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Local Briefs
Minneapolis Recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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mpls recognizes indigenous peoples day 3.jpgMarking a milestone in tribal relations, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on April 25 to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October, effectively replacing Columbus Day on the civic calendar.

The gesture by the city government speaks to years of struggle for recognition and equity by members of the city's Native American population. As one of the cities with a high Native population in the country and birthplace of the American Indian Movement, it hasn't been until recently that city officials embraced its indigenous history. In 2012 on the sesquicentennial of the Dakota War, efforts began to understand the state's history from a Native perspective.

To that end, momentum has been building in the community – focused through the Native American Community Development Institute – to address issues of equity and justice. The organization, led by Jay Bad Heart Bull (Oglala/Hunkpapa) and Daniel Yang (Anishinabe) utilized its political and human capital to build a dialogue with city leaders, beginning with last year's mayoral election.

Then mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges committed to taking Native issues seriously at the city level during her campaign in the summer and fall of last year. Along with Council Rep. Alondra Cano (Ward 9) and policy aide Ashley Fairbanks (Anishinabe), the effort went into full force last month when the resolution to change the name of the holiday was drafted.

Members of the Native community filled the city council chambers while Clyde Bellecourt, American Indian Movement co-founder, Bill Means, International Indian Treaty Council, and Deanna Standing Cloud, Red Lake Nation, addressed the city council.

“I'm here to take a stand so my daughter Breanna and my son Nigozis are able to grow up in a city where they feel safe, respected and honored. Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Minneapolis would show my children that it's never too late for healing and reconciliation to occur between communities and throughout Turtle Island,” Standing Cloud said.

Minneapolis State of the City Addresses Native Issues
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Jamie Keith,
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minneapolis state of the city addresses native issues 3.jpgFor the first time in the history of the city, Mayor Betsy Hodges selected the Minneapolis American Indian Center as the site of her State of the City address on April 24. Drum group Ringing Shield performed at the opening of the speech. Daniel Yang, Director of Organizing and Community Building at the Native American Community Development Institute, and Bill Means, co-founder of the International Indian Treaty Council, introduced the mayor.

Yang commended Hodges for continuing to engage the Native community in discussions about citywide issues. “The hard truth is, more often than not, like in so many communities of color, we don't see those who ask for our votes again until four to six years later when the next election rolls around,” he said.

Yang also spoke on the importance of the Minneapolis city council's vote on the Indigenous People's Day Resolution, which would be recognized in place of Columbus Day. “If it's important for the City of Minneapolis to have all of its residents feel respected, dignified, and valued, this is an important step in healing the pain that is associated with this day and the Indigenous people that call this place home,” he said.

Means talked about historical aspects of Indigenous people's relationships with the city of Minneapolis while looking forward to the future of their interactions. “This is an historic day because it is recognition of the contributions of Indian people to this great city, starting with the basic ingredient – the land,” he said. “Today begins a continuation of the reconciliation with Indian people, the recognition of the contributions of Indian people and the recognition of our rights and our responsibilities to our communities.”

Many other leaders in the Native community feel that the State of the City address marks an important step in bringing Indigenous issues into discussions about citywide policies. Bill Ziegler, Chief Executive Officer of Little Earth of United Tribes, said that the speech shows solidarity between the issues faced in the Native community and Minneapolis as a whole.

“I think the significance of this event happening here at the Indian Center on Franklin Avenue is a way for the mayor's office to say and show the American Indian community that our issues are also issues that face the rest of the city and that we're going to be given the respect to have our voices at the table and be taken seriously,” he said. “I'm hopeful through Mayor Hodges' leadership that this isn't just a show, that as she goes throughout her term our issues will remain at the forefront of the work that she does."


Jourdain Seeks to Be A Voice for Native Students
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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ira jourdain-web.jpgRaising the profile on Native American student issues and accountability are the top priorities for Ira Jourdain in his bid for the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.

The Red Lake citizen and father of four – two of whom are enrolled in the city's school system – sees equity, its allocation and application to minority students as a primary means to bridge the achievement gap. “The way the formula works is equity and equality: everybody gets the same amounts, no matter what. But that's just not conducive to our kids, especially our Native kids and African American kids, who go to what they call the low-performing schools. These are schools that obviously need more funding, need more resources. And then that's where equity comes into place, to me it's reallocating our resources and putting those resources into schools that need them the most.”

