Efforts to Stop Tar Sands Pipeline Through Northern Minnesota Enter New Phase

The long simmering debate over the wisdom of running a large tar sands crude oil pipeline through the headwaters of the Mississippi and prime northern Minnesota wild rice areas is entering a new phase. This week, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project, triggering a 60-day public comment period and more media scrutiny.

Minnesota Public Radio ran a piece headlined: New environmental review weighs alternative routes for Enbridge pipeline, City Pages ran: Enbridge pipeline report ignores alternatives (like not building a new one) and the Star Tribune ran: Enbridge pipeline could cause more damage than alternatives, but it’s not largest spill risk.

The EIS looks at the proposed expansion of Enbridge Line 3, a 1,000-mile-plus pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisc. Enbridge’s current Line 3 is old and failing. Enbridge wants to abandon that line in the ground and install a new and larger pipeline, including a 337-mile stretch through northern Minnesota. Part of the line would follow a new route that would take it through the Mississippi headwaters region (see Honor the Earth’s map. at right).

The Department of Commerce will revise the draft EIS based on public comments and release a final EIS this fall.

Continue reading

The Wonderful Story of the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden and the Community it is Growing

The Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden had its first community workday on Friday, May 12.

While this blog has spent time focusing on stopping some bad ideas, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, we also need to hold up efforts to create a better world. These visionary efforts are often labor intensive, relatively small, and don’t draw a lot of media attention. Yet these community-based initiatives are extremely important. If we don’t have people creating an alternative vision for a better way of living, we will never get there, no matter how hard we protest.

To that end, we spotlight the Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden. It is a partnership between Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, and First Nations Kitchen, a meals program and ministry of All Saints’ Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis.

The interfaith garden is in the backyard of a duplex owned by Julia Frost Nerbonne, the executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, and her husband. Gardening season opened Friday, May 12, with a day-long community event to prepare the beds. Prayers were offered by Rev. Cannon Robert Two Bulls, missioner of the Department of Indian Work for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Gandhi Mahal provided food for the volunteers. Young and old contributed labor.

The Interfaith Garden not only provides food for b0th Gandhi Mahal and First Nations Kitchen, it is creating a new community.

How it came to be is a beautiful story. Continue reading

United Way Cuts Affect Many, Including Native Youth

The Greater Twin Cities United Way has missed its funding goals and has begun cutting staff and programs. Among those affected are the American Indian Youth Enrichment Program and Project Spirit, according to Randi Roth, executive director of Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul which oversees the programs.

Roth’s blog titled: “Spotlight on Children: Crisis in Resources for Healthy Development” said the United Way eliminated all funding for its literacy-related work in the kindergarten through fifth grade age group. Those cuts threaten Interfaith Action’s after school programs with being “seriously diluted or worse,” Roth wrote. Continue reading

Dakota Elders Support Rematriation of Sacred Red Rock, In-Yan Sa, to Wakan Tipi

Wolfchild talks about In-Yan Sa.

In-Yan Sa, the sacred red rock of the Dakota people should be moved to Wakan Tipi (also known as Carver’s Cave), one of the Dakota people’s sacred sites, Dakota elders say.

Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota/Lower Sioux) has been leading Dakota efforts to “rematriate” the rock. (Rematriation because the rock is part of Mother Earth.) He visited Dakota elders in South Dakota and North Dakota to speak about the Red Rock and get their feedback. “This is an apolitical process,” Wolfchild said. “It is the elders who are in charge of our sacred sites and objects.”

The elders gave a positive response, and backed plans to move In-Yan Sa to Wakan Tipi.  Wolfchild announced the elders support at a meeting of Dakota elders and allies on Saturday at All My Relations Gallery.

In-Yan Sa used to reside near the Mississippi River near the Dakota village of Kaposia. United Methodist missionaries took the rock after the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. The rock became a symbol of their church camps. The rock now sits outside Newport United Methodist Church, and calls have been growing from Dakota people for its return.

Bruce R. Ough, the Bishop for the United Methodist Church in Minnesota, agreed earlier this year to restore In-Yan Sa to the Dakota people. While that was a significant milestone, that commitment required serious conversation within both the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC and the Dakota community about next steps. Continue reading

Oȟéyawahe/Pilot Knob Gets National Historic Designation

View from Oȟéyawahe/Pilot Knob today. No wonder it was targeted for development. (Photo: National Park Service)

Good news: Oȟéyawahe, or Pilot Knob Hill, a sacred Dakota burial site, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 14 by the National Park Service.

The site is in Mendota Heights on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from Fort Snelling. To white settlers, it was called Pilot Knob, an important landmark for riverboat navigation. The Dakota name for it means “The hill that is much visited.” It was “a burial place, and an important Medicine or Wakan Ceremony grounds,” according to the historic designation application filed by the Pilot Knob Preservation Association.

