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Natives travel to the International Slow Food gathering in Italy
Tuesday, October 11 2016
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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slowfoodsart.jpgIn an impressive fossil fuels travel day, I left the Standing Rock reservation and flew to Italy for the International Slow Food gathering known as Terra Madre. A world congress of harvesters, farmers, chefs and political leaders, this is basically the World Food Olympics. This is my fifth trip to Italy for Slow Food. I first went with Margaret Smith, when the White Earth Land Recovery Project won the Slow Food Award for Biodiversity in 2003 for our work to protect wild rice from genetic engineering.

This year, I went as a part of the Turtle Island Slow Food Association – the first Indigenous Slow Food members in the world, a delegation of over 30 representing Indigenous people from North American and the Pacific. We have some remarkable leaders, they are young and committed.

It is a moment in history for food, as we watch the largest corporate merger in history – Bayer Chemical’s purchase of Monsanto for $66 billion, with “crop protection chemicals” that kill weeds, bugs and fungus, seeds, and (likely to be banned in Europe) glyphosate, aka Roundup. Sometimes I just have to ask: “Just how big do you all need to be, to be happy?”

In contrast, the Slow Food Movement grows in depth and numbers. This year, 7000 people gathered from 140 countries to discuss clean, fair and good food, and how we will make that happen. Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s president, reminded us that this is food which is not produced by forcing others from their land, poisoning ecosystems or underpaying farmers. This is the conference of cool cheeses and meats, amazing produce, and lots of chocolate. Those who come, Carlo notes, come to reload themselves with “energy and self esteem.” We are, frankly, quite undervalued.

Why is this important?  Because on a worldwide scale two billion people suffer from hunger and a billion are obese.    You can guess which side of the equation most Americans are on. Food security is the security of society. That security will not be found in larger corporate mergers.

Consider this:  Indigenous farmers are already producing up to 70% of the food in communities, while industrialized agriculture, with $l3 trillion in investments, cannot actually feed the world.

If there are founding mothers and fathers of the Turtle Island Slow Food Association (our formal membership name in the l40 countries), some of them were present this year. Clayton and Margaret Brascoupe of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association (Santa Clara) have been staunch in their preservation of traditional seeds, and their nurturing of young farmers. Lorraine Gray (Mohawk/Tesuque Pueblo) remains committed to permaculture, longstanding leaders in the food systems. Patti Martinson and Teri Badhand (Taos Community Economic Development Commission), Dan Cornelius (Intertribal Agriculture Council) successfully worked to secure the purchase of both buffalo and wild rice from tribal producers for the commodities program. And Melissa Nelson, of the Cultural Conservancy, remains as a backbone of the Indigenous Slow Food Movement.  

But this Terra Madre really featured the leadership of a new generation of traditional farmers and food leaders. Denisa Livingston (Dine) has worked tirelessly to implement the Navajo Nation Junk Food Tax. Kaylena Bray has worked to restore California traditional foods; Victor Martinez to restore Ohlone food, language and culture.  Others include: Aretta Begay (Dine), Elizabeth Hoover (Mohawk, with a forthcoming book called Garden Warriors), Prairie Rose Seminole (Arikara) and of course, Sean Sherman (the Sioux Chef). As a Founding Mother (if that is what I am called) I could not have been more proud of these young people.  

Indeed the work is reaffirmed and so important. As Canadian researcher Pat Mooney explains, “Indigenous people work with 7000 crops and one million varieties, while the majority of industrial agriculture has whittled this down to l35 major crops and l03,000 varieties.”  Agribusinesses are clearly losers.

The very foods we grow or harvest have very special powers to combine. As Harriet Kuhnlein, from McGill University explains, “…corn, beans and squash;  some are nitrogen hungry and some are nitrogen producing...” Make a meal and all is balanced. “Singularly tortillas are at 62 on the glycemic index, and beans are at 22”, Kuhnlein explains.  Put together into a meal, they are at 32.

Plants are medicine. There are over 300 natural medicines in plants to reduce blood sugar. And the lessons of l0,000 years of agriculture and the Irish potato famine tell us that diversity is the answer; the way to adapt plants for climate and for survival.  

We live in a time, when 41 percent of Minnesota’s streams and lakes have excessive nitrogen, all of them in the state’s agricultural regions. Nitrogen is a primary cause of the vast oxygen-depleted area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the dead zone. That dead zone is about a thousand square miles of destroyed ocean. We live in a time when the climate will change, and industrialized agriculture is sucking up billions of dollars to create “climate smart varieties”, (about $l36 million per smart seed creation), when in fact those plants will not be as intelligent as the plants of our ancestors with all their adaptation and diversity.

