Local Briefs
Mille Lacs Tribe and County at odds over law enforcement deal
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Dan Kraker/MPRNews,
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The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is denouncing a decision from Mille Lacs County official to end a cooperative law enforcement agreement with the band.

The county says it revoked the agreement due to a dispute over state law. But what’s really at the heart of the disagreement is a long-running dispute over the band’s reservation boundaries.

The unanimous decision ends about 25 years of cooperation between the band’s police department and the county sheriff’s office.

Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh says the cooperative agreement had ceased being cooperative.

“There’s been a breakdown in communication between the tribal police department and the Mille Lacs County Attorney’s Office, between the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office and the Mille Lacs tribal police department that is tremendously concerning to me.”

The deal had allowed band police officers to respond when they saw anyone committing a crime on the reservation. It also allowed the tribe’s officers and sheriff’s deputies to call each other for backup.

The communication breakdown began about a year and a half ago, Walsh said, after the band applied to the Department of Justice to allow federal prosecutors to also charge crimes committed on the reservation.
As part of that application, which the federal government approved early this year, the Department of the Interior issued an opinion on a decades-old battle over what constitutes the band’s reservation.

The band argues it consists of the 61,000 acres set aside in an 1855 treaty with the federal government. That area spans the entire southern shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs.

However, the county says it’s limited to land held in trust for the band by the federal government – only about 3,000 or 4,000 acres.

In effect, Walsh argues, the band leveraged a decision about law enforcement to advance its point of view on the much broader reservation boundary question.

“All that Mille Lacs County wants is a truly cooperative relationship with the Mille Lacs Band,” he said, “and to put aside this boundary issue to be resolved separately.”

In response, Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said the band had no influence on the federal government’s decision. She argues the county’s decision places politics over public safety.

“It’s plain and simple, if you end a law enforcement agreement, apparently you’re not that concerned about the public safety of individuals,” Benjamin said.

And public safety is a big issue on the Mille Lacs reservation right now. Benjamin says there’s a rising tide of drugs and violence on the reservation, with more than 1,600 crimes committed since 2013. And the band cites a problem called “rez hopping,” where criminals travel from reservation to reservation to try slipping through jurisdictional cracks.

Jessica Intermill, a founding member of the Hogen Adams law firm in St. Paul, says cooperative agreements between counties and tribes allow officers to focus on stopping crime.

“What these agreements really allow people to do, they allow the first responders to be the helpers they want to be without asking those jurisdictional questions,” said Intermill, who specializes in Indian law.
It’s unclear how those jurisdictional questions will be resolved after the county board’s vote goes into effect on July 21.

County Attorney Joe Walsh says he plans to ask the state Attorney General’s office to issue an opinion on how much authority the band’s police will have without a state cooperating agreement.
Meanwhile, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Solicitor General Todd Matha says the department will continue to do what it’s always done.

“Our police officers are going to provide the same level of law enforcement services that they always have and that the community has come to rely on,” Matha said. “We believe we have that authority by virtue of federal law, tribal law, as well as state law.”

But the Mille Lacs Band says response times could be affected if sheriff's deputies are farther away than tribal cops.

To address that issue, the county is planning to hire 10 additional deputies.

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

Whats New July
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by The Circle,
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Circle of Life Academy Graduates

grads2.jpgThe Circle of Life Academy held their 2016 graduation commencement on June 2 at the Circle of Life Academy in White Earth, Minn. Graduating seniors were Autumn Auginaush, Jordan Bower, Nathaniel Christianson, Precious Dominguez, Cassidy Fineday-Roy, Tristian Fox, Kathleen Heisler-Azure, Adrianna Smith, Chandler Smith, and Jarred Whitener. Front row from left are pictured: Precious Dominguez, Cassidy Fineday-Roy, Tristian Fox, Adrianna Smith, and Autumn Auginaush. Back row from left: Nathaniel Christianson, Chandler Smith, Jordan Bower, and Jarred Whitener. Not pictured: Kathleen Heisler-Azure. Photo by Gary W. Padrta.

Fond du Lac elects new leadership

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has elected Kevin Dupuis Sr. to take over after a victory in the June general election, with 622 votes or 58.5 percent of the vote. Kevin Dupuis Sr. will replace Karen Diver on the Reservation Business Committee, the governing body of the band. Diver, the longtime chairwoman, left in the fall to become special assistant to the president for Native American affairs D.C., in President Barack Obama’s administration . Kevin Dupuis was previously the District III (Brookston) representative on the RBC. Vanessa L. Northrup and Roger M. Smith Sr. also were elected to the RBC. The band had narrowed the field of 10 chairperson candidates to two during its April primary election.

