the Line 61 in Wisconsin. Another Snake, Line 5, heads through Bad River to the Straights of Mackinac where hundreds of water protectors gather. Line 66 crosses Ho Chunk territory, and for a time, Deer Clan Elder Bill Greendeer joins us on the ride. 

The Enbridge Pipeline already cuts through one of thirteen Bear, Snake, Effigy and other mounds.
“... The Ho-Chunk Nation is no stranger to the damage caused by the oil industry to our sacred sites within our traditional territory. In its current capacity, the Enbridge Pipeline has already caused the irreparable damage to many sacred site on our homelands…”, Jon Greendeer, Executive Director of Heritage Preservation for the HoChunk Nation.

Eighty feet wide and 300 miles long, running the length of Wisconsin – through neighborhoods, businesses, farmsteads, forests, rivers – that is the swath of Wisconsin land controlled by Enbridge Energy Partners. Beneath that 80 foot swath are three pipelines carrying more than 2 million barrels of oil per day, and one pipeline carrying diluent pumped northward to extract oil from Canada’s tar sands. Now Enbridge wants more and up to 300 feet more of easement.

Unlikely Alliances

The pipeline makes unlikely allies, linked through a dysfunctional and outdated system of infrastructure.  People come to see us at every stop, bring food, water, and community feasts. In Marshfield, Wisconsin (site of the largest Enbridge spill in Wisconsin) we are sweaty from horses, and welcomed at the Presbyterian Church potluck with hundreds of people, including landowners who were deeply concerned about the Canadian company being granted eminent domain rights to expand a line in Wisconsin. We are put up in Tweed’s farm, a newly elected Tribal Council man from Lac Couirte Orielle reservation, with whom we talk of local food economies, horses and a future. 

native-american-horse-ride1.jpgMarjy Hanson, built her home 30 years ago near Marshfield. Wisconsin. To her, “this is about property rights... I have paid taxes here as have many of my neighbors who will suffer similar issues and some who have it worse, they will lose their home. Truly my husband and I believe 80 feet is enough.”  

The heavy lobbying of the Canadian pipeline company came to bear. In the summer of 2015 the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, through the obscure Motion 999 process, changed Wisconsin’s eminent domain law to allow Enbridge to take private land through condemnations.

The proposed Sandpiper and Line 3 originally was slated to cross Lynn Mizner’s land, and after her she became intractable (ie: would not budge) Enbridge backed off and re-routed. So we camp in her yard and admire her sheep and her sheep dogs.
Each day is like a journey to me, that is if I am able to take the Creator up on the offer. 
What Mason and the other horse people did at Standing Rock changed our perceptions of who we are and where we are in history. The truth is, we have become a people who live in a box, not only a house, a housing project, a city, but a computer, a phone, and a box, of our own social limitations.

I remember clearly Mathew King saying, “the only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who does not remember what it is like to be free…” And in many ways that is this time. For the Anishinaabeg to be free is to make maple syrup, harvest medicines, net fish, harvest wild rice  and live the life of these Northwoods and lakes. The Riders remind us to be free. The sound of the horse nation on our land reminds us of the larger life around us. I see the few monarchs, the quietude of our lakes, and am grateful.  

 (All photographs by Sarah Kalmanson.)

Farm Bill important to Indian Country
Monday, July 03 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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farm_bill_cover.jpgThe Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is reminding Indian Country that it needs to work with Congress and naturally allied groups to support programs that cover the entire food chain, from producers to consumers, who are all bunched together under what is called “the farm bill.”

Two researchers with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) at the University of Arkansas School of Law have pulled together all that is at stake for Native people and tribes in a new study, Regaining our Future: An Assessment of Risks and Opportunities for Native Communities in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The SMSC funded study shows how 70 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget most years is used for various feeding, nutrition and food safety programs that affect all Americans and all Native people regardless where they live. The rest of the USDA budget is spread out over conservation, water quality, trade promotion, economic development, insurance and farm income stabilization programs that give the bill its name.

