A 21st Century Rush for Gold Threatens the Black Hills and Native Sacred Sites (Again)

Scenic photo of the Black Hills (Wikimedia Commons)

The 19th century gold rushes from California to the Black Hills had devastating effects on Native peoples, and history could be repeating itself.

According to a story in the Lakota Country Times: “Mineral Mountain Resources, of Vancouver, Canada, is seeking approval to conduct exploratory gold mining throughout the central Black Hills.” Investors are hoping to find “Homestake 2,” a reference to South Dakota’s famous Homestake Mine, “the largest and deepest goldmine in North America,” according to Wikipedia.

According to the Lakota Country Times:

That the especially sacred Lakota site of Pe` Sla – within the already sacred Black Hills – is also marked for gold exploration should come as no surprise. Native American land is always treated as disposable, whether for the federal government’s needs or for the monied interests that control it.

Pe` Sla is deeply tied to the Lakota creation story and is the site of annual ceremonies. Native nations have worked together to try to save this site, considered the center of the universe by the Lakota. According to a 2012 story in Indian Country Today: “In a historic banding together, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin was able raise the $9 million needed to purchase” Pe` Sla.

It took another five years to get the land protected under federal land trust status, according to a March 24, 2017 story by KOTA TV. It reported: “now that the fight to keep the tract permanently in the hands of Native Americans for cultural and religious use is won, the tribes can focus on restoring the property.”

Still, the proposed mining could threaten Pe` Sla. The site getting scrutiny for gold mining is near the former gold mining town of Rochford, which also is near Pe` Sla. The sacred site could be affected by downstream pollution.

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How to Deal with Controversial Public Art: Lessons from Italy

There was some discussion about removing this inscription in front of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Instead, it got new gold leaf.

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that when Italy has a controversial political problem, it turns to its artists.

Hey Minnesota, check this out. Remember when we got all tied in knots over how to address our  controversial Capitol art? Oh that we had known about Bolzano, a city of 100,000 in northernmost Italy. An opinion piece in The Guardian tells the story of how Bolzano officials dealt with a controversial World War II-era public building featuring a massive bas-relief of facist leader Benito Mussolini on horseback. “The sculpture bore the slogan ‘Credere, Obbedire, Combattere’ (‘Believe, Obey, Combat”), the story said. (Yep, that’s, creepy.)

In the polarizing frame of “preserve or destroy” the mural, city leaders chose a third way. According to the story:

A public bid was launched, soliciting ideas over how to “defuse and contextualize” the politically charged frieze. Open to artists, architects, historians, and “anyone involved in the cultural sphere”, the bid explicitly stated that the intention was to “transform the bas-relief into a place of memory … so that it will no longer be visible directly, but accessible thoughtfully, within an appropriately explanatory context”.

Almost 500 proposals were submitted and evaluated by a jury composed of local civil society figures, including a history professor, a museum curator, an architect, an artist and a journalist.

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Could Indian Reservation “Termination Policy” Return Under Trump? Worrying Signs are There

The blog Alaska Indigenous is issuing a warning that Federally recognized tribes should brace for possible termination policy under Trump. The blog begins:

Whether we like it or not, Saglutupiaġataq (“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun) is now president of the United States and Republicans control Congress. Federally recognized Alaska Native and American Indian tribes should brace for the worst, including the possibility that Congress may move to terminate federally recognized tribes.

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

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Events: From Line 3 Protests and an Indigenous Holiday Market to a Fundraiser for The Circle

Upcoming events:

Tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 7: Key EIS Vote: The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will vote on whether or not the Line 3 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is “adequate” or not. Line 3 is a proposed new tar sands crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. Meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the PUC meeting space, Metro Square, 121 7th Place East, #350, St Paul.

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 9-10: All Nations Winter Market, (Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m) at All Nations Church, 1515 E 23rd St, Minneapolis. A great opportunity for holiday shopping. It will include art, food, and more. (See Dream of Wild Health’s Facebook page.)

Monday, Dec. 11: Stop Line 3 Rally against illegal pipeline yards, 10:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. at Black Bear Casino Resort Parking Lot – Carlton, MN. Sponsored by Stop Line 3, Northwoods350,  Makwa Initiative Line 3 Frontline Resistance, Twin Cities Indigenous Youth, Honor the Earth, and MN350.

Friday, Dec. 15: The Circle Fundraising Breakfast: 7:30-9 a.m. at All Nations Church, 1515 E 23rd St, Minneapolis. Come and support news reporting from a Native American perspective. Suggested donation $35. Featured speakers are Mark Anthony Rolo and Carter Meland. Rolo (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) is a journalist, filmmaker, and playwright, and has been a correspondent Indian Country Today. Meland, a White Earth descendant, teaches in the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Sunday, Dec. 17: Camps A Rising Fundraiser, a fundraiser to support the three northern Minnesota camps opposed to Line 3. The fundraiser will run from 1-4 p.m. at the East Side Freedom Library. 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul. Co-sponsored by Camps A Rising, Honor the Earth, MN350 and the Sierra Club.

