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Political Matters
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, October 07 2011
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Strib ignores 1854 Treaty
A 1,700-word Star Tribune story about copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota described the issue as the state's "biggest environmental decision in a generation: Whether to open its arms to hard-rock mining, an industry that could bring thousands of jobs - and a record of environmental calamities - to the wildest and most beautiful corner of the state."
Reporter Josephine Marcotty's article in late September featured comments by local property owners opposed to sulfide mining and flacks for the mining companies prospecting in the "Duluth Complex," a geological formation in the Arrowhead region that contains an "enormous" amount of copper, nickel and other metals.
However, the article framed the controversy as tourism versus mining, and did not mention the involvement of the Ojibwe bands up north. The Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands lie within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory.
The Indian bands are especially concerned about sulfide pollution from the proposed PolyMet open pit mine and processing facility, and other copper-nickel projects. As I have written in this column, sulfates from mining wastewater settle in river and lake sediment; microbes change the sulfates into sulfides, which impede the root development of wild rice plants.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Saturday, August 13 2011
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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Poisoning the waters
The three-week Minnesota government shutdown ended with Gov. Mark Dayton signing a sheaf of spending bills, including the omnibus environment, energy and natural resources finance bill, which contained a provision weakening the water quality standard for wild rice waters.
I wrote about this proposal in my May and June columns, and noted that the legislative measure suspends the current 10 milligrams per liter standard for sulfates in waters containing natural wild rice beds. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) will conduct a study to determine a new water quality standard for the protection of wild rice. Also, the new law states that the PCA cannot require a company applying for a waste water discharge permit to install expensive equipment to treat sulfates emissions, while the situation is being studied.
This change in state environmental rules was sponsored by legislators seeking to ease the way for PolyMet and other copper-nickel mining firms that have projects under development in northeastern Minnesota.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, July 08 2011
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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Dakota memories of 1862
Some hard feelings don't soften that much with time - even after 150 years. The dispossession of the Dakota people from their homeland, in what became the State of Minnesota, is one example of unresolved historical pain.
Cora Jones, the tribal secretary of the Santee Sioux Nation, recently met me for a chat at the Wolves Den, the caf? in the Minneapolis American Indian Center. She is retired from a career that included work as a medical lab technician and with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Now she is active with a small committee of Santees that is trying to provide input into the upcoming events that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War that raged in southwestern Minnesota. This tragic chapter in the history of the nascent North Star State involved much bloodshed between European settlers and the native Dakota people. The warfare culminated in the cruel internment of Dakota men, women and children below Ft. Snelling, and the hanging of 38 Dakotas in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862 - the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
Treaty fishing in Minneapolis
Friday, June 10 2011
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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protests fish lake cedar.jpgCedar Lake, long famous for its skinny-dipping beach, was the site of an unusual treaty rights demonstration on May 13. Local Dakota activists put a net into the south Minneapolis lake and caught several dozen fish, which were confiscated, along with the gill net, by Department of Natural Resources officers.
The Dakota are asserting their rights under the 1805 Treaty between the United States of America and the "Sioux Nation of Indians." As I recall, there is a bronze marker on a large rock by Lake of the Isles that shows a map of the treaty area, which extends from Ft. Snelling across the scenic lakes in south Minneapolis. The treaty describes the Sioux land cession, about 100,000 acres, as "from below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters [Minnesota], up the Mississippi, to include the falls of St. Anthony [in downtown Minneapolis], extending nine miles on each side of the river."
Many Americans misunderstand the nature of treaty rights, and think that hunting and fishing rights are something given by the U.S. to the Indians. Rather, in 19th century land cession treaties, the Indian nations (which often had military supremacy over U.S. forces) gave up land and retained their rights to hunt, fish and gather in their traditional way.
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