The study was prepared and written by the Initiative’s Janie Simms Hipp (Chickasaw Nation), a former senior advisor for tribal relations to former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Colby D. Duren, the IFAI’s policy director and former staff counsel for the National Congress of American Indians.

Their findings will come as a surprise to many people on the knife, fork and spoon end of the food chain. It happens about every five years when Congress rewrites and updates food, farm, nutrition and related natural resource legislation lumped together under the so-called farm bill.

While access to food and good nutrition is important to all Americans, the Hipp and Duren study stresses that Natives are involved in every step of the food chain from farming and ranching on down, and Natives and tribes are also engaged participants in soil, water and resource protection.

Charles R. Vig, chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, emphasized those linkages in announcing publication of the new study.

“Today a food and nutritional health crisis grips most of Indian Country,” Vig said. “As Congress prepares to shape the next farm bill, there has never been a more critical time for Native Americans to unite to defend our interests.

“Tribal governments, Native producers, environmental stewards and Native community members must work together to involve Congress in helping us solve this crisis,” he added.

Hipp said in an interview that complexities for Native Americans with food and agriculture policies come partly from their own diversity. “Seventy percent of our people now live in urban centers,” she said. “But our land base is rural.”

Meanwhile, she said, this often disconnects Native food producers from urban consumers. “We have always been food producers. Our people need to feed themselves; we need to build out our food system.”

That is a SMSC objective and why it supports urban farming projects, including in the Shakopee and Prior Lake area. That prompted SMSC officials to reach out to Hipp and colleagues at the special Arkansas center more than two years ago.
Hipp said that looking at farm bill legislation title by title, “a lot of people can read the report and see themselves connected to the farm bill. It is ‘the people’s bill’,” she said.

One of the smaller titles in the bill, for promoting American food exports, actually has special importance for Minnesota tribes and Natives entrepreneurs, given the number of special Native foods companies based here. The study calls for including Native foods and companies at all U.S.-led trade promotion tours and conferences.

Much is at stake for the Native Americans and nearly all other Americans whose lives are touched in some way by the farm bill. Pressures are building in Congress to separate the bill between programs for producers and the food, nutrition and safety portions. That would break the coalition that has kept “the people’s bill” as part of public policy for nearly 150 years.

SMSC and Arkansas’ IFAI have allies for getting the report out to tribal leaders and all who are engaged with Native food and health activities. The study’s announcement statement noted Hipp and Duren consulted closely with Intertribal Agriculture Council, Intertribal Timber Council and National Congress of American Indians in preparing the report.       
As for SMSC, supporting pure, or basic research, across the breadth of Indian Country is not new. The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative research project is a continuation of a commitment made in 2015 by the Shakopee Mdewakanton community.

SMSC, the largest Native American philanthropic contributor, launched a $10 million campaign two years ago called Seeds of Native Health to improve Native nutrition and food access through grants. As part of that, it funds research education and “capacity-building efforts,” the tribe explained.

In has partnered in that work with the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, AmeriCorps VISTA, Better Way Foundation (Minneapolis-based foundation supporting child well-being, family and community efforts), the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development, First Nations Development Institute (Longmont, Colo.), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (Los Angeles-based with state programs), Notah Begay III Foundation (Pueblo, N.M. foundation that supports children’s health initiatives), and projects and programs at the University of Arkansas' IFAI and University of Minnesota.

The Regaining Our Future study is available online at SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health site, at .


Courts, Pipelines and Liabilities: Minnesota may want to take note
Monday, July 03 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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“We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence, and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.” – Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II

For the past two weeks, Minnesotans and tribal members have packed  Department of Commerce meetings on the Draft  Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)  on Enbridge  Line 3.  Thousands of people have come to ask questions of the state, in what is a very, very short timetable for a major project.

