Local Briefs
“LaRose” is spiritually uplifting
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by Michael Tidemann,
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By Louise Erdrich

larosebookcover.jpgIn this spiritually uplifting novel, Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) shows how one family’s sacrifice heals the sorrow of another. When Landreaux Iron accidentally kills his neighbor Peter Ravich’s son Dusty while hunting deer, a great loss falls upon both the Iron and Ravich families. After cleansing himself spiritually in a sweat lodge, Landreaux follows an ancient Native American tradition and gives his youngest – and most beloved – son LaRose to Peter and his wife Nola.

It’s neither an immediate nor easy solution. As the Raviches continue to struggle with their loss of Dusty and anger at Peter, LaRose struggles to be accepted by the Ravich’s daughter Maggie who first taunts then accepts him. The Iron family also deals with problems of their own. It’s LaRose, though, who even as a small boy goes on his own vision quest and calls upon the help of his ancestors to help mend the two families. As he tells his new sister Maggie, he’s just not any kid, he has spirit helpers. Maggie and LaRose soon become accomplices in their efforts to keep Nola from committing suicide.

Erdrich masterfully weaves two other strands into the story. One is of the first LaRose, a young Native American girl first adopted then wed by a kind but surly trapper Wolfred. Her remains are stolen after her death, cruelly exhibited, and mysteriously disappear after a break-in. Erdrich also brings into the story Romeo, once best friend of Landreaux, later a ne’er-do-well who was severely crippled when he broke his friend’s fall from a bridge. Romeo has ever since held a grudge against Landreaux – a grudge that builds to the point of his wanting to take Landreaux’s life. All three strands join in an explosive conclusion.

Erdrich  is the winner of the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville, Iowa. For more information, see: .

Comfort and hygiene still rule in second-gen Pauling family business
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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biffscompany.jpgIt would be hard to image anyone in the Twin Cities metropolitan area who hasn’t seen or used some of the 6,000 portable restroom units provided by Biffs Inc., of Shakopee, at construction sites, parks and special events. They are easily taken for granted unless you are somewhere where such a service is needed but is nowhere to be found.

Biffs Inc. is a 31-year-old, second-generation family business owned and operated by, siblings who purchased the company two years ago from their parents, Mike and Diana Pauling.

Although they are practically neighbors with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Paulings are Ojibwe descendants of White Earth Nation. Derek serves as president (CEO) and chief financial officer, Heather is vice president and chief operating officer.

So how did this family with Native American heritage get started in the portable restroom service industry? That, says Derek Pauling, could be a lesson for young people in the Native communities and everywhere in Minnesota.

While people are born into families and communities, there are still personal behaviors and traits to be honed that will prepare you for whatever business or occupation where opportunities may exist, he said.
“It can be little things, like following through on commitments,” he said. “If you say you are going to meet someone someplace, be there and do it.
“I learn something new every day. Wake up in the morning and have a goal, be positive. It might be a small goal, but follow through on your commitment. All this starts when you are a kid. You might have small achievements when you start, but it builds and over time you will be surprised by your accomplishments.”

That transcends different industries and occupations, he added. It is especially important in industries that thrive on doing business with repeat customers. “It’s like a marriage,” he said. “Transparency, honesty, follow through on commitments are all important.”

That, he said, prepares you for whatever life deals you and when opportunities come along. His father and the Pauling family entrance into the portable restroom industry are cases in point.   

Mike Pauling was in the Vietnam War where he was injured, and when he recovered someone was recruiting jobs for veterans. He went out to Satellite Industries in Plymouth thinking it had something to do with the space program.

That became a family joke. But the interview went well and the family patriarch went to work for Satellite, a portable toilet manufacturing and service company, for the next 10 years. Satellite now has global operations and is the world’s largest maker of portable restrooms.

The elder Pauling went off on his own in 1986 by finding partners to buy Biffs, a smaller portable restroom business with only 200 units and a couple of employees. He bought out the partners in 1997 when Derek graduated from the University of St. Thomas and came back to join the company.
Both Derek and Heather worked at Biffs while growing up and during summer months while going to college. Heather joined the firm as an employee in 1994 after graduating from the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design.

