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Dakota artist creates Indigemojis
Tuesday, April 04 2017
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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indigemojoes.jpgDavid Bernie, a Minneapolis-based Ihanktowan (Yankton Sioux) artist who combines graphic design with modern technology, is working to bring his “Indigemojis” art applications to formats usable by most mobile devices and online technology.

The Tiwahe Foundation in the Twin Cities has given Bernie a grant to expand his Native American and First Nations-themed emoji designs to Android applications for use by Google’s mobile devices.

Bernie launched the first release of his Indigemojis designs in October 2016 through Apple Inc.’s iOS platform that is exclusive to Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iTouch mobile devices. This next step will help Bernie reach users of the larger Android smartphone and related tablet market developed by Google. It is a larger mobile device service used by a wide variety of mobile technology manufacturers.

Despite the rapid spread of “smiley faces” by the London-based Smiley Company and international graphic art developments by Japanese designers, who gave us the word “emoji,” no one besides Bernie has designed “emoticon” characters, stickers and posters exclusively for Indian Country.

The diversity of Native and First Nations peoples probably explains part of the reason, Bernie said in an interview.

But other factors obviously come into play, including popular perceptions that Native people are stoic and unemotional like many of their Northern European immigrant neighbors in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains states and Western Provinces.

This simply isn’t true, Bernie said. “There is intense emotions within our cultures,” he said, reflected in support for community, for elders, for justice, the environment, and found within literature and music.

Deanna StandingCloud, the program and community network director at Tiwahe Foundation and the point person for its American Indian Family Empowerment Program (AIFEP) grants, said this oversight in recognizing Native emotional contacts caught her funding group’s attention. She now has some of Bernie’s graphic “stickers” on her own mobile and Internet devices.

The Indigemojis application, or app as it is called in the modern communications technology, has 14 categories of images that portray cultural, political and socially important imagery and language for Native people. They include a category called “Smoke Signals” that feature popular sayings and slang across indigenous communities, and culturally and community bonding categories such as “Pow Wow,” “Village” and “Food.”

Popular and commonly used emoticons are depicted by “Frybread Francis,” “Bobbie Bear,” and “Commod Can” characters, and an “Activist” category connects U.S. and Canadian movements and issues common among the Native communities. Among them are “Women Warriors” that celebrate women with professions and feminist expressions, and “Indian Love” categories that express relations among friends and partners.

indigemojoesartist.jpgBernie and his Indigemojis are part of the broader artistic community’s efforts to reconnect people emotionally even if they are only interacting with others through mobile devices and otherwise impersonal technology.

The emerging problems of people failing to connect in modern society came to international awareness in 2000 when sociological writer Robert Putnam wrote “Bowling Along: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” a best-selling book that described how people were reducing in-person social contact with others. This, he reasoned, was a threat to community and indeed to democracy.

Bernie, 42 and an experienced artist in photography, jewelry and graphic arts, said research by graphic arts and technology industry researchers show emoji and emoticon characters and stickers express emotions among users who may be distant and not able to enjoy direct personal contacts. More than 172 million Americans are known to have smartphones of some type, and better than three-quarters of users claim emojis express feelings better than their words.

This is a huge market, at home and worldwide, and can be extended to the North American Native and First Nations communities.

Billions of such stickers are now used globally each year by Android and Apply technology users, he said. And, Bernie added, there are millions more people who are members or connected to the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States and the 634 sovereign First Nations communities in Canada.

Further down the road, he said, there are still the millions of “Native” people in Mexico, Central American and South America who share similar cultural experiences and linkages.

Bernie was one of 11 Natives who were awarded Tiwahe Foundation’s American Indian Family Empowerment Program Funds (AIFEP) from its January processing period.

The grants are made in partnership with the Two Feathers Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation. AIFEP strives to reverse the social, educational and economic challenges facing American Indians by investing in human capital, skills and cultural strengths through three priority areas: cultural connections, educational achievement and economic self-sufficiency.

Depending on the type of technology you use, you may learn more about Indigemojis by contacting the Apple Store website or Apple’s local stores, by visiting Bernie’s website at http://www.indigemojis.com , or by learning more about pending developments with Android equipment by visiting http://www.davidbernie.com/press-release-david-bernie-launches-indigemojis .

