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Editorials
From the Editor's Desk: Environmental stewardship is our legacy
Friday, July 10 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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alfredwalkingbull-web.jpgMy father was a man of great faith. Whether he expressed it in traditional spiritual practices, what we now call Wolakota, or through his Protestant Christian understanding, faith is what guided him by a set of principles of always being prepared.

Once, when new cable and pipes were laid on the reservation, he clicked his tongue and explained that is how it would all end for us: through fire. Reading Genesis, my father accepted the Judeo-Christian belief that this world was born from water, but that god would inevitably judge us and bring about our end in fire.

His love of eschatology notwithstanding, my father had a way of bringing our own lives into the perspective of something greater. His understanding was through theology, our generation's understanding is through science and culture.

As Native people, we often tout ourselves as the previous guardians of the environment because of our simple manners of living. But what stands out in Lakota thought and philosophy is the concept that everything is interconnected and related to one another. We honor the animals we use and consume, the land we keep, the trees we shelter ourselves with and the water we drink because we understand we all depend on one another for continued existence; and everything has a right to exist. As human beings – just another form of life on this planet – we are reminded to take only what we need to survive and utilize it to its maximum usefulness.

Along the way, through colonization and settlement, we lost our way. We became caught up in the consumerism and economic web of capitalism that insists we consume for the financial wellbeing of everyone else. The message is that the more we consume, the more money is made for others to support themselves and what could be more Native than uplifting others.

Unfortunately, it is a perverted understanding of our tradition, the layers of consumerism and capitalism add barriers toward giving meaningful support of our friends and relatives. We give money so we don't have to pick up trash, we pay others for the work that we can do ourselves so we can feel good about ourselves. Our responsibility is not just to one another, as human beings, but to our home and our relatives of the animal nations, we are all related.

In the opening words of his encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” even Pope Francis has touched on this responsibility as the leader of millions of Catholic Christians, the world over.

From the Editor's Desk: Health and wellness in one another
Friday, June 05 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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alfredwalkingbull-web.jpgWhether we like it or not, addiction continues to be a theme in the Native American experience. Either by stereotyping of the “drunken Indian” or the daily struggles we endure, it has come to define our lives, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

We may have personal stories of our misadventures with alcohol and drugs or we may know a seemingly endless litany of relatives and friends who were claimed by their addictions through death or incarceration. It's easy to fall into the trap of victimization, to blame a substance or colonization for the effects, there are plenty of reasons to be angry and self-righteous. However, the difficult path, always less trodden, is to look at our problems holistically, traditionally and with a measure of compassion for everyone in our lives affected by their addiction.

There is a popular meme on social media, “A sober Indian is a powerful Indian.” It is meant to empower those who have lived their lives, thus far, substance-free or those in recovery. What has always struck hollow for me about it is that, traditionally, we acknowledged our powerlessness. In Lakota culture, we understand that power is derived from the great mystery, the great power or god. We humble ourselves in front of god as atonement and encouragement. The ideal to strive for is the concept of the common man, never too high in status, never too important for others.

Other people are who we are called to live our lives for, in service and gratitude for the relationship. We are compelled to uplift one another so that we all may achieve a sense of unity and joy, in order to share it with others.

In his speech before a group of Minneapolis American Indian community members, Gerald Cross, explained what was the initial cause of his addiction: loneliness and a lack of belonging. “What got me going is that I didn't have no love, my parents' addiction to alcohol and we were in foster homes. We had decent [foster] parents who were white but we knew we were different and they made us feel different. So we ran away and stayed with people who accepted us.”

He continued his addiction as a solution to feeling outcast. “We didn't have any spirituality, we were empty inside. The drugs made us feel better. I didn't care about nothing.” With time and recovery, Cross has been able to put together sobriety. But it's never easy and the commitment to it is often misunderstood that once one is sober, one will always be sober.


Letter to the Editor: Vizenor targets dissent
Monday, May 04 2015
 
Written by Raymond Bellcourt,
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To the editor:

First I would like to thank Tara, Kathy and Punkie for standing up to a dictator. Chairwoman Vizenor stated in the paper that the three new RBC members put a gag order on the tribal newspaper. The truth of the matter is the new members lifted the gag order that Erma, (Gees) and the previous RBC has on the paper. Until now, no one could submit an article if in opposition to her motions. If you did, it was sent to her to scrutinize and decide if it got printed. If that’s not withholding info from the membership, what is?

