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Local Briefs
CDFI Fund awards 10 Million to facilitate community housing and development
Friday, October 15 2010
 
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The CDFI Fund of the United States Treasury awarded more than $10 million to 45 groups in 19 states to facilitate community development, housing, and other economic development for American Indians. The American Indian Community Development Corporation, in Minneapolis, received a technical assistance grant of $108,322 to help it become a standalone CDFI. Its mission will be to promote homeownership among Indian households throughout Minnesota.
Local and regional awardees, include the following:
• The First Nations Oweesta Corporation of Rapid City, S.D., recieved largest award, for $650,000. The group will use the money to increase lending to its target market, Native American communities across the country.
• The Ho-Chunk Housing and Community Development Agency, in Tomah, Wis.,  received $149,858 to create a standalone CDFI that will provide mortgage loans and other financing in the Ho-Chunk Nation.
• The Teton Financial, in Rapid City, S.D., received $150,000. It provides closing cost, downpayment assistance, rehab loans and home improvement loans to Indians.
• The Wigamig Owners Loan Fund, in Lac du Flambeau, Wis., received $82,280. It provides home repair loans and down payment assistance to members of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation.
• And the Four Bands Community Fund, of Eagle Butte, S.D., has gotten $649,946. Four Bands provides microloans, small business loans, Individual Development Accounts and other services to the residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
 In all, more than 15 of the awards involve funds for housing or mortgages.


MN Office of the Secretary of State Open Appointments
The Secretary of State’s Office has vacancies affecting Native communities. Application forms may be found at: www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=5 or applications may be obtained from the Office of the Secretary of State, Open Appointments, 180 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155-1299, or in person at Room 180 of the State Office Building. Applications submitted by August 24, 2010. The positions are:
• Positions include the Ombudsperson for Indian Families. Appointing: Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. Compensation: None. Vacancies: Two members. The ombudsperson monitors agency compliance with laws governing child protection and placement, as they impact Indian children through work with the courts, court officials, policy makers, service providers, social workers, guardians ad litem, and training. The ombudsperson has the authority to investigate decisions or acts, and other matters of an agency, program or facility via complaints, systems and personnel, or upon personal initiative.  
Membership requirements: All five members should be members from the Indian community. Four full board meetings are held each year; and at least six individual community board meetings. Meeting location varies in Twin Cities.
• Urban Indian Advisory Board -Duluth. Appointing: Minnesota Indian Affairs Council Board of Directors. Compensation: $55 per diem, plus expenses.Vacancies: One - Duluth Representative. The Advisory Council on Urban Indians was created to advise the Board of Directors on the unique problems and concerns of Minnesota Indians who reside in the urban areas of the state. The council must be appointed by the board and consists of six Indians residing in the vicinity of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bemidji. At least one member of the council must be a resident of each city. Meeting schedules and locations are not determined and will vary among Statewide locations. MUIAC will meet a minimum of 4 times a year.


Red Cliff Band gets loan from Shakopee to build a new casino
The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin has secured a $23.5 million loan from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community of Minnesota to build a new casino.
The Isle Vista Casino and Hotel will be located on the shores of Lake Superior. It will feature 300 slot machines, eight table games, a 60-seat bar and restaurant, a 24-seat snack bar, a 50-room hotel with a swimming pool, and an entertainment and conference center with a banquet capacity of 300 seats.
The facility replaces a smaller gaming hall on the reservation. Construction is expected to start later this summer or in early fall.
Exploring Minnesota for metals
Friday, October 15 2010
 
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The copper rush in northeastern Minnesota made the news in late July, when Canadian-based Duluth Metals inked a partnership deal with Antofagasta, a Chilean-based mining firm, to develop what an industry source called a “large scale copper-nickel-platinum-palladium-gold project.”
Antofagasta is putting up $130 million for a 40 percent stake in the joint venture, Twin Metals Minnesota LLC.
