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Local Briefs
Rally Against Pipeline Expansion
Tuesday, July 21 2015
 
Written by Jim Lenfestey,
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rally against pipeline expansion.jpgOn June 6, more than 5,000 colorful, committed marchers snaked through the streets of downtown St. Paul from the banks of the Mississippi River to the State Capital, the first shrouded in morning mist, the second shrouded in construction scaffolding. Marchers were rallying to say no to expansion of the matrix of pipelines that cuts through northern Minnesota carrying Alberta tar sands oil and fracked Bakken crude, potentially endangering the freshwater heart of Minnesota’s native land.

Aztec drums and conch musicians led the march. At the capital, Greg Grey Cloud offered a welcome song and later there was a performance by Frank Waln, Sicangu Lakota hip hop artist, among other musicians.

Many native speakers led the rally in front of the capital building, as Native communities are directly faced with the impacts of pipeline expansion and are leading the charge against them. Winona LaDuke (White Earth Anishinabe), founder of Honor the Earth, and Tom Goldtooth (Dine/Dakota), executive director of Indigenous Environmental Network, have organized for decades to call attention to better ways to manage our planet than tearing out its natural resources and are leaders in the effort opposing pipeline expansion.

LaDuke asked the crowd to support, “us and tribal governments tribal leadership” who are in saying “no” to pipelines crossing reservation and treaty lands. “[They] cannot poison us,” she declared, telling the audience, “you have a choice between water and oil. Make the right choice.” She told a story that, at a protest in in Washington, D.C. a year ago, she walked from her tipi to a ride in an all-electric car. “That’s what the future looks like,” she said,” from a tipi to a Tesla.”

Melissa Daniels (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) spoke on behalf of the estimated 23,000 Aboriginal people who live in the devastated area of Alberta’s oil sands development – 18 First Nations and six Métis Settlements located in the region. She testified to the dramatic local impacts of tar sands development and the robust resistance of native communities and allies across Canada to pipeline expansion.

How bad is tar sands oil extraction in Alberta? A google search for photos of Alberta tar sands turned up this from an article in Business Insider: “These Pictures May Give you Nightmares about The Canada Oil Sands.” And this: “We're not saying the project is good or bad. We're just saying the scale and severity of what's happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle.” And this from Wikipedia: Or read this selection from Wikipedia: “The Athabasca River is the largest freshwater delta in the world but with Suncor and Syncrude leaking tail ponds the amount of polluted water will exceed 1 billion cubic meters by 2020.”


Mille Lacs diversifies with ties that bind
Monday, July 20 2015
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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mille lacs band diversifies with ties that bind.jpgWhen his peers in the Native American Finance Officers Association honored Joe Nayquonabe, Jr. this spring as their Executive of the Year, attention was given to the progress the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is making in diversifying its investments and business enterprises.

Nayquonabe is Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Band and is chief executive officer of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV), the Band’s business investment arm that operates like a holding company with management responsibilities.

MLCV now has more than 35 different business entities. Together with the Band’s government and earlier investments in enterprises, the Mille Lacs Band is responsible for creating more than 3,500 jobs on and off the reservation.

The two anchors of the Band’s enterprises at the reservation, Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, have 2,648 employees while non-gaming businesses located there have 225 employees. Other businesses are scattered around neighboring communities in East-Central Minnesota, in the Twin Cities metro area and now include a hotel in Oklahoma City.

The Mille Lacs Band entered the gaming business 24 years ago. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) then listed reservation unemployment at a staggering 80 percent. The Band now assesses its unemployment rate at 14 percent, a rate derived from knowing who is still in need of a job. That is a more simple, accurate but unofficial formula than methods used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure unemployment for states, counties and cities.

“We are continually evaluating opportunities and looking for the next potential deal,” Nayquonabe said. No new deals are imminent, he added, “but I can share that we have our eye on a few properties throughout the country that would possibly make nice additions to our portfolio.”

