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Local Briefs
OPINION: In the Moon of the Falling Leaves
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I’ve just returned from New York City.

There, I attended the People's Climate March, where 400,000 people walked the streets of the city, demanding that governments take action on the climate. It was the largest such rally in U.S. history. I was joined by my two l4 year-old sons, to witness history in the making.

Since we were in town, we also went to the United Nations to see Indigenous peoples. This is to say, the Tadadaho – the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy – open the General Assembly at the United Nations. (He’s sort of like the Dalai Lama of the Iroquois confederacy in my mind). This was the first time that an Indigenous spiritual leader has spoken his language at the United Nations and opened the General Assembly, representing – in this case – the oldest North American democracy and a people much older than the United Nations.

Let us say that history is often made in some moments, those moments are part of a force which changes the course of history. That we know and what that means now, is what I am pondering.

History, after all, teaches that there is a moment when a paradigm shifts. Those moments are often a result of many actions – whether lawsuits, police and civil society conflict, or demonstrations. One moment was the March on Washington, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, l963. That was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act was passed one year later. That law guaranteed people the right to desegregate the schools and motels, restaurants and almost all public facilities.

 

Profiles from Lakota Country: Native Americans in Education
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Lynette White Hat,
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profiles from lakota country- native americans in education.jpgWhen the topic of Education and Native Americans is brought up the view of a unsettling and disturbing history plays with a sequence of historical trauma. This isn’t a collaboration that was arranged with open arms and satisfying results.

This approach began with Carlisle Indian School, which was established by Gen. Richard Henry Pratt in 1879. Specifically built for Native American children, the approach to this was to assist the Natives in becoming “civilized” and functional in mainstream western society. However, teaching arithmetic, writing and reading came with horrendous atrocities, abuse and discipline within the Native boarding school systems that would shape and change the classroom and generations forever.

To enhance any teachings the official government policy was to, “Kill the Indian and save the man.” With this motto came severe forms of discipline which included beating, torture, sexual abuse and even death. Though Native people wanted their children to be able to survive in the inevitable change coming, they were not prepared to take on what the boarding school system would bring. This created generational poverty among those who endured, survived and would speak about it.

Since that dark period in tribal history, Native people have a come a long way in developing and tailoring education that meets the needs of their children. Students have become educated, speaking fluent English and are encouraged to learn their tribal history. Those who pursue a career in education are are protected by policies, procedures and laws developed to enshrine education that was once banned in boarding schools.

One such educator is Sage Fast Dog, Sr., an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. He has taught in the Todd County School District, a non-Native public school with a majority of Native students who attend, for nine years.

 

Under the Eye of Sauron: Oil, Gas, Corruption and Change in Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Territory
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I wanted to write a story about strength and resilience. I wanted to write a story about the singers, the horse people and the earth lodge builders of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara peoples; the squash and corn, the heartland of agricultural wealth in the Northern Plains.

That’s the story I have been wanting to write. That story is next. The story today is about folly, greed, confusion, unspeakable intergenerational trauma and terrifying consequences, all in a moment in time. That time is now.

For me, this story began at Lake Superior, a place which is sacred to the Anishinaabeg and the source of a fifth of the world’s fresh water. I rode my horse with my family, my community and our allies, from that place, Rice Lake Refuge to Rice Lake on my own reservation. Those two lakes are the mother lode of the world’s wild rice. These two lakes and the region are threatened by a newly-proposed Sandpiper pipeline of fracked oil from the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota, from the homeland of those Arikara people. We rode, but we did not stop, driven to go to the source, we traveled to North Dakota, accompanied by a new friend from Colorado and an organization called Fractivist. That is this story.

Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara territory is in the northern Missouri River. A land of gentle rolling hills, immense prairie diversity and the memory of fifty million bison. Today, it's called the Ft. Berthold reservation in North Dakota and it’s known as the sweet spot for Bakken crude oil. About 20 percent of the state's oil production is coming from this reservation, in a state with 19,000 wells.