 

Preying on the poor, Enbridge seeks millions in tax rebates
Tuesday, April 04 2017
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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enbridge-pipeline.jpgEnbridge is seeking tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates from Minnesota counties, in a court case against some of the thirteen counties which presently have Enbridge lines. At the same time, nationally and internationally, Enbridge moves ahead with so called “green washing” and “red washing”. It may be time to quit taking candy from the corporation.  

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered a Minnesota Tax Court to determine if thirteen northern (mostly poor)  counties owe Enbridge back taxes. And it’s a lot.

Red Lake County, with 4000 people (many of them Ojibwe), faces some financial losses.  According to the Star Tribune, “Enbridge is its largest taxpayer, and the county had a total levy last year of $2.6 million. County auditor Bob Schmitz says that if Enbridge prevails, the county could be on the hook  to Enbridge for $3.5 million. “How do we possibly get the money to pay them back?”   

“It’s scary for us,” Allen Paulson, Clearwater County’s auditor, told the  Star Tribune. “If Enbridge wins its appeal, the [tab for the county] will be $7.2 million, and our levy is $6.8 million.”

Clearwater County faces the biggest hit because it’s home not only to pipelines, but an Enbridge tank farm and terminal in the town of Clearbrook.

All of this becomes pretty pertinent when we are discussing a brand new pipeline through new poor counties, whose greatest asset is their clean water.  While the company is squeezing some poor counties, it  continues to make hefty profits from the transport of oil through our territories; and it hopes to paint a good picture with donations to tribes and environmental causes. This is called “red washing” and “green washing”. Let me explain how this looks.

Greenwashing:  Eco Grants from Enbridge were around $l.2 million a couple of years ago (the last update is from 2015).

We really should be taking care of the water, the pollinators, and our land. Enbridge has been trying; they’ve doled out a chunk for small wind, playgrounds, and even the Mississippi Headwaters Foundation got a grant from them to look at protecting the water.

This is a bit ironic because two of the single largest threats to the water up north are oil pipelines and climate change; both of which are squarely in Enbridge’s plans. Enbridge is battling to not have to clean up the past mess they have made, and instead wants to abandon pipelines and make a new mess.  There is, frankly,  no amount of greenwashing that will clean up  those hydrocarbons.

Red Washing: Enbridge’s brand of red washing is to offer water bottles to White Earth’s Rice Lake village, when the power outage caused the water system to break down this past summer. After Bad River announced it was not renewing Enbridge’s easment, the corporation offered  food to the Bad River tribe for their food pantry  (Bad River did not take the food).

This is likely just the beginning. Powwow season is upon us and with federal budget cuts, Enbridge will likely be trying to make friends in poor communities who are facing more cut backs.
Maybe someone should ask why the infrastructure in northern tribal communities is so shaky, and why it is that l3l first nations in Canada have drinking water advisories. 

The problem with red washing is the huge implications as projects are forced ahead, with corporations making the appearance that they are good neighbors. Clayton Thomas Muller, a Winnipeg based Cree writer, talks about this problem, “The problem here is that we rarely talk about what those communities are giving up by providing social license to corporations to be able to state that, for example, they are sending our youth to university. Sure, corporations such as Syncrude and Petro Canada/Suncor are some of the largest employers of Indigenous peoples in the country (with Canada’s mining companies following in second place), but their ecological footprint on our way of life is not exactly something we should be cheering about….the cumulative impacts of corporations’ ecological footprint – which includes thrusting the costs of cleaning up their mess to local communities – has a long-term, devastating effect on our collective rights and title, our lands, our waters and our health.”

And so here we are. The Enbridge Company seeks a social license to move ahead in Minnesota; but let’s look at what we have. The two largest oil spills on the Mainland were on Enbridge lines – the Kalamazoo Spill, and the Prairie River Spill. On  March 3, in 1991, the Line 3 pipeline ruptured near Grand Rapids, spilling over 1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River, after a delayed response by Lakehead Pipeline, Enbridge’s predecessor. 