To be sure, life makes strange bedfellows. Max Brooks, of the Modern War Institute at West Point, appears more concerned, than even I am, about the Bayer/Monsanto merger. Noting the 2013 US Supreme Court decision in Bowman v. Monsanto, which accorded intergenerational seed ownership to the corporation, Brooks is concerned about the half of US farm land already in GMO production and the foreign ownership of all of this food security.  “Crops… are the difference between life and death. …American farmers will now be buying those seeds from a foreign power, albeit a friendly one. And I mean a lot of seeds – Monsanto (through its various licensing agreements) controls 80 percent of the corn market and 90 percent of soybeans…”  Brooks is worried about the day when Bayer is purchased by a Chinese multinational and used as leverage in a political battle.  Basically, the company which brought gas to the Nazi gas chambers now has control over most American crops.  

In the end, what I want and I think we all want, is good food. I will venture to say that I also want a free healthy school lunch guaranteed to every child in America, and that will cost $ 5 a day per child to pay farmers a decent price.  That’s what I want. And I want to grow traditional corn without threat of genetic contamination or theft. And I would like to have water.

Petrini reminded us of who we are, “This is a movement which must be based on emotional intelligence. Bayer has bought Monsanto, but we are the multitudes and we are more powerful.”

And for all of you who are snickering at my international fossil fuels travel; I have a final word:  Jet Blue announced that it will be buying more than 330 million gallons of renewable fuel over 10 years to get ahead of the curve on greenhouse gases. Delta, you should follow suit. 

Winona LaDuke is founder and Executive Director of Honor The Earth .

Jim Northrup passes on, groups ensure he will be remembered
Friday, September 09 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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jim-northrup.jpgInternationally recognized and award winning author, poet and storyteller Jim Northrup died of cancer at his home at Sawyer, on the Fond du Lac Reservation, on Aug. 1. While family and friends among the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa held memorials during the past month, honors from broader communities are forthcoming that will add to his legacy.

On September 11, Northrup will be among 12 Minnesota military personnel and veterans to be honored with Legacy Awards from the Minnesota Humanities Center as part of its Veterans’ Voices Award program. That program, to be held at the University of St. Thomas Anderson Student Center in St. Paul, will also honor 13 “On the Rise Veterans” who are 40 or younger and engaged with service to our country and communities.

“I was privileged to be able to tell him that he was receiving this award two days before he died,” said Trista Matascastillo, the center’s program officer for its Veterans’ Voices programs. “He was pleased.”

He was indeed, said Pat Northrup, his wife of 38 years, who will be at the September honors program with family members and friends. While for many in the Upper Midwest region, Northrup is best known for providing a voice and a window on reservation life and Native American – Ojibwe culture, but an entire generation of Americans also knew Northrup as a voice for warriors in the Vietnam War, she said.

Tom Whitebird, the FDL veterans’ service officer, was in meetings in late August planning for veterans observances. Details were not complete when this issue of The Circle went to press. But Whitebird said plans were being made to commemorate Northrups’ work built around Fond du Lac Memorial Day activities next year.

James (Jim) Warren Northrup Jr. was born April 28, 1943 on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation in Minnesota. His father, also named James, was a truck driver and logger. His mother was the former Alice Shabiash.

Jim, who’s Anishinaabe name was Chibenesi, endeared himself to Native American and military reading audiences with his books: Walking the Rez Road, Rez Road Follies, Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez, and Rez Salute: the Real Healer Dealer that combine his observations on broader society, the world, and personal matters from his FDL and Marine Corps life experiences at home and in Vietnam.

These writings touched people who shared experiences, said Pat Northrup and family friend Ivy Vainio, the multicultural students’ services coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. They were with Jim Northrup awhile back when he spoke to Wisconsin military veterans at a stadium filled celebration in Green Bay, Wis.

At the same time, Northrup is still best remembered by readers in Indian Country. He started writing a newspaper column, Fond du Lac Follies, for The Circle nearly three decades ago and had since syndicated it to other Native American newspapers across the country.

Among area Ojibwe, he is also fondly remembered for starting a language summer camp program with his wife to keep the native language alive for future generations. For that and other efforts to preserve Anishinaabe culture, traditions and language for all Minnesotans, he was presented an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.  

He is survived by his wife and a large extended family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

For info on the Veterans Voices awards program, and for information on other award recipients, see the Minnesota Humanities Center’s announcement at: .