Diversification was a stated goal at Mille Lacs when Band chief executive Melanie Benjamin named Nayquonabe to the commissioner’s post three years ago. With acquisitions and business expansions along the way, Mille Lacs leaders have insisted that gaming revenue is flattening out. Future economic growth must come from non-gaming enterprises.


A History of Owamni Yomni: Lock Closures Signal Healing for Mississippi River
Monday, July 20 2015
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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history of owamni yomni.jpgTo the Dakota, the only waterfall on the Mississippi and its surroundings is known as Owamni Yomni (Whirlpool), revered for centuries as a place of tremendous spiritual power and inspiration. Wita Waste (Beautiful Island) the key above the falls, once covered in maple trees, was the site of annual sugaring camps. The island below, Wita Wanagi (Spirit Island) shrouded in mist and the peaceful din of rushing water, was a calm and sheltered place where women gave birth to generations of Dakota children. The people shared the area with a large population of Eagles, for whom the waters provided a plentiful source of fish.

A rich oral tradition informs the Dakota understanding of Owmani Yomni. One of these stories was first written down in 1908 by historian Henry G. Allanson, whose records remain in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.

He wrote, “Legend states that Anputa Sapa Win, commonly known as Clouded Day, was the first and devoted wife of a Dakota warrior. However, in time in accordance with the custom, the husband introduced a second wife within the tipi. One day the band camped near the falls of St. Anthony. Clasping her little son, Clouded Day entered a canoe, pushed out into the swift current chanting her death song. The Dakotas say that in the mists of morning, the spirit of the Indian wife with a child clinging around her neck is seen darting in a canoe through the spray, and the sound of her death song is heard again in the winds and roar of the waters. In seeming remembrance, a bear and her cub occasionally appear coming out of the water.”

As the only portage on the river, Owamni Yomni was a practical place for people of many nations to gather, meet, rest, and trade. Even during times of turmoil between the Dakota and Anishinabe, it remained neutral territory.

Owamni Yomni served as a natural obstacle to human movement on the river and did the same for the myriad species of fish, plants and aquatic mammals that lived in its waters. Distinct ecosystems flourished above and below the falls, protected from the potentially devastating effects of organisms whose introduction might offset the delicate balance of each natural sector.

So impressive was this feature of the river – a horseshoe cascade that some European travelers compared in grandeur to Niagara Falls – that the Dakota named the entire 2,552-mile waterway Haha Wakpa (Waterfall River) in its honor.

From those times forward, the governments of France, the United States, Minnesota and Minneapolis, along with their partners in industry and organized religion conspired to makeover the sacred falls of Owamni Yomni,and many other immovable landmarks, in their own image.

American history books claim Owamni Yomni was discovered in 1680 by Father Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan Friar who had been dispatched to explore the western part of “New France,” an area which, at its peak in 1712, extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

It is clear from Hennepin’s written accounts of that journey that the priest considered himself the first man to bear witness to both Niagara Falls and Owamni Yomni; in 1683, he published a book about Niagara Falls called “A New Discovery.”

The Frenchman, upon arrival in Mni Sota Makoce (Dakota Homelands) wasted no time imposing his vision on the area’s natural features. He renamed Owamni Yomni “The Falls of Saint Anthony,” after Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of finding lost things and people. Why Father Hennepin chose Anthony of Padua – a man who lived and died in Europe (1195-1231) – as the new namesake for Owamni Yomni is shrouded in the mists of time.


Collaborative Effort for Red Lake/Leech Lake Long-term Homeless
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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collaborative_effort_for_red_lake-leech_lake_long_term_homeless.jpgJust behind the baseball fields near Bemidji Middle School, nestled among the pines, is a place called Conifer Estates, a supportive housing project put together with collaborative effort by several governments and agencies, including Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Bi-County CAP.

On June 11, the 70 residents, staff and guests gathered near Conifer's office building for a picnic supper while enjoying the sun and the 78 degree weather.

To the rear of the building was a meeting room filled with hot dog and hamburger buns, chips, pickles, and more. Outside the open back door, two charcoal grills are commandeered by Conifer's young, hard-working resident manager, a stern but gentle fellow known as Joe Van Horn of Redby and Chad Nelson Chief Property Manager for DW Jones.

