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First Person Productions Goes Entrepreneurial
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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migizi1.jpgA multimedia training program for Native American youth in the Twin Cities is taking a large step forward and becoming a competitive media production company serving a variety of clients in the metro area.

Since the beginning of this year, First Person Productions is attempting to be a self-sustaining and competitive multimedia production company, said Binesikwe Means, the program and company’s media team leader.

First Person Productions, 1516 East Lake Street, Minneapolis,  and its parent nonprofit organization, MIGIZI Communications, works with about 50 high school and middle school students each year.

Now, some of these students are becoming employees and work and learn by producing promotional videos, various training and educational media, public service announcements (PSAs), documentaries, radio programs and podcasts, and advertising and brand promotions that use audiovisual products.

Means said there are currently seven high school students at First Person Productions during after school hours. They are students at Roosevelt, South and Washburn high schools in Minneapolis and Harding High School in St. Paul. Enrollment is larger during the summer months.

For some, the training program is introductory to learn about multimedia and audio-visual equipment and discover one’s own interests. “I’d say it is a hobby for me now,” said Iliana Zephier (Yankton Dakota), a student at Roosevelt High School. “But who knows.”

For others it is clearly an attempt to access equipment, training and learn about their own talents and interests that may lead to post-secondary studies and artistic and business careers emerging as great 21st Century opportunities, said Means (Oglala Lakota).
That is where training and working in a real business environment share the same road leading to potential opportunities ahead. With any form of multimedia, communications and journalism, she said. “They will (also) need to know the business.”

Means worked for six years at In Progress, the nonprofit digital arts training program based in St. Paul, before joining First Person Productions in December to prepare for the latter’s expansion as an entrepreneurial company in multimedia production.

First Person Production is off and running by tailoring products and services for diverse clients. These services include filming and documenting events, making one to two-minute PSAs, talk show documentation, promotional spots, 30 to 90-minute commercials, training videos, documentaries, editing and DVD production services, and fundraising videos usable for groups involved with the annual MN Give to the Max Day.

Native, health and educational groups are among the company’s initial clients.

Some include programs for Minneapolis Public Schools, the Indian Health Board, elder interviews for the Minnesota Historical Society, Center for School Change, Minneapolis Department of Health, Achieve Minneapolis, American Indian Cancer Foundation, and the Indigenous Peoples Task Force.

Some are nonprofit organizations that also seek to be viable entrepreneurial organizations as well, like First Person Productions. They would include Mixed Blood Theater, New Native Theater, and Running Wolf Fitness Center.

Still others have ties to the Native communities through philanthropic work. Among them are the Tiwahe Foundation, the Division of Indian Work and Native Americans in Philanthropy.    

Adam Savariego (Upper Sioux), representing the University of Minnesota’s Youth Development Leadership program, said he was astonished by “the creativity and technical skills the students already possessed” when they worked on a presentation for the University’s program.
Another aspect of the training is that students will learn there are many different business forms that entrepreneurs may use to turn personal interests and talents into meaningful careers.

migizi2.jpgBy seeking to become an ongoing, self-sustaining business, First Person Productions is emulating the multiple objective business plans of tribal-owned enterprises and cooperatives, including credit unions and mutual insurance companies, which are popular throughout Upper Midwest states.

These member-owned and operated businesses have a primary purpose of meeting business or service needs of members, insists Dutch economist and business professor Gert van Dijk, a leading international expert on cooperatives and their strategies. At the same time, the ventures must be sound enterprises in their own right to survive and succeed in competitive markets.

Where nonprofit businesses are different is that the “members” aren’t really a collection of shareholders. Rather, they are stakeholders – beneficiaries and community members who share reasons for being connected or reliant on an enterprise.

First Person Productions is like a close relative of cooperatives and tribal-owned enterprises, said Graham Hartley, director of programs for MIGIZI Communications.

The nonprofit MIGIZI was launched in 1977 with the objectives of training youth and countering misrepresentations of Native Americans and their communities. This started with producing the first nationally distributed radio show and later television programming for the region. That was the initial enterprise of MIGIZI and the origin of First Person Productions, Hartley said.

From the start, MIGIZI has been a training vehicle for young Native people by introducing high school-age students to modern visual, graphic and audio technology and constantly evolving strategies for multimedia presentations.

