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The Art of Resistance

Twin Cities Native community members come together for an evening of defining the Native experience through art.

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What Would Ingrid Do? War and Peace in Columbia
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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We must recognize that we have hit bottom and that war dehumanizes and dehumanizes us,"what_would_ingrid_do-web.jpg

– Juan Manuel Santos, President of Columbia

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and assassination of Menominee Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa. It also marks a new set of peace talks between the many forces of Colombia, in particular the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). Those talks are to be held in Cuba this spring.

It is long ago, but I knew her well and I often ask myself the question, “What would Ingrid do?” She was a good friend and colleague of mine, as we co-chaired the Indigenous Women’s Network together for a decade. In her life she led an exemplary role in the Indigenous community. Also known as Peqtaw-Metamoh (Flying Bird Woman), she served as the Chair of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples and as the Executive Director of the New York-based Fund for Four Directions.

She is also known in her death. The FARC kidnapped Ingrid when she left the U’wa territory who were protecting their land from Occidental Petroleum and creating an Indigenous education system. She was kidnapped by the FARC, along with Hawaiian activist Lahe’ena’e Gay and environmental activist Terence Freitas and assassinated on March 4 in Venezuela.

I ask the question, “ What would Ingrid do?” when I am vexed with our world and my own people. I also ask that because I believe that some of Ingrid’s hopes being actualized in peace talks. The talks scheduled for Cuba will address the longest hemispheric war.

The Huffington Post reports, “Colombia's internal conflict has claimed at least 220,000 lives since 1958, and more than four of every five victims have been civilian noncombatants. From 1996 to 2005, on average, someone was kidnapped every eight hours in Colombia and every day someone fell victim to an anti-personnel mine, according to a newly-issued 434-page report entitled 'Enough Already: Memories of War and Dignity.'”

 


REVIEW: "The Road Back to Sweetgrass"
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by Rachel Hill, Mille Lacs Ojibwe,
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the road back to sweetgrass review-web.jpgBy Linda LeGarde Grover

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

September 2014

194 pages

 

 

 

Anishinaabe author, Linda LeGarde Grover (Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe) contributes to the nation’s literary achievement in historic fiction. Her novel, “The Road Back to Sweetgrass,” published in the fall of 2014, explores the realm of Indigenous thought through historic, Anishinaabe circumstance from 1970 to 2014. This book begins in the fictional, Ojibwe reservation of Mozhay Point, located in north Minnesota.

From a chance encounter during a summer wild rice harvest in 1973, protagonist Margie Robineau of Mozhay Point finds herself falling head over heels for Michael Washington, described as a debonair, Jay Silverheels-meets-Marlon Brando figure of the Miskwaa River Band of Ojibwe.

Michael and his father, Zho Washigton, of the Wazhushkag (Muskrat) family, were erased from the BIA rolls by an Indian agent during the allotment period, who reassigned them a last name of Washington. Zho becomes a powerful analogy of inspiration and transformation in this novel.

The character of Dale Ann Dionne brings a new perspective to the Federal Indian Relocation Program, when she finds herself in the metropolis of Chicago in 1970 working as a telephone operator.

Remedy of craft in satire is found through Grover’s use of parody, which evokes humor from her presentation of characters like American Indian Studies Professor, Dr. Roger-Head, who teaches a course entitled, “Indians of America” (18-19). At other times, laughter is provoked by characters like Teresa Robineau, who sports a 70’s version of emo glasses, compliments of her local IHS clinic.

From Grover’s artistic organization of novel sections, to her use of Ojibwemowin and English, The Road Back to Sweetgrass is clearly the product of Indigenous thought and experience in the modern era. Readers of this novel are sure to find resilience in that moment when you know your “own story”



Celebrating George Morrison, the founder of Native modernism
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by Cathy Wurzer, MPR News,
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Artist George Morrison was born in a Native American fishing village near Lake Superior, but his art career took him all around the world.

He studied at the Minneapolis School of Art and the Art Students League in New York City. He befriended Willem de Koonig and Franz Kline. He worked in France and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design — and finally came back home to Minnesota to teach at the University of Minnesota.

Morrison, who passed away in 2000, is considered a founder of Native modernism. His work will be on exhibit at the Minnesota History Center from Feb. 14 to April 26, 2015.

celebrating george morrison 1-web.jpg

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Top left: Artist George Morrison. Photo by Dick Bancroft, Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center.

Top right: "Spirit Path, New Day, Red Rock Variation: Lake Superior Landscape" by George Morrison was created in 1990. The acrylic and pastel on paper is among Morrison's works that will be featured at a Minnesota History Center exhibit. Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center

Bottom: "Cumulated Landscape" by George Morrison was created in 1976. The piece is among Morrison's works that will be featured at a Minnesota History Center exhibit. Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard on MPR's statewide radio network or online at www.mprnews.org.


