Local Briefs
Tribal school in northern MN gets funds to rebuild
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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native_american_school_gets_federal_funding.jpgThe federal Bureau of Indian Education announced funding  to rebuild the crumbling campus of Leech Lake’s Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig tribal school.

For years now, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig high school students have been taught in a decades-old pole barn known as “Killer Hall” for its flimsy construction. When a storm rolls in those students sprint across a parking lot and take shelter in the middle school, because the high school might collapse under high winds.
Now the Bureau of Indian Education has allocated $11.9 million to replace the old pole barn, according to the office of Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Lawrence Roberts.

“We’re ecstatic about the money,” said Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig Superintendent Mary Trapp. “We’ve been waiting a long time for funding.”

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken said he’s been lobbying to build a proper high school building at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig for six years. For a long time, he said it seemed impossible to get traction.

“We dramatically underfund everything in Indian Country,” he said. “It’s deplorable.”

It’s been nearly two years since U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell toured the dilapidated school, saying at the time that she’d lobby Congress to fund a new $25 million high school building.

A year after that, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Rick Nolan toured the school again. At the time, Kline said the Bureau of Indian Education was tangled in bureaucracy and failing to take care of tribal schools.

“Washington must fulfill its promise to Native American students across the country,” Kline said in a statement. “I have long argued the Bug School is in need of dire replacement to address safety and educational needs of its students.”
While she’s happy that the bureaucracy seems to be untangling a bit, Trapp isn’t sure $11.9 million will be enough. The school is planning to build an addition onto the middle school to house high school classes.

“I have the plans on my desk,” she said. “A few things will have to be redesigned if we’re going to do this for $12 million.”
The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig replacement funds are part of a larger push to rebuild Bureau of Indian Education funded tribal schools across the country. Of the 183 run schools, 78 are in such poor condition, government inspectors recommend they be torn down and replaced.

A list of 10 schools in the worst repair was also released in April. Those schools are in line for replacement funding, though just how much funding is not yet clear.

Franken said Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig didn’t make the list of priority schools, but Minnesota lawmakers were able to find other funding.

While the 10 priority schools will still have to wait for money to be allocated and doled out, Franken said, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig will be able to start work within the year.

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

May What's New in the Community
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by The Circle,
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Emily Johnson wins Guggenheim Fellowship

emily_johnson_native_american_artist.jpgTwin Cities resident Emily Johnson (Yup’ik) has won the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship, the New York-based foundation has announced. Out of approximately 4,000 applicants, Johnson is one of the 200 creative artists, natural scientists and humanities scholars to win a Fellowship.

Guggenheim winners get varying amount of funding, which helps to support their work over a period of six months to a year.

Johnson, who has performed at Walker Art Center and Northrop, among other venues, is one of several Twin Cities-connected winners. Guggenheim Fellowships are only open to advanced professionals in mid-career.

The Foundation receives between 3,500 and 4,000 applications every year.


Priscilla Day wins 2016 President’s Award/Outstanding Service

presilla_day_wins_award_native_american.jpgPriscilla Day (Leech Lake Ojibwe), professor and head of the Department of Social Work at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is a recipient of the 2016 President’s Award for Outstanding Service.

The award is presented each spring and recognizes exceptional service to the University of Minnesota, its schools, colleges, departments, and service units by an active or retired faculty or staff member.

UM President Eric W. Kaler praised Day for her accomplishments, “Your excellence is a model for your colleagues and co-workers to emulate. True to the mission of this great land-grant institution, you have done more than your share to make the University of Minnesota one of the preeminent institutions in the nation.”

In addition to teaching and serving as department head, Day serves as director for the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare. She wrote “Bridging our understanding: American Indian family preservation,” for the Minnesota Department of Human Service and provides training on the subject. Her areas of research are American Indian family preservation and culturally competent practice.

Two events that honor recipients of the Outstanding Service award will be held in Minneapolis. The first is at a University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting on May 13, and the second is at a reception on June 16. The University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service was established in 1997 to recognize faculty and staff (current or retired) who have provided exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments and service units. Such service must have gone well beyond the regular duties of a faculty or staff member, and demonstrate unusual commitment to the University community.

Migizi Communications receives $702,000 grant

Migizi Communications has received at three-year grant totaling $702,000 ($234,000 annually) to support the Green Jobs Pathway that will involve 60 disconnected Indian youth per year to receive education, training, supports, and experiences needed to prepare them to become financially independent, self-determining adults.