MIGIZI has expanded over the years and now has several training and education programs serving Native and at-risk youth. Programs called Green Jobs Pathway, Native Academy, Native Youth Futures, Advancing Change and First Person Productions are somewhat interconnected.

The parent foundation helps students with paid internships when they are working on First Person products, Hartley said. And it also has a matching savings program that multiplies the amount of money students set aside in saving for future college tuition expenses.

The multiple goals of MIGIZA and First Person Productions impressed the University’s Savariego as much as the students’ sophisticated skills.

“I didn’t know about their programs,” he said. “It blew me away.

“This is exactly what I want to do in working with and empowering young people when I get my MED.”

To learn more about MIGIZI and First Person Productions, or to see their products, services and prices, see their website at: .

Hearings on new Line 3 tar sands pipeline to be held in June
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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pipeline3map.jpgLine 3:  It’s the sequel to the Sandpiper but larger. Last year, the White Earth Ojibwe people joined with many others to stop the Sandpiper, the fracked oil pipeline. Now Enbridge is back with another line – same route, same problems. This month, people will have an opportunity to ask questions and comment on Line 3, the Canadian based, 900,000-barrels-a-day, tar sands pipeline.

The Court ordered environmental review released by the Minnesota Department of Commerce is huge and offers some good information. It also brings some deep concerns, including why the “No Build Option” is not recommended.
The project would grant an entirely new corridor for perpetuity through northern Minnesota. That project is not technically a “replacement” since it is in a new corridor and is a much larger pipe.  

Quesitons I might Ask
If you are a Native person, you might want to know why you don’t matter. The Department of Commerce reports that “American Indian communities and individuals have unique health issues associated with historical trauma and structural racism. …American Indians in Minnesota have greater health disparities and poorer health outcomes compared to other racial and ethnic groups in Minnesota…”
The report also states, “…the uprooting of the people from their traditional lands… creates psychological and health impacts for generations. Displacement brought about a loss of traditional ways of making a living, of providing food for the table, and of being in relationship with one another…”

The report also says, “The impacts associated with the proposed Project and its alternatives would be an additional health stressor on tribal communities that already face overwhelming health disparities and inequities…”  

The Department of Commerce notes the Tribal community bears the largest impact of this proposed project, “Any of the routes selected would negatively affect tribal resources and tribal members. The… relationship to the land and the rights tribal members have in the ceded territories complicates the traditional notion of mitigation. The ceded territories and the rights that go with them are not mobile and cannot be transferred…”

And then there’s this, “…A finding of ‘disproportionate and adverse impacts’ does not preclude selection of any given alternative. …This finding does, however, require detailed efforts to avoid, mitigate, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate the impact associated with the construction of the Project or any alternatives.”

In other words, does this mean, “deal with it”?

The Department of Commerce also noted that the preferred project route would cross more wild rice lakes than any other proposed route.
Where is the spill data?

Enbridge has tried to bar the disclosure of this information from the public, stating that some “bad actors” might use this information. Park Rapids based Friends of the Headwaters pointed out that “…Enbridge pipelines on its mainline route are exposed above ground or shallowly buried in many locations. Google Earth can be used to find such pipelines hanging above streams. This imagery reveals that many pipelines are within a few feet of each other. The type of person who would do deliberate damage already has plenty of information about where to do such damage….”  

There are some spill scenarios in the report, but none has been done, for instance, on the St. Louis River. If I was  Duluth’s mayor or city council, I would want to know what the plan was to protect the Great Lakes.

There’s not a lot of discussion of this in the document, although this is a pretty big problem and a precedent. There are at least eight operating pipelines in Minnesota, of which most have been around thirty or more years. This is the first “abandonment” of a line and would set a national precedent.

Let’s say this problem does not get solved now… and so another five lines or so get abandoned, and then what?    Time to fix the problem now.  Let’s find out what’s under the pipes which Enbridge says are in a state of “deterioration”,  in other words, they are leaking.  

This year, Representative Rick Hanson (DFL, 52A)  proposed the first attempt to give landowners a right to make decisions on pipelines in their territory. The idea of tribes and the state regulating abandonment in our pristine watersheds might be a good idea. Many landowners say that should be solved before we talk about any new pipelines.  

The impact on the place the pipe comes from, where it goes, and the overall atmosphere from 900,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil might take a bit more work to figure out. It’s more than the cancers and health impacts on the Dene people who live downstream from the tar sands projects.