A Powerful Awakening: Understanding Historic Trauma for Native Abuse Survivors
Friday, February 06 2015
 
Written by Jon Lurie,
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a powerful awakening-nancy bordeaux-web.jpgAs attention turns to relationships this time of year, for some Native American women, the reality of their lives is less than loving.

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, Native American women are victims of domestic violence or physical assault at more than double the rate of other racial group. An estimated one in three Native American women are assaulted or raped in their lifetimes and three out of five experience domestic violence.

The White House proclaimed January National Stalking Awareness Month and the U.S. Department of Education declared the same month as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Both issues have an impact on Native women on and off the reservation. But for one women's advocate in the Twin Cities, the goal is to heal the root of the problems through traditional methods, addressing historical trauma.

Nancy Bordeaux ran away from the Rosebud Reservation in 1986, escaping an abusive husband who nearly took her life. She was 27 years-old when she started over in Minneapolis. There she met other Native people, refugees of government relocations programs and women like her. There were a lot of women like her; while Bordeaux’s circumstance was tragic it was, unfortunately, not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon now.

Bordeaux found work keeping books for the Mdewakantowan Dakota’s casino operations in Prior Lake, Minn. She established a peaceful home, but was unhappy in her professional life, counting money for the tribe. She wanted to help women seeking to put their lives back together after leaving abusive relationships.

After several attempts Bordeaux thought she had found a job doing just that when she was hired by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. They put her to work, however, on Indian child welfare cases. Bordeaux’s duties included entering people’s homes, alongside county child protection agents, to investigate reported maltreatment of Indian children. “That’s when I started learning about the institutional racism that exists within the American system of justice,” she said.

The job, she says, started to eat her alive. “They were opening cases against Indian parents when they shouldn’t have, removing children from homes, transferring them into the care of non-Indian people. I no longer wanted to work for a system that perpetuated genocide – the forced removal and transfer of children from one ethnic group to another.”

After the realization that she “couldn’t continue to exist as if I was an assimilated Indian living in the city,” Bordeaux returned to the Rosebud Reservation where she sought help and healing among traditional spiritual people. “Looking back, I realize that the most powerful thing I did to help my people was return to our ceremonies,” she said.

Today, the 56 year-old Sicangu Lakota says she is optimistic about the futures of many of the women she’s helped through her work in women's advocacy. Bordeaux feels some satisfaction knowing that the extensive networking she’s done seems to be having an impact at the national level.

At the urging of Attorney General Eric Holder, congress passed the 288-page reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act last month, which included language proposed by the Justice Department that for the first time would allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who assaulted native women on tribal lands. It would also allow the courts to issue and enforce protective orders, whether the perpetrator is Indian or non-Indian.

While Bordeaux welcomes the tightening of laws to aid in the prosecution of abusers, she is focused on healing the victims. Over the course of her career she has come to see that no law can mend the flesh, bones and psyche of Native women who survive assault. There is only one thing that can accomplish that, she says – a return to traditional spiritual ways, a practice that will not only heal the present generations, but future generations as well.


Growing the Herb: Marijuana and Indian Country
Friday, February 06 2015
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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“I think that decriminalizing recreational use would benefit our people greatly since so many of us use it and many have been incarcerated for possessing it. The tribes certainly could gain by better controlling how it exists within our communities as well as financially with sales and possible taxation … We have retained aboriginal rights to utilize medicines within our communities the way we see fit.”

Martin Reinhardt, Professor at Northern Michigan University

It’s time to reconsider the regulation of marijuana and hemp. With the Pineole Pomo Tribe of California initiating the first tribal commercial marijuana grow operation and the Department of Justice’s announcement that it would not prosecute for marijuana or hemp, the door has been opened to look at the regulatory scheme. This December, Justice Department Director Monty Wilkinson announced, “The eight priorities in the Cole memorandum will guide United States Attorneys' marijuana enforcement efforts in Indian Country, including in the event that sovereign Indian nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country.”

In turn, the Pomo tribe, which is located in Mendicino County, one of the largest marijuana growing counties in the country, announced a commercial venture with two partners, Colorado-based United Cannabis and Kansas-based FoxBarry Farms. The 250-member tribe announced that it will grow thousands of plants for the medical marijuana business on its 99-acre reservation.

What’s the catch? There are a lot of them, especially in any states which have not yet legalized marijuana. U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, for instance, said that the DOJ will retain the right to prosecute individuals who engage in the distribution of marijuana to minors, where revenue is going to criminal enterprises, drugged driving or diversion to a state where it is not legal.

While some tribes are looking to this as a highly lucrative business, others are considering just the local economics and pros and cons of the industry. In the least on the cautious side, tribal police are already pretty busy and under funded, so the keeping of marijuana to within reservation borders, may be a bit of a challenge for any regulatory authority. And that “ Driving While Indian” thing that occurs when you leave the reservation boundaries is, well, going to be supremely tested if tribes go ahead. There is, not an easy path in any case.


