Line 3 Teach In: Learn about Proposed Tar Sands Pipeline through Northern Minnesota and What You Can Do to Stop it!

Minnesota has an opportunity to stop an unnecessary and ill-advised tar sands crude oil pipeline project in our state. Come to a Teach-In to learn about the project and what you can do to help stop it. The Teach-In is Thursday, June 29th, at Walker Community United Methodist Church, 3104 16th Ave. S., Minneapolis. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Here is the Facebook page for the event.

Enbridge, a large energy transportation and delivery business, has several tar sands oil pipelines running through Minnesota. It has proposed abandoning an existing pipeline (Line 3) in the ground and installing a new and larger pipeline, including a reroute. The proposed new route would cut right through the Mississippi Headwaters region as well as prime wild ricing areas and violate treaty rights.

For more, this blog has a separate page dedicated to Line 3.

The event is being co-sponsored by Honor the Earth, Healing Minnesota Stories, the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative, and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

Reflections on “Scaffold”: Artistic Freedom, the Son of Sam, and Repentance

“Scaffold” sculpture was removed from the Walker Sculpture Garden.

The Walker Art Center made the right decision when it agreed to remove Scaffold from its new Sculpture Garden, yet for some thorny questions of artistic freedom remain.

We get stuck in this debate when we see the decision to remove Scaffold as a referendum on artistic freedom. That polarizes people. Yes, we deeply value artistic freedom, yet we hold other deep values, too, like fairness and inclusion. When values don’t line up on a particular decision, we have a difficult choice to make.

So here’s the question: In the case of Scaffold, how would those of us who agree with removing the sculpture describe our deeper values, those that in this case override our value for artistic freedom?

Continue reading

U.S. Supreme Court OKs Trademarks with Racial Slurs, Could Undercut Efforts to Force Washington Reds*ins Name Change

A U.S. Supreme Court decision approves the use of a racial slur as a trademark, according to a National Public Radio story.

Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.

That opens the door for other slurs to be trademarked, for instance the Washington Reds*ins. Indian Country Today ran a story: Supreme Court: Yes, You Can Trademark Disparaging Racial Slurs Like R-Word quotes an official with the Washington football team as being “thrilled” with the decision. Others plan continue to fight sports teams’ use of Indian mascots. Continue reading

Gingrich Plays the “Scalp” Card, the Metaphor that Wouldn’t Die

Have you ever seen a picture of an Indian getting scalped by a settler or soldier? We know it happened a lot. Why don’t we ever see that image or read about it?

That question came to mind reading a story from The Hill, headlined: Gingrich: Somebody probably going to jail over Russia investigation. In the story, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich compared those investigating the Russian ties in the Trump administration to an “Indian hunting party.”

“This is like watching an old-fashioned Western movie. This is an Indian hunting party,” Gingrich said. “They’re out looking for a couple scalps, and they’re not going to go home until they get some.”

It’s a 19th Century metaphor that won’t go away. His career grinding to a halt, I guess former House Speaker Gingrich is trying to stay in the spotlight by being controversial. But what a bizarre image to conjure up. It denigrates Native Americans as savage. It makes the investigators asking tough questions seem savage. It makes high-powered politicians under investigation seem like helpless, brutalized victims.

The use of the “Scalps” metaphor requires a quick Public Service Announcement on the matter. This was not a uniquely Native American practice. In fact, it was the settlers’ free enterprise idea of paying for scalps that accelerated the practice. Continue reading

Honor Dakota Sacred Sites, Mother Earth, During World Peace and Prayer Day, Wednesday, June 21

World Peace and Prayer Day events in the Twin Cities start at 6 a.m. at Indian Mounds Park, St. Paul. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

World Peace and Prayer Day events will be held all across the world on the Solstice, June 21; here in the Twin Cities people are invited to participate in a daylong event where they will travel to various Dakota sacred sites and related events.