The company lost its battle for the Sandpiper fracked oil pipeline through our territory, but then moved to the Dakota Access Pipeline. After the September 4th use of dogs on our people, I called Enbridge’s Linda Coady, the Director of Sustainability, and Enbridge’s “Indian Listener”. I asked her to use Enbridge’s one third ownership of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (at that point in financial straits) to demilitarize the battlefield, condemn the destruction of sacred sites, and call for an environmental impact statement. That would be Minnesota Nice. 

I wrote to the CEO Al Monaco, asking for Enbridge to uphold the “Aboriginal People’s Policy” which they have signed. The company did nothing, electing to let our unarmed people be injured and take bullets, tear gas and compression grenades. 

To be clear, Enbridge is responsible for  28% of the tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas, and the arrests and injuries. They should have no social license here. As powwow season approaches, please do not let Enbridge underwrite our powwows. 

After all, if the village of Rice Lake had no good water, shouldn’t they improve the  water system for the village? Or at least, not threaten the water of the region with leaking pipelines. And, instead of making more  pollution in our territory, how about they clean it up.

The company estimates  over half a million structural anomalies in Line 3, or about 1 every 10 feet. Enbridge Integrity Supervisor Laura Kennett has testified, “I consider Line 3 to be in the deterioration stage … as external corrosion growth is increasing in an exponential fashion.”

One might ask Enbridge, with a 5.7 billion renewable energy portfolio, why that renewable energy  is not offered to our region. Finally, Enbridge testified two years ago that it makes $550 million annually in profits from the transportation of oil across our lands. That’s after they pay all the salaries and expenses. 

Enbridge is trying to pull back the tax money it paid to the good state of Minnesota, while at the same time it tries to offer candy to our tribes. We need to remember what our moms told us long ago, “that is a bad man you don’t take candy from.”
Green washing and red washing only work for a short time. That time is over.   

Winona LaDuke is founder and ED of Honor The Earth .

WaterProtectors Are Everywhere
Tuesday, March 14 2017
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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daplflags.jpgWater Protectors
They came from the four directions. They came from the stars. They came from the mountain, they stood and protected. They came from the depths of the beautiful ocean. They came from the corn pollen and sage they had gathered in their hands. They came wounded from generations of pain. They came bearing gifts of strength, tears, and song. This is where they stood in the four directions.
– Inyan Wakankagapi Wakpa, Sara Juanita Jumping Eagle


As the Trump Administration forced the removal of many remaining Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) water protectors on the banks of the Cannonball and Missouri River in North Dakota, there are many tears shed; tears of betrayal, tears of sorrow, and tears as people face the unknown. We have had many lessons thus far from our Standing Rock movement. For indeed, it is a movement – Standing Rock is our Selma moment.  And, as the bulldozers and emboldened Morton County police marched forward, water protectors were forced to move, as thousands of our ancestors before. We have been here before, it is the “American way”, from Sandy Lake to Big Mountain.  

This past week, I was disturbed in my peaceful writing by three grandsons, as they tumbled through my kitchen on Round Lake. One had on my helmet, intended to defray rubber bullets from Morton County, another donned a gas mask, the third a bandana. All carried shields. That is when I knew that the Water Protectors are everywhere.

Reports of Enbridge pipeline leaks and “integrity digs” came in from Water Protectors across Leech Lake; to the east, the Bad River tribal council prepared with their lawyers to face Enbridge and the company’s expired right -of-way.

An early February gathering in Duluth, brought together 80 Indigenous leaders from both sides of the Medicine Line – Canada and the US.  Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs sat with  LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (founder of the first resistance camp of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Sacred Stones, aimed at halting DAPL) to talk of pipelines and water.

Water protectors from Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Rice Lake and HoChunk territory- elected leaders, and wild rice harvesters, all shared their stories of the Black Snake, and the legal battles ahead to protect the water and future generations. Water protectors are everywhere.

As the Trump Administration pushes forward with its agenda of hate, cronyism, and pipelines, immigrants, business people, cities, women and water protectors are readying to face a President who has run rough shod over the law.  North Dakota’s media spins a story of the glories of law enforcement, sings praises of the oil industry, and acts as if there has been no crime committed.

