From the Editor's Desk: Look before leaping into cannabis
Thursday, February 05 2015
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgAnyone who sits through any tribal council meeting knows well the time and measure of deliberation of any issue in Indian Country. In South Dakota tribal councils, the tradition of consensus – even when put against the formalism of Roberts Rules of Order – tends to give way to all persons with an opinion on any given matter being discussed.

Too often, as Indian people, we prefer the romantic notion of swift, decisive action. It comes from our times of war with the encroaching enemy, be they other tribes or a growing country of European immigrants. We harken back to the idea that in order to be Indian, we must act aggressively and without doubt. True enough, given the mode of war but when it comes to nation-building, planning and economic development, seemingly endless meetings and discussions are better advised.

As Red Lake Nation – along with other tribes across the country – follow the lead of the U.S. Department of Justice's implied permission at the close of 2014 to pursue the cultivation and sale of hemp and marijuana, there are many questions that need to be asked and real answers given before motions to legalize should even be made.

Marijuana is not the silver bullet. The growth and sale of cannabis on Indian reservations are not the great sustainer we would like them to be. We know this because we have seen this model before with Indian gaming.

While many in Minnesota and across the country who did not grow up on the reservation like to point to financial windfalls and continued profitability of Indian gaming, those cases are the exception and not the rule. For many tribes, most of which are out of the way and in the most inaccessible regions of this country for basic emergency services – a gift from the largess of the federal government, to be sure – the profitability of gaming is low. The Native American Rights Fund reports that of the 560 tribal nations, only 224 operate gaming establishments. The National Indian Gaming Commission in its Gaming Revenue Reports from 2009 to 2013, show that the average of only 26 operations showed revenue in the $11 million. Split among the citizens of each tribal nations how they see fit to disperse it, either through per capita payments or investment in their infrastructures, it is still a long way to go for most tribes.

From the Editor's Desk: Rebuilding and Exercising Power
Tuesday, January 13 2015
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgNative faces and issues came to the fore on the regional and national stage in 2014. Our concerns became part of a conversation that doesn't happen in meaningful ways. Whether we attempted to educate, rally or simply live from day to day, we found our power.

After her election in 2013, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges made good on her promises to the Indian community by fostering a political environment that led to the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day in the city, in place of Columbus Day. More than that, however, the exercise of the organizing power from within the community is what should be highlighted. The Native American Community Development Institute began the process in 2013 by surveying community members on what they'd like to see achieved and shepherded it through until the ultimate city council vote on April 25 and subsequent celebrations on Oct. 12.

Inextricably linked was also the growing attention to the Washington NFL team's racist mascot. On Nov. 2, thousands gathered in front of TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus to once again protest the institutionalized prejudice and ignorance that accompanied the team when it played the Minnesota Vikings. The work of the protest began in two prongs through the well-established and prominent organization National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media that organized a formal rally at the stadium. The other wing of activism included a protest march through the streets of Minneapolis by a coalition of grassroots organizations including Idle No More-Twin Cities, AIM-Twin Cities, Protest Our Manoomin and the Minnesota Two Spirit Society, among several others.

Among those organizations rising within the community to raise awareness and education about LGBTQ Native issues was the Minnesota Two Spirit Society. While the group has had over 20 years of presence in one incarnation or another in the area, the society began reaching out to tribal communities to educate about the Two Spirit identity, fostering leadership on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota. Part of its goals for the upcoming year is to secure a non-profit status and provide mental health, social service and employment opportunities for Two Spirit individuals in the region. This presence in the community is an important method for reclaiming cultural roles concerning Two Spirit people in modern Native culture after colonization's attack on tradition sexual and gender identity in tribal communities.

From the Editor's Desk: Do Our Lives Matter?
Friday, January 09 2015
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgAs November's Native American Heritage Month, opened with a loud burst in Minneapolis when the Washington NFL team came to town, barely. On game day, word spread through the crowds of protesters marching up from Franklin Avenue to TCF Stadium that the Washington team's bus had an accident before pulling into town and, according to media reports, the players were, “shaken.” At the rally at TCF Stadium, comedian and activist Dick Gregory joked about the turn around in temperature for the rally. “Dan Snyder, you're dealing with people who can change the weather! You can change that name!” Someone set out some extra tobacco, it seems.

While protests and rallies are a way for people to get together, share a common passion and draw attention to an issue, personally, I'm not a fan. In my previous experience as a political organizer, we measured how effective an effort was by the results it produced, usually an election result. But in the process, people feel connected and share their common passions. The important part in movement building is to have a clear goal in mind and calculated ways to achieve that goal.

Every struggle in America to achieve rights guaranteed to us in the spirit of the Constitution has had many prongs, whether the issue of slavery, women's voting rights or civil rights; there have always been many voices involved, not always in agreement, but the goal was the same. In the Native American community, 10 people can have 20 different opinions on the same subject, it's just the way we are as a people, we take time to chew over a problem and posit different methods to achieve our goal. But everyone has a place and every opinion is heard in deliberation. At the end of the day, the strategy is adopted by everyone involved.

LaDuke: Looking for Work?
Friday, January 09 2015
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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The Enbridge Company has announced its looking for a new tribal relations specialist for northern Minnesota. They are hiring. This is going to be interesting, particularly since no tribal government or Native organization, or, let’s just say, traditional Native person in the north seems to want this Sandpiper pipeline.

Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe wrote a letter this last month, expressing significant concerns about both the pipeline and Enbridge’s safety record, in light of significant tribal harvesting interests. This letter follows resolutions by tribal governments, testimony and legal interventions opposing the Sandpiper, by the White Earth and Mille Lacs band and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In short, it’s tricky terrain.

This reminds me of the federal government’s Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator in the 1980s. This guy was charged with getting communities to consider a no strings attached grant to review nuclear waste options and then a bigger grant to look at it some more. Now, no one wanted really to hang out with this guy, I’m betting, but 16 of the 20 recipients of the initial money were Indian tribes, so he was working hard to get Native people involved. And, after all a lot of tribes were pretty poor at that time, so it was a good target, besides having all that land.

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.


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