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Political Matters
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, June 10 2011
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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Update on wild rice and sulfates
As I wrote in this column last month, some Minnesota lawmakers are intent on throwing out a section of environmental law that protects wild rice waters, in order to ease the way for copper-nickel mining in the northeastern part of the state.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Tuesday, May 10 2011
 
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Wild rice and sulfate levels
The 2011 Minnesota Legislature has adopted a two-pronged approach to American Indian concerns: allow increasing levels of water pollution to kill wild rice beds and expand gambling to wreck the tribal casino economy. It's really breathtaking - and it's a bipartisan effort.
The Republicans, who took over both houses of the Legislature in the 2010 elections, are leading the charge to put slot machines in every bar, restaurant and Porta-Potty across the North Star State. DFLers - notably Sen. Tom Bakk, from Cook, and Rep. Tom Rukavina, from Virginia - are pushing the effort to loosen environmental regulations on behalf of the foreign-owned copper-nickel mining firms exploring in northeastern Minnesota.
In my August 2010 column, I wrote about the companies lining up to tear up the north woods in the pursuit of sulfide mining. This type of mining would be new to Minnesota; but it has a terrible track record of polluting surface waters with toxic metals across the western U.S.
In Minnesota, concern is growing that run-off from copper-nickel mine waste will pollute waterways that support wild rice beds. Since some of the mining projects are within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory, Ojibwe tribal officials are closely monitoring the proposed extractive projects.
The current legislative wrangle - which is not getting as much attention as, say, efforts to build a new Vikings stadium - concerns the water protection standard for wild rice waters.
Native American Somali Friendship Committee works toward dialogue and understanding
Sunday, March 13 2011
 
Written by Jacob Croonenberghs,
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somali indian committeeNative American and Somali communities in Minneapolis have lived close to each other ever since the first refugees of war-torn Somalia began to arrive in the early '90's. The attraction of jobs and services in the cities has been offset by the conflicts that have arisen between Native and Somali youth. Assault and sexual abuse have been reported in the past, and members of both communities have voiced concern about the safety of their neighborhoods.
A high profile crime in January of last year brought the issue to the wider public. Violence, human trafficking, and housing placement are just some of the issues facing both Natives and Somalis in Minneapolis.
To stop the violence, and begin a dialogue between the two communities, the Native American Somali Friendship Committee (NASFC) was formed.
"It was really a series of linkages," says Terri Yellowhammer, an Indian Child Welfare Consultant and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "There was an email sent out expressing anger over a Native woman who was attacked. I forwarded it on to other community workers and the idea to get together started."
Kristin Berg Thompson, a Minneapolis Public Schools Liaison, responded to the email. "I read this letter, and thought, 'Ok, what do I do with this?' I talked to Terri and asked if I could help. I wanted to bring members from both communities together and so I sent the email on to members of the Somali community."
One of those contacted from the Somali community was Yusuf Ahmed, a worker for the City of Minneapolis, and community organizer. He saw an opportunity for dialogue. "Basically what happened was we had all received this mail about what was happening in the city, and we wanted to change this for the better. There are a lot of similarities between Native American and Somali culture, so when we came together I asked, 'how can we live better together as Americans?'"
Polymet lawsuit
Sunday, March 13 2011
 
Written by Circle NEws Staff,
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I wrote last August about the environmental dangers associated with sulfide mining, which is being proposed for several areas in northeastern Minnesota. Although further environmental analysis has been ordered for the PolyMet Mining project near Hoyt Lakes - within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory - the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), the State of Minnesota economic development agency located in Eveleth, has given PolyMet a $4 million loan.
In January, five conservation groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), filed a lawsuit challenging the IRRRB loan to help PolyMet develop its open-pit sulfide mine.
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