News: ELCA Synod makes reparations payment, a ‘2023 Indigenous Rights, Climate Justice Platform’, and more

In this post:

  • Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA makes $185,000 reparations payment to MN Chippewa Tribe
  • America’s Biggest Museums Fail to Return Native American Human Remains
  • MNIPL, Indigenous leaders, launch 2023 Indigenous Rights, Climate Justice platform
  • Report: Roots, solutions to Native American over incarceration
  • Land Back in Alaska

Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA makes $185,000 reparations payment to MN Chippewa Tribe

The Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA and its Together Here Ministries have made a years-long commitment to racial and economic justice. The effort prepares the synod “to walk with our racialized and marginalized neighbors in a process of learning, listening, and relationship building grounded in truth-telling and the reconciling love of Christ so that transformational change and healing can occur.”

As part of that work, its made a $185,000 payment to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in an effort towards repairs for past harms. A Jan. 3 article in Living Lutheran provides the details. (The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe consists of White Earth, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Grand Portage, and the Bois Forte bands.)

Together Here also has launched a podcast series called Broken Lands, which brings together “the voices of Native Americans and settlers to reflect on the effects of treaty violation, the meaning of reparations, and the possibility of a future in which we live well together.”

The first of three podcasts now available is an interview with Rev. Matt McWaters, who recommended to the Northeastern Minnesota Synod Council of the ELCA to offer reparations.

America’s Biggest Museums Fail to Return Native American Human Remains

“The remains of more than 110,000 Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Natives’ ancestors are still held by museums, universities and federal agencies,” according to a ProPublica investigation, in collaboration with NBC. “A 1990 federal law called for remains to be returned to descendants or tribal nations,” the Jan 11 story said, asking: “Why haven’t these been?”

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Ten institutions hold about half of the Native American remains that have not been returned to tribes.”
  • “Two of those 10 are arms of the U.S. government: the Interior Department, which administers the [repatriation] law, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest federally owned utility.”
  • The Interior Department said it’s not required to begin the repatriation of “culturally unidentifiable human remains” unless a tribe or Native Hawaiian organization makes a formal request.”
  • “Throughout the 1990s, institutions including the Ohio History Connection and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville thwarted the repatriation process by categorizing everything in their collections that might be subject to the law as “culturally unidentifiable.”
  • “As of last month, about 200 institutions — including the University of Kentucky’s William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology and the nonprofit Center for American Archeology in Kampsville, Illinois — had repatriated none of the remains of more than 14,000 Native Americans in their collections.”

Click here for the full story.

MNIPL, Indigenous leaders, launch 2023 Indigenous Rights, Climate Justice platform

With a change in legislative leadership and a $17-billion budget surplus, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) sees an amazing opportunity this year “to effect meaningful change with a bold climate and equity platform.”

Coalition partners include: MNIPL, Honor the Earth, Jewish Community Action, Minnesota Council of Churches, Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA), EcoFaith Network of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA, Episcopal Church in Minnesota, and Native Sun Community Power.

MNIPL also has launched an online Reparations Learning Table, Jan. 26, Feb. 9, 23; 12-1 p.m. (You don’t have to attend all sessions.) Participants will explore the foundations of reparations in a learning series for individuals and faith/spiritual communities. Each session will explore a different perspective on our shared relationship to reparations. Click for more info/register.

MNIPL also has launched a Zoom Study Circles for Economic Justice at the Capitol. The next session is Feb. 1 to learn about the “Green Bank” bill. “A Green Bank bridges financing gaps in clean energy and is run by the state government. Following the model of Connecticut and Michigan, we are pushing for a green bank for Minnesota.” Click here to register.

For more information on the Indigenous Rights and Climate Justice Platform, click here.

Report: Roots, solutions to Native American over incarceration

The Safety + Justice Challenge has issued a report: Over-Incarceration of Native Americans: Roots, Inequities and Solutions.

It opens with the following:

Native people are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. Several factors contribute: a history of federal oppression and efforts to erode Native culture, a series of federal laws that rejected tribal justice systems in place long before European contact, historical trauma that has a lasting impact on the physical and mental well-being of Native people, a complicated jurisdictional structure that pulls Native people further into justice involvement, and a deficiency of representation for the accused in tribal courts. Although people accused of crime in tribal courts are afforded the right to counsel, tribal governments are not constitutionally required to provide appointed counsel for the indigent. As a result, there are uncounseled convictions in tribal courts used against Native people in state and federal systems.

Indigenous Over-Incarceration Report

In concludes, in part:

Tribal justice systems are better positioned to intervene with its justice involved members by offering services that are culturally relevant, restorative, and fair. Tribes can change the trajectory before, or even after, Native people are pulled into state and federal systems as demonstrated by TDO [Tribal Defenders Offices] and other tribal programs that address the underlying issues that bring people into the criminal justice system and the collateral consequences that pull them back in. …

Indigenous Over-Incarceration Report

Land Back in Alaska

“The Chilkoot Indian Association acquired the Fort William H. Seward Parade Grounds from Alaska Indian Arts on December 20,” according to an Association press release, posted on Facebook.

“With the transfer of ownership, the Chilkoot people have regained control of part of the land that they provided to Presbyterian missionaries at the end of the 19th century in order that a school be built for local children. The Mission ceded some of that land to the US military to build a fort. When the fort was closed, rather than revert to the Native population, it was sold to military families, whose descendants still own much of the Fort. …

“The tribe’s first priority is to rebuild the historic Noow Hit Tribal House in the center of the Fort William H. Seward parade grounds. It’s traditional post and beam construction was guided by Tlingit elders who had lived in traditional tribal houses in the late 19th century.”

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