One Canadian report notes, “No one knows what will happen when a mine has exhausted a site, shuts down its operation, and leaves. Tailings pond abandonment is an unproven technology whose success is predicated on modeling rather than real world experience. . . . Billions of cubic meters of contaminated water soon will be sitting untended, with no active pumping, in abandoned ponds adjacent to the Athabasca River.”

And finally, there is a question of need. The Toronto Globe and Mail suggests that pipeline companies and politicians are overbuilding tar sands pipe lines by 2.4 million barrels a day capacity. And it is not clear how much tar sands oil, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, will be produced in ten or fifteen years.

Now would be the time to ask if this pipeline is needed.  Informational meetings are set to take place in June around Minnesota.

Pipeline 3 Meeting

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 Pipeline Project has been made available for public review and comment. The DEIS was prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to evaluate human and environmental impacts of the proposed Line.  Public meetings will provide an opportunity to learn about the info in the EIS and provide oral or written comments into record. Comments will be accepted through July 10 and may be emailed, mailed, or faxed. Email address: Pipeline.Comments@ US Mail: Jamie MacAlister, Environmental Review Manager, MN Dept of Commerce, 85 7th Place E., # 280, St. Paul, MN 55101-2198. Fax: 651-539-0109. Include docket numbers CN-14-916 and PPL-15-137 on all comments. Personally identifying information is not edited or deleted from submissions.

Meetings will be held at the following times and locations:
• June 6: 10am-1pm,  Rice Lake Comm Center, 13830 Community Loop, Bagley.
• June 6: 6-9pm, IRA Civic Center, 1401 NW 3rd Ave, Grand Rapids.
• June 7: 10am-1pm, Park Rapids High School, Cafetorium, 401 Huntsinger Ave, Park Rapids.
• June 7: 6-9pm, Palace Casino Hotel, 16599 69th Ave NW, Cass Lake.
• June 8: 10am-1pm, Downtown Fair Center, 107 W 7th Ave, Floodwood.
• June 8: 6-9pm, Central Lakes College, room E54, 501 W College Dr, Brainerd.
• June 9: 11am-2pm. Maslowski Wellness & Research Center, 17 5th Street SW, Wadena.
• June 12: 10am-1pm, Grand Casino Hinckley, 777 Lady Luck Dr, Hinckley.
• June 12: 6-9pm, East Lake Comm. Ctr, 36666 State Hwy 65, McGregor.
• June 13: 10am-1pm, FDL Tribal College, 2101 14th St, Cloquet.
• June 13: 6-9pm, Intercontinental Hotel Saint Paul, 11 E. Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul.
• June 14: 11am-2pm, Staples Comm Ctr, 425 4th St NE, Staples.
• June 14: 6-9pm, Initiative Found-ation, 405 1st St SE, Little Falls.
• June 15: 10am-1pm, Henry's Catering Hall, 6774 MN-25, Foley.
• June 15: 6-9pm, Phoenix Hotel, 210 MN-23, Milaca.
• June 16: 10am-1pm, Grand Event Center, 2025 Rowland Rd, Mora.
• June 20: 10am-1pm, Marshall Cty Central Schools, 310 W Minnesota Ave, Newfolden.
• June 20: 6-9pm, Hallock City Hall, 163 3rd St SE, Hallock.
• June 21: 10am-1pm, R. Engelstad Arena, Imperial Rm, 525 Brooks Ave N, Thief River Falls.
• June 21: 6-9pm, Plummer Senior Citizen Center, 185 Minnesota St, Plummer.
• June 22: 10am-1pm, Gully Comm. Center, 120 Main St, Gully.
• June 22: 6-9pm, Sanford/Nielson Conv. Ctr, 1111 Event Center Dr NE, Bemidji.


Statement from Olga Viso, Walker Art Center Executive Director, and Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Park a
Monday, May 29 2017
Written by Olga Viso, and Jayne Miller,
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May 29th: Statement from Olga Viso, Walker Art Center Executive Director, and Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent:

Out of respect for the process of mediation and resolution that is yet to unfold, the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board announce today the official re-opening for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will be postponed until Saturday, June 10, 2017. Both partners agree that this is the most appropriate course of action to honor the dialogue that is underway between Dakota Elders, the Walker, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and artist Sam Durant regarding the sculpture Scaffold in the Garden.

