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Local Briefs
Friends, clients mourn Native-rights lawyer Larry Leventhal
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by Jon Collins/MPR News,
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larryleventhal.jpgMinneapolis, MN – Longtime Twin Cities civil rights attorney Larry Leventhal on Jan. 17th of pancreatic cancer. Leventhal, 75, was one of the nation’s most prominent experts on American Indian treaty rights and a committed advocate for American Indian civil rights.

American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt remembered meeting Leventhal early on in the movement.
Leventhal had read that AIM members had been patrolling Minneapolis streets to document police brutality against American Indians. Leventhal wanted to help. And AIM needed legal advice.

“Eventually, of course, he graduated from law school and came in as our attorney, knowing very little about Native people, about treaty rights or things like that,” Bellecourt said. “But he started representing us on all these issues. He actually became one of the foremost Indian attorneys in America.”

Leventhal defended American Indian Movement activists who faced charges in the occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973. He also won a settlement for two American Indian men put in the trunk of a patrol car by police officers and driven around the city.

Bellecourt sees Leventhal’s influence in some of the treaty arguments being made at the Standing Rock encampment over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.

Leventhal had a hand in many high-profile cases, but Bellecourt said he also helped with day-to-day legal issues, like incorporating schools and other nonprofits in the community.

“He became family,” Bellecourt said. “He became like part of our family. Even to the point where he could joke around and tease us. ... We celebrated birthdays together, dinners together and anniversaries together. We’d never think about doing anything like that without Larry Leventhal.”

In the legal world, Leventhal was known as a tireless representative of activists, said Twin Cities attorney Melvin Welch.
“He really developed a good reputation there because he was such a tireless worker,’ Welch said. “He was really known as a zealous advocate. He would pick up the smallest case where there was an injustice and really pursue it vigorously.”

But not everything was grim struggle. Leventhal had also served since 1969 as an officer of the Block-Heads Oasis #3, one of the longest-running Laurel and Hardy clubs in the country.

Grand Sheik Tracy Tolzmann recalled a running joke: He would introduce Leventhal as “a ‘prominent Minneapolis attorney with offices in St. Paul,’ and one person in the crowd would applaud wildly, and Larry would run back and shake hands. And I’d say, “Notice how deftly the $20 bill changes hands.’ I mean, I think a lot of people didn’t realize that Larry was a prominent Minneapolis attorney.”

 Leventhal also collected Laurel and Hardy memorabilia. Some of the youthful energy of those early film comedians seemed to have stuck with Leventhal even into his 70s.

Explained Tolzmann: “The thing that draws people to Laurel and Hardy is their childlike comedy, and they inevitably get into trouble, but they’re always looking out for each other.”

Leventhal’s funeral service was held at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The family is asking that memorials be sent to the Minneapolis Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the American Indian Movement’s national office.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at www.mpr.org

Native Women in MN Legislature
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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nativewomeninlegislature.jpgNative American women doubled their presence in the Minnesota Legislature’s House of Representatives this January, but it may be far too soon to declare that the “glass ceiling” holding back women has been shattered.

With the election of Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn and Mary Kunesh-Podein from suburban Twin Cities house districts, the number of Native women has increased to four.

This apparent accomplishment occurred as Minnesota voters actually reduced the number of women serving in both houses of the Legislature by four, from 68 in the previous two sessions to 64 for this term.

Meanwhile, Rep. Peggy Flanagan, who won a special election in 2015 and was reelected to a full term this past November, told The Circle she will seek U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat in Congress if the Minneapolis congressman is chosen chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison has said he will resign his congressional seat if elected Feb. 25 to the contested DNC post. The Minnesota Fifth Congressional District includes Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Crystal, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, Fridley and Flanagan’s home city of St. Louis Park.

Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe), Kunesh-Podein (Standing Rock Lakota), and Becker-Finn (Leech Lake Ojibwe), now make a Native American caucus in the Minnesota House with their pacesetter, Rep. Susan Allen (Rosebud Lakota), the Minneapolis lawyer and lawmaker first elected in 2012. All four are Democratic-Farmer-Labor party lawmakers.

“There is still much work to do,” said Allen, while acknowledging that the gains by Native women in the past election does signal greater acceptance of Natives and women in general for leadership roles.

Their collective successes at the polls coincides with Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig’s appointment to the high court in August 2016.  McKeig, of White Earth Ojibwe descent, is the first Native American to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is believed to be the first Native woman to serve on any state’s highest court.