The Nokomis Project, as this proposed sulfide mining operation is called, has set off alarm bells among environmentalists, who point out that its location on the South Kawishiwi River poses a threat to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
Earlier this year I wrote about another project, PolyMet Mining’s proposal to open the first sulfide mine in Minnesota – in a location within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory. Briefly, this type of mining across the western United States has a track record of leaving behind toxic metals and significant water pollution.
The tribal signatories to the 1854 Treaty – the Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage Ojibwe bands – are “cooperating agencies” for the environmental review of the Polymet project near Hoyt Lakes.
As I reported in March, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Polymet mine, sending the company back to the drawing board.
In late July I spoke with Nancy Schuldt, water projects coordinator for the Fond du Lac Band’s Office of Water Protection. I opened the telephone chat with Schuldt by asking her to outline the Fond du Lac band’s concerns about sulfide mining. “How long do you have?” she responded.
She mentioned first that Fond du Lac is one of the tribes in the U.S. that has “federally approved water quality standards. We are essentially a water quality regulatory authority; and we are downstream of the existing taconite mines,” and NorthMet, Polymet’s proposed sulfide mine.
She then mentioned the 1854 Treaty, which reserved “in perpetuity” (forever) the previously mentioned bands’ rights “to hunt, fish and gather from those lands that were ceded to the U.S. government. The exercise of treaty rights is an important issue… pretty central to maintaining and asserting sovereignty,” and allowing band members to preserve a “culturally traditional lifestyle” in the modern day. On this latter point, for example, there is the harvesting of manoomin, wild rice.
Schuldt said that the State of Minnesota has acknowledged a decline in wild rice. She also pointed out that Minnesota “has a single… criterion in their water quality standards for the protection of wild rice… a sulfate criterion of 10 milligrams per liter.”
Pollutants from existing taconite mining operations, carried into the Fond du Lac Reservation by the St. Louis River, have elevated sulfate in surface water; and Schuldt pointed out that PolyMet proposes to do its processing “on the old LTV [taconite] site, and they already have a nasty leaking tailings basin that has a high sulfate discharge. [PolyMet’s] production is only going to make that worse; and there are wild rice waters in the vicinity of their proposed discharge.”
Beyond the Twin Metals and PolyMet proposals, a veritable copper-nickel rush is on up north. Schuldt mentioned that Franconia Minerals is doing “significant exploration” at Birch Lake, which focuses on copper-nickel deposits underneath the lake. Another mining outfit called Teck Cominco, which is based in Vancouver, B.C., holds mineral leases from the state and private owners on the Mesaba deposit. And Rio Tinto, the parent company of Kennecott, is exploring aroud Tamarack, which Schuldt said is near Fond du Lac but not in the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory.
Betsy Daub, policy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, told me that there are 100 permits to explore around Birch Lake, “right in that little pocket.” She said that both the Twin Metals and PolyMet proposals are “worrisome” because of the risk of water pollution.
In regard to the official endorsements for sulfide mining, she allowed, “Politicians have sort of stepped in line to support Polymet.” However, after the EIS was rejected, Daub noted that there have been a “few voices” saying that this new type of mining, if approved, must be done right.
Daub also mentioned that her group has been working closely with the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands. She said that the Ojibwe bands “hold a key and important role” in offering a critical point of view in the environmental assessment of mining projects.
Amid the lingering recession and bleak employment picture, there will be concerted pressure to boost any economic development scheme for northeastern Minnesota, even projects like sulfide mining that pose a huge downside of environmental degradation.
The mining juggernaut has come to Minnesota, and a popular movement is needed now to counter misbegotten plans to rip up the woods and wetlands for short-term profit and leave a devastated landscape behind.
Oil and gas accidents are nationwide, says a report
Friday, October 15 2010
 
Written by Sharon Rolenc,
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As Congress debates a response to the BP oil spill, a new report from the National Wildlife Federation details a full decade of oil spills, gas leaks and other disasters involving fossil fuels across the country, including several incidents in Minnesota. Report author Tim Warman says it includes a map that indicates not a single state has been spared from oil and gas accidents.
