Acollective of Anishinaabe women in northern Minnesota found strength
with one another. Their journey to health and wellness brought them
together gradually and almost synchronously since 2012. It all began
with some inspiration.
After completing a half marathon in 2011,
Chally Topping-Thompson (Red Cliff Ojibwe) encouraged her friend,
Sarah Agaton Howes (Fond du Lac Ojibwe) to finish a 5K run. This was
the birth of the movement now known as the “Kwe Pack,” a women’s
running society. In the Ojibwe language, “Kwe” can be translated
to “Woman,” but a deeper linguist investigation into this word
reveal a description of a sacred, life giving being. In Ojibwe
culture, women are considered precious pieces of the nation.
The Kwe Pack evolved to a group of
mothers, professionals, wives and students all currently committed to
running together along the woodland trails on the Fond du Lac
reservation. Topping-Thompson is currently the Indian Child Welfare
Director at the Red Cliff Chippewa Tribal Offices and Agaton Howes is
the House of Howes artist, teacher and Inspired Natives Collaborator.
The group started gaining momentum
when they decided to participate in The Superior Hiking Trail 25K
with a group of seven Indigenous women in 2013. The following year,
16 completed the Superior Hiking Trail 25K and 22 finished just this
As one of the original Kwe Pack
runners, Agaton Howes said she was honored to be a part of this event
as she saw the numbers of Indigenous women participating in the 25K
increased every year. “10 percent of the entire Superior Hiking
Trail 25K this year was Indigenous. It feels so amazing to see our
people over-represented in something healthy,” she said.
Cyr (Grand Portage Ojibwe), a 27 year-old mother and Administrative
Assistant at the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, began
running with the Kwe Pack in 2013, shortly after the devastating loss
of her grandmother. She reflects on how meaningful being part of the
Kwe Pack is to her, “These ladies are amazingly tenacious. It’s
hard to describe fully what my heart feels for this group of
life-giving women.” She had been struggling to find a sense of
balance after her grandmother passed away, but found the Kwe Pack to
be a supportive, safe space to share similar struggles with other
Indigenous women, “I hear my grandmother in the Kwe Pack’s
laughter out on those trails, we offer each other courage and
Each of the women are affected in some way by the
health disparities that are so prominent in Native communities;
diabetes or substance abuse, for example.
A group of four Twin Cities
Native American youth were invited to the White House for the first
Tribal Youth Gathering, marking an achievement for students and an
organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting research
and understanding among Native youth.
The Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota
is a non-profit established in 2014. Following the 2008 Minnesota
Summit on Afterschool Learning Opportunities, the Native American
community took note of the disparity that research and data does not
reflect Native youth.
This realization began groundbreaking
work that began with a conversation to develop an Indigenous Youth
Research and Development Center in 2009. Native leaders throughout
the state of Minnesota really came forth with the idea that this work
has never been done before.
LeMoine LaPointe, NYAM board member
investigated the issue, “I was told that Native American people are
statistically insignificant.” He felt that proved there was much to
be done in Indian Country.
NYAM convened community conversations
with various tribal communities throughout the state to collect
stories directly from Native people about how they envision the
Indigenous Youth Research and Development Center transforming their
communities. Native leaders and youth came together on May 29 in
Saint Paul, Minn. to delve deep into what research means
traditionally for Native communities.
Many ideas emerged from the
conversation and it is just the beginning of the work. Sierra
Villebrun (White Earth), Abel Martinez (Ho-Chunk) and Lupe Thornhill
(Red Lake) participated in the discussion. Villebrun is a junior at
South High All Nations and has been involved with Native Youth
Alliance of Minnesota as a part of the Art of Indigenous Resistance
community mural project along with Martinez, a sophomore also at
South High All Nations; Thornhill is from St. Paul and facilitated
Several Minnesota Indian bands are
upset about what they say is a lack of consultation over a proposed
controversial oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.
This week, the Mille Lacs and White
Earth Ojibwe bands are holding their own public hearings on plans for
the Sandpiper line, a $2.6 billion pipeline that would pump North
Dakota crude 300 miles across Minnesota to its terminal in Superior,
Wis., and eventually to refineries around the Great Lakes.
The tribal hearings are happening as
the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission readies a major ruling on
the project's need.
While the route preferred by Canadian
pipeline company Enbridge Energy does not cross any Indian
reservations, it does cross a large area of lakes and forests in
northern Minnesota where treaties give tribes the right to hunt, fish
Tribal members say they are especially
concerned about potential impacts on their right to gather wild rice.
