Local Briefs
First Leech Lake Two Spirit Awareness Day held
Friday, July 17 2015
Written by Jacqueline White,
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first leech lake two spirit awareness day held.jpgJune 17 marked an historic moment in Minnesota Indian Country: the first Two Spirit LGBT Awareness Day on the Leech Lake Reservation and the first visit by OutFront Minnesota, the state’s leading organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, to a Minnesota reservation.

The celebration, which drew more than 50 guests took place on the front lawn of the Leech Lake Housing Authority in Cass Lake, Minn. Under sunny skies, guests listened to speakers and guitarist Michael Lyons, while eating a buffet lunch of BBQ pork, wild rice, baked beans, fresh fruit and vegetables and fry bread – all topped off by a colorful rainbow cake.

The festivities were the brainchild of tribal member Julie Kurschner-Pineda, an attempt – she explained – to counter some of the suffering she has seen Two Spirit tribal citizens endure. “A lot of our people are striving to be loved and that’s what this is all about,” she said.

The celebration was not without controversy. Kurschner-Pineda, who manages the Leech Lake Homeless Resource Program, reported that she received a number of complaints but prominent tribal leaders attended the event, including council member LeRoy Staples Fairbanks, III, who said he was encouraged to attend by a tribal elder and Megan Treuer, who spoke in her official capacity as an associate tribal judge.

Treuer explained that while the Leech Lake legal code does not explicitly address LGBT issues, “We are required to use traditional teachings and can seek input from spiritual advisors.” So when tribal member Arnold Dahl sought to marry his long-time partner Matthew Wooley in November 2013, Treuer explained that Leech Lake’s chief tribal judge was able to officiate at the marriage by relying on traditional teachings that hold that, “everyone is equal and everyone should be treated with respect.” She noted that the Leech Lake tribal court was one of the first tribal courts to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

“It wasn’t a shameful thing long ago. It was a gift. Before we were colonized, we understood Two Spirit people are chosen by the Creator,” Eric Shepherd, a member of the management team of Leech Lake Housing Authority who has a brother who is Two Spirit, said.

It Ain't Easy Being Indian: July 2015
Thursday, July 16 2015
Written by Ricey Wild,
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riceywild-web.jpg If you were to ask me if I am an environmentalist I would shout, “Ooonh YAH!!! You betcha!” and I would describe my almost OCD passion for recycling, my disgust for all GMO products and my mission against Monsanto. I want to eat ‘clean’ because I already have enough miseries in my life to just passively accept more unwanted poisons. If you’re on my Facebook friends list you know I compulsively post everything anti-environmental because Someone, Someone somewhere may not have seen it. Plus we are bombarded with lies about the proposed KXL pipelines that completely annihilate the environment and yet with every new oil leak or spill we are told the whole process is completely safe.

When I was a kid about 12-13 years old I began learning the true history of this Turtle Island of ours and the atrocities being committed upon our Mother. I raged and cried; I stomped around uttering awful deaths for the people who were responsible for the degradation, knowingly destroying our Mother for material wealth. I told my mother I wanted to “go back to the blanket” which is a euphemism (I think) for Indians who just got sick of the white man’s alleged ‘civilization’ and went back to the old ways of being and living in accord with Turtle Island and continue the gifts of wisdom and respect down to our descendants and theirs.

So the Gal’s and I went a’campin by a lake in the north woods very far from the big city lights. Melissa had posted she was bringing the coffee maker and my brain did a little “huh?” Then I thought she meant a percolator. I wanted to listen to music while we were out there asked if someone had a boom box. Denise did so it was cool. I figured we would need to buy some batteries. Turns out the campsite was wired up with GASP! outlets for electric stuff!!! I admit now being completely astounded but didn’t say anything at the time. I was just glad I could charge up my phone. Turns out the campground had bathrooms, showers and laundry too. Not very hard core ennit?

Political Matters: PUC approves Sandpiper
Friday, July 10 2015
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecaispecktor-web.jpgPUC approves Sandpiper

In early June, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted Enbridge, Inc. ( a certificate of need to build the Sandpiper pipeline from the Bakken oil patch in No. Dakota to Superior, Wisc.

