Congress Needs to Investigate Corporate Influence on Law Enforcement’s DAPL Response

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.

Screen capture of 2016 video showing the heavily militarized response to water protectors.

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.

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Poor Native American Nutrition Linked to Historic Trauma; Pipeline Updates

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.

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How Could Our Community Recognize Native American Trauma? Lessons from the Whitney Plantation

Peter, a whipped Louisiana slave, photographed in April 1863 and later distributed by abolitionists. (From Wikipedia.)
Peter, a whipped Louisiana slave, 1863. (From Wikipedia.)

Our nation has created museums to deeply traumatic events. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington D.C. in 1980, 36 years after the liberation of the concentration camps. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum opened in Greenwich Village in 2011, a decade after the attack.

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.

The Whitney Plantation offers a few ideas.

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The Fort Snelling Redesign: Will the Project Live Up to Promise?; Vizenor Speaks Out

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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.

Fort Snelling 1844 (Photo from Wikipedia)
Fort Snelling 1844 (From Wikipedia)

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