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."


MINNEAPOLIS – The mayor of Minneapolis and the chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux signed an agreement Sept. 2 that promotes the use of biochar.

Jim Doten, Minneapolis’ environmental services’ supervisor, says it’s a product similar to cooking charcoal that’s used for gardening. “They really increase the soil fertility, it increases crop yields, it reduces the amount of inputs you need, the amount of fertilizer you need,” he said.

Biochar is typically made from waste wood which is heated to 500 degrees in a sealed container. The resulting product is very porous, so in garden soil, biochar holds water and nutrients.

According to Doten, biochar will be in the soil for hundreds of years, rather than breaking down and being released into the atmosphere.

The Indian Health Board of Minneapolis is currently one of five biochar demonstration gardens in the city. The idea, according to organic farmer Christina Elias, is to grow more food on smaller plots, near communities that need fresh produce.

The biochar for these gardens is mixed with compost at a Mdewakanton organic recycling facility in Shakopee. This all-natural blend takes the place of chemical fertilizers. The substance helps the atmosphere as well. Traditional burning of waste wood creates carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that contributes to atmospheric warming.

The making of biochar prevents this harmful emission by keeping the carbon in the ground.


ONAMIA, Minn. – The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe announced on Sept. 1 that Catherine Colsrud was appointed as the new commissioner of administration. Her responsibilities include providing oversight of the commissioners of community development, health and human services, natural resources and environment and the assistant commissioner of administration.

“I am honored that Chief Executive Benjamin and the Band Assembly have placed their trust in me,” Colsrud said in a statement. She will also oversee the day-to-day operations of the tribal government, including fiscal responsibilities, human resources contract and grant management. She will serve as chief of staff to the Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin.

Colsrud is a Mille Lacs Band member from District III and is a resident of Sandstone. Prior to her appointment as commissioner of administration, Colsrud worked at both Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley in a variety of positions, including community relations manager, director of special projects, assistant general manager and general manager. She holds a bachelor’s of arts in business administration from Augsburg College, member of Delta Mu Delta and National Honor Society for Business Administration.


WHITE EARTH, Minn. – White Earth Nation citizen Muriel Alexander-Alvarez, of Waubun, Minn., was one of 30 Minnesota veterans from across the state recently nominated for making outstanding contributions to their communities.

From several nominees, 10 “Legacy” veterans – a new 2014 award category – and 20 “On the Rise” veterans were chosen to receive awards at the Minnesota Humanities Center’s second annual Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony on Sept. 11 in St. Paul.

To broaden the scope and celebrate Veterans of all wars, the Humanities Center added a new “Legacy” award category this year to recognize Minnesota veterans age 41 and over. These veterans have honorably served in the military and are now giving back to their local communities.

Alvarez, a “Legacy” veteran, served in the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard as an Army medic. She supports Wisdom Steps, an elder health care program on White Earth Reservation, and the White Earth Council of Elders program. She was also the first woman to serve in her National Guard unit.

More than 381,000 veterans reside in Minnesota and over 88,000 Minnesotans were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Humanities Center recognizes the contributions of Minnesota Veterans and will create new opportunities for Veterans to speak in their own voice and connect with other Minnesotans.


BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. – The Ho-Chunk Nation remains opposed to other casinos within its aboriginal territory, President Jon Greendeer said.

The tribe operates six gaming facilities in Wisconsin. The proposed Menominee Nation off-reservation casino falls within Ho-Chunk territory, according to Greendeer.

“We don’t have a position against the Menominee casino project – we have a position that is generally applicable to the Menominee tribe that southern Wisconsin is Ho-Chunk territory,” Greendeer told media. “There’s really nothing formal that says we oppose the Menominee project, but what there is is a position that objects to any tribe coming into Ho-Chunk territory.”

However, the Ho-Chunk Nation and the state have come to an understanding regarding the Menominee Nation's proposed $800 million off-reservation casino in Kenosha. The Ho-Chunks will be relieved of revenue sharing payments under its Class III gaming compact if the new development ever opens.

"We estimate the Ho-Chunk Nation may be relieved of future revenue sharing payments a few years after a fully operational Kenosha casino opens," Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch wrote in a memo that Gov. Scott Walker (R) sent to lawmakers who asked about the status of the Menominee Nation casino.

The Ho-Chunk gaming facility nearest to Kenosha is in Madison. That's about 95 miles away from the Menominee site.


ONAMIA, Minn. – On July 18, Mille Lacs Band citizen Nora Benjamin called Mille Lacs Band DNR conservation officer Mike Taylor to report she had seen an eagle that was unable to fly in a ditch next to Shakopee Lake Road.

Taylor then notified Kelly Applegate, MLB Wildlife Biologist. With the help of staff volunteer Jeff Mau, Applegate captured the young bald eagle and delivered it to Dr. Debbie Eskedahl at the Garrison Animal Hospital.

Eskedahl is in charge of the Hospital’s Wild and Free program, a non-profit initiative that helps to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured wildlife. The malnourished eagle was successfully rehabilitated and made a full recovery after about three weeks of care. It was released in Kathio State Park on Aug. 8. Band citizen Henry Sam said a prayer for the eagle upon its release.

Band citizens, staff and guests who witnessed the release included the band’s Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin, DNR Commissioner Susan Klapel and DNR Executive Director Brad Kalk. Nora Benjamin was also present for the release.

Applegate said that it took a strong team effort to capture, rehabilitate and finally release the eagle, adding that many people shared credit for the success. He said special credit goes to Eskedahl, whose rescue program operates entirely from donations.

“It was great to see so many people turn out to see the beautiful Migizi released back to its home. It was a great honor for me,” Applegate said.

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