Local Briefs
Red Lake Nation holds first indigenous food summit
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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redlakefood1.jpgHundreds of tribe members and others from around the region spent the weekend on the Red Lake Nation reservation in northern Minnesota learning how to grow and gather indigenous food.

The three-day event was the Red Lake Nation’s first Intertribal Food Summit which tribal leaders hope will spur the momentum of a movement among their people – a growing interest in returning to the food their ancestors grew, hunted and gathered.

As part of the event, Native chefs led cooking demonstrations, and there were classes on seed storage and grazing techniques. Foraging expert Kevin Finney took a group through the forest, looking for wild food.

The group of foragers headed for a piece of oak forest on the shores of Red Lake. On a cool day near the end of the growing season, Finney said he was not sure what they’d get.

“You might have wild onions that come out in the early spring and blueberries that come out mid-summer,” Finney said.

But the first crop they encountered wasn’t so hospitable. To reach the woods, the group had to hike across a vast field of poison ivy.

A few people turned back, but the majority, a few dozen students, pressed on. Finney was not concerned. He has a big beard and wore tall leather boots and a hat made out of bark. He said he’s immune to poison ivy.
Myles Lewis, a nutrition major at Bismarck’s United Tribes Technical College walked directly through the poison ivy in sneakers and gym shorts.

“I'll just go to the store, get some calamine lotion and Benadryl. I’ll be fine,” he said.

Five minutes later he broke off a stick from a tree and used it to scratch at the developing rash on his ankles.
The food summit also included a big meal catered by the Minneapolis-based chef Sean Sherman. Sherman is Oglala Lakota and is known as the Sioux Chef for his efforts to rebuild indigenous cuisines.
Brian Yazzie, who works for Sherman, calls himself the Sioux Chef’s sous chef.

redlakefood2.jpg“We have sumac right now. Staghorn sumac is in season right now. Wild rice. Walleye of course. That’s what I’ll be making for dinner,” he said. “That’s indigenous cuisine, everything we have right from our backyards.”

Sherman sent him to Red Lake a few days ahead of the summit to gather ingredients. The walleye and wild rice are from Red Lake. Yazzie planned to forage the seasonings, but his initial attempt did not yield much.

Foraging is hard work, Finney said. It would take a small group of people four hours a day, all year round to gather enough wild food to live.

“I would encourage you to look at it from a totally different perspective. How much of your time is it worth to go see your grandmother? Think about it in that sense. This is a relationship you have with the land.”

Red Lake economic development director Sam Strong said that’s not sustainable for most people on Red Lake. But eating processed foods isn’t sustainable either.

“Over the lifetime of humans we’ve been used to a more local organic type of food, and when we deviate off that path, you see a lot of the health problems that our people are encountering today – the diabetes, the higher rates of cancer,” he said.

Strong’s father and grandmother both struggled with diabetes. Strong battled cancer. He blames the illness on unhealthy processed food handed out by the government, and more recently, sold at the local grocery store.

Strong said it doesn’t have to be that way. Every year, the Red Lake tribal fishery pulls a million pounds of walleye from the lake. Tribal leaders recently started a large community garden and a seed library. They’re raising funds for a deep winter greenhouse to grow vegetables all year long.

Strong hopes to bring bison to the area and breed great herds of them.

“That’s the way you become food independent, and that’s true sovereignty. Food sovereignty, if you will,” he said.
Most food eaten on the reservation still comes from the Bemidji Walmart, but one day, Strong hopes Red Lake will feed its own people, without having to forage through fields of poison ivy.

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

Nearly wiped out by pollution, wild rice is coming back to northern MN
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by Dan Kraker/MPRNews,
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wildricecomeback2.jpgFor the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the St. Louis River estuary has been described as being as close to heaven as they get. It’s where the river slows and widens before emptying into the Lake Superior in Duluth.

“This was sort of a perfect place, a Mecca of sorts is what my uncle called it,” said Thomas Howes, the band’s natural resources director.
“Everything that one needed for a good life was provided by the environment here.”

