Local Briefs
Learning The Art of Love
Friday, February 05 2016
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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This month because of Valentine’s Day I want to write above love. I want to share how I learned about love. First, I want to share my recent insight into love. I figured out a place where love resides. Recently, as I was with friends and family celebrating the coming of my Takoja (Grandson), I realized something – this is where love resides. Friends and family = LOVE.

My first memories about love were from my parents. Over the years, I’ve watched many romantic comedies and I’ve read about love, but nothing compares to my first impression of love. The love between my parents.   

The moments my parents demonstrated love include:

  • The touch my Father gave to my Mother. It was the first time I saw them communicate without words  My Father gently touched my Mother during an interaction. She looked up at him, suddenly the expression on her face changed. I remember her gentleness. This gentleness was so unlike her strong nature.
  • When my Father would try get my Mother’s attention and finally catch her eye, he’d smile and wink. She’d giggle. They’d speak to each other in Lakota. They laughed. I remember the playfulness of this interaction. It was their stolen moment of happiness and laughter.     
  • When I watched my parents slow dance. My Father would lead my Mother across the living room. They’d move in unison to a country song. He was bold, yet graceful as they danced. I remember the vulnerability in her face. They brought out the humanity in each other.

Unfortunately, my parents divorced. There were many things that came between them and they didn’t know how to get past them. Eventually, both my parents began new families, but they remained connected to one another over the years because of us children.

n the end, I knew beyond question they loved one another. When my Father died, my Mother endured his family disrespecting her. My Father’s family rendered those the years my parents spent together and their children, us, as inconsequential. Yet, regardless of the way they treated her at my Father’s funeral and wake, she helped. She mourned. She wept at his grave. I sat with her as she howled in pain for the loss of her first love.

His love, her love, their love transformed me. I bore witness to it. And it’s a wondrous feeling knowing that I am the consequence of such beauty. That’s love.

Over the years, in my own self-discovery, I’ve spent many a night wondering about love. On those nights, I’d be filled with longing. I came to believe that my salvation and love could only be found in another person, but I was wrong. I forgot about myself. I forgot who I am. Love begins with me. I am the one who must seek my own salvation. I have to forgive. I have to let go. I have to believe. Ultimately, love is about faith. And, love ain’t easy.

I’ve learned that there are many other kinds of love. Somehow we’ve come to believe that romantic love, or the love between a husband/wife, husband/husband, wife/wife, or partners is all that there is, but it isn’t. There are many other kinds of love in the world. Love is all around us.
I want to describe a few types of love:

  • Friendship Love – Someone who you respect, admire, listen to their stories, bear witness to their joys, and help them when needed. They do the same for you in return.  
  • Parental Love – It’s the moment when you see your son or daughter for the first time and everything is there – compassion, caretaking, worry, fear, joy, happiness, etc.
  • Erotic Love – it’s the first stage of attraction. It’s when you meet someone and you get ‘the butterflies’. It’s infatuation. It’s magic.
  • Self-Love – This is where love begins. It’s being able to love yourself enough to protect yourself; put your needs and desires first; and it’s about knowing yourself.
  • • Spiritual Love – It’s the connection to the universe; it’s that inspiring feeling when you are in nature; it’s that sense of wonder about our place; and it’s all encompassing.

What I learned from my parents about love is that love transforms. They taught me that love never dies. It changes. It becomes different. The initial urgency quiets to a deliberate pace. The dizzying anticipation relaxes into safety. The discovery and exploration falls into familiarity. Patience abounds. A glance becomes a full conversation. I’m grateful for their lessons.

So this year when you find yourself being without love, start with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Do something kind for yourself. Celebrate you. Discover what makes you laugh and brings you joy. Remember, love begins with you, so start there.

Suppressing the Indian vote
Friday, February 05 2016
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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The passage of the Snyder Act of 1924, during the Calvin Coolidge administration, admitted American Indians born in the United States to full U.S. citizenship.

Under the Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, all U.S. citizens gained the right to vote regardless of race; but it wasn’t until more than 50 years later, with the Snyder Act, “that America’s native people could enjoy the rights granted by this amendment,” according to the Library of Congress. “Even with the passing of this citizenship bill Native Americans were still prevented from participating in elections mainly due to the fact that the Constitution left it up to the states to decide who has the right to vote.”

The article on the Library of Congress website points out that many “Native Americans suffered from the same mechanisms and strategies, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and intimidation, that kept African Americans from exercising that right. In 1965, with passage of the Voting Rights Act… protections for non-English speakers and other citizen voters were reaffirmed and strengthened.”