Along the way, Mike Pauling would also serve on the board of directors of the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce.

Both generations of the Pauling family insist people at construction sites or at special events need services that provide for their health, welfare and dignity with restrooms. Biffs is focusing on that objective with a variety of new portable units that fit different settings and events. The company website shows the different models of portables now available.

Pumper, an industry trade magazine, has a complimentary profile on the company in its October 2015 edition that explains much about the industry and its products, logistics and technologies. That is available on the Biffs website under the News/Media column.

The company has grown with acquisitions over the years. The company now has 60 employees in the winter months and up to 85 in the summer when special events are more regularly scheduled.

Construction is year around in Minnesota. That produces about 50 percent of Biffs’ business, Derek said. Another 30 to 35 percent of business comes from parks and other heavily trafficked areas that don’t have permanent restrooms. The rest of the business comes from the growing field of special events, Derek said.

That category is tilted towards the warm weather months, but not exclusively so. In late February, for instance, the University of Minnesota’s student Equestrian Team hosted a multi-state horse show for collegiate teams at Idylwood Equestrian Center in rural Stillwater. Biffs had two portable units parked outside the main horse barn and indoor arena where the show competition was held.

“You can certainly count me as one of their (Biffs) satisfied customers,” said Jaime Ashley Benner, owner and head trainer at the century-old horse farm. The portable units were especially helpful with visiting teams from Wisconsin, North Dakota and Nebraska joining the Minnesota equestrians.
Still, that was one of the smaller special events served by Biffs. The largest in company history occurred Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 this past year when the Ryder Cup Matches golf competition was held at Hazeltine National Golf Club at Chaska.  

Biffs and the Paulings have posted a video, “Mission Impossible Sanitation,” on its web page recalling how 15 company drivers serviced 725 portable units, 133 sinks and five luxury toilet trailers at the golf club, pumping and hauling away 541,479 gallons of water and waste during those five days.

A potentially even larger event may be coming in 2018 when Minnesota hosts the Super Bowl. Pauling said contacts aren’t signed at this point, but all portable restroom providers will get action. If not directly tied with the game and NFL activities, providers of portables will service corporate receptions and related events.

To learn more about Biffs, see their website at:  

Mille Lacs Band will run Native-focused addiction treatment center
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by andy steiner/minnpost,
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fourwindsbldg.jpgFor years, the State of Minnesota has run Four Winds, an addiction treatment center with a focus on traditional Native American healing and recovery. The Brainerd-based program is the only one of its kind in the state, and one of only a handful in the nation.

In March, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will take over operation and management of Four Winds in a historic agreement negotiated between the band and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“I’m excited that we were able to work with the state of Minnesota to reach this agreement,” said  “From a tribal standpoint, it feels like a good move. We’ve wanted to add inpatient options to our tribal treatment services for a long time. We’re excited by this opportunity and ready to put together a program that is going to meet our tribe’s needs and our clients’ needs.”

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper said she was pleased that the band was able to assume operation of Four Winds and further sharpen the program’s focus on Native culture and healing.

“The Mille Lacs Band has given a lot of consideration to how to operate Four Winds and how to improve it,” she said. “With Commissioner Moose’s leadership, the band is on good footing to make this program even better.”

The state and the band began formally discussing the transfer earlier this year after legislative funding changes meant that if the program were to remain state-operated, it could only serve clients who had been civilly committed for substance abuse treatment.

Moose explained that civil commitment is a form of involuntary commitment with restrictions on patient independence during treatment. Members of the Native community traditionally seek substance use help independently, he said, and many would object to the idea of forced or restricted treatment. Such limitations would defeat the purpose of the Four Winds program, Moose added.

“When the state gave us notice that they were looking at turning Four Winds into an involuntary treatment program,” he said, “we knew that wouldn’t be successful in our community.”

Piper said she understands that the policy change ran counter to Native recovery culture.