Trans Canada attempts to resuscitate the already defeated Keystone Pipeline, and  the Lakota Nation readies. As the Enbridge/Spectre Sable pipeline moves forward in Florida, on the ground the Seminole youth move forward to face them. To the south, water protectors face the pipelines of Texas, Chaco Canyon and those to the West.  

While the proposals are dizzying, it turns out even the pipeline and oil industry are spinning like a top out of control.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (2nd from right) and other water protectors at Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota. (Photo  courtesy of Honor The Earth.)The Globe and Mail notes Canada is, “…on the verge of moving from a pipeline shortage to a pipeline surplus…The capacity of the projects approved by the federal government (Trans Mountain, Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL) and under review (Energy East) is 2.9 million barrel per day (bpd). These projects would expand Canadian export pipeline capacity to 7.1 million bpd. If current rail capacity is included, total capacity would be almost 7.9 million bpd..”  Data suggests that there will be a surplus pipeline capacity of 2.4 million bpd by 2025, less than eight years from now. Some would refer to this as greed economics.

Build it and They Will Come
This worked in Wayne’s World. I am not sure it will work in the oil industry. Companies are proposing to spend about $30 billion plus on new pipelines. How is that possible? The problem is not just a Canadian tar sands problem,  it’s an American oil fields problem.  Reuters reports, “…a doubling of pipeline capacity in one of the most prolific U.S. shale plays may have gone overboard in its rush to move oil to market…” That was before the Dakota Excess Pipeline. Translation: overbuild/glut. No wonder the oil industry is losing money. Greed is not always a healthy practice.

Then there’s the world beyond North Dakota and Minnesota. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) November forecast shows little oil sands production growth after 2020 due to climate change policies and the high costs of Canadian oil.

“The Wakinyan came last night to let us know they stand with us. This is February, we had rain, hail, thunder and lightening, that should tell us the west is with us…” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. That is climate change and that is also power.

The Bust Cometh
With an 85% drop in drilling rigs, North Dakota has lost an estimated 13,500 roughnecks and oil engineers, not to mention drivers, restaurant cooks, barbers, grocery store cashiers, Man Camps, and almost everything else of the oil empire. The Canadian petrol-state Alberta lost some 20,000 jobs, the most in any industry downturn since the early 1980s. No one predicted 90,000 oil workers being fired this past year in the US, or the worldwide 250,000 oil industry workers sent home.

Nor did they foresee that many of the companies themselves would be at risk of bankruptcy (42 already filed as of last year). Of 155 US oil and gas companies studied by Standard & Poor’s, one third are rated B- or less, meaning not good.

Industry magazine SRS Rocco Report notes, “The top three U.S. oil companies, whose profits were once the envy of the energy sector, are now forced to borrow money to pay dividends or capital expenditures. …Exxon, Chevron and Conoco, had $80.9 billion in net income profits in 2011, and dropped that to $3.7 billion in 2016…;”  Rex Tillerson, our new Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon, could not get a job in the real world, having such an abysmal record. As SRS Rocco notes, “While the Federal Government could step in and bail out BIG OIL with printed money, they cannot print barrels of oil.”

Emboldened movements stand and face what have come to be called Black Snakes in a withering economy. President Trump will face a growing solar and efficiency economy; and even his Presidential powers cannot change what we know happened and what we feel.

Standing Rock is a state of mind. It rekindled a memory of a people, not only a free people, but a people who faced their fears, knowing that the economy of the Wasicu (White Man) is a powerful force, but it is not as powerful as the world we know. As Bravebull Allard reminds us, “They want to destroy this movement because it is too powerful because we stand in prayer. They don’t know that this is just the beginning. Tomorrow we will be stronger in prayer. Remember how history will record you as the people who stood up to save the water and the world, or the people who betrayed the world. You all have a name in history. Where are you in this time and place? The world is watching…”  The Water Protectors are everywhere.
 

Native media pioneer, Gordon Regguinti, passes on
Tuesday, March 14 2017
 
Written by Mark Anthony Rolo,
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obitreguintti.jpgGordon David Regguinti passed on to the spirit world on February 2, 2017. He was 62.