Enbridge, based in Calgary, Alberta, still face many months of deliberations over the path of the pipeline. As I reported in this column last November, the PUC previously decided that six pipeline routes should be considered for Sandpiper — alternatives to the preferred Enbridge route. The route of Sandpiper purposely skirted reservation land; however, it would still run through the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory, where members of Ojibwe bands have retained their rights to hunt, fish and gather.

So, Ojibwe bands in Minnesota (White Earth and Fond du Lac) have expressed concerns about the environmental threat posed by Sandpiper, as has Honor the Earth, a group founded, in 1993, by Winona LaDuke, and Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, of the Indigo Girls.

I watched some of the live webcast of the PUC’s Sandpiper hearing last month; and my heart goes out to the environmental activists who have to sit through such deadly dull proceedings. Like Winona.

“Fracked oil from the Bakken poses a serious risk to the North Country — particularly in light of the… 800,000 gallon oil spill in a remote area of North Dakota [in 2013],” Honor the Earth notes on its website ( “That spill, on a six-inch Tesoro line, went unmitigated for almost a week due to an understaffed Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and all figures presently released come from Tesoro, the owner of the pipeline. The Sandpiper would carry that same oil, which has proven to be very volatile. In northern Minnesota a lot of our towns are 15-20 miles apart, with fire departments and rescue squads being even further apart. Response times are not quick and sometimes oil spills go days before discovered.”

Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Friday, July 10 2015
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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nickmetcalf-web.jpgThe Environment

Reverence for the magnificence of the environment didn’t come until later in life. The responsibility for the beauty of it, I didn’t know until my son came along. It was then that I became connected between generations of people who came before me, and generations of people who will come after me. It was a sobering thought.

My disconnection from being a caretaker of the environment began long before I was born. My upbringing is a consequence of the boarding school experience of my parents. I had no sense of being rooted to place, time or circumstance until I was an adult. It was during my healing and a result of my reconnection to our Native ways of living that I was reintroduced to the essence of being amongst the beauty of nature. It was in this realization that there was a calling for stewardship. It was a deepening of an understanding of the need to care for the beauty that I am surrounded by.

Being an acculturated Native, I often times meet some strange characters of people who love Native culture and spirituality. They are well-intentioned environmentalists, typically, they are new age people, wannabe-Natives or grungy activists. What they all have in common is they talk and supposedly know about Nativeness. One of those moments stood out so from a former, potential suitor of mine:

"When I take my shoes off I feel the vibration of Mother Earth through my body. That energy goes up through my chakras. I can sense her vibration through my crystals. I love Native people and their spirituality. Do you want to touch my medicine bag? You're cute."

I'm cool with the vibrational frequency that you’re feeling without your shoes on but it's a major turn-off when you want to talk about spiritual matters when we first meet. I don't know you like that. Also, if we meet in a bar, then – no, I don't want to touch your medicine bag. Nope. Here's some advice, take a shower cause your funk is devastating me, your hair is stringy and eat something cause you are awfully thin.

National Briefs: July 2015
Friday, July 10 2015
Written by The Circle Staff,
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – All groups seeking recognition of their status as tribes must follow the same process under a new policy being adopted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The federal acknowledgment process formally began in 1978. Yet some groups have gained recognition, clarification or affirmation of their status through other administrative means.

The forthcoming guidance puts an end to that once and for all. Now that the Part 83 reforms are final, every group will have to follow the same rules.

"The recently revised Part 83 regulations promote fairness, integrity, efficiency and flexibility, Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn wrote in the policy that will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. "No group should be denied access to other mechanisms if the only administrative avenue available to them is widely considered 'broken.'"

The document doesn't offer specifics but the most recent group that gained recognition outside of the Part 83 process came prior to Washburn's arrival at the BIA. In January 2012, former assistant secretary Larry Echo Hawk placed the Tejon Tribe of California on the list of federally recognized tribes.

Echo Hawk did so without following any sort of "discernible process," the Office of Inspector General at the Interior Department said in an April 2013 report. By that time, the former head of the BIA had left the Obama administration.

In January 2001, the Clinton administration "reaffirmed" the status of the King Salmon Tribe of Alaska, the Sun’aq Tribe in Alaska, and the Lower Lake Rancheria in California. The BIA at the time said they had been mistakenly left off the list of recognized tribes.

Even though questions were raised about those decisions, the new policy won't affect them. The guidance becomes effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register on July 1.

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