That included wild rice, or manoomin in Ojibwe, a food that still plays a critical role in the cultural life of the tribe’s people.

Decades of human activity almost eliminated wild rice from the region. But now, several agencies are partnering on a landmark effort to restore wild rice to about 250 acres of the St. Louis River estuary over the next five to 10 years.

“From the time a baby is born, to when we send people off to make their journey into the afterlife, there are ceremonies, and manoomin is a central component of those,” Howes said. “A lot of people say, that if we don’t have that, then we cease to exist somewhat culturally as a people.”

Historically, the St. Louis River estuary may have sustained 2,000 to 3,000 acres of rice, one of the richest concentrations of rice in the region.

But over the past 125 years, industrial development, pollution and logging nearly wiped wild rice out, leaving behind only a few isolated pockets.

In the late 1800s logs were transported downriver so thickly lumberjacks could walk across them. Things got better for wild rice over time, though.

In 1978, a wastewater treatment plant went on-line, greatly improving water quality in the river. Over the years, contaminated sediment has slowly been removed from the river bottom.

“We’ve had such great improvements in water quality over the last couple of decades, that the time is right now to begin wild rice restoration because the water quality is high enough that we can bring the wild rice back,” said Daryl Peterson with the Minnesota Land Trust.

Peterson’s group, together with the Fond du Lac Band, Minnesota and Wisconsin DNR and other tribal agencies, is working on the current wild rice crop restoration project.

In September, Charlie Nahgahnub, a technician with the Fond du Lac Band’s Natural Resources department, fired up an air boat powered by a giant airplane prop. It was loaded down with 500 pounds of wild rice seed harvested from the White Earth and Leech Lake reservations.

Nahgahnub piloted the boat into a shallow backwater called Duck Hunter Bay. As he steered back and forth, two volunteers scattered seed on to the water’s surface.

“It’s tedious, but it’s fun,” said Danielle Yaste, with the Minnesota Conservation Corps, throwing the seed as if skipping stones. “So with your wrist, flick it so it goes out as far as you can, but also spreads out evenly. So it’s not in clumps, and it’s not too heavy.”

That way it distributes evenly, she said, and settles to the bottom, where next year it will hopefully take root in the sediment.

The Fond du Lac Band plans to seed around 12,000 pounds of wild rice into the river this fall. That’s on top of 8,000 pounds it planted last year.

The band has been restoring wild rice waters on the reservation for 20 years.

First, they cut and harvest invasive weeds that have taken over – kind of like mowing the lawn before reseeding. Then they spread the seed in the voids they create, handful by handful. They’re already seeing results.

Darren Vogt, Environmental Director for the 1854 Treaty Authority, another partner in the effort, just finished monitoring last year’s plantings. Wild rice grew this summer in all five bays they had planted last year, he said.

“There was at least some success everywhere. So that was an encouraging sign,” he said. “These kind of restoration projects are usually a multi-year effort, we don’t expect to seed once and be done with it, the goal is a self-sustaining population of rice. So it may take several years of seeding before things take well.”

While out on the St. Louis River, Nahgahnub pointed out where geese ate the rice just as it grew above the water’s surface. That’s a big concern for the rice moving forward, along with carp, which also like to feast on young wild rice plants.

Still, Nahgahnub hopes to someday harvest rice from the St. Louis River.

“There’s a whole generation that doesn’t know how to do this,” he said. “It gives me hope, they want to revive it, restore it, to what it was.”

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

Natives travel to the International Slow Food gathering in Italy
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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slowfoodsart.jpgIn an impressive fossil fuels travel day, I left the Standing Rock reservation and flew to Italy for the International Slow Food gathering known as Terra Madre. A world congress of harvesters, farmers, chefs and political leaders, this is basically the World Food Olympics. This is my fifth trip to Italy for Slow Food. I first went with Margaret Smith, when the White Earth Land Recovery Project won the Slow Food Award for Biodiversity in 2003 for our work to protect wild rice from genetic engineering.