[Update: The hill has a magnificent view of Fort Snelling and both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is a great place to watch a sunset. In 2002, developers announced plans to build “The Bluffs,” high density housing on the hill. The late Bob Brown, then head of the Mendota Mdewakonton Dakota Community, first began alerting people to the threat. He reached out to the veterans of the Coldwater Spring protests to work in defense of the hill. Opposition eventually coalesced in the formation of the Pilot Knob Preservation Association.]

In 2003, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota called Pilot Knob one of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state. As will be described below, the housing development never happened.

It’s worth remembering that the Dakota people are the state’s original inhabitants. Other than areas connected to the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, the state has few places on the Historic Register that focus on the Dakota people and their culture, the application said. Exceptions are Maka Yusota (Boiling Springs) in Shakopee (2003), and Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul (2014). More typical are sacred sites destroyed by settler developments. “Taku Wakan Tipi or Morgan’s Mound is now covered with a Veteran’s Administration Hospital, a major highway, housing, and portions of the Twin Cities airport.”

Here’s what you need to know about Oȟéyawahe, or Pilot Knob, and why preservation is important. Continue reading

DAPL’s First Leak, Minnesota’s Own Pipeline Problem

File photo.

Well, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) isn’t fully operational yet, but it had its first spill, 84 gallons of crude oil near one of its pump stations, according a story in The Guardian. It might not seem like a lot, but think what it would look like to take the hose off a gas station pump and hold the handle down so that it spilled enough gas to fill about eight sedans. (But in this case we’re talking crude oil.)

And this is when the line is brand new!

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Texas-based company building DAPL, has other troubles out east. In a rush to finish its Rover natural gas pipeline in Ohio, Indian Country Today reports that ETP “spilled about two million of gallons of drilling materials in two separate accidents into two of Ohio’s few remaining wetlands.”

“Energy Transfer Partners has dumped millions of gallons of a milkshake-like substance into pristine wetlands,” said Jenn Miller, director of the Sierra Club of Ohio. “This will have massive impacts on the plant, fish and amphibian species there.”

One-third of Ohio’s endangered species rely on wetlands for habitat and survival, Miller said.

Click on the story link to see a photo of how bad the spill is.

Meanwhile, resistance to such projects continues. Indian Country Today reports on a unique alliance of Nebraska tribes, ranchers, and landowners that are resisting Keystone XL and other fossil fuel developments. Keystone XL will pass through traditional Ponca lands, lands that were taken from them. They still consider these ancestral lands as part of their culture and traditions.

On April 29, members of the Ponca Tribe began a remembrance walk to commemorate their forced removal from their traditional lands in the 1870s, the story said. The planned 12-day walk covered the 273 miles from Niobrara, Nebraska, to Barneston.

“Knowing how painful it was to have that land taken away from us, we can empathize with those farmers that own that land today. We know what it’s like to be told somebody’s going to take your property away,” said Larry Wright, Ponca Tribal Chairman of Nebraska. …

For the past three years, members of … various groups have been gathering in Neligh, Nebraska, to plant Ponca sacred corn where the pipeline’s route crosses the trail the tribe was forced to take away from their homeland. They sow the corn by hand, following principles of prayer rooted in a deep respect for the land.

Minnesota, you are next up in the efforts to stop pipelines from threatening our signature lakes and rivers. Enbridge, a energy transportation company, is proposing to abandon an old and failing tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota and wants to install a new and larger pipeline, including a significant route change. The 337-mile pipeline, called Enbridge Line 3,  would pass through the Mississippi headwaters region and through traditional Anishinaabe wild rice areas.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is expected to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Tuesday, May 16. The EIS should draw media attention and elevate the public debate over this project. There is expected to be a 60-day public comment period.  More information coming soon on how to get involved. For more background, see the Enbridge Line 3 Page of our blog.

Dakota Elders to Meet to Discuss Return of “In-Yan Sha” (the Sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota People

Sign next to In-Yan Sha in front of Newport United Methodist Church.

On Saturday, May 13, Dakota traditional spiritual elders will gather to discuss the return of In-Yan Sha (the sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota people. The meeting will include a discussion of In-Yan Sha’s history and an announcement of the sacred site where the elders would like In-Yan Sha placed.

This meeting will be open to the public with limited seating. It will take place from 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 East Franklin Ave., Minneapolis. Those are welcome who come with a good heart, and with respect for the elders, In-Yan Sha, and Dakota sacred sites.

In-Yan Sha is connected to the Dakota origin story. Methodist settlers took the rock in the 1800s; it became a symbol for the Methodist church camp. The seizure of the Red Rock is one symbol of how settler culture tried to assimilate and erase Dakota culture and religion. The rock has moved several times, and now resides in front of the Newport United Methodist Church (UMC). Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the UMC Minnesota Conference has expressed his interest in returning the rock; efforts have started to do this healing work in a good way.

Continue reading