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

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.

A Victory! Federal Judge Rules DAPL Needs More Environmental Review, But Doesn’t Stop Operations … Yet

This just in from the Washington Post: Federal judge orders environmental review of Dakota Access pipeline. It starts out:

A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to conduct further environmental reviews of the Dakota Access pipeline but stopped short of halting oil-pumping operations pending further hearings beginning June 21. …

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “substantially complied” with federal environmental laws, [U.S. District Judge James E.] Boasberg wrote, “it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

It is unclear whether Energy Transfer Partners will have to stop operating the pipeline pending further environmental review. That will be decided at a later hearing. The judge set a hearing for Wednesday to discuss next steps.

The Seattle Times wrote a more upbeat story: Federal judge rejects Dakota Access Pipeline permits, calls for do-over:

In a dramatic turnaround, a federal judge has ruled that permits to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline must be reconsidered, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has demanded the flow of oil through the pipeline be stopped.

Sen. Klobuchar Weighs In on “Scaffold”; Trump Budget Hurts Indian County

A crowd gathered for a Dakota healing ceremony to deconstruct Scaffold June 2.

The Walker Sculpture Garden reopened on Saturday, an event delayed by protests over the controversial new work Scaffold which ultimately was removed. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke at the Grand Reopening and talked about Scaffold, according to a Star Tribune story.

A commentary on capital punishment, Scaffold’s prominent feature replicated the giant 1862 gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men all at once, following the Dakota-U.S. War. Neither the artist nor the Walker thought to engage the Dakota community around the work, one of the worst moments in their nation’s history and the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Institution and artist have apologized and had the sculpture removed, never to be rebuilt.

The Star Tribune reported Klobuchar’s words:

“Today is about a celebration of our modern garden in the present,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, standing with Olga Viso, the art center’s executive director, and others. “But it is also about history. As we learned so painfully in the last few weeks, it is about how, in the present, we remember and respect the past.”

Klobuchar told the crowd that her husband, John Bessler, grew up in Mankato, a few blocks from where the 1862 mass hanging took place, and later wrote a book about the executions: “Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions In Minnesota.” Not everyone knew about “this heart-wrenching story,” she said. But because of recent protests, meetings and the sculpture’s removal, “many more now do.”

The Walker’s mistake, Klobuchar continued, “jarred us into remembering that history has a way of repeating itself if not respected and remembered.”

Comment: The Star Tribune story also said: “The reopening had been pushed back a week after American Indian leaders protested the inclusion of ‘Scaffold’ …” That’s true, but incomplete. There were many non-Native people who found the sculpture inappropriate, too. That helped pressure the Walker to act. It is important to remember this is not just an “American Indian” issue.

Trump Budget Hurts Indian Country

Indian Country Today ran a June 9 story titled: Will President Trump Eliminate the BIA? The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funding has been on the decline in recent years and Trump’s plan continues that trend, the story said. The president’s plan allocates $2.5 billion for Indian affairs—a $370 million reduction for the BIA and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) alone. Yet there are more federally recognized tribes (567) than ever  before, all with divergent needs, it said.

In addition, it noted:

On March 13, Trump signed an executive order entitled “A Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” and he has since directed the Office of Management and Budget “to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies…components of agencies, and agency programs.”

Indian Country doesn’t know yet how the Department of the Interior might try to “reorganize” the BIA, but it is worried and watching.

Enbridge Line 3: White Earth Spirit Camp Forms; Upcoming Events

New Honor the Earth map on Enbridge Line 3.

A spirit camp has opened on the White Earth Reservation to carry on the water protectors’ traditions started at Standing Rock.  The camp is working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 proposal as well as promote unity among camps across the country doing the important work of protecting Mother Earth, according to William Paulson, Executive Director of the Oshkaabewisag Community Cooperative.

The camp is called MikinaakMinis-Turtle Island, and it has a Facebook page. Asked if the camp needed any support, Paulson asked only that people like and share the Facebook page and “be involved in the moment. Contact your elected officials and talk to them about this.”

Enbridge has an old and failing Line 3 (the black line on the map). Enbridge proposes to abandon that line in the ground and install a new, larger pipeline along a new route (the red line on the map.) That new route runs 337 miles across Minnesota, crosses the Mississippi headwaters and endangers clean lakes, rivers and wild rice beds, and all for nothing. Minnesota’s fossil fuel demand is actually declining.

Paulson said Enbridge Line 3 also crosses what is known as the “1855 Treaty area” (light green shaded area on the map). The Anishinaabe retain rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in this area. Enbridge and the state “are not discussing it on a government-to-government basis,” he said. [Enbridge is] trying to buy people off and go through.” The threat to the Mississippi’s headwaters is “unacceptable,” Paulson said.

According to the Facebook page, the camp is: “A support haven on beautiful land for community, culture, and traveling ambassadors for Mother Earth. Water is Life.” Paulson provided additional information about the camp in an email: Continue reading

Dakota Elders Put Ceremonial Burning of “Scaffold” Wood on Hold to Build Consensus

Here is the latest update on Scaffold, released June 5 on behalf of the Dakota elders:

The wood has been taken off the “Scaffold” structure by Straightline Construction led by Dakota construction workers. who worked over the weekend. All of the wood has been removed, and placed in rolloff bins that will be taken off site to a safe, secure location owned by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. The rest of the deconstruction work will be completed by a local company to take out the steel and the concrete. The steel will be recycled.
The process of taking the rolloff bins off site began this afternoon.
The signs are taken off the fences and those who made them can request them back. (American Indian Center)
The main focus was to get the structure down.Now the main focus will shift to what happens to the wood.
Recognizing that more people from the Dakota community wish to participate in this process and it takes time to call a meeting, there is no elder meeting this week regarding the next steps for the wood. They wish to take time, slow down and allow more voices.
Until the larger Dakota Oyate is able to meet, there will be no actions except to keep the wood stored in a safe, secure location owned by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Therefore,
1) there is no formal ceremony at Fort Snelling this week.
2) there is no formal burning of the wood from the sculpture this week.
In the end, the elders may decide that the wood should not go to Fort Snelling, The elders may decide that the wood from the sculpture should not be burned and instead should be used/disposed in some other way. Or they may choose to proceed. But this decision will be made it their way and their time at the site of their choosing.

The Dakota Oyate from Minnesota and those in exile seek an opportunity to weigh in and make decisions in an attempt to create participation first and to then build consensus.

Continue reading