Four-day ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ Encampment opens on the State Capitol Mall

A dozen tepees went up on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall Monday.

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 contradictions around racial equity.

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state to meaningful consultation with Native Nations. He followed that up by allowing Enbridge to build its Line 3 tar sands pipeline over strong tribal opposition with little or no consultation.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has touted its racial justice framework. When the agency approved permits for Enbridge Line 3, a majority of its Environmental Justice Working Group resigned, writing: “… we cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people.”

Native grandmothers, water protectors, and their allies are not letting up. They have set up camp on the Capitol lawn as a sign both of their ongoing resistance to Line 3 and their long-standing commitment to uphold treaty rights.

The state has responded with fear: erecting fencing around the Capitol and sending a heavy police presence.

Continue reading

Events: The Derek Chauvin trial begins, stopping Line 3, learn about reparations work, and more

In this blog:

  • March 7: Pray for Minnesota: A Gathering for Unity and Peace as the murder trial of George Floyd begins
  • March 8: Global Day of Prayer, George Floyd Square
  • March 10: Art at the Capitol
  • March 11: Rise by the River to Stop Line 3
  • March 11 and April 8: Antisemitism and White Supremacy
  • March 16: Righting Wrongs, Repairing Our Communities
Continue reading

Federal government to return (some) stolen lands to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Part of an occasional series highlighting examples of truth telling, education, and reparations with Indigenous and African American communities

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe holds less of its original reservation lands than any other Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota. In fact, Leech Lake suffered more land loss than most other reservations in the United States due the efforts by lumber barons to get their hands on the band’s prized timber lands.

The federal government has a trust responsibility to Native Americans. Historically, it deemed Native American “incompetent” to manage their own affairs. The government was supposed to protect Native nations and their lands from fraud and abuse. In fact, the government actively participated in undermining treaty obligations and facilitated land sell-offs to private business interests.

This year, Congress approved a bill to return some 17 square miles to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, lands that had been “wrongly transferred” to the Chippewa National Forest, according to the Pioneer Press.

Chippewa National Forest. Source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

A Leech Lake tribal news release said: “The land restoration is the culmination of years of effort and will honor tribal sovereignty, allowing the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to invest in future generations and build more housing to accommodate their community.”

This is not charity. This is justice.

This is an act to be celebrated and a history to be mourned. While 17 square miles might seem like a lot, it’s a very small measure of repair given the amount of land stolen under the federal Dawes, Nelson, Morris, and Burke Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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

HMS “Challenging Public Art” Exhibit Opens May 26; U.S. House Committee Seeks Changes in Capitol Art Interpretation

“Challenging Public Art” will run from May 26-June 30 at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis.

Healing Minnesota Stories is remounting its traveling art exhibit that highlights racist art in public spaces and offering alternative student art as one path forward.

The exhibit, “Challenging Public Art,” will run from May 26 to June 30 at First Unitarian Society, 900 Mt Curve Ave, Minneapolis. A reception will be held on Sunday, June 9, noon-1 p.m. Jim Bear Jacobs, Director of Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches and Healing Minnesota Stories founder, will speak on the exhibit.

Continue reading

Youth Art in Capitol Tells Subversive Message: “Clean Drinking Water Starts With Me”

Art by Claudia St. Germaine, New Prague ALC, hangs in the Capitol’s Public Business Center as part of an exhibit of student art on the importance of clean drinking water.

Capitol’s third floor Public Business Center.

Tucked away in room on the Capitol’s third floor hangs a student art exhibit with the unifying theme of “Clean Water Starts with Me.”

The theme just as well could have been: “Water is Life.”

I was particularly struck with by a piece by high school student Claudia St. Germaine (above) with lakes and pines. It creates a typical northern Minnesota scene, perhaps one of the areas where the giant Canadian corporation Enbridge is proposing to dig a large trench to bury a 36-inch pipeline carrying tar sands crude oil, the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

This pipeline is the kind of project that threatens our clean drinking water, something too many state officials have chosen to ignore. Continue reading

Notre Dame Covers Controversial Murals, Ramsey County Courthouse Should Follow Its Lead

A quick update on how other communities are dealing with controversial public art: The University of Notre Dame has announced it will cover controversial Columbus murals, according to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine. It begins:

For more than 130 years, 12 towering murals depicting Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas have flanked a hallway in the University of Notre Dame’s Main Building. But late last week, the university announced that it plans to cover the murals; in a letter explaining the decision, Notre Dame’s president described the artworks as memorializing “a catastrophe” for indigenous peoples.

This is part of a national conversation about public art. St. Paul could learn from Notre Dame’s example.

Continue reading

Change is Coming to Racist Murals in St. Paul City Hall and You Can Play a Role

Task Force Volunteers Sought to Help Select Artists for New Installations in Chambers Used by the City Council and Ramsey County Commission

Four large murals in St. Paul City Hall depict white supremacy and Manifest Destiny, creating an unwelcoming space for many citizens who come there to speak to their elected council members and county commissioners. The Ramsey County Historical Society is creating a task force of community members to select and guide local artists in creating new art that will cover two of the four murals at any one time.

Advocacy still is needed to convince local leaders that all four murals should be moved to a different location, such as a museum. Still, there is a great opportunity for people to help select the new art. The Historical Society is seeking task force applicants, according to a recent posting on the Historical Society website. Chad Roberts, President of the Ramsey County Historical Society, will chair the 11-member group.

Here is the online application process.

Continue reading

This Day in History: Nelson Act Breaks Treaties, Steals Anishinaabe Land in Minnesota, Forces Assimilation

On this day in history, Jan. 14, 1889, Congress approved “An act for the relief and civilization of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota.Not surprisingly, that’s a euphemism. The act did not provide relief. Quite the opposite, it violated treaties, forced assimilation, and stole Native lands. Continue reading