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Editorials
From the Editor's Desk: Privilege Isn't What You Think
Monday, July 07 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgThe concept of privilege is one that's both acknowledged and dismissed, depending on which side of cultural identity one hangs one's hat.

For many in the Native American community, both on the reservation and in the urban setting, privilege is something that we see as the cause of our oppression. It's a catch-all for the discrimination we face individually and collectively. Growing up in rural South Dakota, my parents and I were followed around in retail stores in Rapid City, Pierre and Sioux Falls. As tribal nations, we are not consulted in a meaningful way on environmental, legal and cultural issues by governmental powers that have made treaties, compacts with us and exercise authority over us.

For non-Natives, the concept of privilege is one that is easily dusted off shoulders with the argument that they – personally – have done nothing to Natives that damage us individually and collectively. And for the most part, they are entirely correct. Most of the time, the privilege that most of us fight are the privileges of class and economics. However, those privileges do tend to follow color lines, arbitrary as they may seem in this modern age.

Pipelines that cross Anishinaabe, Dakota, Lakota, Apsáalooke and Assiniboine territory – if approved, constructed and expanded – will ultimately make a profit for the multinational corporations that build them and for the fossil fuel industry that will transport through them. Unfortunately, for those tribal citizens who live with the reality of those pipelines in their sacred ground, little to no profit will be seen and even if it is, it will be little comfort when water becomes undrinkable and land becomes sterile from the inevitable spills that do and will happen.

LaDuke: Putting Our Minds Together
Monday, July 07 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I like that President Obama traveled to see Sitting Bull’s people at the Standing Rock Reservation [in June]. He is the third sitting president to visit a reservation. After all, our ancestors signed treaties with your ancestors and great nations should reaffirm these relationships for our common good, as should we as people.

There were some strong words said by many. Those words were in Lakota as well as English. Eyapaha Chase Iron Eyes, of Standing Rock, had some very interesting things to say. An attorney, as well as a traditional representative, Iron Eyes talked with depth about many issues which are skirted in the media. Iron Eyes talked about the l868 treaty, a treaty of peace between the Lakota Nation and the U.S., which reserved large parts of the Dakotas for the Lakota nation. The treaty has been violated, and the US Courts have upheld that the land was illegally taken, with a huge payment offered for the Lakota – now amounting to around a billion dollars. It sits in the bank, because the Lakota still believe in the treaty and their land.

“We have a Creator given right to live, die and be buried in our sacred Black Hills,” Iron Eyes told Obama, reflecting the continuing position of the Lakota people, that the Black Hills needs to be returned and suggests, that” a practical solution,” can be found. For instance, co-management, transitioning to Lakota management of the millions of acres of national and state parks in the Black Hills region would be a good step. (Remember that Lakota and Mandans like Gerard Butler, former superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Park and now supervisor at the Badlands National Park, have some experience). And, also remember, that the Lakota have thousands of years of management experience in the area. “The U.S. did not give the Sioux nation any rights,” Iron Eyes said, “We reserved to ourselves specific rights. We never gave up the right to govern ourselves and to exist under our spiritual instructions in our territory.”

An Open Letter About “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in Minneapolis
Thursday, June 05 2014
 
Written by Rhiana Yazzie, New Native Theatre,
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 rhiana yazzie 2.jpgDoes Minnesota know itself well enough to responsibly produce a show like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?” The title makes the play sound like a fun, maybe even gory, critique of our seventh president, about whom most Americans have heard contradictory ideas. Whether or not we've investigated the subject, it sounds like attending this play will likely cast a clearer light on a shadowy part of American history, one that might include a critique of the spectacular violence waged from 1829-1837 by the slave-holding president dubbed Old Hickory.

Maybe the play will take Andrew Jackson's campaign of ethnic cleansing head on? Maybe it will acknowledge the thousands of Native Americans he killed. As a Native American, a playwright, a musical theater fan and artistic director of New Native Theatre, I say right on. What a wonderful opportunity and contribution to American theatre to see a play responsibly take up these important issues, issues that have determined Native American inclusion and access. We need as many advocates in the media as we can get.

