The missing narrative in ‘Angels Unawares’

Native Americans and enslaved Africans included in the sculpture were neither immigrants nor refugees

Angels Unaware, with sculptor Timothy Schmalz. Photo: Screen shot of the Angels Unawares website.

On Friday, the sculpture “Angels Unawares” arrived in front of the Minneapolis Basilica of St. Mary, an effort to call attention to both the suffering and sacredness of immigrants and refugees and the importance of welcoming them with an open heart.

The statue is a replica of one commissioned by Pope Francis, installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome in 2019. It was the first new sculpture in the Square in 400 years. A replica statue is on a U.S. tour; previous stops included Boston and Miami.

The sculpture includes 140 immigrants and refugees crowded on a boat, representing different cultures from different historical times. Its 140 figures echo the 140 statues of saints on St. Peter’s Square.

I’ve been updating this blog since I posted it. I want to acknowledge up front the good intentions behind this project. During a time of anti-immigrant sentiment, the sculpture brings an important message of tolerance and compassion. It encourages empathy instead of hostility towards more recent immigrants and refugees, such as Somali, Hmong, Mexican and Central American people. Kudos for that.

At the same time, the sculpture includes a Native American and enslaved Africans on a boat full of immigrants and refugees, suggesting some commonality. There is little if any commonality.

I worry this is too preachy, but I also want to be direct: At a time when faith communities are wrestling with racial justice and truth telling, this sculpture miscasts the Native American and enslaved African experiences. By including them as just two narratives in a boatload of immigration stories, it ignores their unique experiences and arguments for reparations that are now gaining steam.

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Treaty People Walk for Water Aug. 7-25, Gazelka puts undue influence on MPCA to approve Line 3, and more

In this blog:

  • Treaty People Walk for Water, Aug. 7-25
  • Gazelka crosses line in Line 3 lobbying
  • What we know, and don’t know, about Enbridge’s drilling mud and frac-outs
  • MPCA not providing information on Line 3 frac-outs
  • Comments critical of the MPCA disappear from the MPCA’s Facebook Page.
  • Concerns raised that a federal bill gives “blank check” to crack down on pipeline protesters
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Mother Earth: ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’

MPCA not living up to its mission to ‘protect and improve’ the environment

I’ve been thinking recently about comparisons between the medical and environmental protection professions.

The medical profession has gone through a significant patient care evolution in my lifetime. It used to be patients just did what the doctor said. If you had rheumatoid arthritis, you took the drugs the doctor told you to take, period. Today, there’s online medical resources and on-line support groups that help people understand their illnesses. People can crowdsource alternative treatments. Then can ask their doctors for more information or a different approach. It’s been a gradual transition, but the medical community is adapting.

Environmental protection professionals — those working for government regulators charged with protecting and healing Mother Earth — haven’t made a similar transition. They still seem to see themselves as the “experts.” Yet more and more ordinary people are getting knowledgeable about very technical environmental issues, such as crude oil pipeline construction and climate damage. They have become patient advocates for the planet. Yet regulatory agencies don’t seem to want to listen to or collaborate with the public who care deeply about these issues.

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As Enbridge races to finish Line 3 construction, more suspected frac-outs

Water Protector Shanai Matteson points to the Willow River frac-out. Screengrab from Honor the Earth video.

On July 6, water protectors found an Enbridge Line 3 frac-out at the Willow River.

On Monday, Honor the Earth reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out at the Shell River. [Update July 22: The MPCA says there was no frac-out on the shell. It did report that Enbridge has had frac-outs at nine different construction sites. Updated blog coming soon.]

Today, the Indigenous Environmental Network reported a suspected Line 3 frac-out near the Mississippi headwaters. (Video here.)

Details of the frac-outs are still coming in.

It’s possible to see frac-outs on the surface of rivers and wetlands. There could be other frac-outs below the surface that remain unseen.

How many frac-outs will it take for state regulators to require something different, or do they dismiss frac-outs as an acceptable environmental cost?

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Latest PolyMet court decision again highlights the MPCA’s failure to do its job

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) mission is to protect and improve the environment and human health. It’s supposed to be the state’s leading environmental watchdog. But it’s been the kind of watchdog that, when a robber enters the room, it rolls over on its back in hopes of getting a belly rub.

The courts are doing more to protect our environment than the MPCA. That’s backwards. The MPCA should be in court pushing for more environmental protection.

The latest MPCA embarrassment came in the form of a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling Monday that rejected the air quality permit the agency approved for PolyMet’s proposed copper-sulfide mine.

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Indigenous leaders calling on allies to come north and stand with them against Line 3

[CORRECTION: This blog was updated to indicate that Line 3 construction could be completed in three weeks, based on Enbridge’s reported data. Enbridge itself didn’t make that claim.]

Based on Enbridge’s progress reports to the state, if it’s able to maintain its current construction pace, all Line 3 pipe will be in the trenches and buried in approximately two to three weeks. Enbridge has made public statements that it expects to start running the pipeline by the fourth quarter of the year.

Front line camps (resistance camps, prayer camps, treaty camps) are asking for people to come north and stand in solidarity.

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