Dear Minnesota Historical Society: Wake Up!

Minnesota state leaders have ignored the fact that this Minnesota Senate mural “The Discoverers and Civilizers Led to the Source of the Mississippi River” is racist.

I recently came across a Minnesota Historical Society webpage titled: Reconciling History, focused on art in the Minnesota State Capitol.

The site gives the impression that the Historical Society is wrestling with the problematic issues of historical Capitol art and its embedded racism (my word, not theirs). Yet, the website uses language that seems to keep the Historical Society above the fray, as if it were possible to be neutral about whether or not the art is offensive. As I read its website, the Historical Society’s solution to interpreting Capitol art seems to be simply adding more voices, not taking a position on whether or not the art is racist.

Here’s how the website starts out:

Throughout the United States today, people are having conversations about our relationship with the past. From Confederate statues to artwork in museums and public spaces, communities are struggling to reconcile a historical narrative that leaves so many stories untold.

The Historical Society’s website fails to define what it means by “Reconciling History.” The phrase itself is nonsensical.

Merriam Webster offers several definitions of reconciling. The first is “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Using this definition, “reconciling history” is meaningless. The real challenge is to reconcile people, in our case descendants of white settlers with indigenous peoples.. Even then, the term “reconcile” is inadequate, because it assumes there was a trusting relationship to be restored when that was never the case. Anyway, the Historical Society’s website doesn’t appear to attempt this type of reconciling.

The second definition of reconciling is “to make consistent or congruous, reconcile an ideal with reality.” Using this definition, “reconciling history” is rather meaningless, too. It’s impossible to have a “consistent” and “congruous” history for all people. The Historical Society’s website makes no attempt to reconcile “an ideal with reality.”

The third definition of reconciling is “to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant.”  Based on this definition, the Historical Society’s website is an abject failure. It avoids discussing unpleasant history.

The Historical Society’s website leaves me wondering whether it used the term “reconciling history” because it sounds good without thinking through what it means.

The Historical Society’s website states that it took “A critical look at the capitol’s artwork.” It did not. Examining the process the Historical Society and state leaders used to review Capitol art will lay bear why the term “reconciling history” is empty.

Continue reading


Line 3 Updates: Monday Webinar to Unpack Judge’s Recommendation; Love Water Not Oil Horse Rides;

A couple of updates on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline.

The Administrative Law Judge is expected to issue her recommendations on Line 3 to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission no later than Monday, April 23. (The Judge’s recommendations will simply be posted on line, there is no formal public presentation; we don’t know the official release time.)

Multiple indigenous and environmental groups will be analyzing the report and have scheduled an in-person and on-line briefing on Monday, 7:30-9 p.m. The event will be held at MN 350, 2104 Stevens Ave., Minneapolis.

According to the Facebook event:

Community members and pipeline fighters will be gathering that evening to review the key points of the recommendation and what it could mean for the fight to Stop Line 3, and laying out next steps in the movement for the coming months.

Join in person … or via WEBCAST from wherever you are! Register for the webcast here: (Webcast will begin at 7:45)

6th Annual Love Water Not Oil Tour

This announcement from Honor the Earth (dates subject to change).

This May and July, we invite the public to join us for the 6th Annual Love Water Not Oil Tour! Last year, we went on two rides fighting the proposal Line 3 expansion and proposed Line 61 pipeline projects. As the Line 3 struggle heats up this summer, we will ride horses again in two rides along the proposed pipeline route against the current of the oil while connecting with the land and spiritually celebrating the abundance of Anishinaabe Akiing.

The first ride in May will be four-day a show of force prior to the PUC’s decision to permit the pipeline, kicking off on May 21st at the Mississippi Headwaters, going past the Clearbrook terminal, and ending in Bemidji on May 25th.

Our second ride in July will follow our annual path from East Lake in Mille Lacs to Rice Lake in White Earth over the course of ten days. We will be kicking it off with a concert in Duluth on July 22nd and attending the East Lake Powwow July 27th-29th.

We are looking for Donations and Volunteers!

