Political Matters: Washington's 'R' word
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgThe rhetoric is escalating in the run-up to the Minnesota-Washington NFL game. A new stadium is under construction downtown on the site of the former Metrodome, so the Vikes are playing their games at TCF Bank Stadium (“the Bank”) on the University of Minnesota campus.

As the Washington Post reported in early August, the Bank complex features a Tribal Nations Plaza, which honors “the 11 Native American tribes in Minnesota. It was built with a $10 million donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community — the largest private gift ever to Gophers athletics.” Last month, tribal officials released a statement expressing opposition to the Redskins’ name “and other sports-related logos, mascots and names which degrade a race of people,” according to the newspaper. The Shakopee band and other Minnesota Indian bands are working with the university to prepare “appropriate responses” to the NFL game and “minimize the damage that could be done by invoking the [“R”] name in a place that respects and honors the Minnesota Native American community.”

American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Clyde Bellecourt has threatened to organize mass civil disobedience to stop the Nov. 2 game, if Washington comes here with the Redskins name and logo. Bellecourt, who is the director of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, also has threatened to sue the University of Minnesota if the Washington franchise doesn’t tone it down. The coalition organized a large march to the Metrodome last November, when Washington visited Minneapolis for a nationally-broadcast Thursday Night Football game.

For their part, U of M officials say they have no control over what the Vikings do in the leased stadium; but they have requested that Washington wear throwback jerseys that don’t feature the team name or logo, for the Nov. 2 game with the Vikings. The university also has asked that public address announcers not utter the word “Redskins,” and that the epithet not appear on the scoreboard or program guide for the game. Likewise, the U of M does not want Washington selling jerseys and souvenirs with the demeaning name and logo at the Bank.

Katrice Albert, the college’s vice president in the office of equity and diversity, has stated that Vikings officials have been receptive to the U of M requests, according to news reports.

Mount Polley and Minnesota

As a final environmental impact statement is being prepared for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, a major waste spill occurred at the Mount Polley sulfide mine in central British Columbia.

In early August, a tailing pond containment was breached, and 10 million cubic meters of contaminated mine waste water spilled into Hazeltine Creek. News reports out of the province dubbed this the “worst environmental disaster in British Columbia’s history.” A water ban affected about 300 local residents in the rural area, where much of economy is based on tourists flying in to fish.

A CBC report last month said that waterways affected by the ban had been expanded to include the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems “right up to the salmon-bearing Fraser River. Authorities are asking people in the region to stop using water from both rivers.”

There’s a YouTube video which shows the extent of this major mine waste spill at: Mining Truth, the Minnesota environmental coalition campaigning against PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet project, stated: “The Mount Polley mine in British Columbia was a state of the art, modern copper mine that had been touted as a shining example of how sulfide mining can co-exist with clean water. Now, the head scientist at Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean pollution research program says it is ‘virtually impossible to clean up’ the mess left behind after this catastrophe.”

It seems that PolyMet, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the other agencies involved in the NorthMet environmental review should examine how the Mount Polley spill occurred.

Imperial Metals, the Canadian firm that owns the Mount Polley mine, assured the public that its Mount Polley facility develops a “comprehensive environmental monitoring plan on an annual basis. This plan includes surface and groundwater quality monitoring, lake profiling and sampling, dust fall collection, biological monitoring, and wildlife monitoring.” The mining firm’s website also features come claptrap about its involvement in the “Toward Sustainable Mining (TSM)” program, with its “globally recognized environmental practices, and a commitment to the safety and health of employees and surrounding communities.”

The Mount Polley disaster is a graphic illustration of the potential dangers of copper-nickel mining. We can’t say that we haven’t been warned.

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