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Legal, political actions continue to define tribal sovereignty
Friday, September 04 2015
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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A series of legal actions and political events in August, stretching from Minnesota and South Dakota to Arizona and Washington State, keep defining and adding precedence to tribal sovereignty rights and their standing before the courts.

At the time of this writing, the city of Duluth was still contemplating what additional, if any, further legal action it might take in a long-running dispute with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa over the Band’s Fond-du-Luth Casino in downtown Duluth.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in late July that the Band did not owe Duluth retroactive payments from a prior revenue sharing agreement that had been ruled illegal by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The key point of law involved the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that requires tribes to be sole proprietors of their gaming operations, said Henry M. Buffalo, Jr., a Twin Cities-based attorney for the Band.

At the same time, he said, Fond-du-Luth Casino is within a one-mile portion of land in Duluth ceded by the Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota in the 1854 treaty with the federal government for which Fond du Lac and other bands were granted continuous access.

These disputes help define and clarify specific points of law even when they are part of a broader context and can have greater consequences, Buffalo said.

With such disputes literally at its doorstep, the University of Minnesota-Duluth announced on August 13 it is starting a Tribal Sovereignty Institute with it American Indian Studies department. The institute has been evolving from three years of consultations with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the oldest such state council in the nation, and with the 11 federally recognized Indian communities.   

“Some of our faculty are already engaged in research partnerships, but having the Tribal Sovereignty Institute will facilitate more research that serves the needs of Native Nations,” Jill Doerfler, head of American Indian Studies, said in the UMD announcement.

The new institute will need to monitor evolving and unresolved issues from across the country. Thorny issues playing out in multiple states during August reveal specific challenges to law and public policy that fit like mosaic pieces in the broader sovereignty picture.

For instance: On Aug. 18, the Pennington County Commission in western South Dakota voted 3-2 to support, by not opposing, the transfer of three square miles of Pe’ Sla land into federal trust. This land is sacred within Lakota culture and has been gradually repurchased from private landowners by the Crow Creek, Rosebud and Standing Rock Sioux tribes in the Dakotas and by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota.

Tribes across the entire country are engaged in efforts to buy back land ceded in treaties or sold to private owners over the past century or more. In this case, moving the Pe’ Sla to federal trust status for the Lakota tribes removes the land from local taxation, which is an issue with the federal trust status of Fond-du-Luth Casino in Duluth.

The U.S. Department of Justice joined as a co-plaintiff in a suit brought by the Tulalip Tribes against Washington State and Snohomish County challenging the state and county efforts to tax non-Indian businesses on Indian land. A federal judge was to hear arguments on Aug. 21, but the outcome of this legal battle could have impacts on how tribes pursue future economic development in various parts of Indian Country.

How sweeping or narrow a legal resolution might be is open for wide debate, said Francesca Hillery, the Tulalip public affairs officer. At issue is a new city, called Quil Ceda Village created and built by the Tulalip Tribes near a heavily traveled freeway convenient to Seattle. With Bureau of Indian Affairs and Internal Revenue Service approval, Quil Ceda Village on Indian trust land is a second “federally created city,” after Washington, D.C.

That appears to be the case, a prominent Indian affairs attorney in Washington, D.C., told The Circle in late August. But not wanting to be too specific without further research, the attorney said tribes should look at other properties on trust lands to see if revenue-producing ventures there may share similar status with Quil Ceda and the District of Columbia.
While Quil Ceda is unique in many respects, the issue coming before the federal courts may be pretty limited, the Tulalip’s Hillery said. And that involves taxing authority.

The Tulalip lawsuit argues that “Congress has provided by statute that lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of an Indian tribe or its members are not subject to state and local taxation.” That view is backed up by substantial case law, and is also part of the Duluth litigation.

