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Local Briefs
Protecting our water
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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In my May column, I promised to write more about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) investigation into Minnesota’s compliance with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

As the state prepares to consider a number of permits sought by PolyMet Mining Co. for its copper-nickel mine and processing plant in northeastern Minnesota, it appears that Minnesota has been asleep at the switch in monitoring pollution from taconite mining and other industrial facilities – over several decades.

The environmental group WaterLegacy petitioned the EPA last year (July 2, 2015), calling on the agency to withdraw the state’s authority to enforce industrial pollution permits under the CWA. WaterLegacy argued that some 25 mining facilities in the state are operating with expired permits, putting water resources and wild rice at risk.

The EPA launched an investigation into the allegations of lax environmental oversight, and has now asked the Minnesota attorney general to respond to its questions by Aug. 12. The EPA wants to know how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) can protect our waters, especially after the Legislature passed measures in 2015 and 2016 that essentially exempted taconite mining operations from complying with a 40-year-old sulfate standard for waters that contain wild rice. Scientific studies have found that sulfide in lake sediment starves wild rice.

“This is about time, it’s been decades, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has just refused to enforce the wild rice sulfate standard,” said Paula Maccabee, WaterLegacy’s advocacy director and counsel, regarding the EPA deadline.

“The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has operated in a vacuum where the only real participants have been the mining companies,” Maccabee continued, during a phone interview in late July. She said that there has been a “complete failure to comply with the Clean Water Act” in Minnesota.

The 2015 state law that instructed the MPCA not to enforce the standard on sulfate pollution was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” according to Maccabee. She said that WaterLegacy had been amassing evidence of the state’s environmental performance for some months, then decided the time had come to “call out the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Legislature for failure to respect the Clean Water Act and failure to enforce laws limiting mine pollution.”

In addition to failing to enforce pollution regulations, the MPCA and legislators have succumbed to the “undue influence of mining industry lobbyists.”

When I worked at the Legislature, more than 20 years ago, and covered the House environment committee, progressive environmental legislation was shredded to bits. It took me some time to realize that industry lobbyists were behind the gutting of these bills.

In response to my question, Maccabee explained that WaterLegacy makes all of its strategic decisions “in consultation with the tribal staff.” For example, the group’s 2015 petition to the EPA to withdraw Minnesota’s authority for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program under the Clean Water Act, was based on documents and investigations by the water quality staffs of the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands (this has been corrected from the print version, which listed Boise Forte incorrectly).

I wrote in my May column that the Ojibwe bands say that state officials for the past eight years have ignored their concerns about the PolyMet copper-nickel project. Since the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved the PolyMet environmental impact statement, Indian band officials have turned their focus to federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which still need to grant permits for the controversial sulfide mining project.

The Indian bands have to be consulted during the environmental review process, because the PolyMet project threatens the health of the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory, beyond the borders of the reservations. The Indian bands retain rights to hunt, fish and gather in this territory.

At the end of our conversation, Maccabee explained, “WaterLegacy was formed to address the new threat of sulfide mining, which is a threat to Indian country, and a threat to the Boundary Waters, and a threat to Lake Superior.”

She commented that “regular citizens” often told her that if sulfide mining was going to come into the state, “Minnesota is a place where there is such tough regulations and such good enforcement. What we realized several years into this research is that that’s a myth: Minnesota does not enforce pollution control standards.” And Maccabee added that there are no standards for many new pollutants.

“The last thing we should do in Minnesota is experiment with sulfide mining,” she concluded, in view of state regulators’ failure to control “the much less toxic pollution from taconite mining.”

Nimiikinaa: Riding for the land
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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In July Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, lead a horse ride along Enbridge’s proposed route for Sandpiper and Line 3 in Minnesota. The horse ride followed the Enbridge proposed route between two of the most important wild rice producing lakes for the Ojibwe, both called Rice Lake – which were established as federal wild rice refuges by Congress for the exclusive use of the Chippewa at the beginning of the 20th century.
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winonahorse2.jpgThe road is interesting. Many of us do not travel these days. Opting instead to rest at home, often with the television or Facebook. We have become comfortable to view much of the world from the inside of our houses, sometimes our air-conditioned houses. That is until the big storms hit and there is no power. 
 
Let me tell you what it was like on the road for me. I’ve ridden horse for the past five days through the l855 treaty area, through Anishinaabe Akiing. I follow Dakota riders from the Santee Nation, who took their name in this world from this place – Isanti, the people of the knife. For eight thousand years, the people came to this territory to get good materials for knives – the primary equipment for feeding yourselves. Long before the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) our people used knives and knew the land. 
 
I am riding with Ojibwe people as well. We are riding together, through our territory, the territory upon which the Creator placed us. It is long after the l826 treaty, when the new white man, US government made a treaty between our nations. We had always made our own treaties and agreements before that. That is, after all, how nations govern themselves.
 
For many of the young men who joined us, this is the first time they have seen the lands of their ancestors. The riders  include Iyokpiya  Eastman, Monga, Matt, Jason (Skinny Bull) Garret, Westley and a little man of seven; Wakanhdi.
 