This year, I went as a part of the Turtle Island Slow Food Association – the first Indigenous Slow Food members in the world, a delegation of over 30 representing Indigenous people from North American and the Pacific. We have some remarkable leaders, they are young and committed.

It is a moment in history for food, as we watch the largest corporate merger in history – Bayer Chemical’s purchase of Monsanto for $66 billion, with “crop protection chemicals” that kill weeds, bugs and fungus, seeds, and (likely to be banned in Europe) glyphosate, aka Roundup. Sometimes I just have to ask: “Just how big do you all need to be, to be happy?”

In contrast, the Slow Food Movement grows in depth and numbers. This year, 7000 people gathered from 140 countries to discuss clean, fair and good food, and how we will make that happen. Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s president, reminded us that this is food which is not produced by forcing others from their land, poisoning ecosystems or underpaying farmers. This is the conference of cool cheeses and meats, amazing produce, and lots of chocolate. Those who come, Carlo notes, come to reload themselves with “energy and self esteem.” We are, frankly, quite undervalued.

Why is this important?  Because on a worldwide scale two billion people suffer from hunger and a billion are obese.    You can guess which side of the equation most Americans are on. Food security is the security of society. That security will not be found in larger corporate mergers.

Consider this:  Indigenous farmers are already producing up to 70% of the food in communities, while industrialized agriculture, with $l3 trillion in investments, cannot actually feed the world.

If there are founding mothers and fathers of the Turtle Island Slow Food Association (our formal membership name in the l40 countries), some of them were present this year. Clayton and Margaret Brascoupe of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association (Santa Clara) have been staunch in their preservation of traditional seeds, and their nurturing of young farmers. Lorraine Gray (Mohawk/Tesuque Pueblo) remains committed to permaculture, longstanding leaders in the food systems. Patti Martinson and Teri Badhand (Taos Community Economic Development Commission), Dan Cornelius (Intertribal Agriculture Council) successfully worked to secure the purchase of both buffalo and wild rice from tribal producers for the commodities program. And Melissa Nelson, of the Cultural Conservancy, remains as a backbone of the Indigenous Slow Food Movement.  

But this Terra Madre really featured the leadership of a new generation of traditional farmers and food leaders. Denisa Livingston (Dine) has worked tirelessly to implement the Navajo Nation Junk Food Tax. Kaylena Bray has worked to restore California traditional foods; Victor Martinez to restore Ohlone food, language and culture.  Others include: Aretta Begay (Dine), Elizabeth Hoover (Mohawk, with a forthcoming book called Garden Warriors), Prairie Rose Seminole (Arikara) and of course, Sean Sherman (the Sioux Chef). As a Founding Mother (if that is what I am called) I could not have been more proud of these young people.  

Indeed the work is reaffirmed and so important. As Canadian researcher Pat Mooney explains, “Indigenous people work with 7000 crops and one million varieties, while the majority of industrial agriculture has whittled this down to l35 major crops and l03,000 varieties.”  Agribusinesses are clearly losers.

The very foods we grow or harvest have very special powers to combine. As Harriet Kuhnlein, from McGill University explains, “…corn, beans and squash;  some are nitrogen hungry and some are nitrogen producing...” Make a meal and all is balanced. “Singularly tortillas are at 62 on the glycemic index, and beans are at 22”, Kuhnlein explains.  Put together into a meal, they are at 32.

Plants are medicine. There are over 300 natural medicines in plants to reduce blood sugar. And the lessons of l0,000 years of agriculture and the Irish potato famine tell us that diversity is the answer; the way to adapt plants for climate and for survival.  

