Water Protector Updates from Minnesota to Maine; Burial Site on Fond du Lac Disturbed; Another Public Art Controversy … And More

Update on Enbridge Line 3:

Thanks to the people who are paying attention to Enbridge Line 3, the proposed tar sands crude oil pipeline that would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota. The line would run from Alberta, through Minnesota, into Superior Wisconsin. While Minnesota is more than seven months away from a vote, Enbridge already has started work in Canada and Wisconsin. Here are photos of the work being done in Wisconsin from Neo Gabo Benais’ Facebook page.

Enbridge Line 3 would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and threaten wild rice areas. For more, see our Enbridge Line 3 page.

Penobscot Nation Thwarted in its Attempts to Protect the Waters of the Penobscot River

Here is another example of a Native nation trying to protect its sacred waters. In this case, the Penobscot are losing. Indian Country Today lays it out in a story:  Termination or Extermination for Penobscot Indian Nation? The State of Maine Declares Jurisdiction Over Penobscot River; Federal Courts Agree. The story says:

On June 30, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that severs the Penobscot Indian Nation from the waters of the Penobscot River, a ruling that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis says is reminiscent of federal termination policy—or worse.

“The river and our relationship to it and the 200 islands [that form the reservation] are the core of our cultural identity. If our ability to protect the river is taken away, we lose a big part of who we are,” Francis told ICMN [Indian Country Media Network].

The Penobscot River has significant pollution problems already, the story said. A 2014 federal study recommended that members of the Penobscot nation limit themselves to eating one to two fish per month. That’s barely a meal. Young children and pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat river fish at all. That is a tremendous burden for nation that traditionally depends on fish for its diet, and a nation that cares deeply about the water.

More news follows. 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.

Columbus Monument in Disrepair: Will it Get State Money?; MN Tribe Wants Elk Restored; Abandoned Uranium Mines a Health Threat to Natives

We have dedicated quite a bit of space this blog critiquing art inside the Minnesota State Capitol, adding only a few passing posts on the outdoor monuments. It was a pragmatic choice. The state-appointed Art Subcommittee has driven the debate around Capitol art, and it’s focused on art inside the Capitol. Its recommendations will not include outdoor statues.
Now comes a story from Minnesota Public Radio headlined: Time takes toll on historical markers at Capitol, which reminds us of the roughly two dozen memorials and markers on the Capitol grounds. Two of the more controversial monuments honor  Christopher Columbus (Idle No More Twin Cities has called for its removal) and the statue to former Minnesota Governor, U.S. Representative and Senator Knute Nelson (a key player in federal policies that stripped Ojibwe people of land and resources). Both statues have prominent locations: Columbus on the Capitol’s east lawn and Nelson on the Capitol’s front steps.

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