Catholic boarding schools, U.S. policies, swindled Indigenous families into paying for their children’s assimilation

Much has been written about how Indian children suffered tremendous physical, emotional and sexual abuse in Indian boarding schools during the 19th and 20th centuries. Some even died. Their cultures were beat out of them. They were punished for speaking their Native languages. Taken from their parents, they didn’t learn parenting skills. They were forced to take colonial names, wear colonial clothes, and worship the colonial God — “a deliberate policy of ethnocide and cultural genocide,”according to the Native American Rights Fund.

A less well known and disturbing fact is that Native American families were taken advantage of, and ended up paying tuition to Catholic boarding schools for their children’s traumatic assimilation, according to an article published Tuesday by Type Investigations, in collaboration with In These Times. Continue reading

A litany for those who aren’t ready for healing

People gathered Sunday, June 7, at the site where George Floyd was murdered.

Four years ago yesterday, July 6, Philando Castile was shot dead by St. Anthony police after he was stopped for driving with a broken tail light.

One of the officers asked Castille for his drivers license and registration. Castile informed the officer that he had a firearm (which he had a license to carry.) When Castile reached for paperwork, an officer shot him seven times at close range.

Castile joined the growing list of black men killed by police.

Hundreds of people gathered at Luther Seminary for a Service of Prayer and Lament honoring Castile’s life, one of many such services. A particularly moving part was a reading by Afro Christian scholar Rev. Yolanda Pierce called “A Litany for those who aren’t ready for healing.”

I came across it again today. Given George Floyd’s murder and the events that followed, it seems like an appropriate to reprint it. Continue reading

Standing Rock, Indian Country, score big court victory against DAPL

From protest for sending Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies to Standing Rock.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has to shut down by Aug. 5 and the pipeline emptied of oil until the project’s environmental impact statement is finished and treaty rights and other environmental challenges are resolved, according to a court ruling today. According to the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake [Lake Oahe]. Today they finally achieve that goal — at least for the time being.

Depending on the results of a pending environmental impact statement, DAPL could be forced to shut down permanently.

Energy Transfer, a leading partner in DAPL, criticized the ruling and vowed to challenge it. The company faces problems on second front, as oil firms are trying to back out of commitments they made to ship oil on a proposed DAPL expansion.

Continue reading

Ways to engage in dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department

City charter amendment would replace it with a Department of Public Safety and Violence Prevention

Black Visions and Reclaim the Block have led efforts to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with community-based public safety measures. Here’s what their organizers say you need to know about next steps and how to stay engaged. Continue reading

The South Dakota State Capitol’s art features Manifest Destiny narratives and myths

Mural in the South Dakota Senate Chambers: “The Louisiana Purchase.” (Click here for a more detailed image.)

Watching the current demise of Confederate monuments and Columbus statues, it’s time again to look at art in state Capitols and other public buildings and ask about the stories they tell.

During a recent visit to the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre, I found the Senate Chamber’s Louisiana Purchase mural particularly jarring. The central figure is a half naked Indigenous woman. The narrative its creates is that she is both hypersexualized and uncivilized.

An angel stands behind her, wrapping her in the civilizing influence of the U.S. flag, a symbol of assimilation.

Continue reading

15th century papal edicts authorized the African slave trade, Indigenous land seizures

The worldview they helped create still is alive today

This blog has written often about the Doctrine of Discovery: 15th century Catholic Church edicts that provided the moral and legal justification for European monarchs and their “explorers” to seize Indigenous lands and enslave, convert, or kill Indigenous peoples in lands which would become known as the “New World.”

The Doctrine of Discovery also includes papal edicts issued decades before Columbus sailed, edicts that justified Portugal’s west African slave trade. Continue reading

How will the MPCA handle Enbridge Line 3’s water quality certificate? Minntac’s example is alarming

Part IV and last in a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Tribes, environmental groups, and concerned citizens won a victory recently, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) agreed to allow challenges to its proposed approval of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline.

To proceed with Line 3, Enbridge needs the MPCA to issue the project a water quality certificate. The agency had tentatively given the OK.

Public pressure got the MPCA to reconsider, and it ordered a contested case hearing. Administrative Law Judge James LaFave will handle the proceedings, expected later this summer. The hearings will allow intervenors — White Earth Nation, Red Lake Nation, Honor the Earth, Sierra Club and Friends of the Headwaters — to challenge the facts the MPCA used to reach its decision.

This is a significant win. The MPCA doesn’t seem inclined to use its regulatory authority to protect water quality. One troubling example is the MPCA’s failure in 2014 to use the water quality certificate process to force U.S. Steel to address ongoing pollution problems at its Minntac taconite mine in northern Minnesota.

Continue reading

News and Links: Feds fail Indian Country in COVID-19 response, Enbridge pipeline problems persist; Remembering Native American lynchings

In this blog:

  • Iron Rangers try to deny Fond du Lac drinking water grant because of tribe’s mining opposition
  • Center for American Progress: COVID-19 Response in Indian Country: A Federal Failure
  • Voice of America: Remembering Native American lynching
  • Enbridge fined for pipeline safety violations in Minnesota

Continue reading

State Legislature has passed laws to undermine the MPCA’s ability to enforce water and wild rice protections

Part III of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Minntac viewed from Mountain Iron

Making laws can be messy. We want to believe that the end result is democratic and fair.

In reality, we know that some groups have stronger political connections and more money, and that can influence outcomes. We need to know that we have strong political institutions that can provide balance, making sure sound science is followed, that Native Nations and other communities with less power get heard, and the public interest is best served.

The state of Minnesota in general – and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in particular – have failed to strike that balance when it comes to regulating U.S. Steel’s Minntac taconite mine, and other mining operations, and the water pollution they generate.

The MPCA has much to answer for regarding its ineffectiveness in regulating Minntac’s mine wastewater, but it’s also important to acknowledge that the legislature and pro-mining lobbying interests have undermined the agency’s ability to take a tough stand in recent years. Continue reading

The MPCA’s stunning ineffectiveness in protecting state waters from mining interests: A timeline of inaction

Part II of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Looking north from Mt. Iron at Minntac.

Water is central to Minnesota’s identity – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We pride ourselves in clean water and a clean environment, and preserving it for future generations.

We want to believe that rules and laws apply equally. Just because someone has more money or more political clout doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to them.

Yet for decades, U.S. Steel’s Minntac mining operation has violated state water quality rules, notably the “Wild Rice Rule” that limits sulfate pollution to protect wild rice. When wild rice dies, the harm falls hardest on the Ojibwe people for whom it’s a sacred food.

Sandy and Little Sandy lakes, just downstream from Minntac, once had 200 acres of wild rice which are now gone.

It’s the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) job to “to protect and improve the environment and human health.” Yet taking the Minntac taconite mine as a case study, the agency has failed to do its job. Continue reading