Local Briefs
Creating New Native Identities
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by Mark Anthony Rolo,
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A few years ago, my friend, a PhD candidate was analyzing research data she had collected on how social media, in particular, Facebook was shaping the identities of today’s Native American youth. Like most of the younger generation, social media is central to shaping personal identity. Facebook gives youth control over how they are perceived by their friends and onlookers. Creating one’s own identity apart from family, social and economic class, gender, sexual preference and race is of course, wildly attractive to this generation. Native youth are just as hooked as their non-Native peers on exploiting the ideal of identity creation.

What struck me as most fascinating in my friend’s research on Native youth and social media was the ease, probably freedom, these young people have in self expression. No doubt, the autonomy, the smokes and mirrors of Facebook make the internet world a very safe place to have the world see you how you want to be seen.

Whether it is in using pseudonyms, Adobe-shopped style selfies or limiting personal information, Native youth, it seems to me, have become more individualistic and bold about their identities and beliefs.

For many Native youth the appeal of Facebook is the unique power to be real while hiding beneath a mask. For many Native youth and other youth of color and oppressed classes, social media has opened new forms of expressing  personal voice on a public platform. Raising their voice on political issues that threaten Native communities, sharing adventures of trailing the summer powwow circuit or railing against Indian sports mascots, never before have Native youth been so outspoken on issues that used to teach our people that it was best to just be silent.

Silence, many Native Americans say, has been key to our survival through the generations of genocide, boarding schools and other U.S. government forms of obliteration or assimilation. Not that today’s Native youth do not suffer from historical trauma. They do. Our youth top the charts when it comes to suicide nationwide. Sexual violence remains rampant and drug use is on the rise among our youth in nearly every Native community. But what sets this generation apart is the brazenness to break the silence, to forge a newer identity of Native pride and passion that I believe, no other generation – save the followers of the American Indian Movement – has embraced.

Naturally, there is a dark side to social media. Native gangs have used Facebook to brag about twisted notions of tribalness. Even some Native youth have used social media to propagate hateful manifestos. And our generation is certainly not immune from cyber bullying.

But deviant behavior and beliefs aside, the majority of our youth are achieving their positive goals of cultural and racial identity. And they are doing it with support. This larger generation, researchers tell us, is more tolerant than any in American history. They are sick and tired of racism, homophobia and other forms of hate that have plagued humankind since the start of our existence. Acceptance is the rule of the day in this generation’s world. Non-Native youth stand by their Indian peers in their efforts to declare that yes, the history of mistreatment of the Indian continues today.

And yet, one has to ask, what does this Native generation’s gains mean to the larger view of Native American identity? We know that Natives marry outside the race more than any other group in this country. We know that in the not so distant future our blood as a people will shrink to the point of extinction. Already, tribes across Indian Country are eliminating blood quantum levels as a measure for tribal enrollment and instead, favoring ancestry just to maintain the population.

Can we count on future generations of Indian people to carry on the traditions and values of our ancestors, our ceremonies and Earth knowledge that has been preserved for centuries? I could never answer that question. All I can observe is that we, as a people, have suffered through the worst of times. We are still here. Hopefully, this generation will carry us through and continue to remind us that yes, Native lives matter.


May What's New in the Community
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by The Circle,
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NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship winners

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) has awarded its first Mentor Artist Fellowship to 12 artists in three regions of the United States: the Pacific Northwest, Southwest and Upper Midwest. The awardees reside in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Beginning in July, each artist will mentor an emerging American Indian or Alaska Native artist apprentice for one year.

The awardees are accomplished Native artists of 10 years or more in Traditional Arts or Contemporary Visual Arts, and are enrolled in an American Indian tribe or Alaska Native corporation. The Fellowship includes a monetary award of $30,000 per artist for a total of $360,000 awarded in fellowships.

Midwest artists who were awarded Fellowships include:
In Contemporary Visual Arts: Dyani White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota, mixed media. In Traditional Arts: Wayne Valliere, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe, birch bark canoe making; and Delina White, Leech Lake Ojibwe, regalia/apparel, accessory making.