These rides depend on the generosity of our community and supporters to continue to happen. We are especially looking for large food donations and volunteers able to help in the kitchen to feed the riders, set-up/take-down camp, and transport people and supplies.

If you plan to join us for any part of this ride or if you are interested in sponsoring, donating food/supplies, or volunteering to make this ride possible, please contact Charlotte at or 612-387-9768.

If you cannot join us but want to support the tour, please donate on with a comment that your donation is for the LWNO Horse Ride.

Key Enbridge Line 3 Recommendations Expected in Less than a Week; Canadians Have Their Own Pipeline Strife

Proposed Line 3 pipeline expansion goes south from Clearbrook then east to Superior, WI.

We are now less than a week away from Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly’s recommendations on Enbridge Line 3. O’Reilly will forward her report no later than April 23 to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on whether or not to approve needed permits for Enbridge’s proposed pipeline expansion. Watch for updates.

That’s not the last step in the process, but it’s an important one. The PUC is expected to make the final vote in late May or early June on whether to approve Line 3’s Certificate of Need and Route Permit. The recommendations might not be as simple as thumbs up or thumbs down. The recommendations could have nuances, such as recommending an alternative route to the one Enbridge prefers. Continue reading

Predictable Push Back: D.J Tice’s Stale Arguments Against Reinterpreting Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling

Star Tribune columnist D.J. Tice offered predictable and flawed push back against needed truth telling at Fort Snelling.

Tice’s opinion piece — Fort Snelling: New Vision, Old Wounds — focuses on plans to renovate and reinterpret the Fort, plans which would give a prominent place to acts of injustice and cruelty that were part of Minnesota’s founding and whose legacy continues today. Plans would bring forward stories about the brutal concentration camp below the Fort that held Dakota women and children following the Dakota War of 1862, a camp where hundreds died. It would talk about the Dred Scott case and the fact that Scott was held at Fort Snelling.

This new narrative would challenge the political correctness of a prior age.

Tice uses several common arguments to push back against such truth telling.

  1. The Plan is Too Critical of the Past: Tice mixes the Fort Snelling debate in with recent efforts to remove Confederate statues in the south and to restore the name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun. He wraps them under the broad heading of the “new censorious spirit” of our age. (Censorious, according to Merriam Webster, mean hypercritical, fault finding, or carping. It’s basically a put down for those seeking change.)
  2. The Plan Needs More Historical “Balance”: Tice seems to argue that it’s okay to add some stories of past injustices, but apparently we shouldn’t overdo it. History needs to be balanced.
  3. The Plan Victimizes Veterans: Tice cites retired National Guard Gen. Richard C. Nash, raising concerns that the fort’s military history will be pushed aside and replaced with more painful stories.  This “zero-sum” thinking raises the fear that adding to the historical narrative unfairly diminishes the Fort and veterans’ stories.

Tice’s closing paragraphs argues for a blame-free and “balanced” historical narrative:

One might wish for an approach to history in which the very purpose is to try — not so much to condemn or to justify — but to understand the passions and motives of all peoples of the past. Yet maybe a truly balanced view of history has always been too much to expect.

It is, though, what Minnesota should strive for.

Tice’s narrative doesn’t go for balance. He prefers emotionally charged words, such as “censorious,” “score-settling,” “reproachful,” and “villainous whites and victimized minorities.” Continue reading

Enbridge Line 3 Facebook Ad Omits Important Stuff

A friend shared with me an Enbridge Line 3 sponsored Facebook ad. It reads in part: “The Line 3 Replacement Project is the future of Minnesota — $30 million in tax revenue …”

This is part of the last-minute pr flurry. Read with caution.

Saying the Line 3 Replacement Project is the “future of Minnesota” is hyperbole at best. Fossil fuels are a dying industry in developed countries. Minnesota’s annual sales of refined petroleum products are declining. Enbridge wants this pipeline to get more petroleum to export markets.

Petroleum is not Minnesota’s future.

Next, let’s focus on one of Line 3’s promised benefits: Increased tax revenue. There’s an important backstory to tell. Overall, Enbridge pays more than $30 million in property taxes to Minnesota counties its pipelines cross. (Perhaps that’s the $30 million referred to in the Facebook ad.)