A private mediation with a group of Dakota Elders is planned for the morning of Wednesday, May 31, 2017, with leaders from the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, City of Minneapolis, and the artist and his representatives. In advance of this mediation, Dakota Elders will be meeting with a broader cross-section of the Dakota community on Tuesday evening. This meeting is being organized by Dakota Elders and will inform the mediation process. Their announcement is available below and is being posted on the All My Relations gallery website.

Dakota Elders leading the mediation process have respectfully asked that others who feel allied in this endeavor, but who are not Dakota, or whom may represent other communities across the state and region, to please be patient and respect the process that is currently underway. There is concern from all parties involved in the mediation process that pre-emptive actions in advance of these discussions would be counterproductive.

A public statement at 2 pm on Wednesday, May 31, will provide an update on the status of the mediation.



Dakota Elders Announcement

On Tuesday 7:00 PM May 30, 2017 all Dakota traditional spiritual elders are invited to meet to discuss how to respond to the “Scaffold” sculpture that is currently under construction by Walker Art Center on Minneapolis Park and Recreation Land in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The intent of the Elder meeting is to share the information about the structure, to hear a timely written update from the Walker Art Center, and to make decisions about the priorities for next steps for the structure, specifically:

1) Elders’ wishes regarding the structure

2) who will be in the working group to plan a ceremony

3) how to involve the Dakota community including the youth as well as Native artists in this historic event, and future discussions of the important role that art plays in truth-telling

4) which twelve Elders are available/willing to attend the first face to face meeting with the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis administrator and the artist, Sam Durant, on Wednesday May 31.

All Dakota are encouraged and invited to respond with their insights in this process. This is an opportunity for parents to engage the children in learning about their history and for the students and professions to use their position to help share our truth, our history. Because of the quick timing of this first meeting and the fact that many Dakota cannot travel to this meeting, you may send/share your response to an Elder who will carry that intention forward in prayer to the meeting.

This Elder meeting will be open to all Dakota elders on Tuesday May 30th 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 Franklin Ave Minneapolis Minnesota. We welcome all Dakota who come with a good heart, with respect for the ancestors, the elders, our traditional ways and our Sacred sites for the opening prayer and announcements. No press please. This is only the first of many meetings to help create a process of healing and to help educate through Dakota truth-telling of our own history.

The next step will be the face-to-face meeting of Dakota spiritual and traditional elders with the related parties Wednesday morning 9:30 to 12:30 to discuss next steps, followed by a joint press announcement at 2 PM of any logistic decisions made. Recognizing that the presence of the sculpture is very volatile to our community, that timeliness and participation by all related parties is very important, the focus of this part of the mediation process will be discussing the logistics. Broader education for the staff and public will come later. The Walker Art Center and Park Board have agreed to push back the Grand Opening of the sculpture garden until Saturday June 10 to allow for more attention to this process and for good faith efforts at dialogue by all parties.

We call upon all Dakota to pray for wisdom and for healing. We request that all press wait for the joint announcement on Wednesday after our private mediation meeting rather than seeking individual statements from our community. We ask all non-Dakota allies to not take action on our behalf; please respectfully allow us space to conduct our process in our way and timing, that we may heal.



Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Walker Art Center Media Contacts

Meredith Kessler

Walker Art Center

O: 612-375-7651

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Robin Smothers

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

O: 612-230-6410

C: 612-499-9052

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An Open Letter on Sam Durant’s Scaffold
Saturday, May 27 2017
Written by Olga Viso,
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Open Letter to The Circle

Learning in Public: An Open Letter on Sam Durant’s Scaffold
By Olga Viso

Art work entitled On May 25, Walker director Olga Viso outlined the approach for selecting the 18 new sculptures to be unveiled in June in the reconstructed Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. One work by Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant entitled Scaffold, which addresses the history of the death penalty, is raising questions among some local audiences for its reference, among others, to a specific event in Minnesota history related to the US-Dakota War. Here, in an open letter to The Circle, a publication devoted to Native American news and arts, Viso discusses Durant’s sculpture, as well as the artist’s and the Walker’s intents, and acknowledges potential communal concerns with the work’s reception, especially among local Native audiences.