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s mission is to promote the revitalization, appreciation and perpetuation of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures through grant making, convening and advocacy. NACF has supported a total of 251 awards for Native artists, organizations, and advocacy efforts in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia. For info about the Fellows, visit:

NAP announces first round of #GenIndigenous Response Fund  

Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) has announced the first round of #GenIndigenous Response Fund grantees. The Fund provides grants to selected groups of up to $5,000. Grant focus on strategic communications, education, workforce development, juvenile justice, resiliency, traditional knowledge, sustainability, environmental justice, health, and trauma and healing. The #GenIndigenous Response Fund was established in December 2016 in support of youth organizing and activism responding to current movements.

Grantees include Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Dream of Wild Health , Little Colorado River Watershed Chapters Association, Lummi Youth Canoe Family, Native Nations Institute, Nature Rights Council, Sacred Pipe Resource Center, Selfridge High School Student Government & Missouri River Education Cooperative collaboration, Standing Rock Community High School Close Up program and Spark*San Francisco Public Schools.
For info, see: for more information.

Leech Lake competing in U.S. Dept. of Energy solar challenge

Leech Lake Financial Services has been selected to participate in the Solar in Your Community Challenge from the United States Department of Energy. The challenge includes a prize of $5 million and is a competition’s goal to expand solar electricity access to low and moderate income families.

Over the next 18 months, Leech Lake’s Team Wasaya (Power of the sunshine in Ojibwe) will be researching and developing innovative approaches that enable low and moderate income families, non-profits and non-federal governments in Leech Lake and Cass Lake to access solar power. The Leech Lake team is comprised of multiple agencies including tribal, state, county and city as well as educational programs, financial foundations and other private sector members.

Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos receive award for responsible alcohol training program

 The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Enterprise, which includes Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino, has been awarded the 2017 TIPS Award of Excellence from Health Communications, Inc., the providers of the TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) Program. Since 2012, Mystic Lake and Little Six have provided the TIPS responsible alcohol training program to team members, helping them build positive prevention and intervention skills.

The SMSC Gaming Enterprise is one of four award recipients nationally in the casino and gaming category for its successful TIPS responsible alcohol training program. Since the SMSC Gaming Enterprise began using the TIPS program, it has provided 473 classes and certified 3,380 team members. Eight Gaming Enterprise staff are currently certified TIPS program trainers.

Leech Lake received DOT grant

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has been awarded more than $900,000 from the Department of Transportation to improve tribal roads.

The $950,175 grant will address transportation safety issues on tribal lands, and will be put toward safety planning, engineering improvements, enforcement and emergency services and education for tribal communities.

Native American Month Parade Float Winner
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by The Circle,
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The Anishinaabe Academy won first place in the parade for the 2017 Minnesota American Indian Month Kick-Off celebration. Native-led organizations and groups were invited to make a float (anything pushed, pulled, carried, worn on the body, or put on a motorized vehicle) for this year’s parade. The winner of the float competition was announced during the feast at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.

Urban farming in South Minneapolis
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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graden.jpgA collaborative of Minneapolis faith-based, cultural and health organizations will soon start a second year of serious urban farming in an effort to change how Native Americans live and eat and take their neighbors along on the same healthy journey.

Weather permitting, volunteers and staff from involved groups will transplant crops May 12 in the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden, 3201 22nd Ave. S.

Some of the produce raised this growing season will be used at First Nations’ Kitchen, a ministry of the nearby All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission (3044 Longfellow Ave. S.), said Claire Baglien, with Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) and the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden coordinator.

Some produce will be used at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, which is another backer of the urban gardening program. And still more will be distributed or picked up by people in the neighborhood – primarily from the large Native American community living on the south side.

The Rev. Canon Robert Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota) with the Indian Mission and All Saints Episcopal Church, said the collaborative effort also combines Indigenous cultural thought of community and caring for the environment with theological, or faith-based thought, on caring for our planet and for each other.