Fast forward to Jan. 20, 2016, when seven American Indian plaintiffs from North Dakota filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, under the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. and North Dakota constitutions, challenging North Dakota’s voter ID laws.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), argue in the suit that “Native American voters are disproportionately burdened” by North Dakota’s 2013 and 2015 voter ID laws. The voter ID laws specify that only certain types of IDs are acceptable at polling places; and in many cases, tribal members do not possess IDs that meet the strict standards imposed by the new laws.

“The burdens are substantial for a number of Native Americans who cannot afford to drive to the nearest driver’s license site (‘DMV’),” NARF explained, in part, in a press release distributed last month. “There are no DMV locations on any Indian reservations in North Dakota, and for many Native Americans, a DMV location may be over 60 miles away. Many Native Americans live below the poverty line, and do not have dependable access to transportation or cannot afford travel to a distant DMV location.”
“As a veteran who served this country, I know how important it is to vote,” remarked Richard Brakebill, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “But I wasn’t permitted to vote in 2014, because my address wasn’t listed on my ID. That was very upsetting.”

The defendant in the lawsuit is Alvin Jaeger, “in his official capacity as the North Dakota Secretary of State.”

A Jan. 21 story in the Grand Forks Herald quotes Jaeger as saying that the North Dakota Legislature, in 2003, made tribal ID an acceptable form of voter ID, “but we’ll have to see what their concern is,” vis-à-vis the lawsuit. “The same requirements are for all North Dakota residents,” Jaeger told the newspaper.

However, Matthew Campbell, a NARF staff attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told me that prior to passage of the 2013 voter ID law, North Dakota allowed more forms of ID to be accepted at the polls.

“After 2013, [North Dakota] limited it to five forms of ID, and then just last year, they limited it to four,” Campbell said, during a telephone interview.

Also, prior to 2013, “if someone showed up [at the polling place] without their ID… if they had a problem voting, there was a fail-safe mechanism that would allow them to vote. There were two, actually: one was a voucher – a poll worker or an election board member could vouch that you were qualified and you lived in the precinct; or you could sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that you lived in the precinct and were qualified [to vote].”

After 2013, the fail-safe mechanisms were abolished, according to Campbell, and North Dakota also required “an ID with a physical residential address on it.” He explained that many tribal IDs lack a person’s street address.

The lawsuit seeking to stop “implementation and enforcement” of North Dakota’s voter ID laws mentions that the 2013 bill passed “essentially on a party-line vote.”

Campbell did not want to get into the politics of these voter suppression measures, but I will: A group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has pushed this kind of legislation across the U.S. The goal is to diminish the ability of blacks and other racial minorities, students, the disabled, and the elderly, to vote. More specifically, the Koch brothers are trying to suppress the vote for Democratic candidates.

Republicans in North Dakota apparently have implemented the ALEC approach to disenfranchise American Indians.

Duty to Warn: Northern Minnesota and the PolyMet Project
Friday, February 05 2016
Written by Gary G. Kohls, MD,
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PolyMet’s Tailings “Pond” could someday create a dead St. Louis River and a dying Lake Superior. Is that an acceptable risk to take?

In the December 23rd edition of the Duluth News-Tribune, a staff writer, using the byline of “News Tribune”, wrote a Local News article with the title “EPA signals its support for final PolyMet review”. The article ended with this (intentionally?) deceptive and woefully insufficient sentence, “Critics say the project is likely to taint downstream waters with acidic runoff”.

I will attempt to correct the notion that “acidic runoff” is the major reason for the widespread opposition to PolyMet’s proposed copper/nickel mining project (which is adjacent to the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). PolyMet, it should be mentioned, is a total novice when it comes to operating copper/nickel mines.

On August 4, 2014, a mine at Mount Polley, British Columbia had its huge tailings pond dam (an earthen dam) suddenly burst, massively polluting downstream streams, rivers and lakes, not to mention aquifers which had already been polluted during the years before the catastrophe. The millions of tons of toxic sludge flooded into the migratory Sockeye salmon-bearing Fraser River, the 800 mile-long British Columbian river which empties into the Georgia Strait and the Pacific Ocean at the city of Vancouver.

Typical of most government and industry responses to such catastrophic mining industry failures, the Conservative Harper government of Canada – not to mention the ruling Liberal government of British Columbia – tried to cover up the disaster. Hence, most North Americans on either side of the border (certainly us Minnesotans) were not made aware of the catastrophic event.