A landmark case on that matter involves the Upper Midwest. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1976 Bryan v. Itasca County decision overturned a Minnesota State Supreme Court decision by noting that public law (P.L. 280) did not give states authority to “impose taxes on reservation Indians.”

hat case originated with Itasca County attempting to collect property taxes on a mobile home privately owned by an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe on the Leech Lake Reservation. It raised issues that differ from what the non-Indian retail enterprises are doing on Tulalip land and the issues involved with Fond-du-Luth Casino.    

Issues over what sovereign rights Indians have retained on ceded trust lands now privately owned, and on sacred ground sites, are still before the courts. More are headed that way. Among them are cases where tribes are fighting the location of pipelines for environmental reasons and over treaty rights to hunting, fishing and gathering (wild rice), as we see in Minnesota; and most vividly right now by the Navajo trying to protect sacred but private land in Arizona.

Legal issues in Arizona are still evolving but may involve protest activities rather than narrow points of law. A video in late August went viral showing Navajo opponents of a copper mind development chasing Sen. John McCain away from the Navajo Nation Museum at Window Rock, Ariz. Since McCain was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, his prominence in the kerfuffle overshadowed the issues at stake outside the Southwest region.

Like the Pe’ Sla in South Dakota, considered sacred for its role in Lakota tribal creation, land to be developed as the world’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., is considered sacred ground by Southwest tribes. Others fear environmental damage, especially to scarce water resources in the region. The Arizona Republic newspaper reported Capitol Hill police turned away members of the San Carlos Apache in July when they tried to protest at the office of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

These challenges, anchored in issues of tribal sovereignty, encircle tribes and cultures in the Upper Midwest no matter how far away problems arise. They make fertile ground for the Tribal Sovereignty Institute taking shape at UMD.
The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council acknowledged as much in a July resolution pledging its support and that of Minnesota’s 11 tribal communities to work with UMD on education curriculum and research development. That resolution noted UMD faculty now associated with the institute has worked with MIAC staff in providing training on related history and government relationships to more than 1,000 Minnesota state employees in recent years.

Tadd Johnson, UMD’s director of graduate studies for the American Indian Studies department, said in the announcement that Minnesota tribes will mandate direction of the institute. “Their ideas drive the research that we do,” he said.


Indigenous Peoples Day sweeps St. Paul City Council vote
Friday, September 04 2015
Written by Deanna Standingcloud,
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indigenous_peoples_day__saint_paul_mn_web.jpgColumbus Day became a national holiday in 1937, under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Italian lobbyists in America at the time wanted to honor Christopher Columbus as a heroic leader, claiming he “discovered a new world,” which would eventually become the most powerful nation on the planet. But as Indigenous people, that is not the experience nor the whole truth.

The truth is that Christopher Columbus was responsible for the extermination of Indigenous people in the present-day Caribbean. Through torture, slavery, rape, dismemberment and the transmission of fatal diseases, thousands upon thousands of Indigenous people perished.

Because of this, Native people feel deeply disenfranchised from the image of a man who committed such acts being honored and celebrated. Columbus Day as a holiday is seen by many in the Native community as an injustice, so Native and non-Native leaders took the initiative in educating the public about the true history of Columbus.

On Aug. 12, the City of Saint Paul passed in a unanimous seven to zero vote to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day, in place of Christopher Columbus Day. This resolution was adopted just over a year after the City of Minneapolis also proclaimed the same title.
Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce executive director, Joanne Whiterabbit (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin) credits the Saint Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission (HREEO) for taking the leadership role for bringing this resolution to the Mayor’s office to eventually be passed. “Saint Paul HREEO really did a lot of the leg work in getting the support of the Mayor Coleman’s office.” Whiterabbit assisted in the drafting of the resolution. After meeting with city officials, the resolution was endorsed by the Indian Affairs Council with the State of Minnesota, the oldest council nationwide to serve as a liaison between tribes and the state.
The Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) based in Minneapolis’ Cultural Corridor on Franklin Avenue had done much of the work with the City of Minneapolis to pass a resolution to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day in the spring of 2014. They had become part of the conversation to help with guiding the process to implement the same idea in the City of Saint Paul. NACDI was involved in hosting meetings and facilitate the discussion with elected officials of Saint Paul in their space.