Lynn Helms, ND Director of Mines spoke from a panel, telling us there are 193 drilling rigs in the state, one-sixth of them (28) are on Ft. Berthold, half on trust lands and half on fee lands. There are 1,250 active and producing wells on the reservation, with 2,150 leased and ready to drill. Then, Helms explained, these wells will be in the “harvest phase of production” soon. All of those are fracked oil wells, with some gases being burned off in a set of flares that lights up the reservation in an eerie way. Everywhere, it is as if the Eye of Sauron (from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) is present.

That is what we see. What we also see is that there’s a huge change in wealth on the reservation. Things are going so well that the tribal council, which five years ago, was facing a $200 million debt, is now wealthy. The tribal council purchased a yacht, a yacht to take guests like Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and oil company executives on the lake and to enjoy the beauty and opulence many oil rich countries are accustomed to. The yacht sits quietly on a dock by the casino, no fanfare today.

So let us talk about poverty and how North Dakota and the U.S. treated the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people. They were the poorest for many years, an unspeakable poverty of loss, intergenerational trauma and the meanness of America. All that was manifest – not only during the Indian Wars, the small pox epidemics (wiping out 90 percent of their people) – but crowned, by the 1954 Garrison Diversion project that drowned a people under Lake Sakakawea, taking 152,000 acres of their best land.


Reclaiming Indigenous Language
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Deanna Standing Cloud,
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reclaiming indigenous language 1.jpg On the crisp, bright morning of September 5, dozens of South High School students and staff gathered together on the football field. After a few moments of brief chatting and lingering, Robert “Animikii” Horton (Rainy River First Nations), the new coordinator for the All Nations program, picked up a microphone to welcome the group.

He greeted the assembly in the Ojibwe language and asked that they all form a large circle. For the remainder of the event, Native American students enrolled in the All Nations program helped to smudge, sing at the drum and pray together with their tobacco for a good school year.

The All Nations program is a specialized academic option at South High School that was designed specifically for Native students. Thoughtful integration of the Ojibwe culture and language is the foundation for All Nations academic approach.

The passion to revitalize Native languages has ignited an internal fire within a growing number of young adults specifically in Minnesota, where Dakota and Ojibwe are the original languages. On any given day in Minnesota, fresh-faced language warriors rise every morning on a mission to reclaim their languages through education, social media, community gatherings, apprenticeships and ceremonies. By any means necessary, they have devoted their lives to Indigenous language acquisition.

Elizabeth Strong, 34, (Anishinaabe) Coordinator for Language Projects for the Red Lake Economic Development & Planning reflects on the first time she realized she wanted to pursue this work, “I visited an immersion school in Montana. Hearing those young children speaking their own language, learning about their culture with their elders, it really struck a chord with me."

 

From the Editor's Desk: Our languages and our worldviews
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpg Those of us who grow up in privilege are required to acknowledge that privilege and do good things with that privilege. In Lakota culture, those of us descended from traditional leadership are reminded and invited to practice that principle every day we draw breath.

It may seem odd for those of us who come from impoverished, tribal communities to think of ourselves as privileged. We have almost no advantage in the world: unemployment, substance and alcohol abuse, educational challenges, the list goes on. However, for those of us who were raised to listen to our elders, our stories and our language, we have an enormous wealth, privilege and responsibility of culture to guide those who did not have our advantages.

Language is both the root and the fruit of our culture, it shapes who we are, our worldview, our values and is shaped by who we are, our worldview and our values. Recently, Duane Hollow Horn Bear, an elder and spiritual leader on my reservation spoke and said, “We have a hard time understanding each other when we use the D-dialect, the N-dialect and L-dialects, so we use the E-dialect when we're all together.” His allusion to English among an almost exclusively Lakota audience notwithstanding, he admitted to an often overlooked subject of how we communicate as indigenous communities in a modern world.

Though we as a tribal people have lived through centuries of oppression and subjugation at the hands of America, the one thing we have taken from the country that grew up around us is our ability to keep our traditions alive and documented. In our cover story, we see how Ojibwe and Dakota linguists are fighting every day to keep our languages vital and a part of our daily lives. They do so because it is imperative to remember our worldviews.

 

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