Though any primary campaign can produce candidates who speak in broad generalities, Jourdain links together problems and solutions for the Native community, which has continually under-achieved when compared to others. “A lot of our kids go to low-performing schools that affect their housing, that affect employment. There's a multitude of factors that affect our kids' performances in the schools and it all boils down to plain, old equity,” he said.

Jourdain cites specifics issues and needs that impact student performance such as mental health, behavioral services and social workers. “There's this tremendous need – I've heard this from across the district – for school psychologists to work with our kids on mental and behavioral disorders.”

In addition, Jourdain said that other factors stymying achievement may not always be apparent to school board directors not directly involved with the problems. According to a recent report by the Indian Education Department, Native American students have shown an increase in and remain at the top for homelessness. “We need stronger housing support services. My daughter at Tatanka Academy has had three or four students in her classroom that have moved constantly, throughout the school year, across the district. I was at this recent hearing and the percentage of Native American kids in our district who move constantly is 19 percent who are either homeless or constantly moving residences during the school year.”


National Briefs: May 2014
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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NCAI CONDEMNS STERLING, LINKS RACIST MASCOT

WASHINGTON – Leading up to Donald Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA for racist remarks, the National Congress of American Indians issued a condemnation and drew parallels to the Washington team's mascot.

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers drew widespread criticism in late April for his disparaging remarks about African Americans on a recording made by his then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano, after she posted a fan photo of herself on Instagram posing with Magic Johnson.

"NCAI condemns Donald Sterling’s appalling comments regarding African Americans," the organization said in an April 28 statement. "There is no place in modern society for that kind of hatred and discrimination. We also want to applaud the many athletes, sportscasters, corporations, and individuals who have spoken out against Sterling and his comments. It is encouraging to see so many people standing together and declaring that this behavior is unacceptable."

The organization linked the controversy to its continuing efforts to eliminate racist images in professional sports. Dan Snyder, an NFL team owner, has refused to change his team's mascot. "NCAI is no stranger to facing down racism and ignorance in American sports. Every incident of hate and racism – whether a singular incident or the repeated, high-profile use of offensive words and images – is unacceptable and has no place in the 21st Century. We will continue to support the LA Clippers players and fans as they face the fallout from Sterling’s words and we will continue to fight for a world in which no race or ethnic group is treated in this way."


Regional and Local Briefs: May 2014
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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MINNESOTA SEIZES TRIBE'S CIGARETTE SHIPMENT

WALKER, Minn. – On April 18, agents from the Minnesota Department of Revenue intercepted and seized a shipment of cigarettes from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska bound for a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe gas station in Walker.

According to the department, the delivery was stopped in St. Cloud and contained 281 cartons – 2,810 packs – of cigarettes that had been manufactured in Nebraska and sent to the Minnesota band, unstamped and free from the state's cigarette tax.

In a statement, Leech Lake officials called the incident “the Good Friday Seizure,” calling it “yet another attack on Native American rights. The Band sees this seizure as an attempt by the state to implement its unfair taxation plan on the lands of the Leech Lake Reservation, this time resulting in the unfortunate economic isolation of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe.”

If the shipment made it to its destination, cigarettes would have sold for $3.50 a pack.

For the state, the seizure was an issue of tax fairness and is withholding the state tax equity revenue it normally splits with the tribe for its sale of other state-taxed items like sales, gas and alcohol until the band agrees to start selling state-taxed cigarettes again. Losing that shared tax revenue could cost Leech Lake $2 million or more a year, Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said.

Ten of the state’s 11 tribes agreed to sell only state-taxed cigarettes, Frans said his department has worked with Leech Lake for years to try to reach a similar deal. Leech Lake Chairwoman Carri Jones said in a statement the tribe tried to work with the state.

“Every time the Minnesota Department of Revenue requested a meeting on this issue, we came to the table to meet in good faith to offer innovative and creative solutions, which were consistently turned down by the state,” she said in the statement. “We were hoping that by engaging in good faith negotiations we would avoid the drastic measure that Gov. Dayton’s administration took on Easter weekend.”





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