“Working together in community is a cultural value,” Two Bulls said. There’s been a learning curve for him as well, he said. “We live in a time when funding is being whittled away. That’s the reality. How do we put our money together and work together?”

The work First Nations’ Kitchen does in providing free meals and access to nutritional food to underserved people is especially important for Two Bulls. 

“Health and food. We have a lot of problems with both in our Native population,” he said. “Heart disease and diabetes are big problems, including in my own family.”

The Indian Health Service (IHS) unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services crunched recent Census data in April to show how American Indians and Alaska Natives are impacted. In a study (“Indian Health Disparities”), IHS researchers found that Native communities have a life expectancy 4.4 years shorter than all U.S. races. Heart disease, cancer, unintentional accidents, diabetes and alcohol-induced problems were leading causes of Indian deaths and were far greater than for the overall U.S. population.

All can be related to diets and lifestyles. Such statistics and linkages are not ignored by health professionals.

“Many of the leading health challenges Minnesotans face are undeniable links to what we eat,” said Janell Waldock, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The Blues’ foundation and its Center for Prevention is a financial supporter and partner of the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden urban farm project.
Waldock said healthy eating challenges “are magnified by the inequities that exist in our state, particularly by race, cultures and geographies.” The urban farm project addresses healthy eating and health inequities, creating healthier Minnesota communities for all, she said.

Collaborating with shared and compatible missions becomes important for all the partners.

Two Bulls said a Presbyterian minister visited First Nations’ Kitchen and he was a friend of Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant. The Bangladesh native and chef of Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine shared interests in fresh, organic and healthy foods, and then started preparing foods for First Nations’ Kitchen fundraisers.

That became a multicultural bond of compatible objectives. Around the same time, Islam became friends with an official of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. Another bond was created with shared goals for Mother Earth and her peoples.
Islam said in a brief interview that becoming friends with Native Americans and faith-based groups concerned about human health and environmental well-being was a convergence of shared interests. “Good health and good food; that is my culture as well,” he said.  

MNIPL, initially called Congregations Caring for Creation, is a non-profit organization formed by ecumenical faith organizations and congregations in 2004. It has about 250 member congregations within major religious denominations that work on educating congregants on climate and environmental issues and in promoting legislation in Minnesota that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

A big part of Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden is similarly educational in purpose, garden coordinator Baglien said. The garden is located in the backyard of property owned by a MNIPL official. It started with urban students in 2012 and became the interfaith garden a year ago.

The garden is protected by walled fencing that has windows for passersby to stop, watch the plants grow, and engage in conversations about food, soil and well-being with workers in the garden.

Coincidence or not, that about sums up the meaning of the word “Mahal” in English. Though it doesn’t translate completely, it is usually a reference to a palace. But in various Asian languages, it describes a place of rest, or a protective compound; it can be a place of solace.

It is also in keeping with the spirituality and search for justice inspired by Mohandas Gandhi in India, Baglein said.
It seeks to promote ecological sustainability, promote the values and wisdom of Indigenous people and promote healthy and natural lifestyles across cultural lines, she said. It offers an unusual opportunity to connect soil, climate and food together for neighbors and young people who don’t have farm backgrounds.

The garden and its backers held a community block party a year ago to explain to neighbors what it was about. That gained volunteers for the garden and for First Nations’ Kitchen, and neighbors made regular stops by the property to check the progress of the garden throughout the growing season.

Current plans call for planting lettuce, sorrel, spinach, three or four varieties of squash including a unique Banglasquash variety that the restaurateur Islam introduced, black turtle beans, radishes, carrots, garlic, kale, beets, three varieties of eggplant, Thai chilies, jalepeno peppers, cilantro, dill and garlic chives. And, in keeping with the sustainable, organic nature of the garden, Baglein said they will be also planting wildflowers for pollinators.

