Local Briefs
Friday, October 02 2015
Written by The Circle,
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Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Jim Lenfestey,
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first_issue_of_the_circle.jpgIn 1980 The Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC) received a grant from the Dayton-Hudson Foundation (Target Foundation today) to broaden communications to serve the growing Native American community. From that seed The Circle was born. Volume One, Number One emerged from a basement office at MAIC on March 1, 1980.

At the time of that first issue, the Twin Cities metropolitan area had 23,000 self-identified Native Americans. Today that number is over 37,000 in the 11 county metropolitan area, according to the 2010 census, more than half the total population of 60,931 identified Native Americans in the state.

For 35 years, The Circle has provided news and information unavailable anywhere else, Native voices speaking to and about one of the nation’s largest urban Native communities, becoming an independent 501c3 nonprofit corporation in 1995.

The Circle is the welcome mat and doorway into the activities and interests of the Native community. As author Louise Edrich remarked at a Circle event last spring, “ … when I looked around Minneapolis, hoping to move here, I saw that there was a newspaper called The Circle that represented the Native community. It was more than a coincidental sign; it was the signal of a vividly interesting, many-Nationed community of Native people. Over the years I think that I have read every single issue.”

  • “The Circle was the first door that opened to me in the urban American Indian community. It still feels like a home and a circle of relatives talking about what matters.”  – Heid Erdrich, Minneapolis, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe

Along the way The Circle garnered many awards, including Best Native American Monthly in Canada, and the US from the Native American Journalists’ Association, and Best Community Newspaper from the City Pages.
The roll call of The Circle editors is impressive: Lori Mollenhoff, Sandra King, Rob Greengrass, Juanita Espinosa, Gordon Regguinti, Mike Bassett, Ruth Denny, Mark Anthony Rollo, Joe Allen, Catherine Whipple, Alfred Walking Bull, and Catherine Whipple again.

In addition, many writers, photographers and artists were launched and supported on The Circle pages. For 25 years, until his recent retirement, Jim Northrup entertained readers with “Reservation Follies.” Columnist Kristine Shotley, AKA “Ricey Wild,” continues today with her hilarious tales from Rezberry; newcomer columnist Nick Metcalf shares his views of the “Rez-born, Urban Raised,”  Mark Trahant reports on business, Mordecai Spector on Native and environmental politics, and Winona LaDuke is a regular contributor, along with many others.

As important, The Circle has represented a strong, vibrant Native presence in the region, which needs and demands its own voice. For 35 years The Circle has been that voice, reinforced today by online resources at our website at But the financial model that supported The Circle most of its life began declining about a decade ago.
From the beginning, advertising revenue supported The Circle. As the primary vehicle to reach the regional Native community, the paper averaged more than $10,000 a month in advertising income through the first two decades, enough to cover all expenses.

  • “THE CIRCLE is the common fire where the community shares our stories.” – David Cornouyer, St. Paul, Rosebud Sioux

The Internet revolution cratered that financial model, as the ease of Internet communication gobbled up much of the advertising revenue. The Circle advertising has fallen nearly 80 percent from the averages prior to 2000, although The Circle remains the premier means of reaching the Native community.

The Circle is in good company with this problem. Take my old employer, the StarTribune, where I served on the editorial board. The Cowles family sold the company for $1.4 billion in 1998. In 2006 the newspaper was sold for $530 million; in 2009 it filed for bankruptcy. Last year Glen Taylor purchased it for $100 million, one-fourteenth its value only 16 years before. That financial free fall is directly traceable to the decline of advertising revenue and the difficulty of raising comparable revenue from web-based information products.

“Multiplying” Ojibwe language at Bemidji stores, offices, schools
Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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dual-language-directory-sign.jpgWhen tourists and other visitors stop by the Harmony Co-op food store in Bemidji, they find doodooshaaboo (milk) in the dairy case, bakwezhigan (bread) in the bakery department, and a variety of locally grown vegetables and fruit offerings in the editegin (produce) department.

They are likely to pick up some zhiiwaagamizigan (maple syrup) and manoomin (wild rice) on the way out of the store before heading to tourist cabins or dropping in on friends and relatives in the woods and lake country of northern Minnesota.

It’s been 10 years since a few Bemidji businesses began an effort to make their city more welcoming to surrounding indigenous communities by putting dual language signs in English and Ojibwe on public restrooms, greetings (boozhoo) on entrances, and miigwech (thank you) at cash registers and doorways. As of Sept. 15, when the Beltrami County Commissioners and Court-house joined in, there are now 180 Bemidji stores, offices, schools, medical facilities and service providers with bilingual signage.

By some estimates, more than 250 facilities throughout the Bemidji and headwaters of the Mississippi River area have posted bilingual signs. Nearby school districts have posted dual language signs in their schools, and state departments have joined in with highway signs and around Lake Itasca State Park.     

What started as a “good neighbor” gesture for Bemidji people to embrace citizens of the nearby Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake nations is clearly having an economic impact, said Michael Meuers, a Bemidji public relations specialist who was a founder of the Bemidji Ojibwe Language Project. “People shop where they feel welcome,’ he said. “It has to be good for tourism.”

