From the Editor's Desk: Listening to remember and speaking to change
Saturday, November 01 2014
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgOn any South Dakota reservation, those who listen will hear elders saying, “Anagoptan!” It's a command to listen and pay attention to what's being said or discussed. It's something we both dread and enjoy in retrospect, being put in our place. The elders do and say this not because they're smarter than younger generations but because they've seen patterns of mistakes repeated throughout the years and by explaining it – sometimes ad nauseam – they hope to keep us on a good path.

With the arrival of the Washington team at TCF Stadium on Nov. 2, the Twin Cities Urban Indian community is gearing up for what is expected to be 5,000 protestors outside, making the case to change the name of the mascot. (It is The Circle's policy not to use the team's mascot name because it is offensive to our community and we have listened to the community on this issue.) For my part as managing editor, this will be the second year of covering this particular protest and this particular issue. It's my privilege to do so for the sake of recording our struggle. However, no progress is made if we – as a community – continue to protest the team to no avail.

It's difficult as Native people. While on a very basic, human level, we do want to lead lives of happiness and prosperity. We want to do work that's fulfilling, pay our bills and provide for future generations. But without fail, whenever the mascot issue comes up in mainstream media and conversation, every Native person is seen as an ambassador, activist or representative for their entire race. Dissenting opinions are often held up as a sign that the mascot issue is a silly one, surely, in the face of more pressing problems like poverty, addiction, health care or education.

To hear any non-Native person frame it, we are wasting our time with this silliness. Clearly, we have bigger problems.


OPINION: In the Moon of the Falling Leaves
Saturday, October 11 2014
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I’ve just returned from New York City.

There, I attended the People's Climate March, where 400,000 people walked the streets of the city, demanding that governments take action on the climate. It was the largest such rally in U.S. history. I was joined by my two l4 year-old sons, to witness history in the making.

Since we were in town, we also went to the United Nations to see Indigenous peoples. This is to say, the Tadadaho – the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy – open the General Assembly at the United Nations. (He’s sort of like the Dalai Lama of the Iroquois confederacy in my mind). This was the first time that an Indigenous spiritual leader has spoken his language at the United Nations and opened the General Assembly, representing – in this case – the oldest North American democracy and a people much older than the United Nations.

Let us say that history is often made in some moments, those moments are part of a force which changes the course of history. That we know and what that means now, is what I am pondering.

History, after all, teaches that there is a moment when a paradigm shifts. Those moments are often a result of many actions – whether lawsuits, police and civil society conflict, or demonstrations. One moment was the March on Washington, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, l963. That was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act was passed one year later. That law guaranteed people the right to desegregate the schools and motels, restaurants and almost all public facilities.


From the Editor's Desk: Our languages and our worldviews
Saturday, October 11 2014
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpg Those of us who grow up in privilege are required to acknowledge that privilege and do good things with that privilege. In Lakota culture, those of us descended from traditional leadership are reminded and invited to practice that principle every day we draw breath.

It may seem odd for those of us who come from impoverished, tribal communities to think of ourselves as privileged. We have almost no advantage in the world: unemployment, substance and alcohol abuse, educational challenges, the list goes on. However, for those of us who were raised to listen to our elders, our stories and our language, we have an enormous wealth, privilege and responsibility of culture to guide those who did not have our advantages.

Language is both the root and the fruit of our culture, it shapes who we are, our worldview, our values and is shaped by who we are, our worldview and our values. Recently, Duane Hollow Horn Bear, an elder and spiritual leader on my reservation spoke and said, “We have a hard time understanding each other when we use the D-dialect, the N-dialect and L-dialects, so we use the E-dialect when we're all together.” His allusion to English among an almost exclusively Lakota audience notwithstanding, he admitted to an often overlooked subject of how we communicate as indigenous communities in a modern world.

Though we as a tribal people have lived through centuries of oppression and subjugation at the hands of America, the one thing we have taken from the country that grew up around us is our ability to keep our traditions alive and documented. In our cover story, we see how Ojibwe and Dakota linguists are fighting every day to keep our languages vital and a part of our daily lives. They do so because it is imperative to remember our worldviews.


From the Editor's Desk: Overcoming fatalism and claiming victory
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgThe greatest enemy we face as Native people is fatalism. It defines our historic, current and future struggles. From the moment the earliest European settlers put foot on our shores, it was because they believed it was their right to conquer our home. When they found us living here, millions-strong, it was their belief that we would eventually become extinct.

Throughout five centuries of wars, battles, plagues, relocations and government treaties, the occupation of our home and our culture was based on the misguided belief that we would eventually die out. But throughout all those wars, battles and broken promises, we continued to survive, thrive and flourish, our identity slightly altered, but ultimately intact. We hold true to our faith, our values and our traditions even when the outside world believes we are irrelevant.

Our current struggles are among culture, race and politics. Whether it is Dan Snyder's devious attempts to buy implied support by tribal nations through misdirected philanthropy, the government's glacial pace at addressing land rights for individual Indian landowners or multinational oil and gas corporations like Enbridge and TransCanada, attempting to damage our homelands in the guise of energy independence and monetary wealth, we face a myriad of troubles.

But over the arc of time, we see how we overcame our oppression and we keep the faith that we will continue to overcome this oppression. We do this by being thankful for everything we have – even if it's not much to begin with – we give thanks for every day that we live. We rediscover our family and tribal language, histories and roots; we nurture them as best we can by ensuring their survival.

This is evident in the Twin Cities by the opening of the Bdote Learning Center, a dream that is six years in the making. Immersion education in Ojibwe and Dakota are the first steps in the journey toward understanding our historic identity. While linguists debate the idea of whether language is formed by culture or culture is formed by language, we know that our language defines us as a people. Its roots hold the key toward understanding our world perspective and forming a new path for living in contemporary society.

In that society, we have suffered. After seeing the opening performance of Rhiana Yazzie's “Native Man The Musical, Phase I,” we understand how identity and experience form who we are as contemporary Natives in modern America. Whether we grew up on the reservations or in the urban setting, it has had an impact on us. The key toward moving forward is to acknowledge our individual and collective experiences, both good and bad, rather than being ashamed of them. When we can acknowledge our history and learn from it, we claim victory over our oppression.

Enbridge not good at math
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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Lorraine Little of the Enbridge Company keeps telling regulators and the public that 96 percent of the landowners along the proposed route of the Sandpiper Bakken oil pipeline are friendly and supportive. I don’t believe it.

That might be because of comments submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Some 459 opposed the pipeline route, while 37 were proponents of the route. Of those opponents, 387 expressed environmental concerns, 131 expressed concerns about the tribal impact and 347 wanted an alternative route, outside of the lakes. (Remember Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., came out opposing the pipeline a couple of weeks ago and some 20 state representatives expressed deep concerns about the pipeline process at the PUC.)

So, not sure how Enbridge does math, but I learned my math differently. Let’s think about where Enbridge might have gotten its numbers. The support might be somewhat true in North Dakota, or at least almost, because the North Dakota Public Service Commission has approved the route of the pipeline. This is not surprising, for several reasons.

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