We live in a time, when 41 percent of Minnesota’s streams and lakes have excessive nitrogen, all of them in the state’s agricultural regions. Nitrogen is a primary cause of the vast oxygen-depleted area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the dead zone. That dead zone is about a thousand square miles of destroyed ocean. We live in a time when the climate will change, and industrialized agriculture is sucking up billions of dollars to create “climate smart varieties”, (about $l36 million per smart seed creation), when in fact those plants will not be as intelligent as the plants of our ancestors with all their adaptation and diversity.

To be sure, life makes strange bedfellows. Max Brooks, of the Modern War Institute at West Point, appears more concerned, than even I am, about the Bayer/Monsanto merger. Noting the 2013 US Supreme Court decision in Bowman v. Monsanto, which accorded intergenerational seed ownership to the corporation, Brooks is concerned about the half of US farm land already in GMO production and the foreign ownership of all of this food security.  “Crops… are the difference between life and death. …American farmers will now be buying those seeds from a foreign power, albeit a friendly one. And I mean a lot of seeds – Monsanto (through its various licensing agreements) controls 80 percent of the corn market and 90 percent of soybeans…”  Brooks is worried about the day when Bayer is purchased by a Chinese multinational and used as leverage in a political battle.  Basically, the company which brought gas to the Nazi gas chambers now has control over most American crops.  

In the end, what I want and I think we all want, is good food. I will venture to say that I also want a free healthy school lunch guaranteed to every child in America, and that will cost $ 5 a day per child to pay farmers a decent price.  That’s what I want. And I want to grow traditional corn without threat of genetic contamination or theft. And I would like to have water.

Petrini reminded us of who we are, “This is a movement which must be based on emotional intelligence. Bayer has bought Monsanto, but we are the multitudes and we are more powerful.”

And for all of you who are snickering at my international fossil fuels travel; I have a final word:  Jet Blue announced that it will be buying more than 330 million gallons of renewable fuel over 10 years to get ahead of the curve on greenhouse gases. Delta, you should follow suit. 

Winona LaDuke is founder and Executive Director of Honor The Earth .

October Whats New
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by Catherine,
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Tom Goldtooth To Receive Top Sierra Club Award

tomgoldtooth.jpgTom Goldtooth, a Native American environmental leader known nationally for his tireless efforts to defend Indigenous rights to a healthy environment and his dedicated work against fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline has received the Sierra Club’s 2016 John Muir Award.
 Goldtooth, of Bemidji, Minn., has spent more than 40 years helping Native American and indigenous communities worldwide address issues such as environmental protection, climate change, energy, biodiversity, environmental health, water, and sustainable development. Tom and his son Dallas have both been leaders on domestic and international efforts to keep fossil fuels in ground and foster indigenous-based environmental protection initiatives. Tom’s tireless work to elevate tribal opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was key to the project’s ultimate rejection by the Obama Administration. Tom has served as the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network since 1996 and is now helping lead and coordinate the ongoing tribal opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.
 The majority of the awards were presented at a ceremony in Oakland, CA on Sept. 10. For more information on the Sierra Club awards program, visit

Dr. Arne Vainio Recognized as Unsung Hero with $10,000 Award

arnevainio.jpgThe McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) have selected Dr. Arne Vainio of Cloquet as one of four recipients of the 2016 Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards.
Dr. Vainio is a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and a physician at the Min-No-Aya-Win Human Services Clinic on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation. Dr. Vainio spends long hours serving his patients at the clinic, as well as traveling to reservations across America to discuss native health, suicide and native traditions. His passion for health led to bringing his popular "Mad DR. Science Project” to many classrooms, with the goal of inspiring young Native Americans to take up careers in health and science.
Dr. Vainio received a cash prize of $10,000 from the McKnight Foundation and MCN during an awards luncheon at the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis on September 9. Award recipients will also be recognized at the 2016 MCN Annual Conference on October 6 in Duluth, MN.
Since 1985, The McKnight Foundation has recognized Minnesotans who have improved the quality of life for individuals and the community around them through the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service. In 2015, MCN partnered with McKnight to coordinate and present the first-ever Unsung Hero Awards, honoring individuals doing life-changing work in communities across Minnesota with little or no recognition.