White Earth Nation elects Tibbetts chair

The White Earth Nation has voted in Terry Tibbetts Sr. as their new chair. Tibbetts and Mindy Iverson led a field of 12 candidates in a primary earlier this spring. In that race, they each received roughly 20 percent of the vote, with Tibbetts squeezing out a lead of just eight primary votes. Official results of the election put Tibbetts ahead of Iverson with nearly two-thirds of total votes. Tibbetts will be sworn in in July. He'll be the first elected chair since a power struggle over constitutional reform cost former chair Erma Vizenor her job late last year. Eugene Tibbetts beat out Barbara Fabre for White Earth district three representative.

American Indian Family Empowerment Program June grantees

The American Indian Family Empowerment Program Fund has awarded ten grantees in the June round of funding Native individuals to help them pursue their vision and dreams. The grants were made in partnership with the Two Feathers Fund of the Saint Paul Foundation.   The American Indian Family Empowerment Program Fund invests in human capital, skills and cultural strengths through three priority areas: cultural connections, educational achievement and economic self-sufficiency.  During the June 2016 grant round, the following individuals received awards: • The Preserve and Renew Native Cultural Connections category: Brian Heart, to support Native cultural education in the Little Earth community • The Educational Achievement category: Cassandra Buffalohead, to support her education at Augsburg College; Frances Butler, to support her education at Anoka Technical College; Andrea Cornelius, to support her education at Augsburg College; Heather House, to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College; and Lisa Lachner, to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College • The Economic Self-Sufficiency category: Korina Barry, to support completing a yoga teacher certification program; Patricia Columbus-Powers, for small business to purchase materials to create first product line of Native made fashion items; Brook LaFloe, to support living costs relating to education at the Montessori Institute of San Diego; Jacqueline Pearl, to support creating a family owned and operated window cleaning business. The next deadline is September 6th. For information on how to apply, see:

Mni Wakan: Water is Sacred
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Jon Lurie,
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jonluriestory_2.jpgSitting alongside his family in ceremonies, Wakinyan LaPointe has heard the warnings for as long as he can remember. Lately, the dire messages have become increasingly urgent: Water must be preserved and protected. Unless that is done, all life on Earth is in danger.

“Everything we are – our languages, our ways of life, our ceremonies, are all dependent on water,” says the 26-year-old Sicangu Lakota. “Without water there is no life.”

Wakinyan and his brother Thorne, 25, are college students and community organizers. They have been instrumental for years in Minnesota-based water events such as the Healthy Nations river scouting expeditions, Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering, the Four Directions Water Walk, and Mde Maka Ska Community Conversations.

But after the recent death of an Indigenous rights leader in Honduras, the two men felt a greater sense of urgency to act on behalf of water, and the world’s Indigenous populations.

Berta Caceres, who had successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam project at the Río Gualcarque – a river sacred to her Lenca people – was slain in her home last March. More than a dozen environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2014, according to Global Witness, which makes it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists protecting forests and rivers

Along with their father LeMoine, mother Nancy Bordeaux, and sister Tiana, the LaPointe brothers conceived a plan to invite Indigenous leaders from around the world to Minnesota – the font of much of the Earth’s fresh water – for a summit, which they are calling Mni Wakan: A Decade of Water.

Thorne and Wakinyan put their heads together and wrote a summons to the world’s Indigenous leaders. It came in the form of a formal statement, or in the lingo of the United Nations, an “intervention” on water.
“The statement, a broad interpretation of the water crisis this world is experiencing, reiterated our Lakota values: Mni Wakan: water is sacred; Mni Pejuta: water is medicine; and Mni Wiconi: Water is Life,” says Wakinyan. “In our Lakota way, it is our responsibility to strengthen our relationship with water. The statement was intended to acknowledge that relationship and place it in everyone’s minds. In the process of so doing, we invited indigenous peoples, and the appropriate UN representatives, to come to Mni Wakan: Decade of Water. This will be an indigenous led, indigenous centered, water summit, which we are planning for April of 2017.”

Prairie Island Makes Evacuation Plans
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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prairieisland2.jpgThe Prairie Island Indian Community appears to be the first Native American community to buy land and make emergency evacuation and relocation plans under the threat of living next door to nuclear power plant reactors and stored radioactive fuels.

The PIIC Tribal Council announced in March that it had purchased 112 acres of land east of St. Paul for possible future development. This was a precautionary action in the event of a nuclear event with either the power plant or continuing radioactive waste storage at Prairie Island.

