The Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) is moving into a decade-long commitment to truth telling, education, and repair with Native American and African communities. Those communities suffered deeply from America’s original sins: Slavery and Native American genocide. Those sins have never been fully acknowledged or addressed, let alone healed or repaired.
McCleave (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) put the work ahead in stark terms: “Why don’t we tell the truth about genocide in this country?” she asked. “Because people have things they will lose. It’s tied to Empire and control and money and land.”
At the same time, there’s a tremendous amount of healing that can happen and actions that could put this nation and its religious institutions on a more solid moral foundation.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced this week she has ordered a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding schools, which operated for much of the 19th and 20th centuries with the primary goal of assimilating Indian children into European culture.
Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and the first Native American person to hold a cabinet level position. She has directed her staff to research historical boarding school records, with an emphasis on cemeteries or potential burial sites, and publish a report, according to a Department media release.
“NABS believes this investigation will provide critical resources to address the ongoing historical trauma of Indian boarding schools,” the organization said in a media release. “Our organization has been pursuing truth, justice, and healing for boarding school survivors, descendants, and tribal communities.”
An Open Letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and Rep. Keith Ellison:
Regardless of your view on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), I hope we all can agree that the standoff and violence that occurred near Standing Rock should never have happened. We must learn from this tragic event.
In that regard, I ask you to investigate the actions of the National Sheriffs’ Association and its role in doing opposition research against water protectors and its ties and coordination with TigerSwan, the private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect DAPL. This should include a review of the rationale and appropriateness of the law enforcement tactics used.
This is a national issue. Law enforcement from several states — including Minnesota — were deployed to Morton County, North Dakota through mutual assistance agreements. What are the lessons these law enforcement agents will take back to their home communities?
This should be of particular to concern to those of us in Minnesota. Canadian company Enbridge Line 3 has proposed expanding a tar sands crude pipeline through the state, called Line 3. It would run from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, and includes 337 miles of pipeline through Minnesota. It would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and cross many wild rice lakes. This project most likely will provoke a similar resistance movement as happened in North Dakota. (See MPR story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.)
How will we respond if and when that happens?
We need a thorough review of law enforcement’s response at Standing Rock so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made.
Minnesota Public Radio reported on the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition and interviewed Ryan Bad Heart Bull (Oglala/Hunkpapa Lakota) the first Native American to graduate from the University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship program.
Ryan, enrolled at Pine Ridge, said:
I go back and I always feel like I have to have my guard up, unfortunately, because I walk and I see the young men, and they’re angry, they’re mad. And you can see the history of oppression, the history of pain, and the racism that we have faced, and alienation as well. I think if you’re dealing with issues like this, the last thing anyone cares about is what they’re eating.
Yet where in this country do we have a museum focused on the trauma of slavery and its legacy? And where in Minnesota do we have a museum dedicated to remember and acknowledge the trauma suffered by the Dakota and Ojibwe nations, their dispossession of lands, languages and cultures, and their legacies?
It was not until late 2014 that a museum opened that was solely dedicated to telling the trauma and horrors of slavery: the Whitney Plantation just outside New Orleans.
The trauma suffered by African Americans and Native Americans differs from events like 911. They are not born of a single event, but span centuries and many, many events. In the case of Native Americans, they include: broken treaties, epidemics, language loss, suppression of Native religions, boarding schools, and more.
How do we tell those stories in a way that gets beyond a retelling of historical facts and really gets to the horror of what happened and how that pain continues today?
For slavery, consider the photograph of Peter (above). He was brutally whipped by slave masters. The photo is disturbing, and abolitionists used it as a visceral way to educate people about the truth of slavery. More recently, the images of the open casket funeral of Emmett Till, a young black boy brutally killed in 1955 in Mississippi. His crime was looking at white woman and the image of his mutilated body shocked the nation.
The brutality suffered by Native Americans can be a difficult story to show. There are some images that might stick in peoples’ minds, such as photos from the 1891 Wounded Knee Massacre. But Native Americans were generally pushed off their land, their suffering hidden from sight. Images of a treaty signing or a boarding school don’t evoke the true devastation that occurred.
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The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) is seeking $34 million in state bonding money during the upcoming legislative session for what is expected to be its largest building project in the past quarter century: The Fort Snelling Redesign.
It’s still early in the porcess. If MHS gets state funding, and if it raises another $12 million privately, the revamped Fort Snelling experience will be done by 2020, the Fort’s bicentennial.
The Historical Society is taking its design plans on the road to get public input. It wants to tear down the current visitors center, add an outdoor amphitheater, and rehab one of the old cavalry barracks to make an expanded visitor center and event space. Continue reading →