“There have been accidents in every state and, if you look at the Gulf of Mexico where the BP spill is, you can’t really see the Gulf for the number of small dots we have, indicating where accidents and leaks have occurred.”
Among incidents detailed in the report: an Enbridge Energy pipeline leak on Minnesota’s Leech Lake Reservation in April 2010. Since that time, there have been other incidents with the same pipeline, according to Diane Thompson with the Leech Lake Band of Objibwe, including one that involved a 48,000-gallon crude oil spill. She says some are as recent as this July.
“We’ve had two incidents within the last two weeks regarding a flange that had leaked, and they cleaned up two barrels of crude oil. Yesterday, we had another incident where natural gas had leaked from one of their pumping stations.”
Thompson, who is the tribe’s hazardous waste manager, says part of the challenge is an aging pipeline that dates back to 1952 and has shown signs of wear in numerous locations. The pipe is covered in asbestos, and a recent leak that resulted in a wildfire occurred near a lake. She says other leaks could have gone undiscovered or unreported, with potentially serious consequences.
“We have a large reservation here that it could affect our resources – our lakes, rivers, wetland, wildlife. In any big disaster, it would be a lot of population that would be affected.”
Warman says the incidents illustrate a pattern of irresponsible practices that place profits ahead of communities and the environment. As Congress debates new industry regulations, Warman hopes to see stronger rules put in place to hold oil and gas companies accountable.
“Liability for accidents, disasters, loss of life that they cause is severely limited – and we need to put that financial responsibility back.”
The report, “Assault on America: A Litany of Petroleum Company Destruction,” can be viewed at http://tiny.cc/9bdgy.
Native youth farmer markets sell veggies from heirloom seeds
Friday, October 15 2010
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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 Two new farmers markets serving the Twin Cities American Indian Community have sprung up in recent weeks. These unassuming produce stands, comprised of just one or two tables each, would be easy to miss. It would be a mistake, however, to equate the humility of these burgeoning enterprises with their potential impact. These markets are, in fact, the final link in a grand, multi-generational vision that has sought to restore the once prominent notion of food as spirit-nurturing medicine.  
Much of the produce offered at the Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) Indian Farmer’s Markets has been grown by Native farmers from heirloom seeds preserved by Potawatomi elder Cora Baker.
Baker, who passed away in 2000, was born in Michigan, raised a family in Wisconsin, and lived her later years in Nebraska. She preserved Native seeds everywhere she went. Many people gifted their corn, bean, and squash seeds to the woman who became known as the Keeper of the Seeds. She eventually collected over 90 varieties of Native seed.
Five months before her passing Baker wrote a letter to Dream of Wild Health, a ten-acre farm in Hugo, Minnesota dedicated to the revival of traditional farming.
“I prayed and prayed that someone would take this gardening up again. I am very pleased to learn about your project. I feel that the Great Creator has answered my humble prayers. With the help of my great grand-daughter and grandson, we set out to help you. I wish that someday the children will come to realize the importance of the garden,”  Baker wrote.
Today, Native American youth, known as “Garden Warriors” spend three days a week at Dream of Wild Health, performing all of the duties required in growing organic food – from planting, to harvesting, to bringing produce to market and selling it to the community at the Unci Maka Indian Farmer’s Markets.
On a recent Thursday morning along St. Paul’s Payne Avenue (one of two places where the youth sell their vegetables) 18-year-old Tatiana Williams (Lakota) tends the Unci Maka stand.  In her third year as a Garden Warrior, Williams says selling vegetables to the public represents a completion of her education as a Native gardener.
“I’ve learned how to produce healthy foods and how to make them taste great. I’ve learned about my culture, how to use tobacco, how to grow and dry it, and how to pray,” Williams said.
