Problematic St. Paul City Murals to be Covered, and other News and Events

In this blog:

  • MPR: Problematic St. Paul city murals to be covered … sometimes
  • MPR: Sacred Prairie Island pipe reclaimed
  • New Exhibit at All My Relations Gallery: Responsibilities and Obligations Understanding Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ
  • MPR: New shelter opens for homeless people at Hiswatha camp
  • Star Tribune: Push to more aggressively fight crime on tribal land
  • Washington Post’s gaffe in its Reds*ins coverage

Problematic St. Paul city murals to be covered … sometimes

St. Paul leaders are taking a stand to make City Hall and the Ramsey County Courthouse a more welcoming place for all residents. The St. Paul City Council and Ramsey County Board both use the same space, a room dominated by four large Depression-era murals. The murals highlight explorers, treaty signings, and business development — showing the wild landscape giving way to buildings, commerce, and modernity.

The murals show white men in leadership roles, such as a surveyor, and they show people of color in subservient roles, such an African American porter carrying luggage for a white businessman. According to Nov. 29 MPR story, the city and county will create a joint task force this month “to solicit new artwork that will cover the historic murals — at least temporarily. New small scale artwork will be created, then enlarged and fitted in the wall recesses where the murals are now. At any given time two murals would be covered, with two others exposed.”

It’s a good first step.

As a side note, this blog has written extensively on the problematic images of Manifest Destiny in the artwork in Minnesota’s public spaces, notably the Capitol. (See our blog’s Capitol Art section.) The impetus for this work started with Healing Minnesota Stories friend Ken Ford, a retired St. Paul City employee, who spent lots of time in the St. Paul City Council chambers. He studied the 30-foot tall murals and wondered about the messages they sent to those in the chambers. His research was critical to our work. Thanks again, Ken, for lifting up this important issue.

Click on the story link above for images of some of the artwork.

Sacred Prairie Island pipe reclaimed

MPR ran a story today headlined: ‘Come to take you home’: A pipe, a tribe, a quest to reclaim the past, about the return of a sacred pipe to the Prairie Island Dakota. The pipe had belonged to White Dog, one of the 38 Dakota men hung in Mankato following the Dakota-U.S. War. While there are varying accounts, it seems most likely that a soldier stole the pipe from White Dog prior to his execution.

The pipe turned up at an East Coast auction recently, “Minnesota’s Dakota communities asked the auction house to cancel the sale, arguing the pipe was a sacred object that should be returned to them. The auction house refused,” the story said.

The Prairie Island community wanted to put in a bid but was unable to get it ready in time for the auction, the story said. The pipe sold for $40,000, double the expected price. It was purchased by an anonymous buyer secured, who asked the auction house to return to Prairie Island. Click on the link above for more details.

All My Relations Gallery Art Opening: Responsibilities and Obligations Understanding Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ

The new art exhibit at All My Relations Gallery is titled: “Responsibilities and Obligations Understanding Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ.” Originally created and displayed at Racing Magpie in Rapid City, South Dakota, it’s now on view at All My Relations, 1414 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis through January.

According to the All My Relations website:

Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ is a phrase in the Lakota language and culture that loosely translates to “we are all related” or “all my relatives.” It is used by Lakota and non-Lakota alike and has been appropriated as an all-encompassing idea of inclusiveness. This exhibition is a reflective journey highlighting Lakota female perspectives surrounding the idea of Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ and the implications of this phrase. The project aims to engage Lakota artists, scholars and general audiences to reflect on the (mis)appropriation of this phrase through video and multimedia installations. …

The artists are: Mary V. Bordeaux (Sicangu/Oglala Lakota) co-founder and owner of Racing Magpie, a collaborative Native art gallery; Clementine Bordeaux,  Sicangu Lakota Oyate raised on Pine Ridge; and Layli Long Soldier, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation now living in Santa Fe.

New shelter opens for homeless people at Hiawatha camp

MPR reported last week on the new temporary housing opening for those who are living in the homeless encampment on and around Hiawatha and Franklin avenues. When finished, the “navigation center” will hold up to 120 people, the story said: “The city has not set a time when the encampment along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues will close.”

Click on the link for more details.

Star Tribune Editorial: A welcome push to more aggressively fight crime on tribal land

The Star Tribune editorial board met with newly-appointed U.S. attorney, Erica MacDonald, and writes that she “merits praise for taking swift steps her first year on the job to aggressively prosecute crime on tribal lands.”

MacDonald met with the Editorial Board soon after starting her duties last summer as the state’s top federal law enforcement officer. She spoke movingly then of her previous experience as an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting crime on Minnesota reservations and vowed that criminal justice in these communities would be a priority. The U.S. Attorney’s Office shoulders tribal public safety responsibilities because of historic federal trust obligations. Violence in these communities has been a long-festering and long-neglected problem.

Comments welcome on whether the editorial board’s assessment matches the reality on the ground.

Washington Post’s gaffe in its Reds*ins coverage

Washington Post news coverage takes a shot at the city’s football team for trying to slip stadium funding into a federal spending bill, but at the same time makes a two gaffes in a single sentence. It says:

While controversy over the team’s name has subsided, it remains vehemently opposed as racially offensive by some Native American groups.

Comment: Not sure how the reporters concluded that the controversy has subsided. It seems like something they believed themselves without much thought or evidence. If the team showed up in Minnesota, there would still be big protests. Second, the statement that the team name is “vehemently opposed as racially offensive by some Native American groups” doesn’t paint the full picture. There are many non-indigenous people who also find the name offensive, and to limit critics to “some Native American groups” diminishes the extent of popular opposition.

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