Many of these man have ridden with the Dakota 38 riders, those who commemorate the 38 plus 2 who were hung in Mankato in l864, the largest mass hanging in US History. These are the survivors of those families. And they are the most amazing riders, riding through minus zero temperatures for two hundred miles on horseback. They are strong riders.
 
The Ojibwe riders are led by Todd Utrech and Annie Humphrey. These are real riders, bronc and bull riders, thousands-of-miles-a-year-on-horse-back riders. Riders, with a big R. I am a rider with a little R, a “little C” cow girl. I tell the young men that, and we all laugh. Each, in our own way, is humbled by the horses and the beauty of the land. 
 
We began our journey at East Lake, Minisikaaning Minis, in the traditional territory of the Rice Lake Band of Anishinaabeg, home of several of the traditional drums of our nation, and the land near Sandy Lake. Sandy Lake is the place where hundreds of our people died. They died from starvation in the hard cold winter and their forced death march, brought about by the federal government – that was l850. We remember them.  
We stay at a place the Mille Lacs Band has purchased, and is now returning to a farm as a part of work to grow food for the community. Wolves are out at night, especially on a full moon, and the land is lush with the rains. Most of us camp but we keep a washing room at the local hotel, the Country Meadows. We can’t have more than a room there because the rest of the hotel is rented out to Canadian Mining companies, which have permits to explore for the miskwaabik, the copper ore.
 
The Tamarack Mine interests leased 35,000 acres of land not far from Big Sandy and Round lakes, and at last count had over l24,000 feet of drill core samples. The project is a venture of Talon Mining and Rio Tinto Zinc/Kennecott (the largest copper mining company in the world). A year ago, when I came to this village for the funeral of Mushkooub Aubid, the hotel was also booked by exploration crews. Geologists estimate more than 10 million tons of mineable ore lie below.
Dollar General and Enbridge Company take hits from courts
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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generaldollar.jpgIt may be time to work with Native people. Two court decisions, one at the US Supreme Court and another in Canada’s federal appeals court, came out against big companies who do business with tribes, and neglect tribal authority.

Late June’s US Supreme Court decision let stand a lower court decision acknowledging tribal government authority to regulate a non-Native business on tribal lands.  The case involved Dollar General, the discount retailer, and a sexual assault charge. After a 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, the Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians decision left intact the Fifth Circuit of Appeals decision.

The decision upheld civil jurisdiction of a Choctaw tribal court to hear a suit against the retailer Dollar General concerning an alleged sexual assault by one of its employees against a tribal member in a store on tribal land. The suit now continue in tribal court against Dollar General, and we should all probably be watching that… it will be interesting.

Up north, in a Canadian court ruling, the Enbridge Company had a major set back when the Canadian Federal Appeals Court ruled that the $7.9 billion proposed Enbridge Gateway Pipeline (a pipeline proposed from the Alberta Tar sands to the west coast) would not go ahead because of lack of tribal consultation. On June 30, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeals overturned approvals for Enbridge pipeline, finding, the government fell short in its obligations to consult with First Nations groups.

The appeals court ruled that while the federal government designed a proper framework to consult with First Nations during the planning of the pipeline, the execution fell short in a critical phase of the consultation process. Frankly, the Minnesota PUC might take note.

What does this all mean for the White Earth band, and Native people of the US and Canada?  It may mean that the times are changing; the era of pushing pipelines, mining projects or retail stores onto tribal land, with immunity from tribal jurisdiction or consultation is over. We will see…  
It may also mean that if a corporation enters into a consensual  agreement with a sovereign jurisdiction; that corporation’s activities will be subject to jurisdiction by that tribe…aka the sovereign jurisdiction.  

Over time, there has been little regard for tribal jurisdiction by non Indians who come onto tribal land. In fact, until the passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act ( VAWA 2014) there was no recourse for a Native woman  in a domestic dispute by a non tribal member on the reservation.

Until 2014, the ability of tribes to protect our most vulnerable was not guaranteed. Consider these statistics: 34% of Native women will be raped,  39%  will be victims to domestic violence; 67% reported  assailants were non-Native individuals. This set of facts is paired with little or no justice: U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of violent crimes that occur in Indian country; and 67% of cases declined were sexual abuse cases.

Under the 2014 federal law, there is now some recourse, but it is far from perfect.

To the Native community, the debate remained a clear example of a discriminatory legal system. Since the Supreme Court’s Oliphant decision stripped tribal communities of criminal jurisdiction over non- tribal members, many reservations like White Earth, with over half the residents as non-enrolled band members, face complex jurisdiction issues, ie: which cops, which agencies and which courts… let alone the three counties which have entrenched themselves inside the reservation borders. In short, it gets pretty confusing.

In contrast, Native people are prosecuted under both tribal and non-tribal law, and are eleven times more likely to be in prison than a non Indian. Native people are subject to the laws of a different political entity, but non-Native criminals have found themselves free of charges in Indian country.