Imperial Metals Corporation of Vancouver, the owner of the mine, admitted that they had been dumping the following toxic metals into the slurry (aka “slime”) pond in the years leading up to the failure of the earthen dam. The agency reported that the metallic contaminants that had been dumped in the tailings pond included: Lead, Arsenic, Nickel, Zinc, Cadmium, Vanadium, Antimony, Manganese and Mercury.

Any one of these 9 heavy metal contaminants are highly poisonous and have no safe levels in drinking water or in the serum or tissues of human or animal bodies. These contaminants, commonly found in hard rock mines, are also lethal to plant life, but only when they are ground up into fine powder form in the mineral extraction process.

It is important to recall that polluted aquifers can never be de-toxified by any known process.

If they don’t breach and spill massive amounts of toxic sludge into the environment like at Mount Polley, they leach that contamination slowly, poisoning the waters and lands around them.

The Hazeltine Creek, that enters into Quesnel Lake was the deepest, purest lake in British Columbia and a famous trout and salmon fishery, until August 5, 2014, when 24,000,000 cubic meters of toxic water and sludge breached the Mt Polley tailings dam and virtually exploded downsteam.

Millions of floating dead trees were swept away in the massive sludge flood. The only useful thing that the Imperial Mining Company could do in the immediate aftermath was to try to break up the floating logs so that they wouldn’t destroy downstream bridges as the poisoned water flowed into the Quesnel River (which ultimately empties into the Fraser River and then into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, B. C.).

In November 2015, the heavily contaminated sludge from Brazil’s worst environmental disaster at the Samarco iron mine, destroyed mining and non-mining communities that were situated downstream. The massive volume of toxic sludge entered the Rio Doce river in a sudden, thunderous flood (ironically, “doce” means “sweet” in Spanish). The toxic slime polluted and killed everything in its way as it flowed toward the Atlantic Ocean, a distance of 300 miles.

The guilty mining company perpetrators were as helpless in dealing with the aftermath as were the human, animal and aquatic victims. Samarco, incidentally, is co-owned and operated by the mining giants, Vale (Brazilian) and the largest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton (British-Australian).

Northern Minnesotans, Native Americans, sportsmen, environmentalists, wild rice harvesters, and working folks who need non-toxic water to survive must understand that such a catastrophe could destroy the aquifers in the BWCAW, Birch Lake, the Partridge River, the Embarrass River, the St. Louis River, the city of Duluth and ultimately, Lake Superior.

Any human with an ounce of morality would conclude that the risks of allowing PolyMet (or even a veteran company like PolyMet’s major investor, Glencore) to operate an open pit sulfide mine in the pristine areas of northern Minnesota are just too great. States that surround Lake Superior and the other great lakes downstream should have a say in the issue as well. The problem seems to be that amoral multinational corporations can’t be expected to act as one would expect ethical humans to act, especially when profits are involved.

Videos of the Mount Polley tailings pond failure can be viewed at:, and

Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN. He writes a weekly column for the Reader, Duluth’s alternative newsweekly magazine.

Artist interview: painter and flute-maker Jeffery Chapman
Friday, February 05 2016
Written by Andrea Carlson,
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chapmanwindowweb.jpgJeffrey Chapman (Ojibwe) is a Minneapolis-based artist, flute maker, art historian and teacher. His artwork sits between two worlds: complexity and simplicity, humorous and serious, inside and outside. I sat down with Mr. Chapman to talk about his work.

