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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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Under the Eye of Sauron: Oil, Gas, Corruption and Change in Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Territory
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I wanted to write a story about strength and resilience. I wanted to write a story about the singers, the horse people and the earth lodge builders of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara peoples; the squash and corn, the heartland of agricultural wealth in the Northern Plains.

That’s the story I have been wanting to write. That story is next. The story today is about folly, greed, confusion, unspeakable intergenerational trauma and terrifying consequences, all in a moment in time. That time is now.

For me, this story began at Lake Superior, a place which is sacred to the Anishinaabeg and the source of a fifth of the world’s fresh water. I rode my horse with my family, my community and our allies, from that place, Rice Lake Refuge to Rice Lake on my own reservation. Those two lakes are the mother lode of the world’s wild rice. These two lakes and the region are threatened by a newly-proposed Sandpiper pipeline of fracked oil from the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota, from the homeland of those Arikara people. We rode, but we did not stop, driven to go to the source, we traveled to North Dakota, accompanied by a new friend from Colorado and an organization called Fractivist. That is this story.

Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara territory is in the northern Missouri River. A land of gentle rolling hills, immense prairie diversity and the memory of fifty million bison. Today, it's called the Ft. Berthold reservation in North Dakota and it’s known as the sweet spot for Bakken crude oil. About 20 percent of the state's oil production is coming from this reservation, in a state with 19,000 wells.

Lynn Helms, ND Director of Mines spoke from a panel, telling us there are 193 drilling rigs in the state, one-sixth of them (28) are on Ft. Berthold, half on trust lands and half on fee lands. There are 1,250 active and producing wells on the reservation, with 2,150 leased and ready to drill. Then, Helms explained, these wells will be in the “harvest phase of production” soon. All of those are fracked oil wells, with some gases being burned off in a set of flares that lights up the reservation in an eerie way. Everywhere, it is as if the Eye of Sauron (from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) is present.

That is what we see. What we also see is that there’s a huge change in wealth on the reservation. Things are going so well that the tribal council, which five years ago, was facing a $200 million debt, is now wealthy. The tribal council purchased a yacht, a yacht to take guests like Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and oil company executives on the lake and to enjoy the beauty and opulence many oil rich countries are accustomed to. The yacht sits quietly on a dock by the casino, no fanfare today.

So let us talk about poverty and how North Dakota and the U.S. treated the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people. They were the poorest for many years, an unspeakable poverty of loss, intergenerational trauma and the meanness of America. All that was manifest – not only during the Indian Wars, the small pox epidemics (wiping out 90 percent of their people) – but crowned, by the 1954 Garrison Diversion project that drowned a people under Lake Sakakawea, taking 152,000 acres of their best land.


Profiles from Lakota Country: Native Americans in Education
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Lynette White Hat,
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profiles from lakota country- native americans in education.jpgWhen the topic of Education and Native Americans is brought up the view of a unsettling and disturbing history plays with a sequence of historical trauma. This isn’t a collaboration that was arranged with open arms and satisfying results.

This approach began with Carlisle Indian School, which was established by Gen. Richard Henry Pratt in 1879. Specifically built for Native American children, the approach to this was to assist the Natives in becoming “civilized” and functional in mainstream western society. However, teaching arithmetic, writing and reading came with horrendous atrocities, abuse and discipline within the Native boarding school systems that would shape and change the classroom and generations forever.

To enhance any teachings the official government policy was to, “Kill the Indian and save the man.” With this motto came severe forms of discipline which included beating, torture, sexual abuse and even death. Though Native people wanted their children to be able to survive in the inevitable change coming, they were not prepared to take on what the boarding school system would bring. This created generational poverty among those who endured, survived and would speak about it.

Since that dark period in tribal history, Native people have a come a long way in developing and tailoring education that meets the needs of their children. Students have become educated, speaking fluent English and are encouraged to learn their tribal history. Those who pursue a career in education are are protected by policies, procedures and laws developed to enshrine education that was once banned in boarding schools.

One such educator is Sage Fast Dog, Sr., an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. He has taught in the Todd County School District, a non-Native public school with a majority of Native students who attend, for nine years.

 

OPINION: In the Moon of the Falling Leaves
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I’ve just returned from New York City.

There, I attended the People's Climate March, where 400,000 people walked the streets of the city, demanding that governments take action on the climate. It was the largest such rally in U.S. history. I was joined by my two l4 year-old sons, to witness history in the making.

Since we were in town, we also went to the United Nations to see Indigenous peoples. This is to say, the Tadadaho – the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy – open the General Assembly at the United Nations. (He’s sort of like the Dalai Lama of the Iroquois confederacy in my mind). This was the first time that an Indigenous spiritual leader has spoken his language at the United Nations and opened the General Assembly, representing – in this case – the oldest North American democracy and a people much older than the United Nations.

Let us say that history is often made in some moments, those moments are part of a force which changes the course of history. That we know and what that means now, is what I am pondering.

History, after all, teaches that there is a moment when a paradigm shifts. Those moments are often a result of many actions – whether lawsuits, police and civil society conflict, or demonstrations. One moment was the March on Washington, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, l963. That was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act was passed one year later. That law guaranteed people the right to desegregate the schools and motels, restaurants and almost all public facilities.

 

First S.D. Two Spirit Society honors and educates on the reservation
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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first south dakota two spirit society honors and educates on the reservation.jpg

SISSETON, S.D. – Members of the newly-formed Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Two Spirit Society gathered on Sept. 26 to educate members of the tribe on LGBTQ Native issues while honoring one of their own who was killed earlier in the month.