“When changes at the state level eliminated the ability to serve voluntary clients, this meant that Four Winds was no longer able to serve the facility’s clients the way they needed to be served,” she said. “We knew we had a willing partner in the Mille Lacs Band, a partner that wanted to transform the program to ensure that culturally specific treatment was still being provided at the facility. They understood that American Indians are best qualified to provide that type of treatment, and they stepped forward.”

Moose said that a partnership like this one is vital, especially now, when his community is in the midst of an opioid-addiction crisis. Working together to ensure that services provided by Four Winds continue to be a good match for his community is an essential step that averted what could have become a serious problem.

“I’m excited about the state and the tribe working together as governments to solve an issue that would’ve negatively impacted American Indians,” Moose said. “Because there is such a great need for American Indian substance abuse and mental health treatments, the tribe was disappointed when we heard about the state’s inability to keep Four Winds running in a workable way. The tribe and the state working together to solve these issues is an important first step.”

The transfer is scheduled to be complete on March 1. Initially, the management shift was expected to be seamless, but as the Mille Lacs Band assumes control of Four Winds, there may be a temporary reduction in services.

March What's New in the Community
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by The Circle,
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Liberty named U.S. presidential scholarship candidate

whatsnewliberty.jpgMitakamizi Liberty (Leech Lake Band Ojibwe), a graduating senior at TrekNorth High School, has been named one of more than 4,000 candidates in the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. He is the son of Leslie Harper and Adrian Liberty, and is the only Minnesota student from outside the Twin Cities area to be named a candidate.

The candidates were selected from nearly 3.5 million students expected to graduate from U.S. high schools in the year 2017. Scholars are selected on the basis of superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities.

Annually, up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars are chosen from among that year’s senior class, representing excellence in education and the promise of greatness in America's youth. All Scholars are invited to Washington, DC in June for the National Recognition Program, featuring various events and enrichment activities and culminating in the presentation of the Presidential Scholars Medallion during a White House-sponsored ceremony.

A distinguished panel of educators will review the submissions and select 800 semifinalists in early April. The Commission on Presidential Scholars, a group of up to 32 eminent citizens appointed by the President, will select the finalists, and the U.S. Department of Education will announce the Scholars in May.

Paquin named to Northwest Minnesota Foundation board

whatsnewpaquin.jpgMichelle Paquin (Red Lake) has been elected to the Northwest Minnesota Foundation Board of Directors. Paquin is tribal legal advisor for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and adjunct faculty at Red Lake Nation Tribal College. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and William Mitchell College of Law.

Paquin was previously employed with Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services and as Red Lake Nation Chief Tribal Prosecutor. She has served on the Red Lake Political Education Committee since 2002.



AIFEP awards grants to eleven recipients

Eleven grants were awarded to Native American individuals in the Twin Cities through Tiwahe Foundation’s American Indian Family Empowerment Program Fund (AIFEP). The  grants are made in partnership with the Two Feathers Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation. AIFEP strives to reverse the social, educational and economic challenges facing American Indians by investing in human capital, skills and cultural strengths through three priority areas: cultural connections, educational achievement and economic self-sufficiency.

During the January 2017 grant round, the following individuals received awards in the Educational Achievement category:
• Brittany Austin (Standing Rock Sioux) to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Brittany is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Education.
• Jolene Chestnut (White Earth Ojibwe) to support her education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Jolene is in her final year of the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance Program.
• Akikwe Cornell (Sault Sainte Marie) to support her education at the University of Minnesota. Akikwe is completing a doctoral program in the Department of American Studies.
• Honor Lamont (Oglala Lakota) to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Honor is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Human Services.
• Amber Leger (Leech Lake Ojibwe) to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Amber is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Business Management.
• Anne O’Keefe-Jackson (Lower Sioux) to support her education at Augsburg College. Anne is pursuing a Masters of Business Administration.
• Jason Poitra (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) to support his education at Dunwoody College of Technology. Jason is pursuing a one year welding certificate.
• Samora Redding (White Earth Ojibwe) to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Samora is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Human Services.
• Sasina Samreth (White Earth Ojibwe) to support her education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Sasina is pursuing a certificate in Accounting.
 The awardees in the Economic Self-Sufficiency category are:
• David Bernie (Yankton Sioux) to bring Indigemojis, an Indigenous Sticker Emoji app, to the Android market. Indigemojis launched for iOS August of 2016 and includes categories such as Women Warriors, Francis Frybread, Indian Love, Pow Wow and Activism.
• Benjamin Spears (Red Lake Ojibwe) to upgrade business equipment for Spears Tree Care. Benjamin has worked as a Certified Arborist for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board for over a decade and runs his own business providing consultation and diagnosis, trimming, removal and disease control.