The project will utilize the Back On Track model developed by Jobs for the Future to create a career pathway for American Indian youth to discover their cultural role as caretakers of the Earth, develop strong workplace skills, learn through their experience, and complete postsecondary coursework and credentials of value to secure living wage jobs as they build a career in the Green Economy. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The projects include:

• A 10-week Green Stewardship Institute focused on educating and engaging youth in hands-on learning and community service that promotes clean energy, energy conservation technologies, and environmental sustainability.
• Paid internships in high-demand green jobs in the private and public sectors
• Individual Development Accounts for youth savings for college
• Enrollment in dual coursework for college credits
• Enrollment and completion of postsecondary certificate, degree, or union apprenticeship in the green energy field.

The funding was made possible through a 3-year $3 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to Youthprise for Opportunity Reboot. SIF is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that is focused on improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States. Six organizations from across Minnesota were selected to receive 3-year grants ranging from $193,000 to $234,000 annually.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures buys Big Sandy Lake Lodge

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) has purchased Big Sandy Lodge & Resort, in McGregor, Minn. The sale includes the resort’s 18 lodge rooms, seven cabins, fourteen townhomes and a seasonal retreat log home, as well as The Pines Restaurant, The Bear’s Den Sports Bar & Grille, indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.

According to Joe Nayquonabe, Jr., CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, the McGregor area has been a market that has been on MLCV’s radar since beginning its diversification efforts in 2013. “Our roadmap calls for a mix of hospitality growth in targeted markets as well as acquisitions that allow us to expand the local business economy within all three districts of the Mille Lacs Band reservation,” Nayquonabe said. “Big Sandy Lodge has a reputation as one of Minnesota’s premier resort destinations. We look forward to expanding upon the resort’s rich traditions by leveraging our experience in hospitality.”

Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said that Big Sandy Lake is so important to the regional economy, but it is more than that for the Band. “We have a long history with Big Sandy Lake, and it is actually a very sacred place for Anishinabe people, so this acquisition was a perfect match for more than just business reasons. We are delighted to join the families of resort owners on Big Sandy Lake and honored to host the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener this year with Gov. Mark Dayton.”

MLCV made the decision to acquire Big Sandy Lake Lodge & Resort based on its strong performance and its unique position as a premiere up-north destination resort on the Big Sandy watershed. No immediate changes are planned, but MLCV will monitor business operations and look for opportunities to improve efficiency and profitability over time.

Comedian Ralphie May Blames “Ignorance” on US Education
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by Jon Lurie,
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ralphie_may_racist_comments.jpg“Humor,” said the Greek writer Taki, “is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on one’s bottom.” Comedian Ralphie May, the star of multiple Comedy Central and Netflix specials, was living proof of this last month.  A firestorm erupted across Indian Country in response to a 44-second audio clip of a May performance that surfaced April 5 on YouTube. A joke contained in the outtake came off as a rant against Native Americans, as it relied upon a litany of profanity-laced stereotypes for its set-up.

May describes Native Americans as “a bunch of unemployed alcoholics in need of haircuts” who have “never made it to the Bronze Age,” which is why white settlers took their land with “smallpox blankets and a bag of beads.”

May’s career has been riding high since he won runner-up in 2003 on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. But the response to the YouTube clip, which American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Clyde Bellecourt called “The most racist thing I’ve ever heard,” forced May to reflect on some of the material which gave rise to his success.

The comedian started posting defiantly on Twitter shortly after the clip began circulating. One of May’s tweets read: “Afraid, I will not be. Shamed, I will not be. Apologize, I will not. I am a man that stands on his own.” Another read: “I make jokes about whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Arabs, gays. None are PC but at the end of it they all show how hatred is stupid.”

May – a white American whose comedy stabs at just about everyone, himself included – said the clip had been edited and stripped of context that would have clarified his intent. In an interview with Indian Country Today last month, the comedian claimed to have Cherokee ancestry.

Meant to quell the controversy, May’s comments only drew more attention to it. One day after the clip was released on YouTube, it had been viewed more than 10,000 times, and the fallout was just beginning.

Public criticism of May focused on the Sanford Center in Bemidji where the 44-year old from Chattanooga, Tenn. was schedule to perform April 9. The event center addressed the matter on Facebook – first by saying they do not necessarily condone the views of their performers, and later by apologizing for booking May to perform. The Sanford Center said it would not cancel the show, citing a legal contract with May. One day after it issued its apology, however, Bemidji city manager Nate Mathews directed the Sanford Center to cancel May’s performance and refund tickets to customers “due to concerns about the appropriateness of what the comedy material could contain.”

Native Community - Drivers of Change
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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native_american_business_on_franklin.jpgChange is coming to Franklin Avenue in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis, but it need not drive out the Native American population that has put down roots there as their urban home for more than 50 years.

“We’re either going to be victims of progress or navigators of progress,” said Michael Goze, chief executive officer of the American Indian Community Development Corp (AICDC). Building affordable housing is an important tool for navigating the change, he said.

