Walz Chooses Flanagan as Lt. Governor Candidate; Dakota 38 Screening in St. Paul; Tar Sands Pipeline Stopped in Canada

News and Events:

DFL candidate for governor Tim Walz picks Peggy Flanagan, state representative from Twin Cities, as running mate. The Star Tribune reports:

The DFL congressman from Mankato [Walz] plans to introduce Flanagan to supporters Saturday at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, the first candidate for governor in 2018 from either party to select a running mate.

Flanagan, 38, is a two-term lawmaker from the western Twin Cities metro with deep roots in DFL activism. If Flanagan becomes lieutenant governor, she would be the state’s first American Indian elected to statewide office, and the highest ranking elected American Indian woman in U.S. history.

Dakota 38 Screening and Dialogue in St. Paul, Free and Open to the Public

On Thursday, October 12, the Center for Equity and Culture of St. Paul Public Schools is hosting a screening and panel discussion of the film, Dakota 38. There will be riders and other members of the Dakota community here to speak on historical trauma and efforts being made to heal – both personally and in community. Panelists include Lisa Bellanger, Vanessa Goodthunder, Winona Goodthunder, Reuben Kitto Stately and Ramona Kitto Stately.

Join us at from 5:30-8:30 this Thursday, October 12 at the CEC, Washington Technology Magnet, 1495 Rice St., St. Paul, MN 55117. The even is free and open to the public.  For more information visit our website at spps.org/cec or call us at 651-744-2635.

TransCanada abandons Energy East, Eastern Mainline projects. The BBC reports that TransCanada has abandoned two major Canadian tar sands crude oil pipeline projects: Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects. The story said that these project were an effort to “diversify its reliance on the United States for its energy exports.?

But a number of proposed projects have languished or been cancelled amid a commodity price slump, regulatory hurdles, and public opposition from environmentalist groups and others.

Comment: If the Canadians don’t want a tar sands crude oil pipeline in their backyard, why should Minnesota take the risk?

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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

Guest Blog on “Scaffold”: A Sacred Call for Deconstructing Oppression

Karen Hering is a consulting literary minister for Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul and writes a blog called: “Writing to Wake the Soul.” She wrote a powerful reflection on the removal of “Scaffold” from the Walker Sculpture Garden. It is republished here by permission.

Taking It Down: A Sacred Call for Deconstructing Oppression

A crowd gathered for a Dakota healing ceremony.

On June 2, 2017, over 300 people gathered in downtown Minneapolis on the grounds of the Walker Art Museum’s redesigned sculpture garden, not quite finished and not yet opened, to witness the ceremonial deconstruction of an installation titled “Scaffold.” Designed by artist Sam Durant, “Scaffold” was modeled after a gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, the largest public execution in the history of the U.S.. A week before the planned reopening of the sculpture garden, the Walker engaged Dakota elders in a conversation about “Scaffold” and its possible impact on local audiences. Protests immediately called for its removal, and within one week, the Walker had postponed the garden’s reopening, participated in an independently mediated conversation with Dakota elders and the artist, and agreed to dismantle the installation in a public ceremony planned and led by Dakota elders.  Other posts on-line offer more information about the sculpture and its deconstruction.  

This reflection is based on my experience of the June 2 ceremony, with the hope of sharing the sorrow, the power and the call of that day’s events. The quotes are all from Sheldon Wolfchild’s opening words, delivered before the sacred ceremony began (which we were asked not to record out of respect). The wooden structure required four days to dismantle; the “Scaffold’s” understructure of steel and cement was then broken down by the Walker and also removed.  

Taking It Down: a sacred call for deconstructing oppression

June 2, 2017: It is a hot summer’s day. Sun high in the blue sky. A crowd of over 300 gathers, a drum beats, a song thrums. Sheldon Wolfchild, Dakota elder from the Lower Sioux Agency, addresses the crowd. He says:

This is a sacred process…. Let us remember what this historical truth has brought us.

Behind him a newly constructed wooden scaffold looms. Unlike the gallows built in Mankato in the dead of winter 155 years earlier, after which it is modeled, this one is solid and built to last. Its beams are treated to withstand all weather, its foundation is cement, its invisible supports made of steel. The photos of it published in the previous week do not begin to represent its ominous presence and menacing energy. Wolfchild continues:

This is a sacred process to dismantle negativity. Let us all work together in one prayer from the heart, not the mind, as our elders say. Continue reading

Applause for Dakota Elders’ Leadership in Taking Down “Scaffold”; Questions Remain about Cultural Appropriation

Signs of anger and hurt were hung on the chain link fence around the Sculpture Garden during the controversy

An unacknowledged aspect of the controversy around the Walker Sculpture Garden’s Scaffold is the Dakota elders’ leadership in resolving the conflict.

Consider the context. All native people have lived with generations of shame and humiliation from the broader society, from Indian mascots to boarding schools and broken treaties.

In this context, the Walker begins to erect the massive Scaffold, depicting several historic gallows. The most prominent feature replicates the gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862. Neither the Walker nor Sam Durant, the artist, thought to talk to Dakota leaders. The sculpture is not only a painful reminder of their worst moment in history, it also shows they are invisible to the broader community, powerless to affect these decisions.

That’s a heavy burden. Yes, there was anger and hurt in the Dakota community. But in the end, Dakota elders led a healing ceremony with all parties in the circle.

Some have praised Durant and the Walker for agreeing to mediation and ultimately the sculpture’s removal. Yes, Durant and the Walker did the right thing — but they were fixing problems of their own making.

