Political Matters
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."
Twin Metals digs in
Friday, April 13 2012
Written by The Circle Staff,
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Since December 2009, I have written a number of columns about copper-nickel mining, a significant environmental threat to the North Country. My focus has been on the Canadian firm PolyMet (; but it seems that another mining outfit, Twin Metals (, which has an interest in large tracts of land south and east of Ely, might be the first sulfide mining project that gets a permit to being operating.
Minnesota has a long history of iron ore and taconite mining; but the extraction of copper-nickel and precious metals (palladium, silver, gold and platinum) would be something new in the state.
In late March a headline in the Duluth News Tribune announced: "Twin Metals Ely mine project takes steps forward." The article notes that the company is "collecting baseline environmental date across 32,000 acres… under which geologists say is a jackpot discovery of copper."
The newspaper reported that Twin Metals "formally announced Thursday [March 22] that it has instructed its engineering contractor, global giant Bechtel, to draw up plans for an 80,000-ton-per-day mine and processing plant, putting Twin Metals on par with the largest mines in the world."
So, one of the "largest mines in the world" is being developed on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - and on land that is within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory, so the Bois Forte and Grand Portage Ojibwe bands have a legally-recognized interest in how this land is developed.
The 1854 Treaty reserves hunting, fishing and gathering rights in the land that was ceded to the U.S. government. And as I have reported previously, the Fond du Lac band is closely monitoring the progress of the sulfide mining schemes, which have the potential to pollute the reservation's surface and ground water, and destroy wild rice beds.
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