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Local Briefs
Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Tuesday, June 09 2015
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Returning to Native Spirituality

It’s my favorite time of year. It’s a busy time of year for summer ceremonies, rituals and powwows. It’s the beginning of the new year for some. It’s a time to reconcile the year. It’s time to reflect on one’s conduct. It’s time to reconnect with the Creator. It’s time for renewal.

As someone who came to learn ‘the Native’ way of life a little later, I’ll share with you some of the experiences I had in my effort to reconnect with our traditional ways. I will not share specifics about different ceremonies, but I will write about how I approached learning about our sacred way of life.

My parents were part of the generation of people who were forced to assimilate, so keeping me away from our traditional native way of life was not negligent, but it was them protecting me. I learned later from them that they were protecting me from the profound sense of loss they experienced.

I am thankful for the protection of my parents and the choices they made. When I did chose to return to our way of life, they struggled with my decision. Eventually, they helped me and came along with me in my rediscovering our ways. Over time, they became ardent supporters until they died.

When I wanted to learn more about our traditional ways, I approached a relative who was active and participated regularly in traditional Native way of life for help. They happily stepped forward; to this day, they continues to teach me many things and I seek their advice.

Choosing a spiritual leader, or medicine person, is an important step. Find them then get to know them, trust your gut. I’ve learned and witnessed people who have been spiritually traumatized by questionable people, so be careful. I follow the medicine people that my family has been with for several generations.


Heroin Deaths Bring Community Together
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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heroin deaths bring community together.jpgOn May 29, over 100 members of the Minneapolis American Indian community filled the hall of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri to hear from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office about an alarming rise in heroin and opioid-related deaths.

According to the Sheriff's Office, deaths have been on a rise throughout the county. Beginning in 2008, there were only six deaths related to heroin and opioid overdose; that figure climbed steadily to 56 in 2013; so far this year, there have been 12, half of which, occurred in Little Earth of United Tribes, the Native American housing complex in South Minneapolis. In a prepared letter, read for the event, Little Earth president and CEO Robert Lilligren (White Earth Ojibwe) stated, “It's a grim way for me to mark my time here.”

Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek moderated the Heroin Town Hall Forum and praised the work being down between his office and Little Earth. However, he admitted that addressing the issue didn't rest in jail time. “Prevention and treatment are essential. We can't arrest our way out of this.”

Commander Bruce Folkens, Minneapolis Police Department, detailed all prongs of attack from the law enforcement side. “It's a multi-faceted approach. We've got undercover cops, precinct cops and uniformed officers.” Officers from the city are also assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “We try to hit it at all levels, two officers follow up with every arrest. But we need folks, such as yourselves to be our eyes and ears.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman echoed those sentiments, “Have the courage to come forward and help. Call the police.” He sought to allay fears from community members that his office may not differentiate between prosecuting addicts and dealers. “We prosecute all adult cases, but there's a difference between a use who suffers from addiction and the dealer who suffers from greed. Drug court works with small time dealers and users.”

Gerald Cross, a community member in recovery, gave his personal story on what led to his addictions to heroin and crack. “What got me going is that I didn't have no love, my parents' addiction to alcohol and we were in foster homes. We had decent [foster] parents who were white but we knew we were different and they made us feel different. So we ran away and stayed with people who accepted us.”

Cross and his twin brother James then set out on a path fraught with the struggle of fitting in and tangles with the law. “I was jailed at age 11, that was my first incarceration. I got into gang life, it was something to belong to. Then I did nine-and-a-half years for a drive-by shooting.”

Through his incarcerations, Cross had time to reflect on the causes of his addictions. “We didn't have any spirituality, we were empty inside. The drugs made us feel better. I didn't care about nothing. First, it was fun, then I needed it.”

Eventually, Cross's parole officer recommended treatment, which led to his recovery and working with his brother to help other addicts in the community. “We all got clean and we got the family we all needed and wanted … we got love … things are coming to us.”

As part of his recovery, Cross helps facilitate a talking circle at Little Earth called Natives Against Heroin that meets on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. In the Neighborhood Early Learning Center (2438 18th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN).


Kwe Pack Heals Through Running
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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kwe pack heals through running.jpgA collective of Anishinaabe women in northern Minnesota found strength with one another. Their journey to health and wellness brought them together gradually and almost synchronously since 2012. It all began with some inspiration.

After completing a half marathon in 2011, Chally Topping-Thompson (Red Cliff Ojibwe) encouraged her friend, Sarah Agaton Howes (Fond du Lac Ojibwe) to finish a 5K run. This was the birth of the movement now known as the “Kwe Pack,” a women’s running society. In the Ojibwe language, “Kwe” can be translated to “Woman,” but a deeper linguist investigation into this word reveal a description of a sacred, life giving being. In Ojibwe culture, women are considered precious pieces of the nation.