Colleen Bakken, general manager of Harmony Co-op, said the dual signage attracts tourists and appeals to customer-members of the natural foods cooperative from Bemidji as well. The store carries products from Native Harvest, a tribal foods venture that supports nonprofit projects at the White Earth Nation, and Red Lake Nation Foods as well as from area farmers. “We want people to know where their food comes from and what we’ve learned from our indigenous people,” she said.

The tourism advantage was apparent to Noemi Aylesworth when she operated the Cabin Coffee House until 2013. She was among the first Bemidji business owners to adopt bilingual signage. Tourists kept taking her menus, she said, “so I just started printing up copies and put them by the cash register. They (tourists) would take them, and they would come back. We would see them again.”   

No one has yet done an economic study on what bilingual signage may be doing for the Bemidji area economy or for tourism in northern Minnesota in general. But there are complex – and pretty pricey - tools for making such measurements.

When an economic activity or even a simple event of some kind causes an expansion of the economy within a community, region, state or industry sector, economists call the greater benefit of the dollars “the multiplier effect.”
In 2012, for instance, the National Endowment for the Arts studied the multiplier effects of demand for arts and culture in the U.S. economy and found that every $1 increase in demand generated $1.69 in total output. Every job created by demand for the arts created 1.62 additional periphery jobs.

Su Ye, an economist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, did a similar study in 2010 for the Minnesota Legislature that found Minnesota farmers produced $16 billion in economic output in 2008, and food processors and marketers produced $26 billion from those farm products for a total direct output impact of $42 billion. But with indirect output adding $24 billion more, and another $8 billion gained from “induced” economic activity, the entire Minnesota food and agriculture sector produced $75 billion for the state’s economy in the 2008 year studied.

Those examples are cited here because Harmony Co-op, Cabin Coffee House, other Bemidji food service providers, the White Earth and Red Lake food production and processing companies, and area service and hospitality purveyors are all part of either the arts and culture and related tourism industry, or the food and ag sector.      

It would be an enormous undertaking for Bemidji State University or other economists to do the research and devise input-output models necessary to measure multiplier effect gains from bilingual signs for the Bemidji area economy. 
But they are real enough. Meuers, who is with the Bemidji community group Shared Vision that promotes cultural understanding among Native Americans, non-Natives and diverse area ethnic groups, said he’s received inquiries about the Ojibwe Language Project from other cities and organizations around the nation.

Bemidji State University, and especially its Ojibwe language professor Anton Treuer, have helped Shared Vision and the language project with translations. Indigenous language programs at reservation communities and at academic institutions are doing similar work in other languages. What’s going on with the Bemidji community, however, still looks unique.

There’s a word for it that is neither Dakotah nor Ojibwe, said Tammy Decoteau from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. “Fabulous. It’s fabulous,” she said.

Decoteau is director of the Dakotah Language Institute, Agency Village, S.D. She said the Santee Sioux Nation does a good job with dual signage at its Ohiya Casino and Resort at Niobrara, Neb. The Ho-Chunk Nation does the same at hospitality industry sites in Wisconsin. Undoubtedly, other nations and language groups have done similar signage on their properties.

For the traveler or tourist in Indian Country, dual signage can be charming. At the same time, it encourages respect and is welcoming, said Decouteau.

A couple of years back, she recalls, a group of people from the Dakotas attended an indigenous language conference at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Pulling into a McDonald’s restaurant in Duluth, a person at the counter greeted them with a “boozhoo.” When they paid for their food and left, they were sent on their way with a “miigwech.”
“It wasn’t our language,” Decoteau said. “But it sure made us feel welcome. We kept going back there at least once each day for the next three days.”    

Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Ricey Wild,
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This month’s theme is language. Ahem! “Boozhoo! Ozaawanakwadookwe indizhinikaz. Niin doodem Ma’iingan.”
There! I just introduced myself to you in my own language; Ojibwemowiin. It’s my real name, not Ricey Wild – which is Manoominikwe or the name on my checks, which is Kristine Shotley. My name in Ojibwemowiin is how the Creator recognizes me. That name is the essence of my being and what the Medicine Man dreamed for me. No, I will not divulge any more than that, you don’t need to know. I regard it as sacred and not to be bandied about lightly because in my name there is also my purpose, the reason I’m here. Miigwech Gichii Manidoo!!!

My Gramma Rose has always told me stories and then repeated them, but not in the annoying way at all. It was more like our oral history culture where repetitive stories are passed down through generations, so that we know our history, so we know our environment and spirituality. Gramma told me a few times, “I was a bright little kid! When my folks talked Indian to each other I would sit underneath the kitchen table and listen to them. I knew what they were saying!”

Wow. So many particulars to this story. First, Gram called it “Talking Indian” not Ojibwemowiin, but her generation has always described the language as that. “So and so knows how to talk ‘Indian’.” She was not spoken to in ‘Indian’. Her parents wanted their children to speak English because they thought it would be better for her. So then was it in her bones, her skin or spirit that she understood what her folks were talking about? That boggles my mind.