Regguinti was a pioneer in the movement to establish Native American journalism as a legitimate institution, giving critically needed voice to Native peoples from all circles of life. He was respected by his tribal peers and by mainstream newsroom executives. He traveled the country lobbying for Native journalists to be seated at the table when it came to racial inclusion and more accurate coverage of Native issues. And he never departed from his devotion to his Leech Lake Ojibwe roots.

Raised on the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, Regguinti earned a bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1987. His career in Native American media began with serving as editor of The Circle newspaper in Minneapolis.

In the early 1990s, Regguinti  hired Dale Kakkak (Menominee) as staff photographer for The Circle. Kakkak remembers Regguinti as a visionary who believed telling stories of Native life was vital to confronting stereotypes and debunking the myth that Native Americans existed only in the American past. “Gordon worked to promote Native culture and ideals, and to present our thoughts about us on our own terms,” Kakkak said. “Gordon helped awaken in the U.S. mainstream consciousness that Indigenous people existed, and we weren’t just the stereotypical Indians most people thought of when the term Indian was used.”

And it was through gaining access to media that Regguinti believed Native people could do more in telling their own stories. He was convinced that a core mission of Native media was in preserving and promoting tribal traditions. In 1998, Regguinti told Cultural Survival, a worldwide indigenous advocacy organization, that one of the most vital roles Native American radio plays is not only to promote dialogue on Native issues, but to promote culture and help preserve tribal languages.

Regguiniti encouraged tribes to embrace modern media technology as an opportunity to help reclaim and recover so much that was lost.
Kakkak believes that conviction came from Regguinti’s ties to his Ojibwe culture. While working with Regguinti on the Learner Publication 1992 children’s book “The Sacred Harvest,” Kakkak said he got to experience Regguinti’s relationship with his roots on the Leech Lake Reservation.
“He took me ricing for the first time,” Kakkak said. “He introduced me to the Jackson family at Leech Lake, who were the subject of Gordon’s book on wild ricing. Through Gordon, the Jacksons generously shared their knowledge of that ancient place and practice.”

Following his convictions beyond The Circle led Regguinti to the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), a coalition of tribal and independent indigenous media in the U.S. and Canada. As executive director Regguinti helped expand the outreach of NAJA and worked tirelessly to promote the mission and presence of NAJA within the mainstream media industry.

Karen Lincoln Michel (Ho-Chunk), who served as NAJA’s president, said Regguinti was instrumental in shaping the vision for the organization.
“When I think of the people who have given a part of their lives to make NAJA what it is today, Gordon is among that circle of amazing individuals,” Lincoln Michel said.  “He poured a lot of his energy into growing the organization from a fledgling nonprofit to a journalism association with a national reputation. He kept the focus on Native journalists and how NAJA could better serve them in the important role they play in their communities.”

Regguinti’s work with NAJA included securing major foundation grants to underwrite training workshops for emerging Native journalists. He used his position to lobby mainstream news organizations to open their doors and hire more Native people. And he was aggressive in educating Indian Country about the importance of a free tribal press.

But just as important as strengthening Native American journalism, Regguinti shared a growing vision among all journalists of color – the power of a collective voice on behalf of those who represent their communities. Regguniti was on the ground floor in helping to create UNITY: Journalists of Color, an umbrella organization of minority journalism organizations who, together sought to bring leverage on the mainstream news media to hire more journalists of color and to demand improved coverage of their communities.

Karen Lincoln Michel remembers Regguinti as entirely dedicated to the full expression of that collective voice among journalists of color. “Through NAJA’s coalition with Asian American, black and Hispanic journalists’ organizations, Gordon totally embraced the concept of collaboration so that our collective voice would be strong when we addressed news industry leaders about our concerns.”

The lasting impact Regguinti had on Native media was never in doubt according to Kakkak. Regguinti was simply a man driven by a passion for elevating the presence of Native people.

“If you looked at Gordon you wondered where he got his energy to work on and accomplish so many tasks in a given time frame. He worked on this vision of showing the reality of Native peoples because he was tired of being ordained a second-class citizen. And he knew ending that was in the power of having the opportunity to tell our own stories,” Kakkak said.

He was born February 10, 1954. A wake was held on Feb. 9th at Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. Services were held on February 10th at Ball Club Community Center in  Ball Club, MN. Interment was at Fairbank’s Cemetery in Leech Lake, MN.  

