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Pipestone Superintendent walks cultural tightrope
Friday, October 02 2015
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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pipestone_waterfall.jpgOn the high prairies of Southwestern Minnesota one site, and one man, provide a textbook study of the spiritual and political complexities of America’s cultural imposition upon Native American lands.

For the past 15 years, Glen Livermont, the Oglala Lakota superintendent of Pipestone National Monument, has spent his days walking a precarious tightrope of competing visions. As a career Park Service employee, Livermont says he is obliged to act first in the interests of his employers.

“People will often ask me, ‘As an American Indian, what do you think should happen here?’ While I may have an opinion, and I may have feelings about what should happen, I am still a park service manager, and I need to accommodate that first and foremost.”

The sacred red stone quarries have been visited by indigenous peoples for at least 3000 years. Research indicates the earliest quarrying began around 200 B.C. The Yankton Sioux controlled the pipestone quarries from approximately 1700 until the 1920s, at which time stewardship of the area was transferred to the U.S. government.
Today, no fewer than 23 indigenous nations claim affiliation with the site, each of whom rely upon the red stone for crafting the ceremonial pipes central to their spiritual ways.

Black Elk explained why the red stone is so revered by his Lakota people. “When you pray with this pipe,” he said, “you pray for and with everything.” This quote stands at the top of the Monument’s webpage, one of the myriad ways Livermont has influenced interpretation of the quarries. To manage such a venerated place under the banner of a colonial government would be difficult for a commission of officials, and yet a single Park Service employee is tasked by federal authorities with its care. Livermont seeks commonalities between the Park Service’s mission and the visions Native people maintain for the quarries.

"It is the mandate of the Park Service to preserve and protect natural places for future generations,” he says. “That’s a philosophy that matches so well with many American Indian belief systems. Is this place sacred? I think it is, and as such, it needs the protections that the park service can give it. Fortunately there’s enough of those protections that fall in line with what American Indians believe.”

That doesn’t mean the visions of Native people and the Park Service have never clashed during Livermont’s tenure. The superintendent says sometimes federal employees don’t understand the “special relationship the government has with American Indians.”

Livermont says he runs up against colleagues who have been indoctrinated into the park service so thoroughly they feel they must always strictly follow regulations without regard for that special relationship. “These bureaucrats are not willing to compromise for executive orders that mandate American Indian access to sacred sites; they’re not even sure how to talk with Indians. American Indian employees here must straddle the fence, trying to figure out the right thing to do without jeopardizing our careers. It’s sometimes a major conflict, and I’ve experienced it a number of times.”

The son of an Oglala Lakota mother and white father, Livermont grew up on his family’s ranch in a remote district of the Pine Ridge Reservation, some 20 miles south of Interior, South Dakota. His family did not participate in Lakota spiritual ways. When he was 15 years-old, however, his mother brought him to the town of Pine Ridge, where the first openly celebrated Sun Dance in generations was being held.

“Fools Crow and a few of the other elders were bringing the Sun Dance back. There was a lot of excitement over that,” he says. “Having grown up in an era when there was a prohibition on American Indian spiritual practices, my mother had never seen a Sun Dance before, and so she was eager to go.”

Livermont’s uncle lived in Pine Ridge and told them they should avoid the Sun Dance. He had heard that members of the American Indian Movement were in town from Minneapolis and planned to “disrupt things.” Livermont recalls the electricity in the air as a crowd “waited around the arbor for something to happen.” He also remembers a carnival atmosphere surrounding the dance grounds, complete with circus music, and vendors selling snow cones and cotton candy.

Around noon, a priest arrived wearing beaded vestments. He entered the Sun Dance grounds intending to perform communion. In those days, the ceremony could not proceed without the consent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the church. Livermont watched as two men followed the priest, held a quiet conversation, and “guided” the priest off the grounds. Soon BIA police arrived and escorted the men off the reservation.

Young Livermont didn’t know who the AIM men were, or that he had just witnessed the rebirth of the Sun Dance. In the years that followed, dozens of Sun Dances would spring-up across Lakota country.