In the typical narrative, the Dakota are portrayed as aggrieved victims. It needs to be stated clearly: the Dakota elders were exemplary leaders.  They spoke of bringing “positive energy” to the Garden. The Dakota had no institutional power. Their power and leadership came from their moral authority on this issue, which resonated with many of us in the community, both Native and non-Native peoples.

We will have to wait and see what emerges from the Dakota-Walker collaboration moving forward. Meanwhile, there remain important issues to reflect upon. One is how to talk about cultural appropriation, the other is removing the veil of the dominant narrative and acknowledging the leadership Dakota elders brought to the table. Continue reading

“Scaffold” Sculptor Apologizes to Dakota People

The “Scaffold” sculpture viewed from behind the Spoon and Cherry.

Sam Durant, the artist who made the controversial “Scaffold” sculpture, has issued an apology to the Dakota people.

The Walker Art Center bought the sculpture from Durant to include in its revamped Sculpture Garden, due to reopen in June. The artwork was a commentary on capital punishment, its defining feature a replica of the gallows that hung 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862 following the Dakota-U.S. War. The Walker did not include Dakota people at all in this process. When it started to be installed, it triggered shock and protest from Dakota people and their allies. The sculpture is going to be removed.

The story has made national headlines. The L.A. Times posted a story Saturday headlined: Sculpture of a gallows by L.A. artist in Minneapolis may be removed after Native American outcry.

Durant is coming to the Twin Cities to be part of discussions between the Walker Art Center and Dakota elders. His apology reads in part:

Scaffold opens the difficult histories of the racial dimension of the criminal justice system in the United States, ranging from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment. In bringing these troubled and complex histories of national importance to the fore, it was my intention not to cause pain or suffering, but to speak against the continued marginalization of these stories and peoples, and to build awareness around their significance. …

I made Scaffold as a learning space for people like me, white people who have not suffered the effects of a white supremacist society and who may not consciously know that it exists. It has been my belief that white artists need to address issues of white supremacy and its institutional manifestations. Whites created the concept of race and have used it to maintain dominance for centuries, whites must be involved in its dismantling. However, your protests have shown me that I made a grave miscalculation in how my work can be received by those in a particular community. In focusing on my position as a white artist making work for that audience I failed to understand what the inclusion of the Dakota 38 in the sculpture could mean for Dakota people. I offer my deepest apologies for my thoughtlessness. I should have reached out to the Dakota community the moment I knew that the sculpture would be exhibited at the Walker Art Center in proximity to Mankato.

Events: Unity March; Screening of Dakota 38

A Unity March is being planned for Friday, May 12, 3-7 p.m. from the State Capitol to the Governor’s mansion. The march is being organized by Wicapi Otto, who has opposed both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline expansion through northern Minnesota. But this march is about unity. This is what Otto’s event page says about the march.

We have all raised awareness as individual groups, from each civil rights group, to community awareness issues. While each group has their success in what they have done, I would like to bring all groups together to stand in solidarity and raise awareness that we are united … America IS Great when we are UNITED. While we unite our respective groups, we have not tried uniting our groups together and standing to raise awareness that we ALL matter. All groups, all ages, all genders, all races. The PEOPLE matter. As the motto of the United State goes “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. Let us Unite, Stand, and Raise the Awareness that we are UNITED as the People of the State of Minnesota. We MATTER! We will March from the Capital to the Governors Mansion to raise this awareness and show the world we are going to be the first example of full unity.

Those who can’t walk that distance are welcome to join at any point along the march.

Dakota 38 Screening

The group Discussions that Encounter is hosting a screening and discussion of the film Dakota 38 on Thursday, May 11. at the Phillips Community Center, 2323 11th Ave. S., Minneapolis. A light supper and social time begins at 6:30 p.m., with presentation and discussion from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. All are welcome, free of charge! (Parking for the center is available free in their lot entered from 24th Street.)

According to the film’s website:

In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”

Now, four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. …

This film was created in line with Native healing practices.

 

News Wrap: The Story of the Dakota 38 Hangman, Second Native American Elected to State Legislature, and More

The Star Tribune reported that a photo was found Capt. Thomas J. Duly, the man who hanged 38 Dakota men following the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. The reporter interviewed Dakota scholar and author Gwen Westerman, who teaches at Minnesota State, Mankato. “There are always multiple stories to tell about these kind of figures in history,” Westerman said. “I have no quarrel with this man. We remember these people as a part of a pivotal period in Minnesota history. And I think we can do that without laying blame or anger or vengeance.”

Peggy Flanagan won a special election for an open seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing St. Louis Park. Flanagan is Ojibwe and the second Native American in the Minnesota legislature, joining Rep. Susan Allen. According to an article in MinnPost, Flanagan will transition from being the Minnesota State Director for the Children’s Defense Fund to an organizing role for the national chapter.

The Indigenous Peoples Task Force (previously called the American Indian AIDS Task Force) has launched $3.5 million Capital Campaign for Mikwanedun Audisookon Center for Art and Wellness. The Center’s name, chosen with the help of elders, translates from Ojibwe as “remember our teachings.” Mikwanedun Audisookon will be located adjacent to IPTF’s existing offices and housing at East 24th Street and 13th Avenue South in the Phillips neighborhood. It will allow IPTF to consolidate its programs and expand its ability to improve the stability, health, cultural vitality, and economic growth of the Native American and South Minneapolis communities.

Indian Country Today is reporting that South Dakota quietly eliminated Native history as a mandatory subject. “High school students in South Dakota may choose one of three courses to satisfy their single U.S. history requirement: Early U.S. History, Modern U.S. History or Comprehensive U.S. History,” effectively removing “a large part of American historical context from the required curriculum, including colonialism, the American War for Independence, slavery, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War and women’s suffrage.”