Patricia Deinhart-Bauknight is New Wicoie Nandagikendan ED

Patricia Deinhart-Bauknight is the new executive director of Wicoie Nandagikendan.  Patricia has worked in Indian Country for many years. She was a Program Officer at The Saint Paul Foundation and Northwest Area Foundation.  Patricia has also worked as executive director of Whittier Alliance and Whittier Housing Corporation.  For 10 years Patricia was president of the Volunteer Network in Chicago providing management and technical assistance to emerging community organizations throughout the City.
Most recently, she was a partner in The Urban Design Lab, a Northside business, focused on designing and implementing community engagement processes to meet specific project needs; conducting research to develop and evaluate programs; facilitating community strategy development; grant writing and management consulting.

Audra Tonihka named one of the Top Women in Finance of 2016

Finance & Commerce have announced their Top Women in Finance awards. Top Women in Finance honorees were judged for their leadership and service to their community, professional accomplishments and dedication to the profession. Among the honorees is Audra Tonihka of White Earth Investment Initiative, Midwest Minnesota CDC. Tonihka is an enrolled White Earth tribal member who grew up in the community of White Earth and received a bachelor’s degree in business management. Prior to joining the White Earth Investment Initiative staff, she served as a loan officer for the tribal credit union.
Finance & Commerce will recognize this year’s Top Women in Finance at a Nov. 17 event. This is the program’s 16th year of honoring women in finance, business and other sectors.
For more info, see:

Watermark Art Center awarded $47,951 for Native programming

Watermark Art Center is a recipient of an Art Access grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Watermark has been awarded $47,951 for program development relating to its Native American gallery and efforts to foster strategic, long-term engagement with regional Native American artists.
“We are thrilled about what this means to future programming at the art center, as well as for area Native American artists,” said Watermark Executive Director Lori Forshee-Donnay.
“Receiving an Arts Access grant provides Watermark the opportunity to further implement the ongoing efforts of our Native American Gallery committee. This opportunity is significant for the Watermark and for the region.”
The grant will expedite Watermark’s plans for the dedicated Native American Gallery by providing funding for a program director, outreach and artist development, and design and construction of gallery cases to display artwork, culminating in a guest artist juried exhibit in 2017.
Funding for the Arts Access grant was made possible through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and Cultural Heritage Fund passed by the Minnesota voters on November 4th, 2008.
Reusing, Restoring in Indian Country
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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deconstruction3.jpgThe abandoned Eagle View Motel at Cass Lake, on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, is coming down in pieces with useful materials stored for later use in building projects in northern Minnesota. Come November, another crew of workers from the Miigwech Aki Deconstruction Co. will do similar salvage work on the remodeled and expanded Grand Portage Lodge and Casino.

Miigwech Aki Deconstruction (“Thank you Earth” in Ojibwe) is a business and training unit of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center at Bemidji. Both the Leech Lake and Grand Portage Bands of Ojibwe contracted with the firm because the salvage work it does, leading to recycling and reusing building materials, is consistent with widely shared cultural goals throughout Native American communities.
The environmentally sensitive work would be reason enough, said Bryan Lussier, the Leech Lake compliance officer for the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO). But it is more than that, he added. Contracting with Miigwech Aki “is a form of reinvesting in the community. We want to keep trained, productive people up here.”

Chris Bedeau, director of the program for the Bemidji-based community development center, said 17 construction–deconstruction workers  went through four days of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training and one day of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training before starting work on the Eagle View project in September. Most of the workers were residents of Leech Lake while at least one was from Red Lake and another was from Bois Forte, he said.

These workers are now certified from that training. That knowledge and talent is a benefit to the entire northern Minnesota area, said Leech Lake’s Lussier.
“This was the right fit,” he said. “We have worked with Chris and the Northwest Indian (Community Development) Center in the past, and we have many of the same objectives.”

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