This Day in History: Nelson Act Breaks Treaties, Steals Chippewa Land in MN

Knute Nelson
Knute Nelson is not someone who deserves to be honored with a statue in front of the Minnesota State Capitol.

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, stole Native lands, and otherwise did great damage to the Chippewa people.

(Note: The names Chippewa, Ojibwe, and Anishinaabe all refer to the same people; their name for themselves is Anishinaabe, which is used in the remainder of this blog.)

This 1889 act is commonly referred to as the Nelson Act, after Minnesota Congressman Knute Nelson who pushed it through. He would go on to become both a Minnesota Governor and U.S. Senator. Though most people probably don’t know it, Nelson holds a prominent place of honor at the Minnesota State Capitol; his statue is on front steps overlooking the Capitol mall.

I am sure you could stop people on the Capitol steps and few would be able to name  Nelson let alone know anything about him. So here’s what you should know about the man, the statue, and his namesake law. Continue reading

DAPL, Standing Rock are Becoming National Metaphor and Model

p1010103Standing Rock is becoming a national model for opposing oil pipelines. Read a story about a oil pipeline controversy in other parts of the country and it will reference DAPL or Standing Rock.

For example, here is a Jan. 4 story from Folio Weekly, a Florida-based magazine, with the headline: Florida’s Own STANDING ROCK. It concerns the Sabal Trail Transmission, a gas pipeline that crosses Alabama, Georgia and Florida. According to the story:

The $3.2 billion project crosses 13 counties in Florida and more than 700 bodies of water, including the Withlacoochee, Suwannee, and Santa Fe rivers. The EPA approved the project despite its concerns about the pipeline’s path through 177 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp and Rainbow Springs in Florida. …

Similar to Standing Rock, people in Florida worry about the potential leaks and their impact on drinking water. Pipeline opponents have adopted the Standing Rock term “water protectors” and created a Water Is Life Camp near the Santa Fe River.

Wisconsin’s Chippewa Tribe also is fighting a pipeline battle, according to a Jan. 6 MPR story:

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s tribal council voted Wednesday to refuse to renew several easement rights of way for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline that expired in 2013….

The Bad River Band’s decision comes amid an ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline in which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes have argued the project threatens drinking water and tribal cultural sites.

Click on the story for details.

More updates on DAPL and environmental justice issues follow. Continue reading

This Day in History: Wounded Knee Massacre; Obama Designates Bears Ears Monument; Native Youth Trekking From Canada to Join DAPL Opposition

Burial of the dead in a mass grave after the massacre of Wounded Knee. (Wikimedia Commons)
Burial of Lakota men, women and children in a mass grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, an incident that resulted in U.S. soldiers getting the nation’s highest military honor for killing Lakota men, women and children who were trying to surrender. As a 2014 opinion piece in Native News Online summarizes: some 150 Lakota people, and possibly up to 300, were massacred by the US 7th Calvary Regiment near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It continues:

History records the Wounded Knee Massacre was the last battle of the American Indian war. Unfortunately, it is when most American history books drop American Indians from history, as well. As if we no longer exist.

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Breaking: $1K Fine Announced for Bringing Food, Supplies to Water Protectors Camp; Matriarchy Rising; and More

From Mears Park rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
From Mears Park rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Breaking: Reuters is reporting today that North Dakota officials are going to use heavy fines rather than arrests to deter people supplying the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main camp used by those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The story was headlined: North Dakota officials hope to quell pipeline protests with fines.

State officials said on Tuesday they would fine anyone bringing prohibited items into the main protest camp following Governor Jack Dalrymple’s “emergency evacuation” order on Monday. Earlier, officials had warned of a physical blockade, but the governor’s office backed away from that. …

Officers will stop vehicles they believe are headed to the camp and inform drivers they are committing an infraction and could be fined $1,000.

The eviction order went into effect immediately upon signing, Nov. 28.

The Governor uses “public safety” to justify the action, but this will do nothing but further endanger the health and well being of those who clearly are committed to staying. The Free Thought Project also reported on the fines, and said it could “only be termed a potential gross violation of human rights.”

More DAPL updates follow.

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A Reason to be Hopeful: Lessons from Suzan Harjo

Suzan Harjo
Suzan Harjo

Leading Native American rights activist Suzan Harjo was at Mitchell Hamline Law School earlier this week to talk about the future of Indian Law under a Trump administration.

She spent most of her time talking about the Reagan and Bush years.Her message was, even thought those were difficult times, too, advocates were still able to get major legislative wins.

The Reagan years were particularly bad for Indian people, with Reagan trying to cut the federal Indian budget by a third, and privatize the Indian Trust money, she said. Regardless, advocates were able to get passage of the National Museum for the Native American Act (1989) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) (both signed by President Bush.)

Connecting the dots to today’s situation and worries about the Trump administration, she offered the following advice: “In addition to a combative strategy, have some positive goals,” she said. “You never know how powerful you are until you exercise your power.” Continue reading

Yukon Presbytery Apologize to Native Alaskans; This Day in History: The Indian Child Welfare Act

OK, it’s election day, so we’re going to blog with some good news: Presbytery of Yukon offers apology to Native Alaskans. (The Yukon Presbytery covers all of Alaska.) As the Presbyterian News Service reported it:

Native representatives and the presbytery both acknowledge this significant gesture is the start of a long process to address the abuses of the past century, especially as it relates to the treatment of Native Alaskan children at church-affiliated boarding schools.