The Kwe Pack evolved to a group of mothers, professionals, wives and students all currently committed to running together along the woodland trails on the Fond du Lac reservation. Topping-Thompson is currently the Indian Child Welfare Director at the Red Cliff Chippewa Tribal Offices and Agaton Howes is the House of Howes artist, teacher and Inspired Natives Collaborator.

The group started gaining momentum when they decided to participate in The Superior Hiking Trail 25K with a group of seven Indigenous women in 2013. The following year, 16 completed the Superior Hiking Trail 25K and 22 finished just this spring.

As one of the original Kwe Pack runners, Agaton Howes said she was honored to be a part of this event as she saw the numbers of Indigenous women participating in the 25K increased every year. “10 percent of the entire Superior Hiking Trail 25K this year was Indigenous. It feels so amazing to see our people over-represented in something healthy,” she said.

Alicia Cyr (Grand Portage Ojibwe), a 27 year-old mother and Administrative Assistant at the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, began running with the Kwe Pack in 2013, shortly after the devastating loss of her grandmother. She reflects on how meaningful being part of the Kwe Pack is to her, “These ladies are amazingly tenacious. It’s hard to describe fully what my heart feels for this group of life-giving women.” She had been struggling to find a sense of balance after her grandmother passed away, but found the Kwe Pack to be a supportive, safe space to share similar struggles with other Indigenous women, “I hear my grandmother in the Kwe Pack’s laughter out on those trails, we offer each other courage and wisdom.”

Each of the women are affected in some way by the health disparities that are so prominent in Native communities; diabetes or substance abuse, for example.


Minneapolis Native Youth invited to White House
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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A group of four Twin Cities Native American youth were invited to the White House for the first Tribal Youth Gathering, marking an achievement for students and an organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting research and understanding among Native youth.

The Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota is a non-profit established in 2014. Following the 2008 Minnesota Summit on Afterschool Learning Opportunities, the Native American community took note of the disparity that research and data does not reflect Native youth.

This realization began groundbreaking work that began with a conversation to develop an Indigenous Youth Research and Development Center in 2009. Native leaders throughout the state of Minnesota really came forth with the idea that this work has never been done before.

LeMoine LaPointe, NYAM board member investigated the issue, “I was told that Native American people are statistically insignificant.” He felt that proved there was much to be done in Indian Country.

NYAM convened community conversations with various tribal communities throughout the state to collect stories directly from Native people about how they envision the Indigenous Youth Research and Development Center transforming their communities. Native leaders and youth came together on May 29 in Saint Paul, Minn. to delve deep into what research means traditionally for Native communities.

Many ideas emerged from the conversation and it is just the beginning of the work. Sierra Villebrun (White Earth), Abel Martinez (Ho-Chunk) and Lupe Thornhill (Red Lake) participated in the discussion. Villebrun is a junior at South High All Nations and has been involved with Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota as a part of the Art of Indigenous Resistance community mural project along with Martinez, a sophomore also at South High All Nations; Thornhill is from St. Paul and facilitated the conversation.


Minnesota tribes press concerns over pipeline plan, wild rice
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Dan Kraker, MPR News,
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mn_tribes_press_concerns_over_pipeline_plan_wild_rice-web.jpgSeveral Minnesota Indian bands are upset about what they say is a lack of consultation over a proposed controversial oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

This week, the Mille Lacs and White Earth Ojibwe bands are holding their own public hearings on plans for the Sandpiper line, a $2.6 billion pipeline that would pump North Dakota crude 300 miles across Minnesota to its terminal in Superior, Wis., and eventually to refineries around the Great Lakes.

The tribal hearings are happening as the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission readies a major ruling on the project's need.

While the route preferred by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy does not cross any Indian reservations, it does cross a large area of lakes and forests in northern Minnesota where treaties give tribes the right to hunt, fish and gather.

Tribal members say they are especially concerned about potential impacts on their right to gather wild rice. A three-hour meeting Enbridge hosted last week on the Fond du Lac Reservation was sometimes tense and emotional.

"If the wild rice dies, we die," said Michael Dahl, who drove four hours from the White Earth reservation to attend the meeting. "Shame on you," he shouted to Enbridge representatives.

Tanya Aubid, a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe member who lives near the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge near McGregor, Minn., broke down in tears as she talked about how a pipeline spill near Rice Lake would be devastating.

Ojibwe migration stories tell of how the people were told to keep moving until they came to a place where food grew on the water.

"Wild Rice is very much an integral part of our lives," she said. "It's there for us for our ceremonies, for basic daily living, and something we've had here for thousands and thousands of years."

Linda Coady, Enbridge's director of sustainability, told tribal members she'd relay their concerns to the company's senior leadership. While she didn't make any promises, Coady said she hopes Enbridge and tribes can forge a less adversarial relationship.

"There are very strong feelings; there are obviously a lot of concerns about the potential impact of a spill in relation to wild rice," she said.

"On some of the issues, we have shared values, common goals," she added. "No one wants to threaten the wild rice in Minnesota."

Enbridge has hired a tribal relations consultant. But several bands say neither Enbridge nor the state have done enough to consult with tribes.


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