Nearly three decades later, Livermont gathered with his employees at Pipestone National Monument for a cultural sensitivity presentation by American Indian Movement leader Clyde Bellecourt (in advance of the annual Sun Dance Bellecourt oversees at the site). Bellecourt told the story of how he and Lehman Brightman removed a priest from the Pine Ridge Sun Dance in 1971. It was then that Livermont understood the significance of the events he had witnessed. The two men now work cooperatively to provide accommodations for the dozens of dancers and supporters who converge on the red stone quarries each summer. Livermont credits the events of 1971 with shaping his understanding of who he is as a Lakota person, and with influencing his understanding of his role as superintendent.

One of Livermont’s most important duties is interpretation of the pipestone quarries so that visitors of all backgrounds can grasp their significance. Livermont personally writes much the content included on the Monument’s website, within its visitor’s center, and on its signage.

To help guide this potentially contentious work, Livermont enjoys the advice of an informal council of elders, who, from throughout Indian Country, will knock on his office door and sit down for extended chats. One of these elders, Oglala spiritual leader Wilmer Mesteth, was a particularly welcome site across the superintendent’s desk. Livermont calls the recently deceased Mesteth a mentor and a good friend. The two met while Livermont worked in the South Unit of the South Dakota Badlands.

“Wilmer held a sun dance over in Venture Table. I would stop in and visit with him every year and got to know him that way. When I moved to Pipestone he would visit me. I really respected and liked Wilmer,” Livermont says.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Livermont says he takes his responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act quite seriously. Section 106 of the Act requires him to consult with leaders of the 23 tribes historically affiliated with the pipestone quarries whenever changes to the site are under consideration.

“The previous superintendent didn’t believe in consulting with the tribes. But it’s the law, and we have to do it. Because of that spiritual connection they have with the pipestone quarries, it’s also the right thing to do.” Livermont says at first the tribes didn’t take him seriously. They were used to the old way of doing business, where they were told how things were going to change, rather than asked how they should.

Last year, in attempt to educate his colleague on the intricacies of working hand-in-hand with the tribes, Livermont sponsored a training in Omaha. The session drew 25 participants who learned about the rewards and challenges of folding tribal input into Park Service policies. The event, Livermont says, was a tremendous success in transmitting “the American Indian way of thinking.” While he would like to hold annual sessions, the first one may well be the last due to budgetary constraints, which Livermont calls “unacceptable”.

“We in the National Parks Service need to reach out and develop meaningful relationships with the tribes,” he says. “If we don’t, we aren’t meeting our obligations under the law, and we are not doing right by American Indians or the best interest of the sites under our stewardship. We’ve got to start working in a different way.”

Whats New In The Community For October
Friday, October 02 2015
 
Written by The Circle,
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Native Americans in Philanthropy Announces New CEO
nap_new_ceo.jpgSarah Eagle Heart joined Native Americans in Philanthropy as its new Chief Executive Officer on September 2, 2015. “I am humbled and honored to be selected as the new CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy,” said Eagle Heart.
Founded in 1990, Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) strives to power reciprocity and investment in Native communities. Eagle Heart’s experience working at small nonprofit organizations and corporate tribal organizations, as well as large international non-governmental organizations has built upon her knowledge to understand the essential need for communication, education, mutual respect, collaboration, and advocacy.
Eagle Heart is an accomplished non-profit executive, having worked as Team Leader for Diversity and Ethnic Ministries and Program Officer for Indigenous Ministry at The Episcopal Church, New York, NY. Under her leadership, The Episcopal Church became the first major denomination to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery focusing programmatic education and advocacy on accurate history education, cultural teachings, healing and asset based community development. She has excelled at activating key leaders from grassroots to corporate level through capacity building – skills she plans on bringing to her new role at NAP.
Eagle Heart holds an Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, San Diego, CA; a Bachelors of Arts in Mass Communications, and a Bachelors of Arts in American Indian Studies from Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD. She is a 2014 recipient of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s “40 under 40 Award”. She is enrolled at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

