The Minneapolis City Council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee will vote Wednesday afternoon on directing staff to move forward with its Public Works expansion plan in the East Phillips neighborhood, one opposed by neighborhood leaders.
The docket includes the city’s “Racial Equity Impact Analysis” for the project, something that assesses how it aligns “with the City’s Southside Green Zone policy, the City’s resolution declaring racism a public health emergency, and the City’s resolution establishing a truth and reconciliation process.”
The city offers a self-serving and weak racial equity analysis, raising questions about the city’s understanding of, and commitment to, racial justice.
City Council action is as murky as its commitment to racial justice
The Minneapolis City Council was faced challenging truths today as it deliberated on redevelopment of the old Roof Top Depot site at 28th and Hiawatha: addressing historic and ongoing racism costs money, it means changing “business as usual,” and it’s messy.
The Council faced two different proposals: One to use the Roof Top Depot site to expand and consolidate the city’s Water Works facilities, the other to give the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) exclusive rights to develop the property into an urban farm, affordable housing, and neighborhood-friendly businesses.
The fractured Council punted, keeping both options open, likely making no one happy. Significantly, it voted down proposed language to give EPNI exclusive development rights for its Urban Farm proposal.
The old Roof Depot site near East 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue in the East Phillips neighborhood covers a city block and its waiting for redevelopment.
Starkly different proposals are on the table: One would consolidate the city of Minneapolis’ Public Works facilities to create greater efficiencies; the other would create an Indoor Urban Farm, with affordable housing and neighborhood friendly-businesses.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fulfill a community-led, community-owned project — an economic investment in an economically depressed area,” said Joe Vital, a volunteer with East Phillips Neighborhood Initiative and Urban Farm supporter.
A key vote on these divergent plans is expected Wednesday, Aug. 18, 1:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis City Council’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee. This committee includes all 13 council members.
The Minneapolis City Council is expected to pass a resolution this Friday that will declare Oct. 10 Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day. Everyone is invited to attend a pipe ceremony and celebration at Coldwater Springs on Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, Oct. 10, starting at noon.
The resolution was authored by 12th Ward Councilmember Andrew Johnson, whose south Minneapolis district abuts Coldwater Springs, which is in on unincorporated Hennepin County land. The springs are located just east of the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and the Crosstown Highway.
Coldwater Springs is near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and is sacred to Dakota people, the original people of the area. (The Dakota name for the spring is Mni Owe Sni, which translated means Coldwater Springs.) Camp Coldwater also was the first European-American settlement in the Minnesota Territory; the spring furnished water to Fort Snelling.
The resolution states in part:
That the City of Minneapolis reminds all government agencies to respect the 1805 treaty and honor both the spirit and the letter of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the 2001 state law relating to protection and preservation of Coldwater Springs.
Those expected to speak on behalf of the resolution at the Minneapolis City Council meeting Friday include: Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Sharon Lennartson, chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community, and Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the American Indian Movement.
Wolfchild will conduct the pipe ceremony at Coldwater Springs on Monday. Lennartson and Bellecourt are expected to speak, too. Coffee and cookies to follow. Bring family and friends!
For more on the First Amendment and treaty issues surrounding Coldwater Springs, read on.
A federal court in Washington D.C. heard arguments yesterday regarding the Standing Rock Reservation’s effort to get an injunction against the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Illinois for processing. The pipeline would cross under the Missouri River very near the Reservation’s drinking water intake. A ruling is expected Sept. 9, according to a PBS story. Protests at Standing Rock continue, with the support of many tribes and allies.
Here are a few updates on the story.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gave a powerful commentary in support of efforts to block the pipeline, providing the context of the history many people like to forget. Native Americans, he says, have been treated more harshly than any enemy the United States has ever had. “No Native American tribe has ever been treated as well as we treated Germans after World War II,” he said. The video runs about 4 minutes. “… This country was founded on genocide before the word genocide was invented.”
Harney Peak, South Dakota’s highest point, has been renamed “Black Elk Peak” by the federal government, according to a story in Indian County Today. The vote by the U.S Board of Geographic Names was 12-0, with one abstention.
South Dakota political leaders had tried to block the name change and expressed disappointment in the decision, but the change is being celebrated in Indian Country. According to the Indian Country Today article:
The name Harney Peak has long been a source of anger and resentment for the Oceti Sakowin [Seven Council Fires] and the various treaty tribes. At the so-called Battle of Blue Water Creek near present day Winnebago, Nebraska, Army Gen. William S. Harney’s men massacred Lakota women and children in September 1855. On that same expedition, a surveyor with Harney’s party named this highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains after the general, though he never came within five miles of the peak.
University of Winnipeg Starts Indigenous Course Requirement For All Students
Here’s an inspiring story out of Canada. After learning about disrespect to indigenous people on campus, students at the University of Winnipeg started efforts to require their peers to learn more about Canada’s First Peoples.
The Guardian wrote about the change in a story headlined: “Canadian universities require indigenous studies“. (Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, also is starting an indigenous studies requirement.) According to the Guardian, the University of Winnipeg has 60 courses approved or in development that would fulfill the requirement, “ranging from a course on indigenous people and treaties, to an indigenous women’s history class.”
The Lessard-Sams council has recommended funding for this project in the past, only to get shot down in the legislature. Before getting into the politics of it, some quick history.
It’s important to know that only about 10 percent of the White Earth Reservation is in Indian hands. U.S. government assimilation policies in the 19th Century included efforts to break up communally held tribal lands. Through a policy known as “allotment,” the government took tribal lands and divided it among individual Indians. Among other things, that made it easier for settlers and business interests to buy it. One glaring example of how White Earth was cheated out of land by the timber industry is found in the article Ransom Powell and the Tragedy of White Earth in Minnesota History, and in our June 30 blog.)
The Potlach Company owns land on the White Earth Reservation and it wants to sell a chunk of it. (I don’t know the history of how it acquired this parcel.) According to the Strib editorial, the Lessard-Sams council has voted twice to approve $2.2 million to buy about 2,000 acres from Potlach for preservation. White Earth would buy the land and transfer it to a federal trust. The editorial explains that the project was included in a 2015 omnibus bill, but funding got stripped out at the end of the session.
A dubious explanation given — that the project would take the land off property rolls, an objection that hasn’t halted other projects that do the same — raised regrettable questions about bias toward American Indian communities.
In fact, Clearwater County where this project is located would only lose about $16,000 in property tax from the sale, a drop in the bucket of its overall budget. The White Earth project is back in the funding queue for 2016 and the push back against it already has begun.
Thanks to the Strib for a great editorial. Read the full version online.Thanks, too, to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation which has been supporting this project.
This Day in History: Minneapolis City Council “Year of the Dakota” Resolution
On this day in history three years ago, the Minneapolis City Council passed The Year of the Dakota resolution. This was on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War. The resolution designated December 26, 2012 to December 26, 2013 as “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth Telling.”
In addition to the special year-long designation, the City Council made longer term commitments. The resolution said:
Be It Further Resolved that the City of Minneapolis works to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community, including Dakota People.
Be It Further Resolved that these efforts during the years 2012 and 2013 will mark the beginning of future dialogues and efforts to rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated during, and since, the year 1862, a tragic and traumatic event for the Dakota People of Minnesota.
As is the way with resolutions, they are easier to make than to follow. In 2014, the Minneapolis City Council did pass a resolution recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, another important symbolic gesture. The question remains: How well is the City of Minneapolis doing at following its resolution to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community, and make efforts to rectify wrongs?