Both Allen and Flanagan said Gov. Mark Dayton deserves credit for advancing women’s opportunities. He appointed McKeig, who had earlier been appointed to a Hennepin County state district court judge by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2008.

Black Snake-Enbridge Returns, Tribes Take Action
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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As Enbridge unrolls it’s plans for Line 3 and the beginning of the largest web of tar sands pipelines in the world, tribal leaders and communities are challenging both the long term and expired leases of the corporation, and the need for new lines.
Line 3, the heart of Enbridge’s profit plan, would bring 760,000 barrels of oil down the same pipeline as the ill fated Sandpiper, last year’s now defeated Enbridge Line. Tribal environmental  hearings are being held in February in Cass Lake, Bena and Ball Club, and 60-year-old pipelines are being questioned for safety.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s (comprised of six Ojibwe member bands in Minnesota) Cumulative Impact Assessment process will provide tribal governments, harvesters and members the opportunity to discuss the full impacts of the proposed pipelines.

The Bad River Tribal Council passed a formal resolution January 4th that established the Tribe’s decision not to renew its easement for rights-of-way of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 crude oil, 64-year-old pipeline through the Bad River Reservation. Furthermore, it calls for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline from all Bad River lands and watershed.

“As many other communities have experienced, even a minor spill could prove to be disastrous for our people. We depend upon everything that the Creator put here before us to live mino-bimaadiziwin, a good and healthy life,” said Bad River Tribal Chairman Robert Blanchard. He said on the Tribal Council’s decision, “We will work with our native and non-native communities to make sure that Line 5 does not threaten rights of people living in our region, and we will reach out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how to remove Line 5. And we will work with the same communities and officials to continue developing a sustainable economy that doesn’t marginalize indigenous people.”

The Band has directed Tribal staff to begin planning for the Line 5 removal project development and the environmental issues and hazards that exist with removal of old pipelines, including hazards response and health study, pipeline contents recycling and disposal, and surface restoration.

“These environmental threats not only threaten our health, but they threaten our very way of life as Anishinaabe. We all need to be thinking of our future generations and what we leave behind for them,” said Tribal Council Member Dylan Jennings
The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe is beginning tribal hearings on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 plan. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, 1855 Treaty Authority and tribal governments have deemed it necessary to conduct their own environmental hearings, after the state of Minnesota dismissed tribal concerns and jurisdiction in the previous hearing process. This includes the abandonment of Line 3 in place, and would set a precedent for the abandonment of the five other pipelines in the same Highway 2 Corridor.  

Year of the Blood-fest
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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Wow. Just wow. This past year has been quite the blood-fest, ennit?  I am soooo looking forward to this New Year. 2016 was like running with the bulls in Pamplona in a packaging bubble suit and still getting gored. On a positive note I was enlightened to peculiar peoples’ true nature by their exposing themselves as thieves, liars, betrayers and just general ickiness. For that, I am grateful.

Now that they are not in the way of my progress, what oh what shall I do? My goal is to continue to fight the good fight in the gory face of Trumpism. I became complacent in many ways because I was under the soft blanket of President Obama. I thought that if he could make it there, the rest of us could make it everywhere.

The truth? Not so. There is no post-racist society in the U.S. just because a black man was elected president. In my opinion we created a path for a disgusting megalomaniac to become elected POTUS. The ugly, dark underbelly of white supremacy was fermenting for the past eight years in response to Obama and has now exploded like a meth lab. Now we have to adorn ourselves with haz-mat suits and begin the cleanup for our children’s sake.

I have to take responsibility for my granddaughter’s environment, in all aspects, so they can thrive and raise their children in a clean, forward-seeing world. I was traumatized by the election and still am. However, it has motivated me (in my mind anyway) to activism and a hope for the future. Hope? Really? YES.

This is the time when we scattered people evolve into a powerful BEING that cannot be stopped even in the face of oppression, downright evil and all the ‘isms’ you can name. We have more power than we can conceive and with it, do or undo all the hateful crimes against humanity.

Seriously. I mean what I say and say what I mean. There is an entire world out there that we don’t think has anything to do with us going about our daily lives that someone hasn’t suffered to make our clothing. And that’s just one thing. I wonder who made my “HELLO KITTY” slippers I’m wearing right now. They’re so cute. I  speculate who actually made them and how much they were paid to do so.
I’m just pouring out my heart here. I do want to add to the previous December 2016 column where I wrote a much abbreviated history of world events. I’ve admitted before I’m a news junkie and even been called out as a Liberal ‘Wonk’. Whoa.