Red Lake to build affordable housing in Minneapolis
Friday, September 09 2016
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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red-lake-housing-minneapolis.jpgThe Red Lake Nation announced in mid-August that it will develop a former hardware warehouse site in south Minneapolis into a large housing and service complex on the east edge of the American Indian Cultural Corridor. This will expand both its tribal business ventures and services to its members and their descendants.

“We recognize there is an affordable housing crisis in Minneapolis,” said Justin Beaulieu, chief executive officer of Ogaakaaning Enterprises, the tribally owned holding company and management firm for Red Lake businesses. “This is one of the properties we’ve been looking at so it’s not a one-time thing.”

Where this goes in years ahead is uncertain. It does, however, provide a textbook example of how community development strategies with multiple bottom line goals differ from single bottom line investment strategies usually associated with real estate developments and investments. The project will help diversity Red Lake’s portfolio of business holdings and at the same time it will provide affordable housing and services for away-from-home members of its community and their nearby neighbors.

The project needs to be sustainable while it addresses affordable housing problems, Beaulieu said. But, he added, “We don’t need to make a ton of money” while reaching out to provide a valuable service.

The planned housing development, preliminarily named “Mino-bimaadiziwin,” or “living the good life” in Ojibwe, will contain 115 large apartments for families in upper floors with retail and service space below that will likely include a health clinic and the Red Lake Urban Embassy that is now located in the Cultural Corridor.

Construction work is planned for 2018, the Red Lake Band said in its announcement. This follows the expansion of existing affordable housing in the American Indian Cultural Corridor scheduled to open this fall. It is a $10.5 million project by the American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC) and its nonprofit partner, Project for Pride in Living (PPL) that adds 32 such apartment units to the Anishinabe Bii Winn development at 1600 19th St. S. in Minneapolis.

Both housing and business and retail space are squeezed along Franklin Avenue and the Cultural Corridor. “You can’t find land anywhere along here to develop and create new businesses,” Michael Goze, chief executive officer at AICDC, said in a May edition of The Circle. “We replace, or recycle, retail space. We don’t create more.”

The Red Lake project addresses some of these spatial and demographic problems in and around the Cultural Corridor on the near south side of Minneapolis.

In the Red Lake Nation’s announcement, as reported in the Bemidji Pioneer (Aug. 16),  the 17,367 square-foot warehouse site selected for development was described as being 200 feet from the Franklin Station convenient to the Blue Line light rail system. Located at 17th Avenue South and Cedar Avenue, it is just east of where the squeezed American Indian Cultural Corridor begins. While adjacent, the development site is in Minneapolis’ Seward Neighborhood while the Corridor is in the city’s Phillips Neighborhood.

Beaulieu said the neighborhoods around the Cultural Corridor are desirable for people wanting access to cultural events and proximity to jobs and transit. The large, new Somali immigrant and refugee population, for instance, mostly lives nearby.
Securing housing and space for Native Americans and especially Red Lake members and descendants is important, tribal officials explained. Like most Native American tribes, Red Lake now has more members and their descendants living off reservations than on it. There are 5,590 members living on the reservation and 6,000 living outside. With non-enrolled descendants, the outside population is around 10,000 population.

Minneapolis is the largest urban population center for Red Lake members and descendants. “The Red Lake Band has developed a national reputation as a tribal housing leader, and we have long sought a way to extend our affordable housing efforts to our members who reside in Minneapolis,” said Samuel Strong, the Red Lake director of economic development, in the initial announcement.

The Minneapolis development is the first for the Band off the reservation. The Band’s economic development and planning department and the Red Lake Housing Authority have 12 affordable housing developments on the reservation.
“By providing a self-sustaining source of affordable housing for our people, Mino-bimaadiziwin will also generate revenue for the Band that we plan to reinvest on the reservation,” Strong said in the announcement. That further explains the balancing of multiple bottom lines for community development.

Separately, the Red Lake Band operates three Seven Clans Casino sites at Red Lake, Thief River Falls and Warroad. Ogaakaaning Enterprises, meanwhile, operates nine business ventures on the reservation. They include grocery stores, convenience stores, a construction company, propane and fuels companies, Red Lake Foods and Red Lake Farms that prepare Northern Minnesota Native foods, and Red Lake Fishery, which has harvested and sold walleye and other freshwater fish products since 1919.

All these ventures carry out what business professors, sociologists and others call multiple bottom line agendas. In its background section of its website, the tribal businesses note the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council adopted a Ho-Chunk Nation business model in 2011 that separated the business holding company from the tribal government organization.

This model, known as the “Total Approach” model, has proven successful and is the leading model throughout Indian Country, the Red Lake site claims.

