Political Matters
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, August 24 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Contemporary Indian life
In his "Author's Note," at the end of "Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life" (Atlantic Monthly Press), David Treuer writes: "Like reservations themselves, this book is a hybrid. It has elements of journalism, history, and memoir.... It is meant to capture some of the history and some of the truth of reservation life."
Treuer, who has written three novels and a book of literary essays, has penned a worthy book, which illuminates contemporary Indian life on the rez - in particular, Leech Lake, his ancestral home, and other Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. "Rez Life," as Treuer notes, weaves together bits of history from Indian country, discursions on federal Indian law, personal commentaries by the author's friends and informants, and his own experiences on the land. Again, the book is replete with stories from Minnesota reservations, and the Minneapolis urban rez.
I found Treuer's latest work most compelling in the passages about his own remarkable family. Treuer is the son of Robert Treuer, an Austrian Jew who escaped the Holocaust, and Margaret Seelye Treuer, a lawyer and tribal judge. In one chapter, the author accompanies his mother to the tribal court at Bois Forte, and watches her dispense justice - "It is a strange thing to doff my cap and rise when my mother enters the room," Treuer writes. And the author's older brother, Anton Treuer, a major figure in the resurgence of the Ojibwe language, is profiled in the chapter about the late revered spiritual leader Archie Mosay, from Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. After finishing college, Anton apprenticed himself to Mosay, who was about 90. "Archie and my brother were friends," David Treuer writes. "During the time of high ceremonies my brother worked for him, sang for him, helped him into and out of his wheelchair, translated for him, and listened to him - every day for at least fourteen hours a day, for weeks on end. Deep affection, respect, and tenderness ran in both directions. And it changed my brother's life."
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Monday, July 30 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Pine Ridge's 'reign of terror'
When my professional journalism career, such as it is, began about 34 years ago, I learned about the case of Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement (AIM) activist serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of two FBI agents in a June 26, 1975, shootout at Oglala, on the Pine Ridge reservation (So. Dakota).
I began corresponding with Peltier, and later conducted prison interviews with him, in the 1980s. Peltier is still in prison, at the federal lock-up in Coleman, Fla. According to Wikipedia, his release date is Oct. 11, 2040, when he will be 96.
In the 1980s, I spent some time at Pine Ridge, and heard stories about the years following the 1973 government siege of Wounded Knee, the tiny hamlet that was liberated by AIM and traditional Oglala Lakotas from the reservation. The period from 1973 to 1976 saw an upsurge of political violence, as the BIA tribal government under Richard "Dickie" Wilson essentially terrorized the AIM faction at Pine Ridge.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Sunday, June 10 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Hunting wolves
I wrote in my May column that the Minnesota Legislature's bill to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season was awaiting a decision by Gov. Mark Dayton. The governor signed the bill in early May, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set an early wolf season to begin Nov. 3, the opening day of the firearms deer season, wherever rifles can be used to kill deer. If the quota of 400 wolves is not reached, a later wolf season (allowing hunting, along with trapping and snaring) would begin on Nov. 24.
The DNR states that Minnesota has the largest population of wolves in the lower 48 states - 3,000 wolves, a number that has remained stable over the past decade. Further, the DNR has set a winter population of 1,600 wolves as the minimum goal; if the state wolf population should fall below this number, the DNR would take immediate steps to restore wolves to the minimum level. As I mentioned last month, wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were removed from federal protection, in January 2012. So, each state has taken responsibility for wolf management.
I don't understand the mentality that favors killing wolves. They are not a threat to humans, and farmers can legally shoot wolves that are threatening their livestock. And, as I wrote in May, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa - which manages their reservation land as a wolf sanctuary - has complained to the DNR commissioner about not being consulted prior to the state setting up a wolf season.
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Thursday, May 17 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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De-listing the wolf
The American Prospect's March 13 issue featured a 5,500-word story about the killing of wolves in the Northern Rockies. "Wolves to the Slaughter," by Christopher Ketcham, recounts the history of the reintroduction of gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.
The effort to bring wolves back to this region of the American West followed decades of depredations against the species. The wolf, Ketcham writes, was "shot, trapped, poisoned with strychnine, fed glass shards stuffed in bait, its pups asphyxiated by fires set in their dens. By 1935, the gray wolf had disappeared almost entirely from the U.S."
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