So the western Europeans slash and crash into homelands other than their own; set up shop by force of weapons and let the natives serve them tea. Some Whites return to their native land and bring the brown ones who served them. Meanwhile, the brown slaves save money to bring their families to them. Aha!

The so-called immigration crisis is a farce. Here we have a whole lotta Brown/Black People living in their respective communities. Along comes invaders and they enslave and corrode their culture. Being left with nothing, the natives want a better life for their children so they emigrate to the colonists’ lands. They open restaurants, shops that cater to their community and don’t bother anyone except their former invaders who deeply resent their presence. I don’t say ‘conquerors’ because THEY never have done so. Beaten us down to where we don’t exist. We have more than survived, WE ARE STILL HERE!!!

The Best of the Best.
What I’m tryna get across here is what did the Europeans think was gonna happen when they turned everything upside down? They raped and exploited human beings for profit and now those same people are seeking refuge from the war-torn countries the aggressors made uninhabitable. I ask, what would you do?

I pray every day for this gorgeous, plentiful little planet we live on and for humanity, too. I even pray that the most hardened, hateful white supremacist to get a real life. Ya’ll have something better to do I think. Not all brown people want to pro-create with yooz so that’s not an issue. We don’t have an agenda to breed yooz out of existence, so what now? What is so threatening that yooz use your political power and gross lies to demonize we equal human beings?

Ya’ll ain’t getting away with nothing on my shift. JS.

It’s like my Unk Gene always used to say, “Call it out for what it is!”

My big plans for this New Year are getting Lenny Kravitz Shotley de-balled. He’s a kitten and I haven’t tole my Gram I have him becuz she won’t even let me have a Panda Bear. Sheez. 

Bad Hunter: The Inner Thinkings of the Rare Native Vegan
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Maggie Lorenz,
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In March of last year I made a decision that had been a long time coming and has changed the course of my life. It’s something that I avoided doing for a long time because it threatened my sense of identity as a Dakota woman – it set me apart from some of our deepest and longest held traditions. But typical to my personality, I did it because I want to have my (vegan) cake and eat it, too. In March, I became an Indigenous Vegan. A Bad Hunter. Like a unicorn, I became something people didn’t think existed in real life.

Why? Is it because I didn’t grow up with my ways? Is it because I am half white? Is it because I have some class privilege that allows me to be super picky with my food? I mean, maybe. Maybe those things have something to do with it. I yam what I yam (and yams are a great vegan food). But the thing is, as I think about our beautiful traditions and teachings, I don’t see being vegan as blasphemous to our culture, and I’ll tell you why.

Most people choose to go vegan for one of three reasons: environment, ethics, and health. My reasons for being vegan are in this exact order. Being a typical Indian woman, I put everyone else before me. Like our incredible Water Protectors holding ground at Standing Rock, you can be sure they aren’t there for themselves. They are there for their kids, their people, the millions of people downriver, the generations to come, and the plants and animals that also depend on a clean river system. As Indian people, our circle of compassion has always included non-humans– the four legged, winged, finned, the plants, water, earth and sky. It is in adhering to this tradition that being vegan makes sense as a Dakota woman.

Right now, animal agriculture is responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s right. More than half! It dwarfs the entire transportation system’s 13% impact with a staggering 51% of emissions being a direct result of raising animals for food. As a vegan, you can literally cut your carbon footprint in half. If you want to save this planet for future generations, reducing your shower time just ain’t gonna cut it.

For example, to produce one hamburger, 660 gallons of clean water was used in the process. That’s the same as showering for 2 months. For everyone’s sake, take your showers and just skip the burger. And think about this: the waste from a mid-size diary operation creates as much annual waste as a city of over 400,000 people. And here I am rinsing out my dairy milk jug to recycle it because I care about waste. It just wasn’t adding up. I knew the environmental impact was incredible, but if I went vegan, I’d be THAT lady. I did NOT want to be THAT lady.

Talking about the environmental impact of animal agriculture has gone over pretty well with non-vegans, but nothing shuts down a conversation quite like bringing up the ethical implications of eating animals. Stick with me here, I promise not to be THAT lady. But here’s the thing I have come to realize. The way our meat gets to our dinner plate today is nothing like the process our ancestors used. On a basic level, we all know this. Most of us urban, and even rez Indian’s aren’t out there hunting our own free roaming buffalo, elk, deer, and rabbits (although some of us do). But let’s face it, even if we do eat wild hunted game, for most of us, it’s not where most of our meat comes from.