Black Snake-Enbridge Returns, Tribes Take Action
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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As Enbridge unrolls it’s plans for Line 3 and the beginning of the largest web of tar sands pipelines in the world, tribal leaders and communities are challenging both the long term and expired leases of the corporation, and the need for new lines.
Line 3, the heart of Enbridge’s profit plan, would bring 760,000 barrels of oil down the same pipeline as the ill fated Sandpiper, last year’s now defeated Enbridge Line. Tribal environmental  hearings are being held in February in Cass Lake, Bena and Ball Club, and 60-year-old pipelines are being questioned for safety.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s (comprised of six Ojibwe member bands in Minnesota) Cumulative Impact Assessment process will provide tribal governments, harvesters and members the opportunity to discuss the full impacts of the proposed pipelines.

The Bad River Tribal Council passed a formal resolution January 4th that established the Tribe’s decision not to renew its easement for rights-of-way of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 crude oil, 64-year-old pipeline through the Bad River Reservation. Furthermore, it calls for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline from all Bad River lands and watershed.

“As many other communities have experienced, even a minor spill could prove to be disastrous for our people. We depend upon everything that the Creator put here before us to live mino-bimaadiziwin, a good and healthy life,” said Bad River Tribal Chairman Robert Blanchard. He said on the Tribal Council’s decision, “We will work with our native and non-native communities to make sure that Line 5 does not threaten rights of people living in our region, and we will reach out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how to remove Line 5. And we will work with the same communities and officials to continue developing a sustainable economy that doesn’t marginalize indigenous people.”

The Band has directed Tribal staff to begin planning for the Line 5 removal project development and the environmental issues and hazards that exist with removal of old pipelines, including hazards response and health study, pipeline contents recycling and disposal, and surface restoration.

“These environmental threats not only threaten our health, but they threaten our very way of life as Anishinaabe. We all need to be thinking of our future generations and what we leave behind for them,” said Tribal Council Member Dylan Jennings
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe is beginning tribal hearings on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 plan. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, 1855 Treaty Authority and tribal governments have deemed it necessary to conduct their own environmental hearings, after the state of Minnesota dismissed tribal concerns and jurisdiction in the previous hearing process. This includes the abandonment of Line 3 in place, and would set a precedent for the abandonment of the five other pipelines in the same Highway 2 Corridor.  

Native Women in MN Legislature
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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nativewomeninlegislature.jpgNative American women doubled their presence in the Minnesota Legislature’s House of Representatives this January, but it may be far too soon to declare that the “glass ceiling” holding back women has been shattered.

With the election of Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn and Mary Kunesh-Podein from suburban Twin Cities house districts, the number of Native women has increased to four.

This apparent accomplishment occurred as Minnesota voters actually reduced the number of women serving in both houses of the Legislature by four, from 68 in the previous two sessions to 64 for this term.

Meanwhile, Rep. Peggy Flanagan, who won a special election in 2015 and was reelected to a full term this past November, told The Circle she will seek U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat in Congress if the Minneapolis congressman is chosen chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison has said he will resign his congressional seat if elected Feb. 25 to the contested DNC post. The Minnesota Fifth Congressional District includes Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Crystal, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, Fridley and Flanagan’s home city of St. Louis Park.

Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe), Kunesh-Podein (Standing Rock Lakota), and Becker-Finn (Leech Lake Ojibwe), now make a Native American caucus in the Minnesota House with their pacesetter, Rep. Susan Allen (Rosebud Lakota), the Minneapolis lawyer and lawmaker first elected in 2012. All four are Democratic-Farmer-Labor party lawmakers.

“There is still much work to do,” said Allen, while acknowledging that the gains by Native women in the past election does signal greater acceptance of Natives and women in general for leadership roles.

Their collective successes at the polls coincides with Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig’s appointment to the high court in August 2016.  McKeig, of White Earth Ojibwe descent, is the first Native American to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is believed to be the first Native woman to serve on any state’s highest court.

Both Allen and Flanagan said Gov. Mark Dayton deserves credit for advancing women’s opportunities. He appointed McKeig, who had earlier been appointed to a Hennepin County state district court judge by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2008.

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