FM radio station will operate from Waite House in Mpls

A low-power FM radio station owned by Pillsbury United Communities  (PUC) and operated out of the Waite House Community Center in Minneapolis, will officially launch with online streaming and a mobile app on March 20th. Over-the-air broadcast will begin later this summer on 98.9 FM (KRSM-LP).

The radio station hopes to provide a platform to raise up the stories of the community and enable marginalized and erased voices to be present in the media. The station will be a voice for the South Minneapolis community, broadcasting news, music, and community issues in multiple languages. Anyone interested in starting a radio show is encouraged to visit the stations’ website ( to view a calendar of upcoming free trainings and fill out an application. No experience is necessary.

With online streaming and a mobile app, the station will launch with over 30 diverse programs covering topics like health and wellness, entrepreneurship, local politics and community organizing, as well as music shows and culturally-specific programming. The station’s schedule will also feature syndicated content like Democracy Now (including a rebroadcast of their popular Headlines segment read in Spanish), and a number of recordings about language, history, and culture recorded by radio stations located on reservations in White Earth and Leech Lake.
The Southside Media Project will allow community members to share their stories, report on the news, and discuss issues that are most important to them, while also providing training and internships for people interested in communications, media, and journalism.

WaterProtectors Are Everywhere
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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daplflags.jpgWater Protectors
They came from the four directions. They came from the stars. They came from the mountain, they stood and protected. They came from the depths of the beautiful ocean. They came from the corn pollen and sage they had gathered in their hands. They came wounded from generations of pain. They came bearing gifts of strength, tears, and song. This is where they stood in the four directions.
– Inyan Wakankagapi Wakpa, Sara Juanita Jumping Eagle

As the Trump Administration forced the removal of many remaining Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) water protectors on the banks of the Cannonball and Missouri River in North Dakota, there are many tears shed; tears of betrayal, tears of sorrow, and tears as people face the unknown. We have had many lessons thus far from our Standing Rock movement. For indeed, it is a movement – Standing Rock is our Selma moment.  And, as the bulldozers and emboldened Morton County police marched forward, water protectors were forced to move, as thousands of our ancestors before. We have been here before, it is the “American way”, from Sandy Lake to Big Mountain.  

This past week, I was disturbed in my peaceful writing by three grandsons, as they tumbled through my kitchen on Round Lake. One had on my helmet, intended to defray rubber bullets from Morton County, another donned a gas mask, the third a bandana. All carried shields. That is when I knew that the Water Protectors are everywhere.

Reports of Enbridge pipeline leaks and “integrity digs” came in from Water Protectors across Leech Lake; to the east, the Bad River tribal council prepared with their lawyers to face Enbridge and the company’s expired right -of-way.

An early February gathering in Duluth, brought together 80 Indigenous leaders from both sides of the Medicine Line – Canada and the US.  Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs sat with  LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (founder of the first resistance camp of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Sacred Stones, aimed at halting DAPL) to talk of pipelines and water.

Water protectors from Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Rice Lake and HoChunk territory- elected leaders, and wild rice harvesters, all shared their stories of the Black Snake, and the legal battles ahead to protect the water and future generations. Water protectors are everywhere.

As the Trump Administration pushes forward with its agenda of hate, cronyism, and pipelines, immigrants, business people, cities, women and water protectors are readying to face a President who has run rough shod over the law.  North Dakota’s media spins a story of the glories of law enforcement, sings praises of the oil industry, and acts as if there has been no crime committed.