So let’s think about that for a second. And I should say, I am not one of those vegans who think that killing is immoral. I am not vegan because I believe killing animals is inherently wrong. This kinda ticks off a lot of other vegans, and sometimes they tell me that this belief means I am not really vegan. Even so, there are societies of people who still survive by hunting and gathering and I don’t find any ethical problems with that. I don’t find any ethical problems with the fact that our ancestors were a hunter-gatherer society. Some vegans even think it’s a problem that lions eat zebras. Well, I don’t. So, if I don’t find killing animals to be ethically problematic, then what is the problem?

I strongly believe that if you don’t have to take a life, you shouldn’t. This belief is in line with our Dakota ways. For example, the highest honor one could receive in battle was counting coup on your enemy, not taking their life. Obviously our ancestors ate animals to survive. They used the furs and skins, bones and teeth, flesh and organs. Nothing went to waste. The animals we depended on for survival were honored and revered. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and we don’t have to eat animals to survive. We don’t need meat to get protein and iron. We don’t have to drink milk for calcium and vitamin D. We have fully stocked grocery stores year round, and black beans are a beast of protein. We don’t need the skins of other animals to stay warm and sheltered. We don’t need horses and dogs to do our work for us, that’s what that old pick up truck is for. So, there is the problem of taking a life when it’s unnecessary for our survival.

But wait, there’s more. Once you allow yourself to see the reality of life for these animals on Factory Farms, and what kind of death they meet at the slaughterhouse, you can’t un-know that reality. They are treated as mere units of production, not the living, breathing, feeling creatures that they are. No honor, no reverence. These animals are treated worse than dirt. The complete lack of regard for their lives is so far out of line with our teachings of respect, compassion, humility – but the industry is good at hiding what happens in those big, stinking, windowless animal warehouses. Hate me for it, but I am here to remind you of what happens in there. Because as Indian people, we know more than anyone what it feels like to be voiceless and treated as if your life doesn’t matter.

Finally, let’s get selfish and think about our own health. Did you know that milk and hamburgers are responsible for more than 30% of all breast cancer cases? (Research Bovine Leukemia Virus and breast cancer). Did you know that milk actually leaches calcium from your bones, which is why America consumes the most dairy and yet, has the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world. Did you know that quinoa and wild rice are complete proteins? Did you know that three out of the four leading causes of death are related to diet, and that a plant based diet can prevent and in many cases, reverse, those diseases? Did you know there is plenty of evidence that a plant-based diet can reverse type 2 diabetes? 

I forced this diet on my husband because I don’t want to see him suffer. I want to grow old together. I am forcing it on my kids too, because I love them and want them to be healthy and happy. Did you know that the hormones in meat and dairy are linked to early onset puberty, childhood cancer, and an array of developmental problems? Don’t take my word for any of this, do your own research. All the information is out there.

First thing: Get educated. Got Netflix? You can start by watching Cowspiracy, a documentary about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Or Forks Over Knives, which delves into the health benefits of a plant-based diet. If you want to know what’s happening to the animals on Factory Farms, you can check out Earthlings on YouTube, but be warned, it has been called “The Vegan Maker” because it’s really hard to watch and continue eating animals. Another YouTube channel that provides short videos with great info on all areas of veganism is Bite Size Vegan, or you could check out the health related videos by Dr. Greger from NurtrionFacts.org.

Second thing: Get cooking. Need some vegan recipes? Try OhSheGlows.com or MinimalistBaker.com. I get most my recipes from those two websites. Or you could just friend me on FaceBook, because I am always posting recipes. Just google “Vegan Recipe for _________” and you’ll see that being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite foods.

So here’s the thing. I’m vegan, and I think you should join the club. But if you aren’t ready for that leap, do what I did for years before taking the plunge. Take steps. First thing I did was cut out dairy. Most Indian’s are lactose intolerant, so giving it up will save you from some GI distress, and save your family from your cheese farts.

After that, you might want to cut down on how often you eat meat, or maybe you start only buying grass-fed, organic, or free range meat and eggs from a local farmer. Maybe you cut out eating eggs and chicken because you love birds and want to start there. But I am asking you to start making changes towards a plant-based diet because it is the ONLY sustainable option to feed the 7+ billion people on this planet.

The world has changed so much in the last two hundred years it is barely recognizable. Indigenous cultures, however, are slow to change, but they can and do when it makes sense to do so. Women never used to sundance or wipe down in sweat, but circumstances changed, and with that, we changed our traditions. So too, have the circumstances changed with our population, food, and health. With those changes, we have to consider what is the best thing we can do to for the Oyate, Unci Maka, and Seven Generations.

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