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Local Briefs
Political Matters: Pat Bellanger travels on/Recovering Pe'Sla
Monday, May 04 2015
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgPat Bellanger travels on

On April 2, Pat Bellanger, one of the stalwart leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), went to the spirit world. Raised on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, she was 72.

I met Pat in the late-1970s, when I started writing for The Circle and traveling around Indian Country. She was always friendly, encouraging and helpful. A mutual friend remarked, during the wake for Pat at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, “I never heard her complain about anything."

“For years, she was the leading female spokesperson for Indian causes. She was known as Grandmother AIM,” Larry Leventhal, a legal champion of the Indian community, told the Star Tribune.

And Bill Means, a fellow board member of the International Indian Treaty Council, told the newspaper: “She was renown at a grass-roots level all the way to an international level for her ability to communicate the issues of indigenous people, and indigenous women as well.”

Pat leaves a legacy of struggle for Indian treaty rights and environmental justice. May her memory always be a blessing for her loved ones.


Sights & Sounds: 2015 American Indian Month Kick-Off
Friday, May 01 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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The Importance of Powwow Dances
Friday, April 03 2015
 
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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a history of powwow dances-augsburg powwow-web.jpgWorld champion jingle dress dancer Willow Abramson (Shoshone-Bannock) faced difficult challenges in her life. In 2005, she and her family were involved in a car crash; her baby daughter and husband did not survive. She found healing in dancing.

She believes the energy and life on the powwow circuit helped her find strength to raise her son. She encourages her fellow dancers, “Some of us dance to forget, some of us dance to remember, some of us dance to heal, but whatever the reason, just dance with your heart and your spirit: we see it shine when you dance.”

It’s officially Powwow Season in Indian Country! The anticipation and excitement dancers and singers built up throughout the winter months will be unleashed within many traditional and contest powwows throughout the country this year. Indigenous people have always gathered to celebrate and heal through song and dance. What has evolved is our contemporary powwow, the opportunity to share culture across various tribes.

Taking part in the powwow circuit can create connections for lifelong friendships, as dancers and singers alike. Frankie Graves (Leech Lake Ojibwe) has been involved with powwows since he was a young child. Graves has been a Grass Dancer, singer, Arena Director and even a master of ceremonies at various powwows across the Midwest. He shares his experience with the powwow culture, “So many beautiful Nations come together in the summertime, almost creating one large nation, like a big family.”

There are hundreds of different tribal nations, all with very unique dances including the Hoop Dance from the Southwest region, the Chicken Dance from the western tribes, or the Smoke Dances from the East Coast. Although only the primary dance styles are highlighted here, it is important to keep in mind these dances all originated with teachings and stories.

 


White Earth constitutional reform stalled by infighting
Friday, April 03 2015
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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Fears of federal recognition loss and hopes for enrollment increase at play

white earth constitutional reform stalled by infighting-council-web.jpg“The people of White Earth voted for a new constitution, and a judge upheld the validity of that referendum. So why don’t we have a new constitution at White Earth?” For Lorna LaGue, White Earth’s Director of Constitutional Reform, the question is rhetorical. After all, she’s had a front row seat to the clash taking place on her reservation between those who support the new tribal constitution and those oppose to it. Both sides are polarized, passionate, and deeply entrenched after years of infighting which surfaced in conjunction with the first White Earth Constitutional Convention in 2007.

The latest dust-up — between White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, who supports the new constitution as “the will of the people” and those who oppose her efforts — has taken place in the pages of White Earth’s newspaper, Anishinaabeg Today.

In the December issue Vizenor used her monthly column to explain that a gag-order had been imposed to prevent the tribal newspaper from printing information about constitutional reform efforts.

“The White Earth Tribal Council voted to censor the press from printing any more information or updates on the Constitution of the White Earth Nation,” Vizenor wrote. “The vote took place on Nov. 24 following a motion by Secretary/Treasurer Tara Mason and a second by Kathy Goodwin to suspend all information on the Constitution in this tribal newspaper. I am deeply grieved that censorship and repression of information important to the entire White Earth tribe have taken place. What does such action say about democracy? Regardless of whether you are for or against the approved Constitution of the White Earth Nation, you should have access to all information regarding this important and historic issue.”

The gag-order came at a curious time, given the new Constitution was ratified in 2009 by delegates of the White Earth Constitutional Convention. Four year later, on November 19, 2013, in a historic referendum, the White Earth Nation in northwestern Minnesota became the first member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) to adopt a new constitution.

Of the 3,492 ballots counted, the vote was 2,780 in favor and 712 opposed, a 79 percent rate of approval. With a membership of nearly 20,000, the low participation seems to reflect apathy on the part of many tribal citizens. Still, the turnout was twice that for most tribal elections.

Despite the effort to quiet her opinions, Vizenor has circumvented the gag-order and continued to communicate with her constituents.

“When people in power in tribal government suppress information it is no different than when North Korea, or other countries run by dictators, suppress information,” Vizenor told The Circle. “Our constitution puts into place a system of checks and balances which will prevent the kind of dictatorship we’ve seen within our own council.”

In February, Vizenor produced a full color pamphlet that she direct-mailed to White Earth citizens. In it, the chairwoman addressed her critics and assured supporters that constitutional reform is on track.

“For those of you who believe efforts to transition to governing under the approved Constitution of the White Earth Nation have stopped, please know, I am doing everything within my authority to carry out the will of the White Earth people,” wrote Vizenor. “While the Tribal Council voted to censor any news or articles regarding the Constitution in the Anishinaabeg Today, this action did not erase the vote of the people to approve the Constitution.”

The White Earth Constitution, the first in its 148-year history, provides for the White Earth Nation a foundation for self-government, including the power to decide qualification requirements for its members. When implemented, the Constitution will change the prerequisite for tribal citizenship from the MCT-mandated one-fourths blood quantum, to open enrollment for lineal descendants of tribal citizens.

 


Strengthening Identity: The Cradleboard Project instills history and tradition
Friday, April 03 2015
 
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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strengthening identity- the cradleboard project instills history and tradition 2-web.jpgWhen Gavino Limon was 14 months-old, he began his professional career as a champion Grass Dancer, a mere five months after he began walking. Limon is now six years-old and continues his love for dancing as a member of the world famous Native Pride Dance Troop. His parents, Douglas and Rachel Limon believe that having him in a cradleboard during his infancy had a tremendous influence on his advanced large motor skills

Traditionally, tribal people in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas used cradleboards for hundreds of years to carry their children. Using whatever materials within the environment, cradleboards were assembled with much care. Depending on the community, cradleboards can be constructed with cedar, oak, cattail, buckskin, animal fur and moss. In essence, a flat wooden board is the base, a frame and a headpiece, sometimes to attach toys. The baby is wrapped tightly to the board, allowing them to feel secure and also sit upright to interact with their world.  In this way, babies became accustomed to the daily activities of their tribe. The cradleboard was the first step in traditional Indigenous education.

Cradleboard advocates assert that children who have been in a cradleboard have a developmental advantage. Babies are able to observe their families and socially interact with their relatives. Parents will often claim that a baby’s leg and neck muscles are strengthened earlier than an infant who has not been placed in a cradleboard.

These benefits prompted the Limons to have their baby in a cradleboard. Before their son was born, Doug and Rachel Limon wanted to have their new baby in a cradleboard, but had difficulty finding anyone in the community that could help teach them to make one. After finding an elder in Leech Lake to help them, they had Gavino in the cradleboard.


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