New Native Theatre Celebrates Non-Profit Status
New Native Theatre’s founder and artistic director, playwright, Rhiana Yazzie, announced that the company is now a non-profit organization. New Native Theatre’s presence in the sea of over 100 theatre companies in the Twin Cities is an opportunity for more Native artists to see their ideas come to life on stage.
New Native Theatre is celebrating its new status with a review of the six years they’ve been producing plays and events. It will feature excerpts from The Dreaming Bundle (2010), 2012: The Musical! (2012), Native-Somali Friendship Play (2013), and Native Man the Musical (2015) among other events that have happened in New Native Theatre’s last six  years. The 2010 and 2011 winners of Franklin Avenue Indian Idol will return along with the New Native Theatre Actor Ensemble and surprise guest appearances.
The celebration will take place at October 30, starting at 7:30pm at the Bedlam Lowertown, 213 4th Street East, Saint Paul, MN. Ticket price $20. No one turned away. For more info, see: at www.newnativetheatre.org.

First Nations Development Institute Awards $165,000 in Grants
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has awarded four grants to Native nonprofit organizations and two grants to tribes through its Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative (NACBI). The initiative is part of a three-year project targeting Native nonprofits and tribal government programs serving the field of Native arts and artists in the four-state region of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The 2015 NACBI grantees are:
• American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), Duluth, Minnesota, $30,000 – The Gimaajii Mino Bimaadizimin Artist/Community Collaboration will be a year-long art-making and artist-development project for Native American artists primarily from the Fond du Lac, Bois Forte, White Earth, Mille Lacs, Leech Lake Bands and Red Lake Nation.
• Dakota Wicohan, Morton, Minnesota, $30,000 – Dakota Wicohan will use the grant for its Tawokaga Program to create opportunities to develop artists and for artists to make art. Dakota Wicohan will also focus on strengthening its organizational capacity to support the artists to be able to better sustain the artists and the arts while also expanding the visibility of and supporting the network for Dakota arts in rural Minnesota.
• Lower Sioux Indian Community, Morton, Minnesota, $30,000 – This project will help revitalize the Native American artists who have been teaching, preserving and showcasing art in the mediums of pottery, quilting/sewing, woodwork/sculpting, beading, leather work, painting/drawing, and quillwork. The Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site will be the hub station for artists to showcase their art, market their products and provide educational workshops to the Lower Sioux Tribal Community members and other Natives in the area.
• Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Red Lake, Minnesota, $30,000 – The Red Lake Native Arts Program serves predominantly adult artists and emerging youth artists living on and or near the remote Red Lake Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. The grant will provide a wraparound approach from developing the artist’s personal/business foundation to providing access to expanded markets and the necessary tools for success.
•Little Eagle Arts Foundation (LEAF), Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, $15,000 – The Little Eagle Arts Foundation (LEAF) will utilize the grant to expand its capacity as a Native nonprofit. LEAF will plan and implement a board retreat for a planning, growth and expansion project, which will serve the LEAF Board of Directors and the Native artists (predominantly Ho-Chunk and other Great Lakes-area tribes) that benefit from LEAF's programs.
• Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association, Belcourt, North Dakota, $30,000 – The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians has experienced a loss of art forms that were essential to its heritage and culture. Creating an authentic Native American artwork project will assist in redeveloping the lost arts. The Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association has created an art project, the Artistic Renewal and Preservation Project, consisting of three component: beadwork, red willow basket creation, and dance regalia, focusing on the traditional styles of the ancestors.