After lunch Nelson and Van Horn gathered all the children together and led them to a dry "run-off" pond, a round depression not unlike a small amphitheater where bags of water balloons lay waiting. After forming three teams, the fun began. Later every child and adult were the recipients of at least one give-away.

"This is such a great turn-out," Nelson told the small crowd of neighbors and friends. "My thanks to the staff here at Conifer and of course the tenants who have made this effort such a great success."

"We have monthly service provider meetings, and our families will approach any of us for assistance," Valerie Robinson, Leech Lake Housing case manager, said. "We work hard at knowing what is happening at Conifer and pass along important information to each other. This helps the three entities identify problem areas as well as opportunities to help in positive areas, then to act quickly so we can address the issues. We work well together and share the responsibility of management and services to our clients."

Nova Larson, Red Lake Housing Authority, confirmed Robinson's observations, "Valerie, Barb, Karen and I not only work together well, we like and respect each other. This camaraderie helps us help our residents by designing programs in life-skills training, money management, etc. We also act as liaisons between residents and social agencies to help them get on their feet, if needed."

Conifer Estates, which grew out of the planning process, is a collaborative effort between Headwaters Housing Development Corporation, Beltrami County HRA, Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Bi-County Community Action Programs, Inc. The 20-unit development consists of 16 supportive, three transitional housing units, and one caretaker's unit, all designed to successfully house long-term homeless families. Red Lake HRA and Leech Lake HRA each hold the master lease for five units and sublet these 10 units to eligible tribal members. The remaining nine units are available to other households experiencing long-term homelessness.

Conifer Estates serves eligible tribal citizens and long-term homeless people. In 2009, 393 people were known to be homeless in the Northwest Region of Minnesota, including 235 children and youth through age 21. As the economy worsened and homelessness increased, housing leaders in Beltrami initiated a planning process to bring a supportive housing project into the community.

Conifer Estates, which grew out of the planning process, is a collaborative effort between Headwaters Housing Development Corporation, Beltrami County HRA, Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Bi-County Community Action Programs, Inc. The 20-unit development consists of 16 supportive, three transitional housing units, and one caretaker's unit, all designed to successfully house long-term homeless families. Red Lake HRA and Leech Lake HRA each hold the master lease for five units and sublet these 10 units to eligible tribal members. The remaining nine units are available to other households experiencing long-term homelessness.


U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Visits Red Lake
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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us_senator_amy_klobuchar_visits_red_lake_tribe.jpgOn July 2 the Red Lake Tribal Council reconvened after a morning Special Council meeting as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited with the Red Lake Tribal Council about issues of concern to the tribe. Several tribal council members participated in a conversation about Indian Country and the government to government relationship between Red Lake Nation and the United States. Tribal Council Officers Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Secretary Donald Cook, and Secretary Annette Johnson, were joined by council members Gary Nelson and Randy "Jiggs" Kingbird of Ponemah, Little Rock council member Robert "Charlie" Reynolds, and Red Lake reps Roman Stately and Robert Smith. Chief Billy King also attended.

The informal meeting began with the tribal council expressing concerns to the Senator and two accompanying staff. Several council members echoed an issue Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki brought up in his inaugural address and continues to be on the council's agenda. "We need to be able to prosecute non-members who bring drugs to our reservation. They come up from the Twin Cities with their drugs and endanger our youth. We need to be able to deal with this," said Tribal Secretary Don Cook.

Klobuchar said she understood, pointing out that; "the Senate passed legislation that enables Indian tribes to prosecute non-members for domestic violence, maybe drugs comes next," she said.

"We've had a bit of trouble in this area of debate," Klobuchar noted. "There is a perception that non-members cannot get a fair trial in any Indian court. We need to deal with that issue. Passing this kind of legislation is even more difficult," she said, "because so many states do not have Indian Reservations and simply do not understand the issues. We will continue to educate them."

(The Tribal Council has passed a resolution a few months ago to allow banishment of non-members who bring drugs on the Red Lake Reservation.)


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