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Hennepin County Board Chair Backs Sheriff’s Decision to Send Deputies to Standing Rock, and More Pipeline Updates

Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison supports Sheriff Richard Stanek’s decision to send deputies to North Dakota, according to an email she is sending out in response to constituent opposition to the move.

Hennepin, Anoka, and Ramsey counties all have sent deputies and equipment as part of a militarized response to the Water Protectors trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Morton County (ND) Sheriff’s Department sought the help through a mutual aid agreement. Stanek’s decision to send deputies has sparked protests. Many Hennepin County residents oppose using local resources to intimidate and arrest the Water Protectors. (Here is an earlier blog.)

Callison said ultimately this was Stanek’s decision, but she supports it based on what she framed as safety concerns. Her email said: “the presence of professional, highly trained law enforcement officers can contribute to a peaceful resolution of highly inflamed situations such as this, a resolution where the rights of all are respected. I think the right answer is to have the right people present who will contribute positively to a fair resolution. And I believe that Sheriff Stanek understands this responsibility.”

That is to say, unlike private security guards, the Hennepin County Sheriffs deputies won’t use mace and attack dogs. However, it still means that our local resources are being used as a part of a disproportionate, highly militarized, and provocative response to silence the Water Protectors. With the current tremendous power imbalance, it is reasonable to ask whether this truly is “a resolution where the rights of all are respected”  or in any way fair. To me, the answer is no.

Here is Callison’s full email, provided by her office.

Many groups have organized against this decision. For example, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter has a letter urging Hennepin County to withdraw its resources. Click to sign.

For many more pipeline updates, keep reading. Continue reading

Guest Blog on Standing Rock: ELCA Pastor Joann Conroy (Oglala Sioux); This Day in History

ELCA Pastor Joann Conroy (Oglala), President of the American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association, wrote the following guest blog in response to the recent arrests of water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Today I am still struggling with the horror of Thursday and the continued abuse and dehumanization of the people who are jailed. I know that many people are rallying to support Standing Rock . We attended a rally in MN yesterday to ask the Hennepin Sheriff to withdraw his officers, who were at the front of the abuse. Every state that has law enforcement in North Dakota should withdraw them ASAP.

In my truth , President Obama can now stop the slaughter of our people, culture, and life.

As a pastor I have preached and counseled Christs’ Grace , love, sacrifice and humanity. I know that all is true but where was it for the people?

What does it mean to say today: “the Lord is the strength of my life; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27) What does it mean to say: “I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; wait for the Lord; be strong; let your heart take courage.” (Psalm 27) Where is the word of life when hearts are shattered? How do we stand together against white privilege, racism, discrimination and the “power” of officials?

We will return to Standing Rock in the days to come . Will continue to work to rally support even as I wrestle with the horror of October 27, 2016.

Wopila (Thank you)
Wolakota (peace)

Pr. Joann, President
AIANLC Continue reading

#NO DAPL Syllabus Project and Other DAPL Resources and Updates

The NYC Stands for Standing Rock committee and Public Seminar are developing a syllabus around the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) conflict in an effort to put it in its broader historical and social context.

According to the #NODAPL Syllabus Project website, one of its goals is to “launch a syllabus project to contextualize DAPL within Sioux and settler history so that those who seek a deeper understanding of the territory and the conflict might learn and teach.” Continue reading

Native American Opoid Overdoes in Minnesota and Native Responses; Suggested Weekend Readings

For more than a decade, our country has been facing a crisis involving the abuse of prescription pain killers and heroine. Opioid overdoses tripled nationally between 2000 and 2015. A recent hour-long Minnesota Native News radio program explores the devastating impacts this crisis has had on Native American communities. According to the summary:

In 2015, Minnesota had more American Indians dying from overdoses than any other state. That same year, well over half of pregnant Native women gave birth to babies with opioids in their systems. Many American Indians in Minnesota are wrestling with how best to help people heal from the addiction and the historical trauma at the root of this crisis.

But how do you talk about this incredibly painful problem without leaving people with a sense of hopelessness or by reinforcing the ugly stereotype of the “drunk Indian”? The program explores the unique nature of addiction in Native communities and how it is rooted in historical trauma.The bottom line is that a violent or chaotic childhood makes people more prone to opiod addiction

Reporter Melissa Townsend talks about western medical treatments to addiction, the preferred approach by government funders. But the story emphasizes that — from a Native perspective — addiction is a spirit that thrives on fear and chaos. The story explores the personal stories of Native peoples –the backstory to their addiction, the trauma they and their families experienced, and their individual paths to spiritual healing. It talks about the struggles to trying blend both western medical treatments, which are profit-driven and don’t address the underlying spiritual harms, and traditional Native approaches.

It’s a powerful story.

For other news stories — on the anniversary of the Battle of Greasy Grass, on a recent U.S. Supreme Court win for the Choctaw Nation, and on shocking genocidal quotes by early U.S. leaders, read on.

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