Court fails to grasp that protecting Indigenous peoples’ freedom of religion requires protecting their sacred lands

Indigenous spiritual practices are fundamentally tied to their sacred lands. That has profound implications for protecting their freedom of religion: The right to practice their religion without interference.

Blocking Indigenous peoples access to their sacred sites is the definition of interference. Yet U.S. courts don’t get it, as can be seen in the recent ruling in Apache Stronghold v. The United States of America.

The decision could impact many other religions, too.

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At Historic Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Historical Society axes the ‘B’ word

In 2019, the Minnesota Historical Society put up a temporary sign reading” “Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote” at the historic site. Some people just lost it.

Defenders of 19th Century sensibilities reacted in horror at the “B” word. One elected official threatened to cut the Minnesota Historical Society’s state funding over “at Bdote.”

Fast forward three years. I had forgotten all about this controversy. On Thursday, I learned the Minnesota Historical Society’s governing board voted to stick with the traditional “Historic Fort Snelling” name, offering a fuzzy explanation why.

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Court challenge could weaken Clean Water Act; Native Nations weigh in to keep it strong

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 16 other Native Nations have filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could weaken the federal Clean Water Act.

The case being contested is small in the grand scheme of things, but the precedent it could set is huge. An adverse ruling would mean “thousands of miles of streams and wetlands—many critical to the Tribes—would lose longstanding Clean Water Act protections,” the Tribes said.

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Sackett v. EPA, in its upcoming session.

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U of M is repatriating Indigenous remains, expanding Native American tuition assistance, and more

The University of Minnesota has taken a step forward in efforts to repatriate Mimbres remains and cultural objects dug up by University professors and students as part of an archeological dig from 1928-1931.

It’s one of several actions the University has taken in response to a July, 2020 resolution from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) “to take swift and immediate actions to address institutional racism and improve the school’s relationship with Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribal nations.”

MIAC is a liaison to Minnesota state government for those Tribes.

Other University actions include:

  • Expanding tuition assistance to Native American students
  • Investigating claims of abusive medical research on children from the Red Lake Nation
  • Addressing land issues with the Fond du Lac Band
  • Establishing wild rice research protocols
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EPA urges U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consult Native Nations on Line 5 decisions, honor ‘reserved treaty rights’

In the fall of 2021, 17 federal agencies agreed to coordinate and collaborate “for the Protection of Tribal Treaty Rights and Reserved Rights.”

It didn’t get signed in time to affect decisions on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota, but it could make a difference in the federal review of the proposed rebuild of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline across northern Wisconsin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referenced the commitment to honor treaty rights in a March 16 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) regarding an Enbridge Line 5 permit application. The letter specifically urged the Corps to consider how Line 5 would impact the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s “reserved treaty rights” to hunt, fish, and gather on the land they ceded to the U.S. government.

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Ȟaȟa Wakpadaŋ and the missing stories of Native Americans living in the suburbs

I was surprised to learn that there are more Indigenous people living in suburbs in Minnesota than in urban cores.

The suburbs grew in part because of white flight from the cities. Indigenous people faced barriers to living there, such as racial covenants and redlining. There also was the practical reality of social isolation from other Native families.

But just like many non-Native people, home ownership and better educational opportunities for their children are drawing Indigenous people to the suburbs, said Dr. Kasey Keeler, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a scholar of suburban American Indian history.

Dr. Kasey Keeler.

“We live in an Indigenous landscape,” said Keeler, who grew up in Coon Rapids. “Suburbs are historically Indian places. … It is a place that we have always been and a place where we belong.”

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When generosity became a crime

The United States made many efforts to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples into Christian and European values, with at least one exception: Generosity. Instead of instilling the value that “It is more blessed to give than receive,” the U.S. government punished Indigenous people for acts of generosity.

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MN needs to do better on Indian education, Mpls American Indian Center gets major renovation, and more

In this post:

  • Shakopee Mdewanaton research: Minnesota’s K-12 Indian education resources ‘hit and miss’
  • Minneapolis American Indian Center getting first renovation since it opened
  • Summer solstice event: Dakota Spirit Walk at Bruce Vento Nature Center
  • Yellowstone’s ‘Mount Doane’ now named ‘First Peoples Mountain’
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The Bois Forte Land Back backstory

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa acquired 28,000 acres of land within its traditional reservation boundaries this month, in what Native News Online describes as “the largest land-back agreement in Minnesota and one of the largest-ever in Indian Country.”

“The Bois Forte Band plans to directly manage the restored lands under a forest management plan that emphasizes conservation and environmental protection, balanced with economic and cultural benefits to the Band and its members,” the article said.

The headlines are calling this “historic” or that the tribe is “celebrating” the return of land. While true, this land-back story deserves context: An explanation of why Bois Forte needed to get its land back in the first place.

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