Times may be changing. In 2003, Dollar General leased land from the tribe and entered into an agreement with the Mississippi Band of Choctaws. In a youth opportunity program, Dollar General enrolled a then-13-year-old tribal boy member into its youth-opportunity program. He accused a store employee, non-member Dale Townsend, of sexual advances and sexual harassment. Unresolved, his family brought the case to tribal court in 2005. Dollar General was named as a defendant through vicarious liability, and it filed to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the tribal court did not have the authority to try it.

The relatively narrow facts of the Dollar General case illuminate a larger set of questions increasingly being reviewed by US, Canadian and international courts. The core issue revolves around the idea of sovereignty – the right of a people to govern itself – and order their own affairs. Buried in the questions about jurisdiction over a $2.5 million civil suit are deeper questions about how the US (or in the Enbridge case, Canada) recognizes tribal authority and how and where sovereignty arises. In short the times seem to be changing; although the Indian wars are far from over.   

For the people of White Earth and other tribes, both cases may mean that our tribal government and legal institutions may be able to protect citizens from non Indian businesses who break our laws. I would say it is about time.

MN State Representative Flanagan Speaks at DNC Philadelphia, PA – White Earth citizen and Minnesota
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by The Circle,
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flanagan.jpgPhiladelphia, PA – White Earth citizen and Minnesota State Representative Peggy Flanagan made history as the first Native American woman to address the Democratic National Convention (DNC) from the podium.

The event, which took place July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Penn., had a record turnout by federally recognized tribal nations. According to the Clinton campaign, out of 4,766 DNC delegates, there are 147 American Indians.

Other Native events that took place during the DNC were the Native American Council and the Native American Caucus. The final day included invocation by Eddie Paul Torres Sr., the governor of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. He shared a prayer in the Tiwa language before offering remarks in English. Natives Americans were included in nearly every major speech.

Native women also had a strong presence at the DNC, including former Tulalip vice chair Deborah Parker, who spearheaded the writing of the Native American plank within the DNC platform, and Jodi Gillette and Kim Teehee, both of whom were senior policy advisors to President Obama on the Domestic Policy Council.

August Whats New
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by The Circle,
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Danielle Grant Named CEO of AchieveMpls

daniellegrant.jpgAchieveMpls, the strategic nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools, has announced the selection of Danielle Grant as the organization’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Grant stepped into this position in July, following the retirement of Pam Costain. 
 Grant has worked for Minneapolis Public Schools for the past nine years. She currently serves as Executive Director for MPS Educational & Cultural Services & Indian Education. She directed the development of a district-wide Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Memorandum of Agreement, secured over $3 million in competitive grants, realigned programming to integrate cultural relevance with academic rigor, established professional best practices for working with Native students, and created culturally-specific programs to engage families and communities with Native youth.

She serves on the boards of American Indian OIC and the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, and sits on the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Advisory Committee. She holds a Master of Public Affairs in Public and Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English from Marquette University.

MNHS receives grant to update Fort Snelling Historic District Designation

The Minnesota Historical Society has received a federal grant to update the historical designation of the Fort Snelling Historic District for both the National Register and National Historic Landmark listings. The update will result in a more inclusive description of what is historically important and why.

The current designation focuses on military history, from the arrival of Col. Henry Leavenworth and his troops in 1819 to the decommissioning of the military base at the end of World War II. The updated documentation will be more inclusive, recognizing all historical aspects of this place from American Indian history that dates back 10,000 years, to the stories of Dred and Harriet Scott, enslaved people who sued for their freedom, to the Japanese Military Intelligence Language School during World War II, and many more stories.

Over the next two years, MNHS staff will work with local communities and regional Tribal Historic Preservation Offices to re-examine the historical resources. The study will help determine the appropriate boundary and period of significance for the updated district.
National Historic Landmark and National Register designations are federal recognitions of historical significance. This documentation helps land managers protect the most important parts of a property.

Local writer wins 2016 national Artist Fellowship Award

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation has awarded its National Artist Fellowship to a new group of 16 artists in five categories, selected from a national open call of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artist applicants. The awardees reside in 14 states including author Susan Power (Yanktonai Dakota) of Minnesota.

During her fellowship, Power will continue completing her novel that centers on the lives of her five Native American student characters at Harvard (class of 2013), each from a different tribal nation. The friends seek to raise ancestor spirits and bring to light what many seek to keep hidden. They are preparing to turn the tables and do some teaching of their own.

The NACF National Artist Fellowship includes a monetary award that provides additional support for Native artists to explore, develop and experiment with original and existing projects. Fellows also work with their communities and share their culture in numerous ways.  

To date, NACF has supported 180 artists and organizations in more than 26 states and Native communities. To learn more about the National Artist Fellows and NACF’s work, visit: www.nativeartsandcultures.org.

Treasure Island begins $86 million expansion

Treasure Island Resort & Casino began an $86 million expansion with a ground breaking on July 12. The expansion will add two towers and 300 hotel rooms, a renovated front desk, new restaurant, and an expansion to the Lagoon Water Park.  
The towers, eight-story and seven-story, will connect to the current Eagle Tower, and will feature upgraded amenities. They will add 184,000 square feet to the hotel. The first phase is scheduled to be finished in 2017.
The Prairie Island Indian Community said the project will create around 200 construction jobs and 150 news positions.


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