Whiterabbit hopes that other cities in the state will follow suit. Looking to the future, there is a statewide Mayor’s convention of all the cities in Minnesota that takes place annually. Whiterabbit is hoping to present this idea of reclaiming our true history and replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day throughout the state and so Minnesota would be a national leader for other cities across the country to propose the same.

Danielle DeLong Adams (Ho-Chunk) is an educator in the Indian Education program in Saint Paul, Minnesota and also a community leader and a mother. She thought it was important for her own children to be present during the passing of Indigenous People’s Day.

She shared her experience about the being at the event with her family, “It was very powerful to see city officials actually changing history for my children and grandchildren.” She believed that continuing to recognizing Columbus Day is perpetuating false truths of the history of Indigenous people. The underlying racism against Native people is evident when unveiling the historic events that happened in the process of colonizing America. Delong-Adams believes this proclamation is a path to reclaiming our voices as Native people. She thanked the Saint Paul City Council members including Dai Thao for responding to the voice of the Native community so that Native youth can begin to take back their identities.

There is much work left to be done to reconcile and heal Native communities. What happened when Columbus arrived in 1492 cannot be undone but Native people can begin to rediscover their worldview and celebrate survival.

Minneapolis Fed launches its Center for Indian Country Development
Thursday, September 03 2015
Written by Lee egrestrom,
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The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis formally launched its Center for Indian Country Development (CIDC) in August, bringing together resources and stakeholders from tribal, federal and state governments with private sector efforts to promote economic development in Indian Country.

The Federal Reserve System is uniquely structured to work with all interests and government programs to promote economic growth, said Chris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation headquartered in Little Canada and a member of the center’s leadership council.

“I cringe when I hear someone refer to ‘Indian policy.’ There is only a policy for some government agency or program. The rest of us all deal with multiple and diverse policies, programs, treaties and laws,” Stainbrook said.
As a case in point, individual entrepreneurs face different challenges with capital formation, starting and expanding businesses than do tribes, added Al Paulson, president and founder of Marketplace Productions LLC, a St. Paul-based business services and consulting firm.

An enrolled citizen of the White Earth Nation, Paulson was a founder of the National Indian Business Association and the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce. The Fed, he said, is “ideally structured” to work with tribal leaders and with individual entrepreneurs of Native American descent. “I know how important that is because I’ve always walked in two worlds,” he said.

In announcing the launch of the center, Minneapolis Fed bank president Narayana Kocherlakota noted that the regional bank has been working in Indian Country for the past 25 years.

The new center will build on that experience, he said, while focusing on legal infrastructure development, improved access to capital for Native Americans, entrepreneurship and small business development, effective coordination and design of economic development programs, and related education and research.
“The center provides energy and coordination to Indian Country development initiatives across the Federal Reserve System and takes a lead role in forging Federal Reserve partnerships with other national and regional organizations,” he said in a statement.

Launching the center is something of a swan song for Kocherlakota. He is leaving the bank at the end of the year to return to academia at the University of Rochester.

The University of Chicago and Princeton University educated economist, however, has ties that anchor him to the region serviced by the bank. He spent much of his childhood in Winnipeg when his parents were on the faculty of the University of Manitoba, and he previously taught economics at the University of Minnesota and University of Iowa.

The bank earlier announced that was creating the center and that co-directors of CICD are Patrice Kunesch and veteran Minneapolis Fed executive Susan Woodrow.

Kunesch, of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe descent, is a former law professor at the University of South Dakota who in recent years served as undersecretary of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She previously served as deputy solicitor for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior and as counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Connecticut.

Woodrow, meanwhile, is the executive officer for the Minneapolis Fed’s branch office in Helena, Mont. The bank is one of 12 regional Federal Reserve banks. Its Ninth Federal Reserve District includes Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, northwestern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

This region covers a huge portion of Indian Country. The center will work nationally for the Fed system from this base. Members of the newly named CIDC Leadership Council reflect that national scope.