The DEIS is 5000 pages in length, but under heavy fire as inadequate.  Four tribal governments have intervened in the process: Red Lake Nation intervened in mid June, Fond du Lac, White Earth and Mille Lacs all have filed as intervenors.

rose.jpgome huge questions loom. Enbridge, for instance, has stated that it will take over $l.2 billion to remove the aging Line 3 with all the “leaks and anomalies.” But they have not stated  who will pay for this or how much more it might cost if we were to clean up the “legacy contamination” under the line.  

At all meetings, people (Native and non-Native) have asked why the Ojibwe communities should be sacrificed for a Canadian tar sands pipeline, when the tar sands industry is on its last breath.     

The final DEIS is scheduled to be out in the fall and the pipeline’s certificate of need (what they need to begin construction) could be issued by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission  as early as April of next year. At a St. Paul press conference in June,  Minnesota State Representatives Mary Konesh Podien – flanked by others, including Frank Hornstein, John Marty and Karen Clark – challenged the adequacy of the state’s draft environmental impact statement and asked for a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on pipeline abandonment, prior to any new pipeline approvals.

The EIS is on a very fast track to keep with Enbridge’s convenience, and a Pawlenty imposed deadline. In comparison, the state of New York took seven years to review proposals for fracking, before the moratorium was issued. A federal  ban on lead shot took decades for review.

“Complex decisions take time,” Honor the Earth Attorney Frank Bibeau said, “particularly when there are thousands of comments as to the inadequacy of the EIS, and huge regional and global implications. The interests of Minnesota citizens require due diligence in review by policy makers.”

In the meantime, two major legal cases, may impact significantly on the state’s liability and Minnesota’s future.

In mid June, Michigan’s Attorney General filed new charges of involuntary manslaughter against five officials in the Flint Water Crisis investigation, among them the head of Michigan’s Health Department.

Michigan indictments on state negligence have resulted in l3 charges for state officials who “did not act to protect the interests of Flint citizens.” The city of Flint, Michigan came to international attention when their drinking water system collapsed. “The Flint Water Crisis was and is a failure of leadership”, a report issued by Michigan Attorney General Bull Schuette notes.   “... A cause of the breakdown in state management was a fixation, a preoccupation with data, finance and costs instead of placing the health, safety and welfare of citizens first.”

“Michigan’s example may be a forewarning to Minnesota public officials. In particular, drinking water issues are already a concern in many northern tribal communities, and new threats will likely exacerbate those conditions,” Bibeau said.

Meanwhile, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continues to be challenged.  Federal Judge James Boarsberg (DC)   ruled in June that approval permits issued by the Trump administration violated the law in certain critical respects.

According to attorneys at Earth Justice, “The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference on June 21…” 

The Standing Rock Tribe responded. “We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, “and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operationsimmediately.”

The legal case involves similar issues to that of the proposed Line 3, particularly with regards to the environmental injustice of setting a pipeline near tribal people instead of near a white community, as was originally planned. DAPL was rerouted to be directly north of the Standing Rock reservation so as not to impact the city of Bismarck. 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce notes that the tribal community bears the largest impact of this proposed project:, despite route alternatives.  At Evidentiary Hearings,  Enbridge  leadership testified that the route through tribal lands was the least risk to the broader society. Not that different than DAPL. The DEIS also notes, “… A finding of ‘disproportionate and adverse impacts’ does not preclude selection of any given alternative.” 

As Earth Justice explains, “The Obama administration made a carefully considered decision that these Treaty Rights needed to be respected in connection with an oil pipeline immediately upstream of the reservation. The Trump administration ignored that advice, and acted as if the Tribe does not exist.”

In short, the Michigan indictments of State and County officials, and the Standing Rock federal court decision could have serious implications for Enbridge’s future in the region. As tribal governments line up on the side of their people, state and northern county officials might be cautious about those oaths of office. It seems that Michigan’s Attorney General found out the hard way that oaths were to serve the public. Northern counties and state may want to review their oaths of office in the face of massive pressure by a Canadian pipeline company.   

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