If Line 3 were approved, Enbridge says, Minnesota could get as much as $19.6 million more in property taxes annually (see the Certificate of Need,  page 4-5).

Here’s the kicker: Enbridge is currently suing Minnesota counties for what it says are property tax overcharges. Enbridge claims the state has overvalued its pipeline property. MPR wrote about it in the fall of 2017, under the headlines: Enbridge tax fight could cost northern Minn. counties millions of dollars. It said:

In total, Enbridge is appealing five years of property taxes. The court case … covers 2012 to 2014. During that period, Enbridge says it overpaid $18 million. For 2015 and 2016, it argues it’s owed an additional $32 million in overpaid taxes. … And Enbridge also plans to appeal its 2017 taxes, said spokesperson Shannon Gustafson.

This could be devastating for some small northern counties, where Enbridge is the largest property tax payer, MPR wrote.

So on one hand, Enbridge is promising up to $19.6 million a year in new property tax revenue on Line 3. On the other hand, its suing for $50 million in what it says are tax overcharges and its suing for an ongoing decrease in its property taxes.

The projected $19.6 million property tax increase from Line 3 is based on the current tax schedule. That means if Enbridge wins its tax case, the promised property tax payments from the new Line 3 will shrink.

What else isn’t Enbridge telling you?

Legislative Victory: Pro Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Bill Fizzles in Senate Committee

With 80 people attending the meeting, none wanted to testify in support of the bill that would green light the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline.

A key Minnesota Senate Committee voted down a bill that would have bypassed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and approved the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.

The bill was an effort to subvert the formal review process at a time when a final decision is near at hand. An administrative law judge is expected to issue her Line 3 recommendations to the PUC no later than April 23. The PUC is expected to vote on Line 3’s route permit and certificate of need in late May or early June.

In a surprise vote, the Senate Energy and Utility Finance and Policy Committee rejected S.F. 3510 Thursday on a 4-5 vote, with Sen. Michael Goggin (R-Red Wing) breaking with the Repubican majority and casting the deciding no vote. The bill would have ended the PUC process and approved the project with no conditions.

Committee Chair David Osmek authored the bill and seemed ill prepared and uniformed about it.

The proposal is not dead. A similar bill, HF 3759, is alive and awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

Continue reading

Events: Feast and Celebration of Native Languages; Quillwork Workshops

Spring Feast for Native Language Revitalization April 19

Bdote Learning Center and Wicoie Nandagikendan are hosting a Spring Feast and Language Celebration Day next week, Thursday, April 19th, 6-8 p.m. at Bdote Learning Center, 3216 East 29th Street in Minneapolis. Mayor Jacob Frey will be joining the event at 6:30 pm to declare a language revitalization proclamation day. A traditional meal will be served. 

Wicoie Nandagikendan is an early childhood education language immersion program in Dakota and Ojibwe. Bdote is an elementary school with language immersion in Dakota and Ojibwe.

Quillwork Workshop

Two Rivers Gallery is pleased to announce that we will be a hosting another Quill Workshop taught by Miskwa-Mukwa Desjarlait. Miskwa was accepted in to the American Indian Family Empowerment Program supported by the Tiwahe Foundation to continue his work preserving and renewing cultural connections through teaching the cultural practices of quillwork.

We are currently seeking 25 participants ages 13+ to be involved in this project who will be able to commit to ALL 7 sessions. This program will run April 25th through June 13th, 2018.

Over the course of seven sessions students will learn the basics of quillwork through a series of smaller projects. They will start by learning wrapping techniques to make bracelets and will later move on to appliqué all the while creating their own designs.

In addition to learning techniques, students will learn about the history of quillwork along with the process of picking quills and dyeing them.

Once these sessions are complete, the students work will then be displayed in the gallery for up to eight weeks.

Registration Deadline: April 20th

Class Dates: April – 25th | May – 2nd, 9th, 16th, 30th | June – 6th, 13th

Class Time: Wednesdays, 5-7pm

Location: Two Rivers Gallery Community Art Space, 1530 E Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

Contact: Maggie Thompson | Gallery Manager, e: | p: 612-879-1780