For the last 30 years, the Walker Art Center has been responsible for selecting art for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, adding new works by emerging artists working in diverse forms. During our process of choosing works for the newly reconstructed Garden opening this summer, we sought to engage artists whose works often explore complex questions about the times in which we live. One of these is Sam Durant’s Scaffold (2012). Constructed of wood and steel, this work layers together the forms of seven historical gallows that were used in US state-sanctioned executions by hanging between 1859 and 2006. These representations, assembled one on top of the other, intersect into a single, complicated structure. This composite forms what Durant intends as a critique—“neither memorial nor monument”—that invokes white, governmental power structures that have controlled and subjugated nations and peoples, especially communities of color, throughout the history of the US.

Of the seven gallows depicted in Durant’s sculpture, there is one specific to Minnesota history: the gallows design related to the execution of the Dakota 38 in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862. The Mankato Massacre represents the largest mass execution in the history of the United States, in which 38 Dakota men were executed by order of President Lincoln in the same week that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It is one of the greatest atrocities in the history of our state and in the history of capital punishment. The artist has referenced this event along with the other six scaffolds that comprise the structure, which include those used to execute abolitionist John Brown (1859); the Lincoln Conspirators (1865), which included the first woman executed in US history; the Haymarket Martyrs (1886), which followed a labor uprising and bombing in Chicago; Rainey Bethea (1936), the last legally conducted public execution in US history; Billy Bailey (1996), the last execution by hanging (not public) in the US; and Saddam Hussein (2006), for war crimes at a joint Iraqi/US facility.

Durant’s sculpture raises complex questions about how contentious moments in history are remembered. It raises deeper questions still about how, why, by whom, and for whom. As an institution that champions the work of living artists, we also champion the freedom of expression extended to artists and audiences alike. We recognize, however, that the siting of Scaffold in our state, on a site that is only a short distance from Mankato, raises unique concerns. We recognize the decision to exhibit this work might cause some to question the Walker’s sensitivity to Native audiences and audiences in Minnesota more familiar with this dark history.

As director of the Walker, I regret that I did not better anticipate how the work would be received in Minnesota, especially by Native audiences. I should have engaged leaders in the Dakota and broader Native communities in advance of the work’s siting, and I apologize for any pain and disappointment that the sculpture might elicit. When I first encountered Scaffold in a sculpture park in Europe five years ago, I saw a potent artistic statement about the ethics of capital punishment. Most importantly, I recognized its capacity to address the buried histories of violence in this country, in particular raising needed awareness among white audiences. I knew this could be a difficult artwork on many levels. This is invariably connected to national issues still embedded in the psyche of this country and its violent, colonialist past.

Yet despite my and the Walker’s earnest intent to raise understanding and increase awareness of this and other histories in our American democracy, the work remains problematic in our community in ways that we did not sufficiently anticipate or imagine. There is no doubt that what we perceived as a multifaceted argument about capital punishment on a national level affecting a variety of communities across the US may be read through a different lens here in Minnesota. We also acknowledge that the artist’s intent to create a work meant “as a space of remembering” may be misread. Because the structure can serve as a gathering space, which allows visitors to explore it in un-ceremonial ways, we realize it requires heightened attention and education in all of our visitor orientation and interpretation.

It is my hope that this moment will foster critical and productive conversations around the complex questions the artist brings forth. I also intend that it provoke discussion about how the Walker can strive to be a more sensitive and inclusive institution. This is a deep learning moment—and will not be the last—for the Walker and its relationship with Native audiences. I pledge that we will continue to learn actively, and in public, and to create pathways for listening and supporting the full range of conversations that this work will engender as they evolve in the weeks and months ahead.

Our next steps will be decided in consultation with community members who elect to be involved in this process; we will look to their feedback in shaping the framework for this process. As part of our active learning we recognize that our work moving forward must be done with the guidance of the Dakota community. To start our listening process we invite your feedback to this email address: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


Updated Statement from the Walker Center

A Statement from Olga Viso, Executive Director of the Walker Art Center:

Because we are keenly aware of how important the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is to the community, city and state, we have been taking the public response over the last 24 hours very seriously.

The responses have overwhelmingly conveyed and expressed anger and sadness that Scaffold has caused the Dakota community and beyond.

As the Executive Director of the Walker, I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others.

Prompted by the outpouring of community feedback, the artist Sam Durant is open to many outcomes including the removal of the sculpture. He has told me, “It’s just wood and metal – nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.”