But that's not what happens, instead this script, written by J. Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers reinforces stereotypes and leaves me assaulted, manipulated and devastatingly used as a means to a weak and codependent end.

On June 6, 2014, Minneapolis Musical Theatre opens “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a co-production with the Hennepin Theatre Trust. It's taken four years for any company in the Twin Cities to approach this offensive play since it debuted in New York in 2010.

Could it be because in Minnesota we have a relationship with Native Americans and their experience collectively embraced? Could it be that we know our history, the legacy of the vicious founding of this state and its violent dealings with Native Americans? Could it also be because Minneapolis is home to the founding of the American Indian Movement? Could it be for these reasons we can see that the play is an exercise in racial slurs against Native Americans justified with a thin coating of white shaming? Why would we together be bothered with it then?

But soon it will be performed and the character Andrew Jackson written by Alex Timbers and J. Michael Freedman will spew unchallenged racial epithets five times a week on soil that is still yet recovering from our own troubled history. Soil where blood has been spilled and land has been taken and people have been shoved aside. There is nothing about this history that is "all sexy pants," to quote the marketing machine that accompanied this show.

The truth is that Andrew Jackson was not a rock star and his campaign against tribal people – known so briefly in American history textbooks as the Indian Removal Act is not a farcical backdrop to some emotive, brooding celebrity. Can you imagine a show wherein Hitler was portrayed as a justified, sexy rock star? This play exacerbates the already deficient knowledge our country has when it comes to Native history; in that context, a false story about this country and our engagement with Native American people is unforgivable.

Letter to the Editor: Dayton Missed Opportunity
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Constance Bonniwell,
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To the Editor,

A recent article in the Star Tribune reported that a group of politicians from northeastern Minnesota visited Gov. Dayton's office, telling him the sulfide mining companies worry about being able to comply with Minnesota's water quality standards and that the mining companies needed them weakened.

This was the moment when Mark Dayton could have chased every sulfide mining corporation out of the state by uttering one sentence: “I am proud to uphold the water quality standards protecting Minnesota's wild rice beds.” But that didn't happen.

Instead we who strive to protect Minnesota's natural resources are left questioning whether Mark Dayton lacks the will and the courage to protect them.

If it had been Gov. Jerry Brown visiting Mark Dayton, the conversation would have gone quite differently: years ago California poked Minnesota about water pipelines but was wisely refused.

Leaving decent governance on this vital issue to the people of Minnesota is not why many of us voted for Mark Dayton. We do so miss and suffer the loss of our dear Gov. Rudy Perpich. That is who we needed in the governor's chair that day in February 2014.

Constance Bonniwell




From the Editor's Desk: Thinking Beyond Our Own Salvation
Monday, March 10 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgWhether by flood, fire or rapture, almost every culture has its own form of eschatology. There seems to be no end in how people predict the end of the human race. The earth will be consumed by fire, it will be re-appropriated by the waters or the faithful of the world will be called upward toward heaven, body and soul.

The focus is that there will be an end to humanity as we know it and that there are very clear markers of when, where and how.

The problem with eschatology is that it is a human-centered system of belief that removes any kind of responsibility when it comes to how we treat our environment, other forms of life and each other. As a millennial Catholic Christian, my generation's religious education was not to focus on the Second Coming as a means to judge others and use up what resources we could in our lifetime; we were taught to respect the inherent dignity of other people, in all forms of life and to be respectful of our surroundings.

As a Lakota, educated in Wolakota – our belief system – I was also told the stories of our people's creation and how we became the dominant species on this planet. Lakota are not dominionists, nor are we salvationists; we believe in merit. The story of how we came to be where we are is a story of merit. We believe that we once lived as equals with our relatives in the animal world but over time, the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation) began to think they were superior to others because of their size and strength. A great race was held on the outer rim of the He Sapa (Black Hills) between the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds to decide which group would have primacy over the others.

 


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