It is my opinion that the so-called referendum was not constitutionally done. First of all the T.E.C. would have to call for a Secretarial election and second they would have to request the Secretary to hold a Secretarial election. That did not happen. Vizenor keeps saying that the people overwhelmingly voted for her constitution but the people have no way of knowing who voted. There was never a voter list posted anywhere. A voter list is a requirement for this type of election. It is for the membership to review and to see if the people voting were eligible voters. With no list we don’t know who voted. We were told by an employee that there were boxes of ballots sitting around at the RBC office. They were returned for whatever reason. It was said approximately 1,500 ballots that somehow made it to the election office and were counted. If true, that brings her members down considerably.


From the Editor's Desk: Building community investment
Monday, May 04 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgRecently, two social media experts came to The Circle office on a walking tour of Franklin Avenue to ask two simple questions: “What kind of community are you trying to build here” and “What are you most excited about in this community”?

If you've followed the Adam Sandler movie controversy, you've come across Vanilla Ice's claims to “Chactaw” [sic] ancestry as a way to defend the “The Ridiculous Six” and its offensive portrayals of Native people. As the reporters of the story eviscerating the erstwhile 90s rap star's claims noted, “Even most tribal members and leaders do not feel comfortable speaking for their entire tribe or for all Native Americans, as Rob tried to do in justifying the inexcusable jokes in The Ridiculous Six.” So when answering those seemingly simple questions, foreshadows of indignant Tweets, Facebook posts and various other reactions run through this editor's head.

Answering as accurately as I could recall, I gave a history of this newspaper, from its inception as a newsletter of the Minneapolis American Indian Center in 1980 to where we sit now, an independent, non-profit chronicle of the community. The second question gave me pause to consider the future of the Urban Indian community and the momentum its built as an economic, cultural and political powerhouse in 40 short years. From police brutality to inaugurating Indigenous Peoples Day at the city level of government and onward, the Native community in the Twin Cities has a great deal to celebrate this American Indian Month. In my short time as managing editor, it's remarkable to see the texture, color and form of this community change over the years; it's truly an honor to record the living history.

That being said, we are constantly aware of where we miss the mark. If breaking news happens, The Circle is not always in the best position to write the story in real time. The Native community deserves better. But pointing out a problem and solving it are two vastly different things, like armchair quarterbacking and calling the play; simply wishing for a solution and doing the work to make it happen require acknowledging the investment we all have in this community.


From the Editor's Desk: Fear vs. Freedom in tribal sovereignty
Thursday, April 02 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgFear is a powerful motivator. It is built with experience, it tells us when to avoid potential danger, it keeps us safe and it can even keep us tied to our traditions and our ways of life. However, fear can limit us not just in what we can achieve, but even from the attempt at reform.

White Earth Nation Chairwoman Erma Vizenor discussed the gag-order issued by the tribal council on disseminating information on the nation's constitutional reform efforts. “The White Earth Tribal Council voted to censor the press from printing any more information or updates on the Constitution of the White Earth Nation.”

The Secretary/Treasurer for White Earth Nation, Tara Mason, made her point succinctly and directly. “White Earth is recognized by the federal government as a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, not as an independent nation. There’s a chance we could lose our federal recognition and never get it back. I will not jeopardize anyone’s federal recognition.”

This is not an unreasonable position to take, given the three centuries of tumultuous history between the American government and tribal leadership across the country. However, it does call into question the whole premise on which, our nations are currently organized.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 created a framework for tribes around the country to organize themselves – sometimes as they saw fit, other times, as prescribed by local BIA officials – and the confusion over constitutional adaptability and sovereignty began in earnest. It was the policy of the United States government up to that point to exterminate tribes as political and cultural entities; in 1934, the pivot turned to assimilation by organization.

Tribal law experts and educators generally agree that the templates used to organize tribal governments in positions like Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Sergeants-at-Arms and council members looked more like social clubs than sovereign governments. While membership – a term implicit with connotations of dues and fees rather than citizenship – was determined by the tribe, prescribed methods were geared toward blood quantum, a way of excluding anyone below a mixed-race or even mixed-tribal threshold.

So there are some serious historical implications behind changing any tribal constitution.

 


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