Water Protector Updates from Minnesota to Maine; Burial Site on Fond du Lac Disturbed; Another Public Art Controversy … And More

Update on Enbridge Line 3:

Thanks to the people who are paying attention to Enbridge Line 3, the proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline that would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota. The line would run from Alberta, through Minnesota, into Superior Wisconsin. While Minnesota is more than seven months away from a vote, Enbridge already has started work in Canada and Wisconsin. Here are photos of the work being done in Wisconsin from Neo Gabo Benais’ Facebook page.

Enbridge Line 3 would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and threaten wild rice areas. For more, see our Enbridge Line 3 page.

Penobscot Nation Thwarted in its Attempts to Protect the Waters of the Penobscot River

Here is another example of a Native nation trying to protect its sacred waters. In this case, the Penobscot are losing. Indian Country Today lays it out in a story:  Termination or Extermination for Penobscot Indian Nation? The State of Maine Declares Jurisdiction Over Penobscot River; Federal Courts Agree. The story says:

On June 30, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that severs the Penobscot Indian Nation from the waters of the Penobscot River, a ruling that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis says is reminiscent of federal termination policy—or worse.

“The river and our relationship to it and the 200 islands [that form the reservation] are the core of our cultural identity. If our ability to protect the river is taken away, we lose a big part of who we are,” Francis told ICMN [Indian Country Media Network].

The Penobscot River has significant pollution problems already, the story said. A 2014 federal study recommended that members of the Penobscot nation limit themselves to eating one to two fish per month. That’s barely a meal. Young children and pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat river fish at all. That is a tremendous burden for nation that traditionally depends on fish for its diet, and a nation that cares deeply about the water.

More news follows.

Minnesota Apologizes for Disturbing Fond du Lac Burial Site with Road Project

A Minnesota bridge construction project has disturbed an old burial site on the Fond du Lac Reservation. (This happened back in June, but we missed reporting on it.) An AP story in the Star Tribune at the time reported:

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle has apologized to members of the Fond du Lac for disturbing a Native American burial site. MnDOT stopped the Highway 23 project as soon as the Fond du Lac Band notified them about the burial site. The first remains were found last week with additional bones found this week.

In an Aug. 8 update, Fox 21 ran the story: Fond du Lac Band Asks For Answers; What’s Next? It said?:

“Somehow through that whole process we completely ignored, missed the opportunity to consult with Fond du Lac.” Said MnDOT, Project Engineer. …

Archeologists are now on site carefully removing bones from the grave sites.

In an Aug 8 update, WDIO ran the story: MnDOT: Highway 23 Bridge Project Won’t Happen This Year. It said:

“One guy came up to me and asked do you know how many bodies were dug up?, and the answer is no, we don’t know,” said Jim Jones, Cultural Resource Director with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. …

Right now, archeologists have found artifacts in just about every place they’ve looked, but a thorough review of the area is needed before anything can move forward.

It makes one wonder what we don’t know about cultural resources and burial sites along Enbridge’s new Line 3 corridor.

Another Public Art Controversy, This Time in Calgary

A public art project in Calgary is causing an uproar, both for its cost and for the lack of indigenous involvement, according to an Aug. 4 story in the Calgary Herald: New $500,000 public art installation triggers calls for policy overhaul. The $500,000 commission went to a New York artist and the work borrowed on Native themes. The sculpture, called “Bowfort Towers,” was erected along the Trans Canada highway.  According to the story:

Another growing concern with the latest piece of public art is the “Blackfoot symbolism” with the four steel towers representative of the importance of the number 4 in the culture. …

The sculpture looks similar to the traditional burials of Blackfoot people where bodies were left in trees or above ground as it was believed being buried would trap the spirit.

A follow up story by the Herald Aug. 7 provided more background:

New York City artist Del Geist was instead selected for the project, creating four rusty steel “sentinels” cradling Rundle rock, a type of stone found only in Alberta, which the city said aligns with Blackfoot symbolism, representing four seasons, directions, elements and stages of life.

Geist insisted he consulted with Blackfoot elders but wouldn’t say who they were. Meanwhile, the artwork has come under fire from the Blackfoot community for its resemblance to traditional burial scaffolds.

Image of the sculpture here.

Dealing with Drug Epidemic, Red Lake Turns to Banishment

The Bemidji Pioneer reported Aug. 8 on Red Lake’s effort to deal with the rising drug addiction and drug dealers: Red Lake establishes banishment protocol in response to opioid epidemic.

RED LAKE — Red Lake’s Tribal Council officially established a protocol Tuesday to be used when banishing tribal members who sell drugs.

The council unanimously voted to approve the new process — which was created in response to the opioid epidemic sweeping the reservation and the state as a whole — during its regular monthly meeting.

Bodies of Arapaho Youth Who Died in Carlisle Boarding School Repatriated

The Star Tribune ran a Washington Post on Aug. 9 headlined:Army returns remains of Arapaho children who died at assimilation school in 1800s: In 1800s, they were forced into school that stripped them of their identities.

It told how U.S. Army personnel were disinterring the remains of three Northern Arapaho children who were buried at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania, a school that served as the model for Indian boarding schools across the country. Relatives of the children and other members of the Northern Arapaho nation attended to witness.

The return of the remains is a fitting epilogue to one of the uglier chapters in the history of the U.S. government’s interaction with native tribes, a period when schools like Carlisle were used as tools to detach American Indian youths from their traditions and cultures.

“It’s a long time coming,” Crawford White Sr., an Northern Arapaho elder, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s something that had to be done for our tribe, and the healing begins.”

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