On June 6, PIIC applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have the newly acquired land placed in federal trust in the event the community must vacate its ancestral island homeland.  

The importance of this step became obvious on June 3 when the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that spent fuel rods from the power plant may remain indefinitely on the island – unless the federal government finds a suitable depository somewhere else that no one wants.

Tribal Council President Shelly Buck said the community and its allies among states, utilities and environmental groups in ongoing litigation are unaware of any other tribal entity that has taken such steps from a nuclear threat.

Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Washington, D.C., said other tribal entities across the country are close enough to nuclear plants and hazardous sites to be concerned for safety. “But none are as close as Prairie Island,” he said, noting that the power plants and stored fuel waste are only 600 yards from PIIC homes and businesses.

There are tribes in Arizona and tribes concerned for water safety and salmon fisheries in Washington state that are too close for comfort, he said. No other group is literally “living next door” to a site that could become another Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011) nuclear disasters.

PIIC’s Buck said that the Community doesn’t plan to completely relocate. “Prairie Island remains our ancestral homeland and a location with significant spiritual meaning; that will never change.”

At the same time, she said, Prairie Island doesn’t have room to grow and expand “with a nuclear neighbor, so finding safe, usable land for future use is a priority.”

Columbus and Genocidal Assault
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Ricey Wild,
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Native American Indians have been under genocidal assault by immigrants since they got here. European immigrants saw what they thought of as wild, untouched, fertile land that was scarce in their countries. In fact, we Indians had been here for millenia and had civilizations that had risen and fallen because that way of life is unsustainable, and we lived happily and healthy. That changed quickly with the arrival of the first immigrants.

First contact has Columbus (I hate even mentioning his evil name) writing in his journal about the Taino People and how healthy and good-looking they were. He and his evil crew then proceeded to enslave them and decimate their entire population for gold. Later Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and were saved by Indians from starvation and death. The Pilgrims brought nothing but their racist beliefs and diseases that we had no natural immunity to.

Blankets infected with smallpox were given to Indians as gifts. Entire Nations perished because there was no cure and were wiped out by the Pilgrims and the immigrnts who followed after them. We have been murdered outright and been subjected to biological, chemical and mental means to annihilate us. Yet we never gave up. We are still here.

We Indians had sickness and old age symptoms but not the multiple viruses and diseases that were used as warfare by the immigrants. Our people were wise and skilled in natural medicines and remedies. Those plants were put here by Creator for our use and are still used today. However, Big Pharma has taken over and is medicating our entire American population into zombies.

I have a lot of physical issues that I seek help for, and for which there are a lot of pills. I also suffer depression and anxiety and see a therapist, and there’s also pills for that. When I go to my appointments there are always many people who are patients and those who work in the health care industry. I say industry because that’s what it is. Don’t get me wrong, I admire people who choose a profession that helps people.

My issue is that the American health care industry profits from our illnesses, and have lobbyists in Washington D.C. that buy congress to ensure it stays that way. In short, corporations are making money off of our health crises. And if one cannot pay, too bad. Or you go into debt for the rest of your life. I believe the reason cannabis is outlawed is that it can cure cancer and other multitudes of ailments. You see, the US Gov can’t regulate it and make money off it, but that is slowly changing.

However, there are more critical health issues in Indian Country. Ask yourself how and why so many destructive drugs are infiltrating our reservations. Chemical warfare. I personally don’t know anyone who has not been affected by the heroin, methamphetamine and opioid deaths in our community. In my former job as Graves Registrar I met with family members who suffered great losses due to overdoses and chronic drug use.

Suicide is also an epidemic in Indian County. I cry and rage about it yet I understand the hopeless feeling that one sometimes experiences in life. I feel this is another genocidal tactic that sucks the soul out of us.

Oppression takes us down a dark road into depression and sickness of spirit. To you I say you are needed, and seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Please just do it.

The good news is there is help out there. And there are many success stories, like my friend Christopher Shabaiash who dealt with addiction to opioid pills. He struggled daily with it and eventually went to a methadone clinic to ease the withdrawl symptoms. After the birth of his third child he realized it was no way to live, and is drug free now with zero need  to do it again. (Chirstopher, chii miigwech for sharing your story with me, I'm very happy you are now well.)

We Indians face more challenges for staying healthy than any other ethnic group in this country. Yet, I see many more positive changes if we have access to good health care. I know there any many Indians who live in remote areas that need help desperately and I hope this vital issue will continue to be addressed.

o all my readers I wish you well and good health. We have to be responsible for our own well-being. Love Yooz!

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