Tatiana and the 64 others that have participated as Garden Warriors since 2005 have also learned other practical life skills at Dream of Wild Health.
“They receive a pay check for their participation. So we have a bank representative come to the farm and teach them about financial literacy. They open accounts so they have somewhere to cash their checks and manage their money,” says Diane Wilson, the farm’s operations director.
Wilson says the Garden Warriors are chosen from throughout the Native community. “We get kids from Little Earth, throughout St. Paul, lower-income neighborhoods, foster homes – some have very hard stories. We help them prevent diabetes and obesity, by learning to change their relationship to food, by learning how to plant, harvest, cook, and sell food.”
At the second Unci Maka market sight in Minneapolis, the Garden Warriors are joined by student farmers from Nawayee Center School. The Native-focused public school at 2421 Bloomington Avenue South took a vacant lot a few years ago and converted it into a bountiful garden.
Center School students have also published a cookbook with their favorite recipes which is sold for $2 at the market. Recipes include: “Chilled Wild Rice Cranberry Salad,” and “Ta’Lana’s Ultimate Banana Split,” named for the student who invented the sweet concoction.
Nawayee Center School’s director Joe Rice says it took a leap of faith to invest precious educational resources in the garden project, but that the risk has definitely paid-off.
“When I see these kids taking care of our garden, growing these wonderful foods, and out selling those foods, acting like adults in the way they interact with customers, it gives me a lot of hope for the future,” said Rice.
Native performing arts groups formed to advocate inclusion
Friday, October 15 2010
 
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Concerned over a lack of voice and inclusion a group of prominent American Indian writers, directors and performers has joined together to form two new organizations that will promote and advocate for greater visibility and a stronger presence within the American mainstream theater industry. Tribal two new organizations are called the National American Indian Theater and Performing Arts Alliance and the American Indian Playwrights Guild.
“The American Indian community in America possesses an amazing roster of creative talents, particularly in theater and the performing arts,” said Hanay Geiogamah, a playwright-director and founder of Project HOOP, the national American Indian theater and performing arts advocacy program located at the University of California in Los Angeles.
“We feel strongly that it is time American Indian people take full and complete control of ours stories and images in all theater and performing arts initiatives,” Geiogamah said. “These two organizations will also create leverage for fundraising in an effort to provide critical support for American Indian artists and theater and performing arts organizations.”
Mark Anthony Rolo, a Bad River Ojibwe playwright and University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer, said the Playwrights Guild will help American Indian dramatists in protecting and promoting the artistic and financial value of their work.
“We want the mainstream theaters and funders to understand and recognize that our playwrights are the original, creative source of American Indian theater,” Rolo said. “The works they produce give voice to tribal communities and tribal people in all parts of the country, and we want the theater industry and funders to support our work.”
The Playwrights Guild would serve Indian playwrights similar to the national New York-based Dramatists Guild, which represents a wide array of American dramatists. Geiogamah said that the organizations will develop programs and services that will help strengthen and promote the work of American Indian theaters, performing arts groups and related groups in tribal communities across the nation.
“An important goal of the Alliance will be to promote a larger pubic appreciation and understanding of American Indian theater and the related performing arts. The Alliance will also promote, support and honor artistic talent and accomplishments,” Geiogamah said.
A who’s who of prominent American Indian theater artists joined in the founding session for the new organizations, including leading playwrights: Bruce King, Oneida-Ojibwe author of the acclaimed Evening at the Warbonnet; William YellowRobe Jr., Assiniboine Sioux, whose work includes the well-known drama Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers; Marcie Rendon, White Earth Anishinabe playwright based in Minneapolis and author of Songcatcher; Dianne Yeahquo Reyner, Kiowa tribal member who is the artistic director of the Kansas City-based American Indian Repertory Theater and author of Weaving the Rain, as well as Geiogamah and Rolo.
Geiogamah’s plays include Body Indian and Foghorn. Rolo’s works include What’s An Indian Woman to Do? and The Way Down Story.
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