Regional & Local Briefs

Regional and Local Briefs: September 2014
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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PIERRE, S.D. – Two months after an 8 year-old girl was tasered by a police officer in October of 2013, the Hughes County State’s Attorney Wendy Kloeppner released a report that stated “she was satisfied with an independent investigation, deploying a taser was the best viable way to diffuse the situation,” and no charges would be filed against the officer or the child.

Attorneys for the family, Dana Hanna and Patrick Duffy, said the acts committed by the police were atrocious and that they do not believe the report accurately reflects what happened.

In October of 2013, four Pierre police officers responded to a 911 call about an 8 year-old girl wielding a knife. The call came from the girl's babysitter, who told the dispatcher the girl was trying to cut herself. According to the police report, the officers were on the scene for just two minutes before tasering the youth.


RED WING, Minn. – Red Wing city officials and leaders of the Prairie Island Indian Community say they are unhappy with a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling that does little to resolve the ongoing dispute over storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The Prairie Island nuclear power plant is on the Mississippi River in Red Wing and is adjacent to the Indian community. According to reports, the NRC ruling opens the door for on-site nuclear waste storage for 100 years or more. The language also lifts a suspension on licensing additional nuclear facilities even without the creation of a national repository for nuclear waste.

Ron Johnson, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community's tribal council, said in a statement, "… the NRC affirmed a new rule and generic environmental impact statement that concluded that spent nuclear fuel – some of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to mankind – can be safely stored 600 yards from our homes indefinitely if no geologic repository is ever built. No other community sits as close to a nuclear site and its waste storage."

According to the paper, Xcel Energy says it has "38 casks containing nuclear waste near Red Wing and is permitted to store waste in 64 casks when the current operating licenses end in 2033 and 2034."

Regional and Local Briefs: August 2014
Thursday, August 07 2014
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By Luke Taylor, Minnesota Public Radio

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Lyz Jaakola, one of Classical MPR's 2013-2014 Class Notes Artists, won a Sally Award for Education at the 22nd annual event at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minn.

She received the award in honor of her work in raising awareness and appreciation of Native music and culture throughout Minnesota.

The Sally Awards are described on the Ordway's Web site as follows: “Since 1992, the Sally Awards have honored individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich our entire state with their commitment to the arts and arts education. The awardees' talents and determination help make Minnesota's quality of life excellent and its culture unique and rich.”

The Sally Award is based on the "First Trust Award" presented in 1986 to Sally Ordway Irvine, whose initiative, vision and commitment inspired the creation of Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

Each winner receives a cash prize.

As one of Classical MPR's Class Notes Artists, Jaakola visited a number of schools throughout the state, teaching children about Ojibwe/Anishinaabe music and culture through live performance.

Regional and Local Briefs: July 2014
Monday, July 07 2014
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PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council suspended President Bryan Brewer following allegations that he acted without the council's approval on two occasions and mishandled a $5,000 check.

The council voted 10-5 on June 24 to suspend Brewer until July 17, when a hearing is scheduled to determine whether he should be reinstated or impeached, Councilman Garfield Steele said. Brewer will be given an opportunity to defend himself at the hearing.

"I support the president," Steele said. "I support a lot of things that he's done. He's done good things and the reason why I voted to accept this was to allow him to give his side of the story."

Steele said the complaints against Brewer allege that he signed over the tribe's power of attorney in order to approve bonds without the council's consent, that he approved health benefits for the tribe's former casino manager without the council's consent, and that he mishandled a $5,000 donation a business made to the tribe. Steele did not say what Brewer is alleged to have done with the money.

A tribal judge will oversee the July 17 hearing, with the eventual decision on Brewer's future left to the council. It would take a two-thirds vote of the 19-member council to remove Brewer from office.

Regional and Local Briefs: June 2014
Monday, June 09 2014
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MORTON, Minn. – Over 7,000 descendants of self-identified “loyal Mdewakanton Indians” filed suit in Minnesota federal district court on May 20 to reclaim a 12 square-mile portion of land in Redwood, Renville and Sibley counties.

If successful, the Lower Sioux Community, along with nearly 100 other residents of the area, would be removed from their homes and possibly required to pay damages to the plaintiffs for trespass. Denny Prescott, Lower Sioux Community President said, “these individuals are not a tribe, nor do they represent the interests or values of the Lower Sioux Community.”

Members of the council said they had not heard much about the lawsuit until it had been filed and they read about it in newspapers. “We’re not sure what land they are specifically talking about,” tribal council member Gary Prescott said, adding that no map of the area outlined in the lawsuit has been provided to them.

With land in three counties making up the description in the lawsuit, many entities and individuals have been listed as defendants, including the Lower Sioux Community. While the lawsuit lists the Lower Sioux by name, Denny Prescott said neither the council nor the community as a whole have officially been served in the lawsuit. Nonetheless, the council is gathering information in anticipation of being served with the lawsuit, and that, Denny Prescott added, is going to mean significant expense for the community. Once the tribe is served, it has 30 days to respond in writing to the claims in the lawsuit.

In the 1850s, a treaty signed between the United States and members of the Mdewakanton tribe in Minnesota established what is known as the Lower Sioux Community and its homeland in the Redwood area. Initially, the commitment to the tribe was for a 10-mile wide strip of land on either side of the Minnesota River, but over time that land was taken away from them. It was in 1934, as part of the Indian Reorganization Act, when the current Lower Sioux community reservation, which is made up of just over 1,700 acres, was established.

Regional and Local Briefs: May 2014
Thursday, May 01 2014
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WALKER, Minn. – On April 18, agents from the Minnesota Department of Revenue intercepted and seized a shipment of cigarettes from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska bound for a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe gas station in Walker.

According to the department, the delivery was stopped in St. Cloud and contained 281 cartons – 2,810 packs – of cigarettes that had been manufactured in Nebraska and sent to the Minnesota band, unstamped and free from the state's cigarette tax.

In a statement, Leech Lake officials called the incident “the Good Friday Seizure,” calling it “yet another attack on Native American rights. The Band sees this seizure as an attempt by the state to implement its unfair taxation plan on the lands of the Leech Lake Reservation, this time resulting in the unfortunate economic isolation of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe.”

If the shipment made it to its destination, cigarettes would have sold for $3.50 a pack.

For the state, the seizure was an issue of tax fairness and is withholding the state tax equity revenue it normally splits with the tribe for its sale of other state-taxed items like sales, gas and alcohol until the band agrees to start selling state-taxed cigarettes again. Losing that shared tax revenue could cost Leech Lake $2 million or more a year, Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said.

Ten of the state’s 11 tribes agreed to sell only state-taxed cigarettes, Frans said his department has worked with Leech Lake for years to try to reach a similar deal. Leech Lake Chairwoman Carri Jones said in a statement the tribe tried to work with the state.

“Every time the Minnesota Department of Revenue requested a meeting on this issue, we came to the table to meet in good faith to offer innovative and creative solutions, which were consistently turned down by the state,” she said in the statement. “We were hoping that by engaging in good faith negotiations we would avoid the drastic measure that Gov. Dayton’s administration took on Easter weekend.”

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