A three-hour meeting Enbridge hosted last week on the Fond du Lac
Reservation was sometimes tense and emotional.
"If the wild rice dies, we die,"
said Michael Dahl, who drove four hours from the White Earth
reservation to attend the meeting. "Shame on you," he
shouted to Enbridge representatives.
Tanya Aubid, a Mille Lacs Band of
Ojibwe member who lives near the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
near McGregor, Minn., broke down in tears as she talked about how a
pipeline spill near Rice Lake would be devastating.
Ojibwe migration stories tell of how
the people were told to keep moving until they came to a place where
food grew on the water.
"Wild Rice is very much an
integral part of our lives," she said. "It's there for us
for our ceremonies, for basic daily living, and something we've had
here for thousands and thousands of years."
Linda Coady, Enbridge's director of
sustainability, told tribal members she'd relay their concerns to the
company's senior leadership. While she didn't make any promises,
Coady said she hopes Enbridge and tribes can forge a less adversarial
"There are very strong feelings;
there are obviously a lot of concerns about the potential impact of a
spill in relation to wild rice," she said.
"On some of the issues, we have
shared values, common goals," she added. "No one wants to
threaten the wild rice in Minnesota."
Enbridge has hired a tribal relations
consultant. But several bands say neither Enbridge nor the state have
done enough to consult with tribes.
A federal grand jury has indicted 41
people in connection with a drug trafficking ring focused on two
Indian reservations in Minnesota.
Authorities say the ring distributed
drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone and others in and
around the Red Lake and White Earth Indian reservations starting in
April 2014. Drugs were obtained in Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.
Heroin and prescription drugs have
blazed a horrific path on the reservation, said Randy Goodwin, White
Earth director of public safety. He said even newborn babies have
been exposed to heroin because of their mothers' addictions.
lives, families, and communities have been damaged or destroyed from
this poison," Goodwin said. "Lives have been lost from
overdose. Families have been destroyed. Our elders have been victims
of threats, abuse, and theft."
Prosecutors describe Omar Sharif
Beasley, 37, as the ringleader of the operation, alleging that he
"recruited sources, supervisors, managers, distributors,
facilitators, couriers, drivers." A former federal fugitive,
Beasley has a history of drug convictions. For the past month, he has
been held at the Anoka County jail on an unrelated charge of
violating his probation.
Others charged include residents of
North Dakota, Chicago, Milwaukee and the White Earth and Red Lake
Each suspect has been charged
with conspiracy to distribute the drugs. Other charges for some of
the suspects include drug possession with intent to distribute,
illegal possession of a firearm and distribution of heroin,
methamphetamine and prescription painkillers.
The indictment was filed last week but
unsealed on May 27.
An analysis released May 28 by the
American Civil Liberties Union gives the most detailed picture yet of
racial disparities in the treatment of low-level offenders by
Those arrested for non-felony offenses
in Minneapolis are far more likely to be people of color than to be
The ACLU analyzed arrest data collected
over nearly three years. Most of the arrests for low-level offenses
occurred during traffic stops. Following FBI practice, the ACLU
counts as an arrest encounters where people are merely stopped,
ticketed and released.
Minneapolis police officers made nearly
100,000 non-felony arrests between Jan. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2014.
African-Americans and Native Americans were arrested at rates nearly
nine times higher than the rate for whites.
African-Americans make up less than 19
percent of the city's population, and Native Americans just 2
percent. The arrest numbers don't include separate categories for
Asians and Hispanics.
The disparity didn't come as a surprise
to Henry Jackson, 55, as he stood across the street from Target Field
with a handful of tickets.
Buying and selling tickets is legal,
but Jackson, who's African-American, has been arrested for
trespassing in the neighborhood three times since 2012.
The latest arrest happened outside
nearby Target Center in January, as he was selling tickets for a
Timberwolves game. He had stepped inside Target Center to warm his
hands, he said, when two police officers cited and released him.
Jackson said white ticket sellers could
do the same thing "all day long" without being stopped,
"but it seems like they got us singled out."
Jackson was convicted, ordered to pay a
$50 fine and given a stayed sentence of 90 days in the workhouse on
the condition that he stay out of Target Center for a year. Now he
can't enter the venue, even as a paying customer.
Copyright 2008 The Circle News. All rights reserved. The Circle New is dedicated to presenting news from a Native American perspective, while granting an equal opportunity to community voices. Editorials and articles are the sole responsibility of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, attitude, or philosophy of The Circle or the corporation. The Circle does not endorse any product or service accepted as advertising. The Circle reserves the right to reject any advertising, material, or letters submitted for publication. NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PUBLISHER. West7th**