Ho-Chunk Inc. operates more than 30 subsidiaries in a wide range of industries in 10 states and four foreign countries. It has more than 1,400 employees. Housing is the Ho-Chunk’s second largest business sector.

The nine Red Lake businesses have 217 employees, not counting casino and hospitality employment; and a customer base estimated at 10,000 people.

MN State Representative Flanagan Speaks at DNC Philadelphia, PA – White Earth citizen and Minnesota
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by The Circle,
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flanagan.jpgPhiladelphia, PA – White Earth citizen and Minnesota State Representative Peggy Flanagan made history as the first Native American woman to address the Democratic National Convention (DNC) from the podium.

The event, which took place July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Penn., had a record turnout by federally recognized tribal nations. According to the Clinton campaign, out of 4,766 DNC delegates, there are 147 American Indians.

Other Native events that took place during the DNC were the Native American Council and the Native American Caucus. The final day included invocation by Eddie Paul Torres Sr., the governor of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. He shared a prayer in the Tiwa language before offering remarks in English. Natives Americans were included in nearly every major speech.

Native women also had a strong presence at the DNC, including former Tulalip vice chair Deborah Parker, who spearheaded the writing of the Native American plank within the DNC platform, and Jodi Gillette and Kim Teehee, both of whom were senior policy advisors to President Obama on the Domestic Policy Council.

Poor American Indian graduation rates may have deep roots
Friday, August 05 2016
Written by Brandt Williams/MPRNews,
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alyssagraves.jpgIf you’re an American Indian student in Minnesota, your chances of graduating from high school in four years are lower than any other racial and ethnic group.

You’re also less likely to graduate on time than Indian students in nearly every other state in the country. Minnesota ranks 45th in the nation in on time graduation rates for American Indian students.

While there’s been gradual improvement over the last four years, the numbers remain hard to comprehend. Only slightly more than half of American Indian high school seniors in Minnesota graduated on time in 2015. The grad rate for Indian students in Minneapolis is even lower at 36 percent.

Some education leaders say it’s because American Indian students have to cope with a unique set of social pressures as they try to navigate the public school system.

“I think in a nutshell, the umbrella term would be historical trauma,” said Joe Hobot, CEO of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center or OIC, which runs a high school and a GED center in Minneapolis.

The current generation of students still feels the effects of federal government policies, Hobot said. Some students have grandparents who attended Indian boarding schools, places where scholars say Indians were forced to reject their culture. Younger generations went to public schools where the history books portrayed Indians as savages who needed to be saved, Hobot added.

“The denigration of our culture within the formalized education system for so many years has created a sense of antipathy to the point where many of our elders withdrew from school, dropped out, didn’t complete and so our students that are currently enrolled now may not have had those role models,” he said.

Many American Indian families were also hurt by federal relocation policies in the 1950s and ‘60s, when the government’s goal was to relieve poverty on the reservations by moving Indians to cities to find work, Hobot said. But jobs were hard to come by, forcing families to split their homes between reservations and cities, and many families still live that way, he added.

That can make it especially difficult for students to adhere to the traditional public school model of the four-year track to a diploma. Too many Indian students fall behind in school because they don’t have a stable home base, and they can get discouraged, Hobot said.

“They feel their future slipping away. They feel this race to beat the clock, that I’m not going to graduate on time. So the pressure mounts and eventually they make decisions that are not in their best interest, like, ‘I’m going to just quit. I can’t get there anyway.’”

Last year, American Indian education advocates urged state lawmakers to increase funding for districts that serve large numbers of Native students. Legislators responded by passing a nearly $18 million funding increase for Indian education.

At Hobot’s GED center, Alyssa Graves said she likes it here because the teachers can take more time with each student.

“They make sure you’re focused and no, they don’t just hurry up and teach right away,” said Graves, 23. “They make sure you get it before they start going on.”

Like many students who didn’t finish high school in four years, Graves fell behind in her freshman year. She felt like the classes were too big and the lessons moved too fast. Plus, Graves’ family moved several times, so she jumped from school to school.

Even more detrimental to Graves was a bout with heroin addiction and homelessness, all which began in her teenage years. Graves decided to quit drugs after she became pregnant at age 21. The birth of her son also inspired her to go back to school. Graves said she wants to be a role model for her son, her younger siblings and her community.

“I just want to be able to go talk to the younger kids in the community and just hopefully prevent them from using and to finish school because you need school to get a good job if you want to support your family,” she said. “I know it’s hard, but anybody can do it.”

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at

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