Practical ‘Land Back’ opportunity, understanding the Two Spirit story, and more

In this post:

  • Practical ‘Land Back’ opportunity through the Indian Land Tenure Foundation
  • Understanding the Two Spirit story
  • MPCA, DNR use law firm with ties to mining interests

Practical ‘Land Back’ opportunity through the Indian Land Tenure Foundation

The Minnesota-based Indian Land Tenure Foundation has established a practical way for organizations and governments that read land acknowledgement statements to put their words into actions.

The foundation has launched the ‘Beyond Land Acknowledgement Fund’ to act as a conduit for individuals and institutions to fund Land Back work.

Initial funding came from an unexpected payment from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the foundation said in a news release. Foundation president Cris Stainbrook spoke at the church last fall about Indian land issues. When he finished, the pastor thanked him, read the congregation’s land acknowledgement statement, and handed him a $250,000 no-strings-attached check for the foundation’s Land Back work.

The Foundation helps Native Nations buy back land they lost within their original reservation boundaries. For instance, it played a key role in helping the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa restore more than 28,000 acres this past summer, the news release said.

That restored 20 percent of the reservation’s original lands, MPR reported.

It was the largest land back effort in Minnesota history, Native News Online said.

Many Indian reservations lost significant chunks of their original reservations through the 1887 Dawes Act, also known as the Allotment Act. The U.S. government forced Native Nations out of their traditional ways and into a system of private property. It broke up communally held reservations into individual family plots, often 160 acres each. If the government finished the allotment and land remained, it declared it “excess” and sold it off.

Tribes were not consulted nor did they agree to this law. It resulted in what now is called “checkerboarding,” where once intact reservations lands became a mix of Indian-owned and settler-owned lands, making the land ownership map look like a checkerboard.

Understanding the Two-Spirit story

Traditional Native American communities didn’t ostracize community members who were lesbian, gay, or gender non conforming. In fact, they have a different understanding and name for what western culture calls LGBT, according to the Indian Country Today article Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders.

“The Native American belief is that some people are born with the spirits of both genders and express them so perfectly,” the article said. “It is if they have two spirits in one body.”

“Native Americans traditionally assign no moral gradient to love or sexuality; a person was judged for their contributions to their tribe and for their character,” it continued. “It was also a custom for parents to not interfere with nature and so among some tribes, children wore gender-neutral clothes until they reached an age where they decided for themselves which path they would walk and the appropriate ceremonies followed.

At the Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg in 1990, participants chose the term Two Spirit, according to Wikiwand. It was created “to distinguish and distance Native American/First Nations people from non-Native peoples.

MPCA, DNR use law firm with ties to mining interests to defend PolyMet permits in court

We want state agencies to have the best possible independent legal advice when making decisions about state’s long-term environmental health, such as approving a new mine.

The vast majority of the time, the Minnesota Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office provides legal advice for state agencies. Exceptions happen when cases are so big they would swamp the AG’s resources. That is the case with ongoing litigation over the permits for the PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota.

Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) have issued permits for PolyMet’s NorthMet mine to proceed, moves challenged by environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Since 2015, the state has paid $6.4 million to Holland & Hart, a national lawfirm with ties to the mining industry to represent the MPCA and DNR in their legal challenges, the StarTribune reported last month. Environmental advocates question the spending, noting the money could have gone to hiring more AG Office staff, and building internal legal expertise on mining.

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