SMSC and MAZON partner with U of Arkansas School of Law
A landmark project to enhance tribal food sovereignty was unveiled as the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger announced their collaboration with the University of Arkansas School of Law as part of the tribe’s Seeds of Native Health initiative.
 Due to a long history of limited access to nutritious food, Native Americans suffer with obesity, diabetes, and other nutritional health problems at disproportionate rates compared to other ethnic groups. In an effort to create and sustain lasting policies and programs that will overcome these challenges, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the School of Law will lead the development of a long-needed, comprehensive set of model food and agriculture codes to be customized and adopted by tribal nations.
The project will be led by Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and former U.S. Department of Agriculture senior adviser for tribal relations.
The SMSC’s leading gift of $250,000 through its Seeds of Native Health campaign and MAZON’s gift of $50,000 through its Rural and Remote Initiative will support the first phase of an anticipated three-year project.
For more info about Seeds of Native Health, see: www.SeedsOfNativeHealth.org.
Native Poet Roberta Hill reads for Literary Witness
Friday, September 11 2015
 
Written by Catherine,
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Native Poet Roberta Hill reads for Literary Witnesses on Monday, Sept. 21, 7pm.
 
On Monday, Sept. 21 at 7pm at Plymouth Congregational Church (Nicollet Ave. at Franklin), Literary Witnesses presents award-winning Oneida Nation poet and University of Wisconsin professor Roberta Hill. Poet Joy Harjo calls her “one of America’s best poets of her generation.”   Author Louise Edrich says "Roberta Hill is a poet who understands struggle, and generously imparts her passion for renewal.”  The free event is co-sponsored by The Loft Literary Center and RainTaxi Review of Books.  There is plenty of free parking.  A reception and book signing will follow.
 
Roberta Hill is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The American Indian Culture and Research Journal, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Luna, and Prairie Schooner among others.  She has received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund Award and a Chancellor's Award from the University of Wisconsin. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
 
Her newest book, Cicadas: New & Selected Poems, gathers together seventy-five poems, from previous poetry collections Star Quilt and Philadelphia Flowers, plus a generous selection of new poems culled from the past thirty years.  Roberta's poems are powerful lyrical expressions of love and respect for family, friends, and fellow artists within a wide context of contemporary life.
 
Literary Witnesses is a program of the Fine Arts Board at Plymouth Congregational Church. Over the past seventeen years, it has hosted readings by major national poets, including four US Poet Laureates.
White Earth members voice pipeline concerns
Friday, September 04 2015
 
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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white_earth_tribe_members_voice_pipeline_concerns_web.jpgWhite Earth doesn’t want another oil pipeline. Some 100 people turned out to a community center on the White Earth Indian Reservation on Aug. 18 for one of 11 public hearings across the state on a pipeline replacement project proposed by Enbridge Energy.

The Calgary-based energy company wants to re-route a 50-year-old oil pipeline known as Line 3 from its current path along Highway 2 to the proposed Sandpiper pipeline corridor, which will likely run near White Earth. The project requires a certificate of need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The hearing at the Rice Lake Community Center was an early part of the state review, and a rare glimpse into the specific concerns held by tribe members.

Most, like White Earth member Leonard Thompson, are vehemently against the Sandpiper line, which was recently granted a certificate of need by the PUC, and don’t want another line pumping tar sand oil alongside it.
“Eventually something is going to go wrong with a pipeline,” Thomson said, “and then our land is ruined.”
Thompson grew up in a tar-paper shack a few miles from the where the hearing was held. As a child, he gathered wild rice and his father fished for bullheads to feed the family. Even a small leak from a pipeline, he said, could damage the natural resources that fed him.

Thompson was one of many to voice concerns over the possible impact of the new Line 3. Frank Bibeau was more concerned about the old Line 3.

Enbridge plans to replace 1,031 miles of the old line, across northern Minnesota from Canada to Superior, Wis. Along most of the route, that means ripping up deteriorating 34-inch pipe and laying new 36-inch pipe, capable of pumping twice the oil. But roughly 300 miles of that line, from Clearbrook, Minn., to the Wisconsin border, would deviate from the current Line 3 route and follow the proposed Sandpiper route. Along that section, Enbridge plans to leave the old Line 3 pipe in the ground.

“They’re just going to let it rot,” Bibeau said. “It’s guaranteed to be a problem at some point.”
Bibeau is an enrolled citizen of White Earth, but lives in Ball Club, Minn., east of Bemidji along the current Line 3. He hopes to get the old line torn out.