Trans Canada attempts to resuscitate the already defeated Keystone Pipeline, and  the Lakota Nation readies. As the Enbridge/Spectre Sable pipeline moves forward in Florida, on the ground the Seminole youth move forward to face them. To the south, water protectors face the pipelines of Texas, Chaco Canyon and those to the West.  

While the proposals are dizzying, it turns out even the pipeline and oil industry are spinning like a top out of control.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (2nd from right) and other water protectors at Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota. (Photo  courtesy of Honor The Earth.)The Globe and Mail notes Canada is, “…on the verge of moving from a pipeline shortage to a pipeline surplus…The capacity of the projects approved by the federal government (Trans Mountain, Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL) and under review (Energy East) is 2.9 million barrel per day (bpd). These projects would expand Canadian export pipeline capacity to 7.1 million bpd. If current rail capacity is included, total capacity would be almost 7.9 million bpd..”  Data suggests that there will be a surplus pipeline capacity of 2.4 million bpd by 2025, less than eight years from now. Some would refer to this as greed economics.

Build it and They Will Come
This worked in Wayne’s World. I am not sure it will work in the oil industry. Companies are proposing to spend about $30 billion plus on new pipelines. How is that possible? The problem is not just a Canadian tar sands problem,  it’s an American oil fields problem.  Reuters reports, “…a doubling of pipeline capacity in one of the most prolific U.S. shale plays may have gone overboard in its rush to move oil to market…” That was before the Dakota Excess Pipeline. Translation: overbuild/glut. No wonder the oil industry is losing money. Greed is not always a healthy practice.

Then there’s the world beyond North Dakota and Minnesota. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) November forecast shows little oil sands production growth after 2020 due to climate change policies and the high costs of Canadian oil.

“The Wakinyan came last night to let us know they stand with us. This is February, we had rain, hail, thunder and lightening, that should tell us the west is with us…” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. That is climate change and that is also power.

The Bust Cometh
With an 85% drop in drilling rigs, North Dakota has lost an estimated 13,500 roughnecks and oil engineers, not to mention drivers, restaurant cooks, barbers, grocery store cashiers, Man Camps, and almost everything else of the oil empire. The Canadian petrol-state Alberta lost some 20,000 jobs, the most in any industry downturn since the early 1980s. No one predicted 90,000 oil workers being fired this past year in the US, or the worldwide 250,000 oil industry workers sent home.

Nor did they foresee that many of the companies themselves would be at risk of bankruptcy (42 already filed as of last year). Of 155 US oil and gas companies studied by Standard & Poor’s, one third are rated B- or less, meaning not good.

Industry magazine SRS Rocco Report notes, “The top three U.S. oil companies, whose profits were once the envy of the energy sector, are now forced to borrow money to pay dividends or capital expenditures. …Exxon, Chevron and Conoco, had $80.9 billion in net income profits in 2011, and dropped that to $3.7 billion in 2016…;”  Rex Tillerson, our new Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon, could not get a job in the real world, having such an abysmal record. As SRS Rocco notes, “While the Federal Government could step in and bail out BIG OIL with printed money, they cannot print barrels of oil.”

Emboldened movements stand and face what have come to be called Black Snakes in a withering economy. President Trump will face a growing solar and efficiency economy; and even his Presidential powers cannot change what we know happened and what we feel.

Standing Rock is a state of mind. It rekindled a memory of a people, not only a free people, but a people who faced their fears, knowing that the economy of the Wasicu (White Man) is a powerful force, but it is not as powerful as the world we know. As Bravebull Allard reminds us, “They want to destroy this movement because it is too powerful because we stand in prayer. They don’t know that this is just the beginning. Tomorrow we will be stronger in prayer. Remember how history will record you as the people who stood up to save the water and the world, or the people who betrayed the world. You all have a name in history. Where are you in this time and place? The world is watching…”  The Water Protectors are everywhere.

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