I am in agreement with the artist that the best way to move forward is to have Scaffold dismantled in some manner and to listen and learn from the Elders. The details of how and when will be determined by Traditional Spiritual Dakota Elders at a meeting scheduled with the Walker and the artist on Wednesday, May 31 with the support of a mediator selected by the Elders. This is the first step in a long process of healing.

We will continue listening and communicating to the public as plans develop in partnership with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.


Urban farming in South Minneapolis
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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graden.jpgA collaborative of Minneapolis faith-based, cultural and health organizations will soon start a second year of serious urban farming in an effort to change how Native Americans live and eat and take their neighbors along on the same healthy journey.

Weather permitting, volunteers and staff from involved groups will transplant crops May 12 in the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden, 3201 22nd Ave. S.

Some of the produce raised this growing season will be used at First Nations’ Kitchen, a ministry of the nearby All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission (3044 Longfellow Ave. S.), said Claire Baglien, with Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) and the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden coordinator.

Some produce will be used at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, which is another backer of the urban gardening program. And still more will be distributed or picked up by people in the neighborhood – primarily from the large Native American community living on the south side.

The Rev. Canon Robert Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota) with the Indian Mission and All Saints Episcopal Church, said the collaborative effort also combines Indigenous cultural thought of community and caring for the environment with theological, or faith-based thought, on caring for our planet and for each other.

“Working together in community is a cultural value,” Two Bulls said. There’s been a learning curve for him as well, he said. “We live in a time when funding is being whittled away. That’s the reality. How do we put our money together and work together?”

The work First Nations’ Kitchen does in providing free meals and access to nutritional food to underserved people is especially important for Two Bulls. 

“Health and food. We have a lot of problems with both in our Native population,” he said. “Heart disease and diabetes are big problems, including in my own family.”

The Indian Health Service (IHS) unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services crunched recent Census data in April to show how American Indians and Alaska Natives are impacted. In a study (“Indian Health Disparities”), IHS researchers found that Native communities have a life expectancy 4.4 years shorter than all U.S. races. Heart disease, cancer, unintentional accidents, diabetes and alcohol-induced problems were leading causes of Indian deaths and were far greater than for the overall U.S. population.

All can be related to diets and lifestyles. Such statistics and linkages are not ignored by health professionals.

“Many of the leading health challenges Minnesotans face are undeniable links to what we eat,” said Janell Waldock, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The Blues’ foundation and its Center for Prevention is a financial supporter and partner of the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden urban farm project.
Waldock said healthy eating challenges “are magnified by the inequities that exist in our state, particularly by race, cultures and geographies.” The urban farm project addresses healthy eating and health inequities, creating healthier Minnesota communities for all, she said.

Collaborating with shared and compatible missions becomes important for all the partners.

Two Bulls said a Presbyterian minister visited First Nations’ Kitchen and he was a friend of Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant. The Bangladesh native and chef of Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine shared interests in fresh, organic and healthy foods, and then started preparing foods for First Nations’ Kitchen fundraisers.

That became a multicultural bond of compatible objectives. Around the same time, Islam became friends with an official of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. Another bond was created with shared goals for Mother Earth and her peoples.
Islam said in a brief interview that becoming friends with Native Americans and faith-based groups concerned about human health and environmental well-being was a convergence of shared interests. “Good health and good food; that is my culture as well,” he said.  

MNIPL, initially called Congregations Caring for Creation, is a non-profit organization formed by ecumenical faith organizations and congregations in 2004. It has about 250 member congregations within major religious denominations that work on educating congregants on climate and environmental issues and in promoting legislation in Minnesota that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

A big part of Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden is similarly educational in purpose, garden coordinator Baglien said. The garden is located in the backyard of property owned by a MNIPL official. It started with urban students in 2012 and became the interfaith garden a year ago.

The garden is protected by walled fencing that has windows for passersby to stop, watch the plants grow, and engage in conversations about food, soil and well-being with workers in the garden.

Coincidence or not, that about sums up the meaning of the word “Mahal” in English. Though it doesn’t translate completely, it is usually a reference to a palace. But in various Asian languages, it describes a place of rest, or a protective compound; it can be a place of solace.

It is also in keeping with the spirituality and search for justice inspired by Mohandas Gandhi in India, Baglein said.
It seeks to promote ecological sustainability, promote the values and wisdom of Indigenous people and promote healthy and natural lifestyles across cultural lines, she said. It offers an unusual opportunity to connect soil, climate and food together for neighbors and young people who don’t have farm backgrounds.

