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Political Matters
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Tuesday, March 12 2013
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Sulfide Mining Update
It's time to take another look at the grand plans to ravage northern Minnesota and kill off the remaining wild rice. Yes, I'm talking about sulfide mining, brought to you by a host of multinational corporations that are promising jobs, economic vitality and concern for the environment.
On this latter point, readers should know that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) assured the Japanese public that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station would operate safely, before there was an earthquake two years ago and equipment failed, the nukes melted down and radioactive materials were released into the atmosphere. This was the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine exploded, in 1986.
Likewise BP and its contractors satisfied the environmental regulators, prior to the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig three years ago. The BP oil disaster released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Thursday, January 31 2013
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Idle No More
I just got back from the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, where an Idle No More flash-mob round dance took place. What is Idle No More?
Well, it originated in Canada, and, in late December, it appears to be a grassroots movement spreading quickly and in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, who was entering the third week of a hunger strike in a teepee outside of the Canadian Parliament, in her quest for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Pamela Palmater, chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University and an indigenous activist, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen: "Idle No More is a coordinated, strategic movement, not led by any elected politician, national chief or paid executive director. It is a movement originally led by indigenous women and has been joined by grassroots First Nations leaders, Canadians, and now the world. It originally started as a way to oppose Bill C-45, the omnibus legislation impacting water rights and land rights under the Indian Act; it grew to include all the legislation and the corresponding funding cuts to First Nations political organizations meant to silence our advocacy voice."
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Wednesday, November 21 2012
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Minnesota's wolf hunt In late October, the hunting and trapping of wolves is underway in Wisconsin; and Minnesota hunters will start shooting wolves on Nov. 3, after the state Supreme Court rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the wolf hunt under rules established by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Two groups, Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biodiversity, argued that the DNR did not allow a sufficient period for public comment last summer, after issuing its "Adopted Expedited Emergency Game and Fish Rules: 2012 Wolf Season." The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hold a hearing at a future date on the lawsuit's underlying argument; but state courts decided that the wolf hunt did not pose the threat of "irreparable damage" to Minnesota's wolf population. The Wisconsin DNR reported that 25 wolves have been killed during that state's hunting and trapping season, which started in mid-October, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's encouraging for outdoor enthusiasts," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp commented, regarding the first 10 days of the wolf hunt in Wisconsin.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Wednesday, October 17 2012
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Sexual predators
My February 2011 column concerned a "plague of sexual violence" on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (South Dakota). My writing followed up on a story by Kathy Dobie in Harper's Magazine, which examined the epidemic of rape and sexual molestation on the sprawling reservation, and the grossly ineffectual response to these crimes by both tribal and federal authorities.
This deplorable situation in Indian Country continues to fester. In late September, a front-page story in the New York Times, "A Tribe's Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years," reported horrific accounts of the sexual molestation and rape of children on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation (North Dakota).
"Federal officials are now moving to take over the tribe's social service programs, according to members of the tribe, government officials and documents," the Times reported. "The action comes after years of failure by government and tribal law enforcement officials to conduct proper investigations of dozens of cases of child sexual abuse, including rape."
The article noted that these "crimes are rarely prosecuted, few arrests are made, and people say that because of safety fears and law enforcement's lack of interest, they no longer report even the most sadistic violence against children. In May 2011, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were killed on the reservation after being raped and sodomized."
While the U.S. government apparently is now taking action at Spirit Lake, Timothy Williams, the Times reporter, wrote that federal agencies "have sought to minimize the extent of the problem, including disciplining employees who have spoken publicly about sexual abuse and questioning the competence of others, according to federal and tribal officials."
Poverty and alcoholism are cited as factors behind the high incidence of sexual abuse and rape on these reservations. In any case, more resources clearly are needed to deal with this dire situation on the rez, a blight on the future of Indian life on the land.
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