There is direct evidence that we Native American Indians carry traumatic DNA from centuries of horrific, savage genocidal tactics from European Immigrants who saw no wrong in brutally murdering our ancestors. Well, as we know, the European immigrant savagery didn’t stop at all. It is still a very real entity but they are using less blatant ways to exterminate us. Incarceration, illegal drugs and medications to keep us numb and unmotivated, plus racist legislative policies that continue on from centuries ago, aka “The Indian Problem”. We experience daily suppression by the continental usurpers not acknowledging our legitimate history and rightful place on our own lands; read Howard Zinn and Jack Weatherford. Yes, I know there are Native writers and authors, but I cite these men in this case precisely because they are white.

Oppression of our cultures and our spiritual practices by European immigrants has been relentless since they got here. Here we were, living the good life in a clean environment, lots of natural resources and freedom to move about as we pleased. There were no demarcation lines between the US, Mexico and Canada; those are recent and made up. The immigrants think they won. Hah-hah!!! The majority of Americans don’t know that every day of their lives they speak a little “Indian”.

Oh yahhhh!!! Over half of the States are Native-named, as are places, animals and the flora and fauna. Too many to list here but I encourage you to Google “Native American place names” and “Native words we use today”. Long ago one of the most interesting things I found out is that there are no swear words in Native languages. Yep. Swearing was unnecessary. I suppose we had better things to say. So now I don’t feel bad when I swear in English or Spanish because…well…I just don’t.

These days it is critical to the survival of our collective Native cultures that we revive, speak and preserve our languages. It is more than just a thing; it’s who we are as a distinct people. In the government boarding schools children were horribly abused and punished for speaking their own languages. The children’s hair was cut; they were made to wear European-style clothing and were traumatized to the point of believing they were bad, sinful beings. Because that’s what they were told by the Churches or administrators whose job it was to kill the Indian to save the man. Talk about sinners.
The lasting effect of the spiritual scalping of Indian children resulted in decades of malevolent pervasive dysfunction in Indian families. How well can people who didn’t grow up in their own homes know how to be good parents? It has been generations and we are now addressing the violent sickness that happened to us; it has left no one unaffected or immune.

I know well that life is not static, nothing stays the same. So when I read my dear friend Nikki Crowe’s post on facebook that said, “Feeling miigwechful” Ojibwe/English meaning thankful I LMAO’d! I called the word ‘Ojiberish’ and it made my day. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

UMD’s MTAG Program graduates move into higher positions
Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Dr. Ed Minnema,
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mtag_graduates.jpgThe Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) program at UMD graduated its first cohort in 2013. Since then at least four MTAG graduates have become elected tribal officials in the Minnesota – Wisconsin region. Most recently, Jason (Jay) Schlender (MTAG ’13) and Jason Weaver (MTAG ’16) were elected to the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribal council. Jay and Jason were sworn in July 7, 2015.

Also from the Class of 2013 was Carolyn Beaulieu, who had been a tribal administrator at the Mille Lacs Reservation and was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Mille Lacs Band in 2014. Similarly, in 2014 Annette Johnson was elected the Treasurer of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa after graduating from MTAG in 2013. The Class of 2014 included sitting Tribal Councilman Brooks Big John who said, “.... The curriculum is relevant, the professors are knowledgeable, and the staff is professional. The diverse experience and expertise of my classmates has made learning again a pleasure not a burden or challenge.” Brooks serves on the council of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
MTAG now has over sixty students or grads in California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Washington State and Minnesota.

The MTAG program has also included several tribal executive directors or people who became head administrators after graduating. The first cohort included Cory Strong of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and Tiger Brown Bull of the Oglala Lakota Nation, both were promoted to the position of tribal executive director after completing MTAG.

The MTAG program was developed through two years of tribal consultation from 2009-11. From the consultation, several ideas and courses rose to the top: a year-long course on tribal sovereignty in which the entire history of federal, tribal and state relations is examined; a year- long course in tribal leadership and ethics; and a series of courses in tribal management (strategic, operations, human resources and project management) all of these courses were geared for tribal governments. Johnson said, “The MTAG program was designed for tribal governments by tribal governments.”

The consultation also revealed that people wanted a better understanding of the complexities of tribal finance, accounting and budgets – and Federal Indian law –which were added. MTAG is a 2 year program that meets with 4 synchronous meetings each semester, which can be attended in person or online – the rest of the program is online. The 35 tribes of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (MAST) endorsed the program with a resolution, and MTAG was approved by the University of Minnesota Regents in February of 2011.

With the success of MTAG, UMD is adding a new all online Bachelor’s degree in Tribal Administration and Governance (TAG) this fall. The new TAG program is designed for persons who have an Associate of Arts degree and want a totally online program. However, the TAG program can easily accommodate students with other academic backgrounds. While consulting with Indian people and non- Indian people on and off reservations, we discovered many potential non-traditional students who had gone to Tribal Community Colleges, or gone to college for a year or two, and then settled down, had children and were looking for ways to complete their Bachelor’s degree online and work for tribal governments. MTAG Director Johnson says, “We believe the TAG program will fill this need.”

For more info on MTAG, see: . For the TAG program see: or call Tami Lawlor at 218-726-7332.

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