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Political Matters
Political Matters: U.S. Steel vs. manoomin
Friday, March 27 2015
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgIn late March, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said that the state’s environmental standard for protecting manoomin (wild rice) was outdated scientifically and was threatening industrial development Up North.

At issue is state permitting for U.S. Steel’s Minntac plant, in Mountain Iron, the largest taconite operation in the U.S.

The facility’s taconite waste pit has been polluting the local watershed for decades; and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed state officials in January that the company is violating the Clean Water Act.

In a March 24 interview with Minnesota Public Radio News, Gov. Dayton addressed the state’s sulfate standard for wild rice waters.

“U.S. Steel has made it very clear — and they closed down the Keewatin plant, they’re still operating the Minntac plant — but they made it very clear that they’re not going to agree to a permit that has a standard of 10 [milligrams of sulfate per liter],” Dayton told MPR reporter Tom Scheck.

The governor said that the allowable sulfate level for wild rice waters “was posted in 1940, and established in the 1960s and ’70s, as the standard, which is not even applied to most other projects in Minnesota or any other place in the country. So, MPCA [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] is going to be coming out shortly with a way of taking the updated scientific information and applying that to protecting the wild rice in the waters, which we certainly want to do, but it’s got to be done in a way that is based on current science and current information, and not something that is antiquated. We can talk with the EPA about collaborating with us in doing that and going through a public process to work that out.”


Political Matters: Ma'iingan update
Thursday, February 05 2015
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgThe Minnesota House of Representatives now has a Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee. Such a thing didn’t exist when I worked as a writer at the House Public Information Office, in 1994 and 1995. I covered meetings of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, on the House side of the Capitol. The late Willard Munger, a champion of the natural environment in Minnesota, chaired the committee. He often waged a lonely, uphill fight – against an array of well-funded industry lobbyists and the elected officials in their service – for measures that would have encouraged sustainability for the benefit of our planet.

Anyway, the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy panel held an informational hearing about ma’iingan, brother wolf, on Jan. 20. As I wrote briefly in my last “Political Matters” column, on Dec. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell, in Washington, D.C., ruled that wolf management in the western Great Lakes states should be returned to federal control.

Judge Howell’s decision, on a motion brought by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups, upended the regime of wolf hunting and trapping that ensued after the wolf was removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, in April 2011, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes, in January 2012.

However, agriculture interests and hunting groups want to put the wolf back in the gun sights and traps, so some members of Congress are getting into the act. In January, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), is leading an effort to legislatively undo Judge Howell’s decision.


Political Matters: #BlackLivesMatter at MOA
Tuesday, January 13 2015
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgOn New Year’s Eve two years ago, Idle No More, the activist movement for Indian rights that started in Canada and spread across North America, staged a round dance at the Mall of America that drew hundreds of participants. When the group tried to repeat the event on Dec. 31, 2013, organizers Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow were arrested when they entered the mall.

In a way, Idle No More’s tactics were the precursor to the Dec. 20 #BlackLivesMatter demonstration, which brought several thousand folks, a mainly young, racially diverse group, to the East Rotunda of the largest mall in America.

On one of the busiest Christmas shopping days, MOA officials brought in dozens of private security guards, and cops from around the Twin Cities reinforced the Bloomington PD troops trying to repress the demonstration against the recent police killings of unarmed black men and children. In the end, the huge throng that came to the mall on a Saturday afternoon forced the assembled security force to do what it could to contain the protest, by closing about 80 stores and blocking off aisles leading to the packed rotunda. There were 25 arrests, according to press reports.

MOA officials whined to the press about protesters intruding on their (taxpayer-subsidized, publicly accessible) private property and the inconvenience to holiday shoppers from the mass demonstration. Thankfully, the Bloomington riot cops behaved with restraint and the protest proceeded in a boisterous and nonviolent way.

Political Matters: 'An act of war against our people'
Friday, January 09 2015
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpg‘An act of war against our people’

I tried to call Cyril Scott, the president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate), after Thanksgiving. Nobody in his office was answering the phone; but I was a little surprised that the on-hold music was “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix. So, there’s that.

On another tangent, I recall visiting Rosebud more than 30 years ago. I stopped on the way to one of the Black Hills survival gatherings, in 1979 or 1980, and interviewed Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota spiritual leader who came to prominence during Wounded Knee II. And I later spent time at Crow Dog’s Paradise to support a friend on a Vision Quest and at a Sun Dance.

On one of these trips, I traveled by car from Minneapolis with friends and we stopped in Winner, on the eastern border of the rez. The off-reservation towns in South Dakota and Nebraska have a reputation for anti-Indian racism. As we were about to enter a café in Winner, my friend, who was from Rosebud, commented, “Mordecai, they don’t like Indians here; but after Indians, they don’t like Jews.” I was a stranger in a strange land.


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