Thursday, Dec. 28: Join Healing Place Collaborative and its partners in learning about the Dakota Language Table and the Water Bar, 5-7 p.m. at the East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier, St. Paul. Čhokáta Nážiŋ (the Dakota Language Table) is a living and traveling gathering space for the Dakota language to be restrengthened through a deeper understanding of the interdependent relationships of the land, language and lifeways to the health and wellbeing of people that call Mnísota Makhóčhe (Minnesota) home. Mniówe is a place for getting water and is the indigenized rendition of the esteemed “Water Bar.” Learn about indigenous philosophies, relationships and practices relating to Mní (water) that have allowed Dakota people to thrive in this area for millennia. Sample water from a variety of sources in Mnísota; and engage in conversations about the ways in which we use and interact with water in our daily lives; often without thinking about where our water comes from.




Native Nations Sue to Protect Bears Ears Monument, and More

Bears Ears formation (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

You probably have read by now that President Trump took the unprecedented action to drastically reduce the size of national monuments in Utah, including Bears Ears, sacred lands to Native nations. As the New York Times reported:

President Trump sharply reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah on Monday by some two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.

The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.

Native nations are fighting back, saying the President does not have the constitutional authority shrink national monuments, according to a statement from John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.

Under the Antiquities Act, the president may create national monuments. That is all. He or she may not modify or revoke existing monuments — only Congress has that ability. Trump’s actions are illegal, unwarranted, and deeply unpopular. And they are a blatant attack on tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument a year ago. Native nations had pressed for that designation to protect their sacred places. As Echohawk explained:

Until the designation of Bears Ears, our sacred lands were under constant threat. Those unfamiliar with our cultures and our traditions contributed to the steady destruction of our sacred sites by looting, grave robbing, and indiscriminately drilling for oil and mining uranium at the expense of our heritage.

See the Native American Rights Fund website for more information. Continue reading

Kateri Residence for Native American Women in Recovery to Close Next Year

Kateri Residence in Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood.

Very sad news: In these most affluent of times — with the stock market at record levels and tax cuts for millionaires on the policy priority list — Kateri Residence, a program serving Native women in recovery, will close at the end of June. Kateri is a program of St. Stephens Human Services, and St. Stephens Executive Director Gail Dorfman said in an interview this morning that the program is no longer financially sustainable.

St. Stephens is working on a transition plan for the current residents and is trying to find a non-profit housing partner to keep the services going, she said

According to the Kateri website:

Kateri Residence is for Native American women (over 18 years old) recovering from addiction. Priority is given to Native American women that are pregnant, have small children in their custody and/or exiting treatment or corrections, but non-Native women may apply if willing to follow a program with this cultural emphasis.

(According to my friend Monica Nilsson’s Facebook post, Kateri “was the first program developed by the good people of Saint Stephen’s Catholic Church, now worshipping as the Spirit of Saint Stephens Catholic Community.”)

Kateri is a four-unit brownstone in the Whittier neighborhood (facing the I-35W sound barrier wall). Staff lives in one unit. The other three units are for women in recovery. Currently there are three single adults and four families in those three units. Women and families can stay for up to two years.

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NYC Launches Review of Public Art, One Model to Consider

New York City recently created a Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers,  a model worth reviewing. Just like our recent debate over art in the Minnesota State Capitol, many communities are wrestling with how our historic public art often tells a very narrow and inaccurate story.

The Commission was created in September. Mayor Bill de Blasio said:

There is an important conversation taking place right now about history and representation in public art, monuments and markers. Our diverse group of experts will create a thoughtful set of guidelines that acknowledge the complexities of history and the values that matter to us as New Yorkers.

Gaen hia uh, Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan), President of the American Indian Law Alliance, recently spoke to the Commission. She asked that all statues of Columbus on public lands be removed and relocated.

Claims that Columbus was simply a man from the past, out of step with today’s values ignoring the fact that this is ongoing. This is not in the past.

Continuing to celebrate Columbus, and leaving monuments of him up is the continued act of erasure to ensure that “Americans” will never be educated on the reality of our harsh shared history. …

We are not asking for reconciliation as it is not possible to reconcile all that has been done but you can make a conscientious choice to do the right thing as these unspeakable horrors and many more are not deserving of celebration. We are asking the monuments of Columbus be moved to a museum, where they can be placed in accurate historical context for future generations to learn from. These monuments to hate must come down now!

Lyons full testimony can be found here.

A Teddy Roosevelt statue in New York City. (Wikimedia Commons)

Also, for a good 13-minute TED Talk on this topic, see: Can Art Amend History? Included is a commentary on a statue that sits in front of the New York City Natural History Museum. It depicts Teddy Roosevelt riding tall in the saddle. According to the Wikimeida description: “Roosevelt is shown on horseback as both a hunter and explorer. He is flanked by the figures of two guides, one Native American and one African, meant to symbolize the continents of America and Africa.”