In October this year, one small but important step to preserving Native residency and cultural ties in the neighborhood will occur when Goze’s AICDC and Project for Pride in Living (PPL), another mission-driven nonprofit organization, open 32 new units in their Anishinabe Bii Gii Wiin housing project at 1600 19th St. South.

The new, three-story addition will increase apartments available in the campus to 77, all serving people who are disabled or low-income earners who are receiving public housing and living support. The existing 45 units in the complex are being remodeled as part of the $10.5 million project.
That barely scratches the surface on affordable housing needs in the general area, according to various research studies, although it is crucial for a segment of the neighborhood population with low incomes and disabilities.

The Phillips neighborhood is served by the Blue Line light rail system that runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America in Bloomington and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. With it comes commuting access to jobs and potential customers to local businesses. And that also brings the threat that transit availability will bring added upward pressures on rents and home prices.

This process of changing neighborhoods is called “gentrification” by sociologists and urban studies professionals. Some of this is inevitable and is already visible along Franklin Avenue. It raises the challenge for the Native community to either be victims or drivers of the change, Goze said.
“All communities (neighborhoods) need good mass transit to have opportunities,” he said. But with greater opportunities, he added, “we are seeing more competition for land and space for housing and business development.”

Film Review: Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Tuesday, April 05 2016
Written by Andrea Carlson,
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On March 11th The Walker Art Center hosted the Twin Cities premiere of Chloe Zhao’s debut feature, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” a quiet story set against the backdrop of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The film tightly follows the tender relationship of eleven-year-old Jashaun Winters (Jashaun St. John) and her older brother Johnny (John Reddy). In the wake of the death of their estranged, bull-riding father, Johnny’s secret plan to leave the reservation for Los Angeles with his girlfriend becomes more attainable. He buys his late father’s truck and his situation becomes more violent as his side-job of bootlegging alcohol reaches an impasse. For all of the reasons he needs to leave, leaving Jashaun looms as an increasingly cruel intent.

“Songs My Brothers Taught Me” is subtile storytelling told through portraiture. Although the story opens and ends with Johnny’s first-person voice over, the story is demonstrative and shown, not told. There are no overt explanation that alcohol is illegal on Pine Ridge, Johnny is warned about “the protests” and Johnny is beaten, but Zhao isn’t interceding and offering up a textbook history lesson for her characters’ situation. The story doesn’t take on the responsibility of educating white people. This is an important and surprising nuance of the film. So many films that focus a lens on reservation life are in the business of offering up explanations and elucidating Natives for an outsider’s eye. That is because many films about Native people are usually made for a non-Native market.

In 2002 Native Amerian director Chris Eyre pointed out a big problem with Natives on film. Native people rented movies but often didn’t have access to theaters on many reservations. He premiered his film “Skins” at Pine Ridge from a mobile theater that sat one hundred people in a semi-truck as part of the film’s “Rolling Rez Tour.” Eyre had filmed “Skins” entirely on Pine Ridge and wanted to make sure the people could see his film first... for free. Although many films have been made on or about Pine Ridge, the Lakota community there had no theater until 2012 when the Nunpa Theatre (nunpa means two in Lakota) was opened. A small victory resides in the fact that “Song My Brothers Taught Me” is showing at Nunpa Theatre in the community where it was produced.

The film also features some very insightful, nuanced perspectives that no-doubt reflect on Zhao’s capacity for quickly adapting to communities. Her work has been compared to Terrence Malick for its pacing, quietness and beauty. But, unlike Malick, who directed The New World (2005) a film about John Smith and Pocahontas, Zhao created a contemporary portrait, a deeply thoughtful film that doesn’t perpetuate the idea that Native people belong to a romantic, idealized past, but that we belong, create and thrive today.

Much of the story relies on characters teetering on the edged of two states. Irene Bedard, the voice of Disney’s Pocahontas who also played Pocahontas’ mother in Malick’s The New World, plays the role of Lisa Winters, the repentant alcoholic mother of Johnny and Jashaun. Lisa seeks redemption in church looking for a heavenly father for her fatherless children, while Johnny and Jashaun walk the cathedrals of the Black Hills. The landscape is a character in this film, the tight framing on the characters faces in interior spaces is opened up in the instances where the landscape floods in. This also seems Malick-esque.

Another angle to the inside/outside community element of this film’s production is that the director, Chloé Zhao is Chinese-American filmmaker who immigrated to the United States by herself when she was fourteen years old. She spent four years making Songs My Brothers Taught Me and adapting to the community. Many directors hop from community to community seeing places as slates for films, yet not being fully vested in any one community. Zhao’s next film may be telling as to what themes and patterns she establishes over her career, and I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.

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