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
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.
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.”
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
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
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
Fears of federal recognition loss and
hopes for enrollment increase at play
“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
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
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.
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
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.
Copyright 2008 The Circle News. All rights reserved. The Circle New is dedicated to presenting news from a Native American perspective, while granting an equal opportunity to community voices. Editorials and articles are the sole responsibility of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, attitude, or philosophy of The Circle or the corporation. The Circle does not endorse any product or service accepted as advertising. The Circle reserves the right to reject any advertising, material, or letters submitted for publication. NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PUBLISHER. West7th**