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Editorials
GUEST COLUMN: Trahant Reports
Monday, August 03 2015
 
Written by Mark Trahant,
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mark trahant.jpgPresidential Debate season begins on Aug. 6

What do you do with sixteen candi­dates? It’s a thorny problem for Republi­cans. Why’s that? Because right now one of those candidates, Donald Trump, is loud enough to drown out all the other “major” candidates.

Wouldn’t it be fun if the nomina­tion contest was more like a basketball tournament? Then top-seeded Donald Trump would battle 16th seed Ohio Gov. John Kasich a battle of ideas. Or how about dropping the bunch in the jungle Naked and Afraid. We could even start voting and eliminate a candidate every week, until it’s just the Republican versus a Democrat.

Enough. Back to the chaos. And Don­ald Trump.

As The Washington Post put it on July 26: “For yet another week, Trump talk dominated the Sunday morning political shows, with several devoting roundtable discussions to his disruption of the GOP presidential primary and at least two of his GOP rivals using their clashes with him in recent days as a means of secur­ing interviews on the shows — during which they continued to clash with him.”

On Aug. 6 in Cleveland the first debate is set, an opportunity to raise serious issues. As if. It’s more likely that it will be Trump versus the other nine candidates tossing one liners back and forth.

Of course American Indian and Alaska Native issues don’t get attention this early anyway. Usually that hap­pens late in the campaigns, during the general election, when a position paper is released that outlines the candidate’s official policy. That’s too bad. It would be good to press candidates from both parties about how they see treaties, the federal-Indian relationship, and the management of federal programs that serve Native Americans.

From the Editor's Desk: Learning lessons from the past, going forward
Monday, August 03 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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awb-office-web.jpgEvery six months, Isaac Iron Shell, Sr. would take his cattle to the stock mar­ket and sell what he could. Shortly there­after, his wife, Susan Standing Bull-Iron Shell would sit with her six children and go through the Sears-Roebuck and JC Penny catalogs and they would pick out dresses, shoes and coats for the coming six months. Like clockwork, my grandparents provided for their five daughters and son in prepara­tion for Christmas and the school year at the St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud reserva­tion.

My mother, aunts and uncle were among the more fortunate and privileged on the res­ervation in those days, both parents worked hard through the year, farming, ranching, canning, drying and providing for the pros­perity of their children and grandchildren.

The school year, however, was fraught with its own difficulties. My grandfather knew the stories from his relatives about how the Jesuit priests and nuns would abuse children, emo­tionally, physically and sexually. The story my mother told me was that while both my grandparents were devout Catholics, they re­mained true to their traditions and practiced Wolakota in secret. Living that dual existence also taught them to understand the darker aspects of the Black Robes and work within that particular system of oppression. Grand­father Iron Shell became a senior catechist in his younger days, proclaiming the Word of Christ, facilitating liturgy and playing the fiddle and organ for the monthly Mass in Up­per Cut Meat Community.

He did these things, according to my moth­er, to ensure his children would not be sub­ject to the physical and sexual abuse of the missionaries. It was quid pro quo with no written agreement, only a tacit understanding and faith that whatever humanity remained in the predators at the mission would honor the covenant he made with them to leave his daughters alone. While removed from the darker corners of the boarding school experi­ence, my mother and her sisters and brother still received their fair share of emotional and psychological abuse. In one instance that haunted her until the early 1990s, my mother was forced to watch as a bride of Christ incin­erated kittens in front of her class to, as my mother put it, “remind us who was in charge and how they didn’t fear anyone.”

Letters: Welcome Back to MPS Native Families
Monday, August 03 2015
 
Written by Deanna StandingCloud,
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It’s hard to believe we’re approaching yet another school year here in Minneapolis. Native families will spend this month scrambling to hold onto remnants of summer living while preparing their children for focusing on their academics.

As the Family Engagement Coordinator for Minneapolis Indian Education, I would like to extend an invitation to connect with me about ways to help our children be successful in school. I’m a Minneapolis parent myself.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have a solid understanding of how Minneapolis Public Schools work.

On behalf of the Minneapolis Indian Education Department, I would like to extend the opportunity to connect with me as the Family & Community Engagement Coordinator to make your child’s school year successful. Being at school is far more important for our Native students than their non-Native counterparts. There is data that shows that in order to be successful in school and graduate on time, Native families must make it a priority to be in school on time every day. There are many community resources to support you make attendance a top priority. The Division of Indian Work, one of our community partners works with students at Anishinabe Academy in the Be At School program, as well as the Check & Connect project mentors who provide practices to support their consistent attendance. Please feel free to connect with these resources at Anishinabe Academy.

Another exciting offering this year is Middle Schools with 10 or more Native students in their school will have Native student groups that meet weekly to learn more about Native culture and history, as well as meeting their fellow students in the school. Families in Middle School, check with your school’s Family Engagement Liaison to learn more about when these Native student groups meet.

The Minneapolis Indian Education Parent Committee will also be hosting our Fall Gathering sometime in October. We will once again be offering informational sessions along with educational activities for the students who attend. Lunch & door prizes will also be available. Last year, we had craft activities with the students as well as our portable planetarium so students could experience star stories.

I encourage you to reach out to me as we gear up for a new academic year in Minneapolis. Like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/mps.indianed

Please feel free to contact me at the Indian Education Department at 612-668-0612 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it I look forward to working with you this year!


Sincerely,

Deanna StandingCloud

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.


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