The garden and its backers held a community block party a year ago to explain to neighbors what it was about. That gained volunteers for the garden and for First Nations’ Kitchen, and neighbors made regular stops by the property to check the progress of the garden throughout the growing season.

Current plans call for planting lettuce, sorrel, spinach, three or four varieties of squash including a unique Banglasquash variety that the restaurateur Islam introduced, black turtle beans, radishes, carrots, garlic, kale, beets, three varieties of eggplant, Thai chilies, jalepeno peppers, cilantro, dill and garlic chives. And, in keeping with the sustainable, organic nature of the garden, Baglein said they will be also planting wildflowers for pollinators.

Since part of the garden’s mission is to promote cultural ties within communities, Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden is also planting crops that Baglein identifies within the Native Americans’ “sacred plants realm.” They include white sage that the garden received from Wuju Wakan Garden (4019 31st Ave. S.), another culturally-relevant urban farming venture supported by faith and food groups, plus sweetgrass and tobacco.

The size of the garden and amount of produce harvested is important but not the single most important objective, Baglein said. Connecting people to healthy living, healthy and sustainable food systems and culturally appropriate foods make building blocks for a stronger community in south Minneapolis.


The Wiindigo and the Water Protectors
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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“Sitting down and talking with the Canadian government is like making small talk with a cannibal.  You can make as much small talk as you want, but in the end you know exactly what he’s thinking.”  – NuChalnuth Chief,  1990.

Some things never change, no matter the cannibal. The standards are dropping quickly; that is, if there ever were standards. As Donald Trump shamelessly grabs more for corporate interests and fat cats, standards of law, human decency, and rules of engagement in civil society are  brushed aside. While actively dismantling all social programs and environmental protections, insulting almost everyone possible to insult, Trump topped it off with  a big bang by launching $60 million worth of Tomahawk Missiles (love that name) and MOABs (Mother Of All Bombs). That, I figure, was worth somewhere around $60 million (or what is needed to fund Minnesota Headstart waiting lists). That amazingly poor appropriation of public resources was followed by Trump’s decision to review all the designations of National Monuments in the past ten years. At the center is the Bear’s Ear National Monument, the first National Monument designated to be managed by Indigenous peoples. 

The arrogance of Trump is mimicked in Minnesota and North Dakota. Emboldened by the Commander in Chief, this past month Minnesota Representative Garofalo decided that it would be appropriate to push forward with the permitting of the enormous Enbridge Line 3 project – all 915,000 barrels-a-day of tar sands oil.  That move is being challenged  by grassroots organizations and members of the Minnesota legislature.

To the west, Morton County’s “finest”, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, has been honored with speeches and recognition poured upon him by the National Sheriffs Association, as well as the Bismarck Tribune.  All of this for his arrest of some 840 Water Protectors, strip searches, cavity searches, dog attacks, shooting rubber bullets at people, tear gassing, and blowing off arms and blowing out eyes.  The Bismarck Tribune honored Kirchmeier with a 2016 Tribune Award,  for a member of their community “who has gone beyond what’s expected.” 

Meanwhile, Native News Online and many others have equated Kirchmeier with   Eugene “Bull Conner”, the  l960s Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham Alabama, who used excessive force against African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

Indeed, Standing Rock is our Selma Moment.

“A ‘disease of the mind’ has set in world leaders and many members of our global community,” Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, said. “With their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace. We need to understand how all these decisions affect the global nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions.”

It is the time of the Wiindigo. That’s what we will call this time, when a craziness comes around. 

Termed, according to Wikkipedia, as, “A creature… once human but… transformed into an immortal evil spirit when it took up the practice of cannibalism. Wiindigos are cursed to wander the land, eternally seeking to fulfill their voracious appetite for human flesh…Wiindigos are believed to live in the northern woods of Minnesota and in the north central regions of Canada…Sightings of the creature in this area have continued well into the new millennium. Wiindigos are generally rumored to be gigantic spirits, over fifteen feet tall, lanky and with glowing eyes, long yellowed fangs, terrible claws and overly long tongues. Sometimes they are said to have a sallow, yellowish skin; other times they are described as being matted with hair.”
We are not to speak of the Wiindigo, but how can we not?