Since part of the garden’s mission is to promote cultural ties within communities, Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden is also planting crops that Baglein identifies within the Native Americans’ “sacred plants realm.” They include white sage that the garden received from Wuju Wakan Garden (4019 31st Ave. S.), another culturally-relevant urban farming venture supported by faith and food groups, plus sweetgrass and tobacco.

The size of the garden and amount of produce harvested is important but not the single most important objective, Baglein said. Connecting people to healthy living, healthy and sustainable food systems and culturally appropriate foods make building blocks for a stronger community in south Minneapolis.


The Wiindigo and the Water Protectors
Tuesday, May 09 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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“Sitting down and talking with the Canadian government is like making small talk with a cannibal.  You can make as much small talk as you want, but in the end you know exactly what he’s thinking.”  – NuChalnuth Chief,  1990.

Some things never change, no matter the cannibal. The standards are dropping quickly; that is, if there ever were standards. As Donald Trump shamelessly grabs more for corporate interests and fat cats, standards of law, human decency, and rules of engagement in civil society are  brushed aside. While actively dismantling all social programs and environmental protections, insulting almost everyone possible to insult, Trump topped it off with  a big bang by launching $60 million worth of Tomahawk Missiles (love that name) and MOABs (Mother Of All Bombs). That, I figure, was worth somewhere around $60 million (or what is needed to fund Minnesota Headstart waiting lists). That amazingly poor appropriation of public resources was followed by Trump’s decision to review all the designations of National Monuments in the past ten years. At the center is the Bear’s Ear National Monument, the first National Monument designated to be managed by Indigenous peoples. 

The arrogance of Trump is mimicked in Minnesota and North Dakota. Emboldened by the Commander in Chief, this past month Minnesota Representative Garofalo decided that it would be appropriate to push forward with the permitting of the enormous Enbridge Line 3 project – all 915,000 barrels-a-day of tar sands oil.  That move is being challenged  by grassroots organizations and members of the Minnesota legislature.

To the west, Morton County’s “finest”, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, has been honored with speeches and recognition poured upon him by the National Sheriffs Association, as well as the Bismarck Tribune.  All of this for his arrest of some 840 Water Protectors, strip searches, cavity searches, dog attacks, shooting rubber bullets at people, tear gassing, and blowing off arms and blowing out eyes.  The Bismarck Tribune honored Kirchmeier with a 2016 Tribune Award,  for a member of their community “who has gone beyond what’s expected.” 

Meanwhile, Native News Online and many others have equated Kirchmeier with   Eugene “Bull Conner”, the  l960s Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham Alabama, who used excessive force against African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

Indeed, Standing Rock is our Selma Moment.

“A ‘disease of the mind’ has set in world leaders and many members of our global community,” Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, said. “With their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace. We need to understand how all these decisions affect the global nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions.”

It is the time of the Wiindigo. That’s what we will call this time, when a craziness comes around. 

Termed, according to Wikkipedia, as, “A creature… once human but… transformed into an immortal evil spirit when it took up the practice of cannibalism. Wiindigos are cursed to wander the land, eternally seeking to fulfill their voracious appetite for human flesh…Wiindigos are believed to live in the northern woods of Minnesota and in the north central regions of Canada…Sightings of the creature in this area have continued well into the new millennium. Wiindigos are generally rumored to be gigantic spirits, over fifteen feet tall, lanky and with glowing eyes, long yellowed fangs, terrible claws and overly long tongues. Sometimes they are said to have a sallow, yellowish skin; other times they are described as being matted with hair.”
We are not to speak of the Wiindigo, but how can we not?

In our stories, the Wiindigo was defeated long ago by the Anishinaabe.  Elaine Fleming writes that there were many generations of Wiindigo slayers in our Anishinaabeg people, “Those old time Wiindigo slayers of the Termination era were wise and resilient. They united with other Indigenous American nations and organizations like the National Congress of American Indians. The American Indian Movement was formed at the end of this era in 1968, and by the 1970s, the self-determination era began with huge numbers of Indigenous Americans enrolling in college, producing crops of Indigenous lawyers, authors, and activists…”  It is that time again.