In an email to the Minnesota Indian listserve, Juanita Espinosa gave the following schedule of local events:

  • Indian Mounds Regional Park at 6:00 a.m. – Beginning in the east. Indian Mounds Regional Park is home to six Native American burial mounds high atop 450 million-year-old limestone and sandstone bluffs overlooking downtown Saint Paul. The mounds serve as a reminder of Minnesota’s history for future generations. At least sixteen burial mounds originally existed on the bluff top. Nineteen more were located further down the bluff above Wakan Tipi, also known as Carver’s Cave.
  • Powderhorn Park at 9:00 a.m. Gather for the Mni Wiconi Kids Run, which will be held in honor of Wastewin Gonzales and sponsored by Juanita Vargas, her daughter. Wastewin was born in her water sac; she came into the world complete.  She walked on as a young mother,  17 months after the birth of her daughter,  who now wishes to carry on with her mother’s desire to encourage young ones.  This run is for children 12 and under.  It is not a race.  Juanita’s aunties will assist her in preparing the young ones for the run around the lake in Powderhorn Park.
  • Nicollet Island at 12:00 noon, near Owamni Falls. Nicollet Island is the only inhabited island on the Mississippi River. This forty-eight-acre wonderland is a bucolic refuge, hiding right under the nose of Downtown. Many don’t even notice it as they drive over the Hennepin Avenue bridge to Northeast Minneapolis on the East Bank of the Mississippi, but it contains many marvelous secrets.  Here we will offer prayers to the waters.
  • Cold Water Springs at 3:00 p.m. Mni Owe Sni served as an important crossroads for Native Americans.
  • Oheyawahi/Pilot Knob at 6:00 p.m. Known to Dakota people as Oheyawahi, “the hill much visited,” Pilot Knob is a place of distinctive historical, cultural, and environmental importance, a sacred site, a landmark of Minnesota’s beginnings. Pilot Knob is located on the east end of the Mendota Bridge, south of Highway 55 in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. A portion of the hill is included in Acacia Park Cemetery. Here we will end our day, if you wish to bring a dish and/or a gift to share with others, you are welcome to do so.We will set up tables and gather at the circle directly north of the parking lot.

For more on the history of World Peace and Prayer Day, keep reading. Continue reading

DAPL Court Ruling a Mixed Bag: Reveals Deeply Flawed Environmental Justice Review, but Weak on Treaty Rights

A recent court ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is stunning for what is reveals about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted its so called “environmental analysis” of the project.

The June 14 decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg will require the Corps to go back and do the analysis correctly. He left open the possibility that the court could shut down the pipeline until these issues are resolved. That decision will come at a later hearing.

The court ruling says the Corps analysis “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” Read more deeply into the decision, and it raises questions about whether the Corps is simply oblivious to the concept of environment justice or whether its staff willfully slanted the review to get the outcome it wanted.

(In a related matter, the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the Environmental Justice Program altogether and making deep cuts to other civil rights services. See this CNN story.)

According to the court decision on DAPL: “The purpose of an environmental justice analysis is to determine whether a project will have a disproportionately adverse effect on minority and low income populations.”

The problem with the Corps’ environmental justice analysis boils down to this: It drew such a tiny circle defining the project’s impact area that it excluded the Standing Rock Nation from consideration.

That’s right. The Corps’ environmental justice analysis only looked at the impact on a predominantly white community mostly upstream from where DAPL crossed under Lake Oahe. It did not consider the impact on the Lakota people of the Standing Rock Nation just downstream from the crossing — the community that would be impacted by any spill. Continue reading

MnDOT Project Desecrates Native Graves, One More Example of Native Invisibility

Here’s another tragic example where Native lives and history are invisible to key decision-makers: The Minnesota Department of Transportation thoughtlessly unearthed Anishinaabe graves as part of its Mission Creek Bridge project in Duluth. Just like officials at the Walker Art Center and the controversy over Scaffold, MnDOT is now scrambling to offer a profound apology. Here it is, reported by Minnesota Public Radio:

“No question, disturbing the sacred burial sites was an incredibly horrific event,” MnDOT Commissioner Charles A. Zelle told a meeting at the Fond du Lac Community Church last night. “We do take responsibility. … We’re just beginning to understand the pain and the anger that comes from a disruption that we could have avoided.”

According to the Duluth News Tribune report on the community meeting:

[People wanted to know] how and why, after five years of planning, the [Fond du Lac] band was not consulted and no flags were raised, considering the historic nature of the area in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood where highway construction was taking place.

The agency said its process did not include working with the band, and that process had failed.”

Just like Walker’s decision to erect a sculpture replicating the scaffold used to hang 38 Dakota men — one of the most tragic days in Dakota history — no one at MnDOT thought to consult with affected Native communities. There wasn’t any policy in place to even raise the question.

This issue is bigger than the Walker; it is bigger than MnDOT. It reflects our state’s lack of education about Minnesota’s first peoples and their history — and our institutional cultures that are comfortable remaining ignorant.