“Time is longer for Native people,” he said. “I don’t think in decades. I think in centuries. Eternity.”
Even if the abandoned line is safe for 50 or 100 years, he said, at some point it will break down.
Labor union representative Dave Becker also lobbied Enbridge to remove the old Line 3. Becker considers himself an environmentalist, one of a very few to speak out in favor of the new project.

The old line has problems, he said. It has had problems for a long time. Decommissioning that line and building a new one, he said, is the safest thing for the environment.

“If you care about clean water,” he said, “you should want newer pipelines.”

Hours of arguments for – but mostly against – the project, were made before a panel of PUC and Department of Commerce officials. Many of the arguments were complex, but for White Earth spiritual leader Michael Dahl, it’s a simple issue. For him, it comes down to wild rice.

“Rice is everything,” Dahl said. “It’s the first solid food our children eat, and the last meal of our dying elders.”
The proposed line would run close to Lower Rice Lake, a body of water that produces 200,000 pounds of finished wild rice every year. Just about everyone on White Earth rices that lake, Dahl said, knocking the grains into the bottom of canoes. They sell the rice and eat the rice. It figures into legends and ceremonies.

A spill, Dahl said, wouldn’t just dirty the landscape, it would bankrupt the spiritual and physical resources of the community.

Most people at the hearing didn’t hold out much hope of stopping the pipeline.

“Money talks,” Thompson said. “It’s coming through. The best we can hope for is to delay it.”

Bibeau, too, said the hearing might not change much. Dahl isn't so sure.

The Sandpiper route preferred by Enbridge doesn’t cross any Indian reservations, but would cut through a large area of lakes and forests in northern Minnesota where treaties give tribes the right to hunt, fish and gather. Dahl believes those treaties will protect the wild rice, and stop the pipeline.

“I wouldn’t take on a fight I didn’t think I could win,” he said.

Legal, political actions continue to define tribal sovereignty
Friday, September 04 2015
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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A series of legal actions and political events in August, stretching from Minnesota and South Dakota to Arizona and Washington State, keep defining and adding precedence to tribal sovereignty rights and their standing before the courts.

At the time of this writing, the city of Duluth was still contemplating what additional, if any, further legal action it might take in a long-running dispute with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa over the Band’s Fond-du-Luth Casino in downtown Duluth.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in late July that the Band did not owe Duluth retroactive payments from a prior revenue sharing agreement that had been ruled illegal by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The key point of law involved the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that requires tribes to be sole proprietors of their gaming operations, said Henry M. Buffalo, Jr., a Twin Cities-based attorney for the Band.

At the same time, he said, Fond-du-Luth Casino is within a one-mile portion of land in Duluth ceded by the Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota in the 1854 treaty with the federal government for which Fond du Lac and other bands were granted continuous access.

These disputes help define and clarify specific points of law even when they are part of a broader context and can have greater consequences, Buffalo said.

With such disputes literally at its doorstep, the University of Minnesota-Duluth announced on August 13 it is starting a Tribal Sovereignty Institute with it American Indian Studies department. The institute has been evolving from three years of consultations with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the oldest such state council in the nation, and with the 11 federally recognized Indian communities.   

“Some of our faculty are already engaged in research partnerships, but having the Tribal Sovereignty Institute will facilitate more research that serves the needs of Native Nations,” Jill Doerfler, head of American Indian Studies, said in the UMD announcement.

The new institute will need to monitor evolving and unresolved issues from across the country. Thorny issues playing out in multiple states during August reveal specific challenges to law and public policy that fit like mosaic pieces in the broader sovereignty picture.

For instance: On Aug. 18, the Pennington County Commission in western South Dakota voted 3-2 to support, by not opposing, the transfer of three square miles of Pe’ Sla land into federal trust. This land is sacred within Lakota culture and has been gradually repurchased from private landowners by the Crow Creek, Rosebud and Standing Rock Sioux tribes in the Dakotas and by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota.