Joining Stainbrook on the council were Dante Desiderio, executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association, Washington, D.C.; Sarah DeWess, senior director of the First Nations Development Institute, Longmont, Colo.; Miriam Jorgensen, research director, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, University of Arizona; Elsie Meeks, board member for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and chairperson, Lakota Funds, Kyle, S.D.; Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director, National Congress of American Indians, Washington, D.C.; John Phillips, executive director, First Americans Land-Grant Consortium, Alexandria, Va.; Jaime Pinkham, vice president of Native Nations Programs, Bush Foundation, St. Paul; Gerald Sherman, vice president, Bar K Management, Roscoe, Mont.; and Sarah Vogel, a Bismarck attorney and former North Dakota commissioner of agriculture.               

Confronting Calhoun: a bike ride meets the living legacy of white supremacy
Tuesday, August 04 2015
Written by Junauda Petrus, TC Daily Planet,
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confronting calhoun 1.jpgIndependence Day 2015. We were Indigenous, Eritrian, Nigerian, Korean, Sudanese, Black-American, White, Puerto-Rican, Columbian, parents, dancers, teachers, artists, queer, avid cyclists, borrowing bicycles for the day, babies riding in the bicycle chariot of a parent.

And we were Minnesotans. We believed that the beautiful waters previously known by the Dakota of this land as Mde Maka Ska should no longer honor John C. Calhoun. This charmer enslaved Black people and fought to protect enslavement in the south. We were riding to change the name and we were beautiful, unexpected, and powerful.

Jeremy Little is the director of the Minnesota Black Riders Association. He is a dynamic young man in love with bicycling and the community. Little reached out to me and other activists and artists to help him organize a “Freedom Ride” on the 4th of July to Lake Calhoun in order to bring attention to this issue. We also had a culminating community BBQ.

We didn’t have much time to plan but once we got the ball rolling, the support and interest was amazing! We had beautiful bicycle caravans hailing from north and south Minneapolis as well as St. Paul. Volunteers were ready with food at Lake Calhoun for hungry riders and games for children. We wanted it to not only be revolutionary, but celebratory and joyful.

After we sang a protest song together, an older white man who approached the crowd and told us to “get over it,” that “George Washington owned slaves,” “those were the times” and all sorts of other white supremacist brainwashing that is used to justify naming public places for celebrated murderers, rapists, and enslavers.

“It shouldn’t surprise us that white supremacy has arrived to rear its ugly head,” said with elegance and earned wisdom by Nekima Levy-Pounds, Minneapolis NAACP president, activist and lawyer to the diverse group of peaceful and joyful bicyclists enjoying the day as we were interrupted by the irate and hateful bystander.

Powwow for Hope a Success
Friday, July 17 2015
Written by The Circle Staff,
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powwow for hope a success-ivy vaino.jpgOver 3,000 people attended the 4th Annual Powwow for Hope: Dancing for Life, Love & Hope on May 2 in Minneapolis.

The Native American community event raised over $70,000 to help prevent and fight cancer. The American Indian Cancer Foundation is honored by all the contributions that made the 2015 Powwow for Hope a huge success.
Powwow for Hope activities included: an outdoor lacrosse clinic for the youth, rock climbing, tours of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community mobile mammography unit, survivor and caregiver specials, a presentation by Make a Wish Foundation and a jingle dress healing song.
Powwow for Hope teams played a dynamic role in fundraising for this event. A total of 34 teams raised $35,182.50. The American Indian Cancer Foundation acknowledges and appreciates each and every one of the Powwow for Hope teams.

Special recognition to the top fundraising teams:

  • Top Overall and Top Family: Team Rivera, $4,908.00

  • Top Organization: DIW (Division of Indian Work) - Two Steppers, $3,390.00

  • Top School: American Indian Magnet School, $1,872.98

  • Top Individual: Ivy Vainio, $1,810.00

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