In our stories, the Wiindigo was defeated long ago by the Anishinaabe.  Elaine Fleming writes that there were many generations of Wiindigo slayers in our Anishinaabeg people, “Those old time Wiindigo slayers of the Termination era were wise and resilient. They united with other Indigenous American nations and organizations like the National Congress of American Indians. The American Indian Movement was formed at the end of this era in 1968, and by the 1970s, the self-determination era began with huge numbers of Indigenous Americans enrolling in college, producing crops of Indigenous lawyers, authors, and activists…”  It is that time again.

In my lifetime, I have seen much.   Forty years ago, I was a young woman at the United Nations, representing the International Indian Treaty Council at the first UN NGO forum on the rights of Indigenous peoples. That was when Venezuela had the practice of hunting Indigenous Wayuu people and stringing them up in trees like deer. That was just after the coups of Chile, when big copper, the CIA and ITT  pushed back with the assassination of President Salvador Allende. That was in the beginning of the rounds of civil and dirty wars in the Americas as Indigenous peoples, peasants, farm workers and students began to resist the American multinationals which controlled their countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, with movements like the Sandinistas, the FMLN and finally the Zapatistas.  

For much of my life, I have watched and recorded these movements. We have made political and social gains and yet,Wiindigo economics continues. Wiindigo economics creates pipeline spills, destruction of lakes, forests, fish, relatives, people, climate change, and injures Mother Earth.

What we must remember is who we are and who we face. And where we are going. The time ahead will surely involve many Water Protectors, who will appear with the weapons and tools to fight the Wiindigo; whether in court, with our ceremonies, or with camps on the front lines. And as the state of Minnesota proceeds in a process which could be viewed as one of the Wiindigo, I believe that the standards set forward by the United Nations must become the new standards for the state. That is to say, the international standard for Free Prior and Informed Consent, adopted as a part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is to establish bottom up participation and consultation of an Indigenous Population prior to the beginning of a development on ancestral land or using resources within the Indigenous Population’s territory.  

Indigenous Peoples inhabit 20% of the earth’s surface, and live in the most biodiverse and pristine parts of Mother Earth. Yet today, whether in Brasilia or in Minnesota, we face massive plans for extraction in an economic system which reflects the paradigm of the Wiindigo.  To protect Indigenous peoples rights, international human rights law has created process and standards to safeguard their way of life and to encourage participation in the decision making process. One of these methods is the process of FPIC. The United Nations describes FPIC, both directly and indirectly, in numerous conventions and treaties. One of the most direct is located in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Article 19 states: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

Most recently, this standard was applied as some of the largest banks in the world divested from the Dakota Access Pipeline. 
On April 5th, BNP Paribas, the fifth largest bank in the world, announced it was divesting from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This bank joins Norway’s DNB bank, the Netherland’s ING bank and other investors in pulling out. Explaining its reasoning, DNB stated: “By selling our stake, we wish to signal how important it is that the affected indigenous population is involved and that their opinions are heard in these types of projects.”

DNB is a signatory to the Equator Principles, a set of environmental and social policies that require clients to, among other things, obtain “free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous peoples.” Now what does that mean?  It means that the Indigenous peoples, the people from that land for thousands of years, have to say yes. It’s sort of like sex . . . you have to have consent. Those involved should agree and respect each other.

Dave Archambault, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, welcomed the Parabis decision, saying, “As corporate greed continues to fuel dirty energy projects on our land, it is heartening to see that some banks recognize the imminent harm to our people posed by DAPL, and are taking actions accordingly.”  

The divestment is a part of a much larger divestment movement which is shaking the fossil fuel industry – according to the UN Secretary General Bahn, over $5.2 trillion is being moved from the fossil fuel economy (the Wiiindigo economy) to renewables. That is the time we are in now.

In the broader questions asked by Minnesota, and the US as Wiindigo economics and policies are forwarded by Trump, the long term must involve a full participation and respect for Indigenous Peoples.  As Zuni historian and Director of the Colorado Plateau Foundation Jim Enote  says, “I suppose in some people’s minds, we are the conquered, so the willingness to pursue ill-gotten gains that benefit a few is simply a given. But if Native Americans are truly a part of the social and cultural fabric of this nation, why do we not receive the civility and respect afforded to other citizens? It’s time we realize that Native peoples are not only citizens of this great nation, we are indigenous to it, part of its original fabric...”

It is a time of the Wiindigo and the Water Protectors, a time of legends and of hope.  

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