AC: First off, your watercolors are surreal. Wood grain panels becomes silhouettes, animals and elders are peering around walls. I’d argue that the surreal aspects are uncanny, unsettling yet funny. I think it might be called “Dark Humor.” Would you agree?
JC: You’ve got it perfectly... can we go have lunch now?
AC: No! But would you agree? I mean, I think some of your work is scarey as hell.
JC: I’ve always been inspired by René Magritte. I love surrealism because it goes beyond the immediacy of knowing what an object is, and where it comes from and how it’s used. Realism is all great. If you can do something photographically realistic, that’s wonderful. Abstract art relies more on experiencing it, because you are in front of it and that is what it is. But with Surrealism, there’s always a narrative involved. Narrative work requires you to create a narrative in either in your own mind, or maybe you hear the original artist’s story, but it takes you somewhere else. Any time you have something that is figurative there is always another story within it. My stuff is narrative and surreal... but windows aren’t always windows and doors aren’t always doors. There are multiple meanings to all those things, like silhouettes and animals. For example, what is a window...? You can see from the inside out, the outside in.
AC: It is a border of sorts.
JC: It is! And it’s a transition point. Doors don’t only keep you out, or keep out other things, they’re symbolic of a transition between two states. Even stairways are symbolic of ascension, and a lot of Native people use that. If you look at the work of Hopi people for instance, you’ll see ladders. They are symbolic for ascending or descending into something else. So, when I use a window or a door or a highway or whatever, it’s about multiple ideas. I try not to give people too much of an idea of what these things could be, because you might ruin it for people. Because they might see what they need to see. For example, you see something scary looking in this window.
AC: Yes, well... I feel like I’m on the outside of the house and there is a broken window with reflections of trees. This mask appears to be looking out from within house at me... right?
JC: Or conversely, it can be the other way around. Based on what side of that barrier you are on.
AC: This presents a kind of denial. Your context is either a window or door, but your framework doesn’t offer a context to whether or not your viewer is inside or outside.
JC: It is ephemeral, but it’s painted like that for a reason. If I connected the window to an actual wall or siding, it would change the context. This allows you a mental mobility to go to either side, either you are inside or outside. You’re looking in on him and he is looking in on you. But, that piece is Grandma’s House. And the sad thing is my grandma never had a door that nice. When she would leave the house she would put a car tire on the door. That’s how she would lock up. That’s how you knew she wasn’t home, because there was a tire on the front of the door. And sometimes she would sneak the tire in front of the door when she was actually home so she wouldn’t be bothered. And you’d think, “Oh, the car tire is there, she must be out.”
AC: That appears to be one of your motifs, or something you’ve made symbolic: a shared experience of a stressed socio-political state and low economic standings amongst us. Economic disadvantage in your works, like “Check’s in the Mail” or “Fast Food”, appear to be commenting on a disadvantaged economic standing... but the work is also funny.
JC: You have to. That goes hand and hand with being Native. I did an interview one time after an exhibition on Indian Humor and I was asked about that show. And the interviewer asked me, “Do Indian people laugh?”

Tribal protesters charged for gathering fish and wild rice
Friday, February 05 2016
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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fishingprotestorsweb.jpgFour Ojibwe tribe members have been charged for gathering wild rice and setting gillnets during a protest last summer. In an attempt to strengthen hunting and gathering rights under the 1855 Treaty, dozens of tribal members from White Earth and Leech Lake bands gathered at Hole-in-the-Day Lake in late August.

Two protesters were handed citations at the time for harvesting wild rice without a permit, and two others for setting gillnets. In December 2015 Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan decided to officially charge all four protesters. Ryan’s move opens the door for exactly the court battle protesters were seeking.

“Things are lined up,” said Frank Bibeau, a White Earth member and attorney. “We believe that federal court will uphold our treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather.”

The state’s longtime position has been that it’s illegal to harvest wild rice without a license off reservation land. It’s also illegal to gillnet off reservation.

Tribe members believe they have the right the hunt, fish and gather on all lands ceded in the 1855 Treaty, which covers much of northern Minnesota.

The Hole-in-the-Day protest was organized by the 1855 Treaty Authority. Bibeau works with the activist group. He said protesters hoped to garner charges and win their land use rights through a series of court appeals.

Morningstar Shabaiash and Harvey Goodsky paddled out into Hole-in-the-Day to gather wild rice, but DNR enforcement officers didn’t arrive until two men crossed over into Gull Lake and set a gillnet.

White Earth tribal member Todd Thompson, son of well known Native rights activist Leonard Thompson, and Fond du Lac Band member James Northrup, set a 6-by-200 foot gillnet in Gull Lake.

“The DNR doesn’t really care about wild rice,” Leonard Thompson said at the time, “but they get very touchy about their fish.”
DNR officers removed the net and handed out citations.

Actually charging tribal protesters is a change for Minnesota. In 2010, a group of 200 tribe members set gillnets on Lake Bemidji. Their nets were taken and reports were filed, but the Beltrami County attorney avoided a court battle by not pressing charges.

Bibeau said Ryan might have filed the charges just to see the longstanding land use issue resolved. “Everyone would like this settled once and for all,” he said, “so we don’t have to wonder about it anymore.”

Ryan would not comment on the details of the case, except to say the charges were based upon evidence of crimes and nothing more.

Shabaiash and Goodsky were both charged with misdemeanors for harvesting wild rice without a license.

Thompson and Northrup both face gross misdemeanor charges for gillnetting, as well as a handful of misdemeanor charges for fishing without a license, using an unregistered boat and not wearing life jackets.

All four will appear in District Court in Crow Wing County on Feb. 1.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at

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