In my lifetime, I have seen much.   Forty years ago, I was a young woman at the United Nations, representing the International Indian Treaty Council at the first UN NGO forum on the rights of Indigenous peoples. That was when Venezuela had the practice of hunting Indigenous Wayuu people and stringing them up in trees like deer. That was just after the coups of Chile, when big copper, the CIA and ITT  pushed back with the assassination of President Salvador Allende. That was in the beginning of the rounds of civil and dirty wars in the Americas as Indigenous peoples, peasants, farm workers and students began to resist the American multinationals which controlled their countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, with movements like the Sandinistas, the FMLN and finally the Zapatistas.  

For much of my life, I have watched and recorded these movements. We have made political and social gains and yet,Wiindigo economics continues. Wiindigo economics creates pipeline spills, destruction of lakes, forests, fish, relatives, people, climate change, and injures Mother Earth.

What we must remember is who we are and who we face. And where we are going. The time ahead will surely involve many Water Protectors, who will appear with the weapons and tools to fight the Wiindigo; whether in court, with our ceremonies, or with camps on the front lines. And as the state of Minnesota proceeds in a process which could be viewed as one of the Wiindigo, I believe that the standards set forward by the United Nations must become the new standards for the state. That is to say, the international standard for Free Prior and Informed Consent, adopted as a part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is to establish bottom up participation and consultation of an Indigenous Population prior to the beginning of a development on ancestral land or using resources within the Indigenous Population’s territory.  

Indigenous Peoples inhabit 20% of the earth’s surface, and live in the most biodiverse and pristine parts of Mother Earth. Yet today, whether in Brasilia or in Minnesota, we face massive plans for extraction in an economic system which reflects the paradigm of the Wiindigo.  To protect Indigenous peoples rights, international human rights law has created process and standards to safeguard their way of life and to encourage participation in the decision making process. One of these methods is the process of FPIC. The United Nations describes FPIC, both directly and indirectly, in numerous conventions and treaties. One of the most direct is located in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Article 19 states: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

Most recently, this standard was applied as some of the largest banks in the world divested from the Dakota Access Pipeline. 
On April 5th, BNP Paribas, the fifth largest bank in the world, announced it was divesting from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This bank joins Norway’s DNB bank, the Netherland’s ING bank and other investors in pulling out. Explaining its reasoning, DNB stated: “By selling our stake, we wish to signal how important it is that the affected indigenous population is involved and that their opinions are heard in these types of projects.”

DNB is a signatory to the Equator Principles, a set of environmental and social policies that require clients to, among other things, obtain “free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous peoples.” Now what does that mean?  It means that the Indigenous peoples, the people from that land for thousands of years, have to say yes. It’s sort of like sex . . . you have to have consent. Those involved should agree and respect each other.

Dave Archambault, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, welcomed the Parabis decision, saying, “As corporate greed continues to fuel dirty energy projects on our land, it is heartening to see that some banks recognize the imminent harm to our people posed by DAPL, and are taking actions accordingly.”  

The divestment is a part of a much larger divestment movement which is shaking the fossil fuel industry – according to the UN Secretary General Bahn, over $5.2 trillion is being moved from the fossil fuel economy (the Wiiindigo economy) to renewables. That is the time we are in now.

In the broader questions asked by Minnesota, and the US as Wiindigo economics and policies are forwarded by Trump, the long term must involve a full participation and respect for Indigenous Peoples.  As Zuni historian and Director of the Colorado Plateau Foundation Jim Enote  says, “I suppose in some people’s minds, we are the conquered, so the willingness to pursue ill-gotten gains that benefit a few is simply a given. But if Native Americans are truly a part of the social and cultural fabric of this nation, why do we not receive the civility and respect afforded to other citizens? It’s time we realize that Native peoples are not only citizens of this great nation, we are indigenous to it, part of its original fabric...”

It is a time of the Wiindigo and the Water Protectors, a time of legends and of hope.  

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