News and Events: Wakan Tipi Day at the Capitol; “Beyond Historical Trauma” Training; Tiwahe Foundation Names New CEO

The Minnesota State Legislature will go back into session on Tuesday, Feb. 20, and here’s an action item to put on your calendar.

The Lower Phalen Creek Project is organizing a Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, to rally support for $3M in state bonding funds to design and build the Wakan Tipi Center. It will be an environmental and cultural interpretive center at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. It is named for the Dakota spiritual site, Wakan Tipi Cave at the Sanctuary.

Bond funding in 2018 will be the decisive step towards making the Wakan Tipi Center a reality! Organizers are trying to get 250+ people to attend. The day starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Minnesota History Center with a celebration and training, followed by visits with your legislators starting at 9 a.m.. The event concludes at 1 p.m.. Organizers will provide training, so that even if this is your very first time talking to your elected officials, you will be prepared. You will also be accompanied by other supporters.

For more background information click here.

To register to attend, click here and select “Wakan Tipi Day Advocate.” Continue reading


Indian’s Give Chief Wahoo the Hook, But Team’s Announcement Lacks Integrity

One of many versions of the Chief Wahoo logo, 1946-1950. (Wikimedia Commons)

Buckling to pressure from Major League Baseball (MLB), the Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo mascot on their uniforms and stadium displays starting next year, according to a New York Times report.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had pushed for the change, the story said. In announcing the decision, Indian’s Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Dolan failed to take a principled stand.

“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” Dolan said in a statement issued by M.L.B. “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

Here’s three big problems with the team’s announcement.

The first is the team’s one-year delay in implementing the decision: If the team truly believed the image was offensive, it would have stopped using it right now.

Second is the team’s decision to continue to profit from a racist image: While Chief Wahoo will not appear on team uniforms after this year, fans will still be able to buy Chief Wahoo gear at the stadium souvenir shops and other northern Ohio retail outlets, the story said. (Seems like Dolan trying to thumb his nose at MLB.)

Third is the team’s lack of an apology: Most disappointing in Dolan’s statement is that he attributes the change to Manfred — not Native pressure.  “I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo,” he said. That’s not an apology. That’s not a recognition that this mascot is offensive. It’s one rich white man saying he is willing to yield to a request from another rich white man, not to the deep wishes — and deep pain — of Native American communities.

It’s clear the team is not making a moral decision. That’s tragic.

Red Lake: Back to Square One with Enbridge Pipeline Trespass

(From Wikimedia Commons)

For many years, large corporations have run crude oil pipelines across a small piece of land owned by the Red Lake Nation, in effect trespassing on reservation property.

Red Lake and the pipelines’ current owner, Enbridge, had been in negotiations over a cash-and-land deal and reached a tentative deal in 2015. That just fell through. The Red Lake Tribal Council voted 5-3 last week to rescind the deal, according to news reports. (The 2015 deal had included an $18.5 million payment to Red Lake, but that payment was not made.)

The Tribal Council vote was the result of the tireless efforts of Red Lake member Marty Cobenais, who has opposed crude oil pipelines through the state and opposed efforts to sell tribal lands.

It’s not clear yet how Red Lake’s decision will affect Enbridge and the pipelines that cross that tract of land. (On a separate front, Enbridge is trying to push through a deal to expand and reroute one of its pipelines, Line 3, which is a whole separate controversy, and written about elsewhere on this blog.)

On Martin Luther King Day, I would like to explore a different question: How did this trespass on Red Lake land happen in the first place? It’s symbolic of how easy it has been historically (and today) to ignore and take advantage of Native rights.

Continue reading

Street-Stewart to MN Council of Churches: “Acclaim the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

Elona Street-Stewart

Elona Street-Stewart, a leader in both the Native American community and the Presbyterian Church, issued a forceful challenge to the Minnesota Council of Churches. Institutions — including religious ones — “are designed to maintain and protect systems of privilege,” she said, adding:

Please disavow and repudiate all doctrines of domination, and acclaim the rights of indigenous peoples.

Please learn from us, and do not preside over us.

Please accept a place in the circle, but do not occupy the center of the circle.”

Street-Stewart is a member of the Delaware Nanticoke Nation and the executive of the Lakes and Prairie’s Synod of the Presbyterian Church USA, which includes Minnesota. She was one of three people Curtiss DeYoung asked to speak at his official installation service as the new head of the Minnesota Council of Churches. The event was held Dec. 14 at Park Avenue United Methodist Church.

DeYoung previously taught Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, leaving in 2014 to become the executive director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago. If the list of people he asked to speak at the installation service is any indication, DeYoung will make racial justice and reconciliation a cornerstone to his work at the Council.

Along with Street-Stewart, speakers were Sindy Morales Garcia, a young Latina from Guatemala who works for the Wilder Foundation’s Community Initiatives; and Dee McIntosh, a young African-American pastor at the Lighthouse Church in Minneapolis.

I was deeply moved by all the talks, but for this blog I thought it was particularly important to share Street-Stewart’s words. They are reprinted, below. It is my hope that the Council can live up to the challenge. Continue reading

Native American Anti-Smoking Efforts Focus on Shift to Traditional Tobacco

In case you missed it, the Star Tribune recently ran a story on the high rate of smoking addiction among Native Americans and efforts to reduce it by returning to traditional ways, such as using traditional Indian tobacco, made from the shavings of the inner bark of the red osier dogwood.

The story was headlined:American Indians in Minnesota reclaiming traditional tobacco: Minnesota’s 11 sovereign tribes are implementing more rules on commercial tobacco and encouraging the use of traditional tobacco. It read in part:

While smoking rates among the general population have decreased, smoking rates among American Indians remain the highest of any racial group in the United States. In Minnesota, 59 percent of American Indians report smoking, while about 14 percent of the entire adult population smokes. In fact, American Indians across the Northern Plains have the highest smoking rates of American Indians in the country. …

[There is] a growing effort by Lower Sioux community leaders and American Indians across the state to re-establish the use of sacred tobacco, which is intended to be set out in prayer — or smoked but not inhaled — for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. In so doing, they also hope to decrease consumption of commercial tobacco, which is used in cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

A Growing Number of Indigenous Food Caterers: Consider Them for a 2018 Event

The Sioux Chef has gotten international attention for reclaiming precolonial indigenous foods as one key part of revitalizing Native American culture and bringing it to a broader audience. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board recently announced it would partner with The Sioux Chef to open a riverfront restaurant at the old Fuji Ya site in Downtown Minneapolis.

At the same time, there are several other local indigenous caterers emerging. Here are other options if you are looking for a caterer for an upcoming event. Continue reading

MN Indian Women’s Resource Center May Save Kateri Residence

Kateri Residence

Good news to report, following up on a Dec. 4 blog where we reported that St. Stephens Human Services was planning to close Kateri Residence, a transitional housing program in south Minneapolis for Native American women in recovery.

The Southwest Journal is now reporting that the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) is interested in taking over the program. The article quotes Patina Park, executive director of MIWRC, as follows:

The work they are doing fits within our mission, so it’s definitely viable. It really is going to be a matter of whether the funds can be raised, and I think they can. … I think there is enough people who don’t want to see that program go away and understand how vital it is. Because what it comes down to is that’s providing housing for people who may be homeless without it.

Click on the link for the full story.