The Economics

I am told that 40 percent of my community smokes the herb. The fact is we’re spending millions of dollars a year importing marijuana from, largely unsavory characters onto the reservation, creating a great loss to our tribal economy. This is undeniable in every reservation. I haven't done complete studies, but in order to buy marijuana from dealers elsewhere, conservative estimates indicate $60,000 a week is draining from the my own reservation, White Earth. With a little math, it looks like around $3 million annually is drained from the reservation for purchases.

That is coming out of tribal pockets; pockets in some of the poorest counties in the state. That is part of our challenge. Could tribes stop that economic drain with a local marijuana economy? There are some larger economic benefits, for both hemp or marijuana, as well as risks.


Hemp Economics

Over 30 nations grow industrial hemp today, including Canada, France, England, Russia, China, Germany and Australia. China is the largest producer of industrial hemp. On the other side, the U.S.is the largest consumer of hemp products, with total annual retail sales in 2013 of $580 million. Between 60 and 90 percent of the raw hemp materials imported into the U.S. come from Canada, which legalized hemp production in 1998.

This is some old stuff. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. I don’t know if our treaties were written on hemp paper, but it's possible. Both the Navajo Nation and the Oglala Sioux Council passed ordinances and resolutions on hemp. But at that time, the Drug Enforcement Agency came down with a heavy hand – particularly on the White Plume Tiospaye in Pine Ridge – which grew 0 percent THC hemp, from 2000 to 2002, on their family allotments.

That crop had been legalized by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, however, in all three years, the crops were raided by DEA SWAT teams destroying thousands of dollars worth of seed. Federal prosecutions were extensive, but the family escaped imprisonment, but was barred from any more hemp farming. Ironically, the raids had dispersed seed throughout their land and the crops remain today, although the family is barred from harvest. That was then, it’s not clear what that means in light of the change in Justice Department policy.


Marijuana Math

Tribal communities would be unable, under the present regulatory scheme, to sell marijuana off-reservation unless the surrounding state legalized marijuana. This is the case of the Pomo, or a tribe in any state with medical or recreational use. The licensing issue is not clear as of yet, but when the state of Minnesota held its informational meeting on the new medical marijuana policy, regulatory officials stated that tribal sovereignty would dictate growing in that state, but no word on distribution or sales off-reservation. This is likely to be determined in the upcoming year. The question of a local tribal economy in marijuana, however is worth some considering.

The Marijuana economy, however, is a robust deal in Colorado. The state of Colorado is likely to haul in around $43 million this year from marijuana taxes. That is a 27 percent tax on marijuana and that’s taxes, not business. It’s got a huge ripple through the economy for sure, from growers to hydroponic suppliers to bakers. Colorado is sort of unique in its situation and demographics, but it's a booming industry.


Red Lake Tribal Council to research feasibility of marijuana
Friday, February 06 2015
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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red_lake_tribal_council_to_reseach_feasibility_of_marijuana.jpgRED LAKE, Minn. – Although the subject was not on the printed agenda for the Red Lake Tribal Council at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Jan. 13, recent acts by the federal government concerning Indian tribes, hemp and marijuana prompted several tribes to explore the feasibility of growing medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., added the agenda item shortly after the call to order. He said he felt the federal ruling should at least be discussed. Seki cited several tribes that are looking deeper into the issue and mentioned fewer yet that were actually taking action.

Immediately, Red Lake citizen and Gardening Tech at Red Lake Traditional Foods David Manuel asked to address those assembled and spoke of the economic advantages to getting involved with at least industrial hemp and possibly medical marijuana. “Give me one of those three green houses near the elementary school for a year and I'll give you five million dollars," Manuel said. He offered no plan nor statistics for that claim.

Nearly everyone on the 11-member tribal council weighed in, including several chiefs and Red Lake members seated in the audience. Discussion ran the gamut from favorable to cautionary for both industrial hemp and medicinal marijuana.

Council member Roman Stately said toward the end of the discussion, that he "knew very little about either hemp or marijuana. We need a feasibility study. Lets learn about it.” Several council members and citizens agreed that they just were unfamiliar with the issue and that the tribe should explore the matter from a legal, economic and other issues surrounding the federal memo.

It was then moved and seconded, then passed unanimously to direct Red Lake Economic Development and Legal Departments to conduct a feasibility study and fact-finding mission on the issue and report back to council at an unspecified time.

Seki emphasized that whatever the outcome, no resolutions or tribal laws will be enacted without consultation with the membership both in informational meetings and eventually in a referendum … a vote of the entire nation. “Whatever we do, it will be done very carefully,” he said.

Seki, who holds informational and brainstorming sessions in each of the four Red Lake communities from time to time, said that for the next series of community meetings will be conducted over a two week period in February, that he will add the issue to the agenda and encouraged all Red Lake members to participate in that and all issues of concern to the tribe.


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