Tribes across the entire country are engaged in efforts to buy back land ceded in treaties or sold to private owners over the past century or more. In this case, moving the Pe’ Sla to federal trust status for the Lakota tribes removes the land from local taxation, which is an issue with the federal trust status of Fond-du-Luth Casino in Duluth.

The U.S. Department of Justice joined as a co-plaintiff in a suit brought by the Tulalip Tribes against Washington State and Snohomish County challenging the state and county efforts to tax non-Indian businesses on Indian land. A federal judge was to hear arguments on Aug. 21, but the outcome of this legal battle could have impacts on how tribes pursue future economic development in various parts of Indian Country.

How sweeping or narrow a legal resolution might be is open for wide debate, said Francesca Hillery, the Tulalip public affairs officer. At issue is a new city, called Quil Ceda Village created and built by the Tulalip Tribes near a heavily traveled freeway convenient to Seattle. With Bureau of Indian Affairs and Internal Revenue Service approval, Quil Ceda Village on Indian trust land is a second “federally created city,” after Washington, D.C.

That appears to be the case, a prominent Indian affairs attorney in Washington, D.C., told The Circle in late August. But not wanting to be too specific without further research, the attorney said tribes should look at other properties on trust lands to see if revenue-producing ventures there may share similar status with Quil Ceda and the District of Columbia.
While Quil Ceda is unique in many respects, the issue coming before the federal courts may be pretty limited, the Tulalip’s Hillery said. And that involves taxing authority.

The Tulalip lawsuit argues that “Congress has provided by statute that lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of an Indian tribe or its members are not subject to state and local taxation.” That view is backed up by substantial case law, and is also part of the Duluth litigation.

A landmark case on that matter involves the Upper Midwest. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1976 Bryan v. Itasca County decision overturned a Minnesota State Supreme Court decision by noting that public law (P.L. 280) did not give states authority to “impose taxes on reservation Indians.”

hat case originated with Itasca County attempting to collect property taxes on a mobile home privately owned by an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe on the Leech Lake Reservation. It raised issues that differ from what the non-Indian retail enterprises are doing on Tulalip land and the issues involved with Fond-du-Luth Casino.    

Issues over what sovereign rights Indians have retained on ceded trust lands now privately owned, and on sacred ground sites, are still before the courts. More are headed that way. Among them are cases where tribes are fighting the location of pipelines for environmental reasons and over treaty rights to hunting, fishing and gathering (wild rice), as we see in Minnesota; and most vividly right now by the Navajo trying to protect sacred but private land in Arizona.

Legal issues in Arizona are still evolving but may involve protest activities rather than narrow points of law. A video in late August went viral showing Navajo opponents of a copper mind development chasing Sen. John McCain away from the Navajo Nation Museum at Window Rock, Ariz. Since McCain was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, his prominence in the kerfuffle overshadowed the issues at stake outside the Southwest region.

Like the Pe’ Sla in South Dakota, considered sacred for its role in Lakota tribal creation, land to be developed as the world’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., is considered sacred ground by Southwest tribes. Others fear environmental damage, especially to scarce water resources in the region. The Arizona Republic newspaper reported Capitol Hill police turned away members of the San Carlos Apache in July when they tried to protest at the office of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

These challenges, anchored in issues of tribal sovereignty, encircle tribes and cultures in the Upper Midwest no matter how far away problems arise. They make fertile ground for the Tribal Sovereignty Institute taking shape at UMD.
The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council acknowledged as much in a July resolution pledging its support and that of Minnesota’s 11 tribal communities to work with UMD on education curriculum and research development. That resolution noted UMD faculty now associated with the institute has worked with MIAC staff in providing training on related history and government relationships to more than 1,000 Minnesota state employees in recent years.

Tadd Johnson, UMD’s director of graduate studies for the American Indian Studies department, said in the announcement that Minnesota tribes will mandate direction of the institute. “Their ideas drive the research that we do,” he said.

 

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