The group – the first Two Spirit society in any of the nine reservations in South Dakota – began its mission in June of this year. A testament to the growing power of social media on the reservation, the event “Gay is OK” was the impetus for forming the society. “We all went out to the corner, stood outside and held signs. And while we were standing there, we talked about forming a society, so we set a meeting date and from then on, it's been going ever since,” Vernon Renville, society co-founder said.

The momentum culminated in the education day at Sisseton Wahpeton College, “Walking in Two Worlds: Understanding Two Spirit and LGBTQ Individuals.” The daylong conference featured personal coming out stories by Sisseton Wahpeton tribal citizens, a screening of the film “Two Spirits” about the late Fred Martinez – who identified as Two Spirit and was killed in 2001 on the Navajo Nation – as well as a presentation on LGBTQ identity from Lenny Hayes, a tribal citizen and member of the Minnesota Two Spirit Society.

While the society is geared toward creating a place for Two Spirit people, it is an inclusive group that began because of the social stigma attached to being LGBTQ on the reservation. “I previously worked at the youth center and kids would come to me, or their parents would come to me, asking how to talk to their kids. Or they think they're having these feeling and we discussed things like that and decided it would be something good for the community,” Dawn Ryan, SWO society member said.

 


Bdote Learning Center opens in South Minneapolis
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Laura Waterman Wittstock,
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bdote learning center opens in south minneapolis 1.jpg On Aug. 25, a sunny morning in Minneapolis, Bdote Learning Center opened. The historic beginning marked the end of six years of planning and developing as – children entered the school to study what all children learn in Kindergarten to third grade – except that they will be learning in the Ojibwe and Dakota languages. These languages, now only spoken by a few, are reflected throughout Minnesota in place names and the very names of the city and state where the school is located.

Mike Huerth is Bdote’s first principal. “One thing that attracted me to this school is my love of the Ojibwe language. I have wanted to learn the language since my high school days but somehow, throughout my career in education, I never seemed to have had the time to learn my mother tongue,” he said.

The children swarmed around the principal and he returned their affection with a pat or some softly spoken instructions. He remembered the experiences of children who went to boarding school. Unlike then – when English was forced on children – Ojibwe and Dakota are spoken in a friendly environment.

The first day of school was expected to be somewhat difficult for most of the children. There are a very few who come from day care and pre-school experiences where they did learn Ojibwe and Dakota. For these children, it is easy to converse with the teachers and as time goes by they will also help the other children learn through the natural propensity for children to share language, no matter which one it is.

On Aug. 24, Huerth and the teachers and some of the board members gathered for two important ceremonies: a pipe ceremony conducted by Bdote’s Curriculum Coordinator Deidre WhiteMan and an Ojibwe water ceremony, led by second and third grade teacher Lisa Bellanger. Those ceremonies marked the end of a six-year journey from when the idea of a language immersion school was proposed to moving into St. Albert’s at 3216 E. 29th Street in South Minneapolis. The many words of encouragement and hard determination pushed the school forward through what seemed to the Bdote board of directors, nearly impossible odds.

Huerth looks forward to a successful year. The school has a capacity of 104 for the 2014-15 school year and over 90 students are enrolled. Full enrollment is likely once families make their choices in the next few days.

 


Native Man The Musical redefines Native masculinity
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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native man the musical.jpgThe paradigm of Native American manhood shifted with New Native Theatre's production of “Native Man the Musical, Phase I,” performed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival with its last performance on Aug. 9.

The stories were authentic accounts from Native men from around the Twin Cities and the region. New Native Theatre's artistic director Rhiana Yazzie (Dine) sought to set the expectation from stereotypes to previously unimagined identities by non-Native audiences.

“Some of it isn't pretty. And it's certainly not what the mainstream has dreamed up. Defying the stereotype of the Indian brave, the warrior, the oppressed, these stories are open and vulnerable moments necessary to be share in order that we might understand ourselves better, and possibly, the non-Native world can re-adjust its boundaries, fantasies, fears and misconceptions about Native male-hood.”

The performance features the life experiences of each cast member and interviews from men in the Twin Cities Native community. Among those in the live performance were Jeff Jordan (Boise Forte Ojibwe), Wade Keezer (White Earth Ojibwe), Jase Roe (Northern Cheyenne), Sisoka Duta (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Raphael Szykowski (Kuna) and rapper Tall Paul (Leech Lake Ojibwe). The production also featured filmed interviews with Dennis Banks (Leech Lake Ojibwe), Black Fox (Oglala Lakota), Chema Pineda-Fernandez (Nahuatl Mayan), Cole Premo (Mille Lacs Ojibwe) and Jim Thunder Hawk (Oglala Lakota).

One of the more compelling moments of the performance came when Keezer opened up on screen about his hatred for the warrior mentality that's expected of young Native men. He spoke in his video segment about the culture that he was raised in that praised stoicism and emotional repression among men and that he combats that by telling his children that he loves them, allowing them to feel their emotions, instead of shaming them.

In his performance piece, Keezer talked about his relationship with his own father who sobered up and later became a born-again Christian. “Some people started calling me 'the preacher's son.' I really hated that, I really didn't care for any kind of Christianity, for a lot of different reasons, but mostly what it's done to Indians. I'm sick of all the Christians, the Muslims, the pipe carriers; it doesn't mean nothing to me. All these ultimatums and stereotypes that they use, it doesn't work on me.” When asked what he believed in, he closed with a air-guitar performance of Twisted Sister's “We're Not Gonna Take It.”

 


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