A Win for North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes, A Loss for Leadership in North Dakota

Imagine your family had owned a pristine fishing lake in northern Minnesota for generations. Then in the 1940s, the township — using dubious legal maneuvers — claimed the property for needed economic development.

Your grandfather tried for years to get the lake back but no one would listen. Succeeding mayors and their friends used the lake for their enjoyment; after enough years passed, no one really questioned the arrangement. No one even remembered your family had once owned the lake.

It became a painful part of your family story. Yet, after many years, a court unexpectedly ruled in your family’s favor. You were on the verge of reclaiming this beautiful lake, but the powers-that-be still pushed back with a startling demand:

“For years, this area has been used by many of us for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities,” they said. “Is there a plan to ensure that we maintain the access we have enjoyed in the past, free of charge?”

You are speechless. You think to yourself: “How can someone who cheated my family out of our property think they still have a right to use it?”

It sounds kind of silly. But this is pretty much the story of what has happened to the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota. In the 1940s, the federal government seized parts of their reservation for a flood control project. The result was the Garrison Dam project. It created a large reservoir, flooding reservation lands to protect other, predominantly white, cities downstream. A law said the federal government would return whatever land it did not need for flood control to the tribes.

Now in 2016, the federal government is getting around to returning the unused land.

It seems like a no-brainer, but some North Dakota leaders are pushing back. They seem to have no empathy for what the Three Affiliated Tribes have suffered — or an understanding of the law.

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Gov. Dalrymple’s Op/Ed on DAPL Offers Finger Pointing Instead of Leadership

Recently retired North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple
Recently retired North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple

I read with sadness retiring North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s Op/Ed piece in the Star Tribune “Dakota Access pipeline: Mob rule triumphed over law and common sense.”

In the piece, Dalrymple reduces the story to one of North Dakota as victim to environmental agitators and outsiders “that have never before shown much interest in our state.” That is a convenient political frame, as it reduces pipeline opponents to “other” or “enemy.”

Despite Dalrymple’s assertions, this is not a story about outside environmental agitators indifferent to North Dakota. This is a story of a people who have faced a long history of suffering, broken promises, and injustices and are facing them again. This is a story of national concern about the Dakota Access Pipeline that involves everyone from religious leaders to Wall Street.

And that’s a story Dalrymple apparently doesn’t want to discuss.

What is needed now is not a fictional story blaming outsiders for all the problems. What is needed now is leadership to bring about dialogue, understanding, and healing.

That is a role I wish Dalrymple had chosen to play.

Let’s take a look at his analysis. It has a very familiar ring.

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Next Mde Mada Ska Community Meeting Saturday; More DAPL Updates

The next round of community conversations around Mde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) and the sacredness of water will be held this Saturday, Dec. 3, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.,, at First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Ave. S. Lunch will be served.

This is the latest in a series of community conversations, but there is no need to have attended any of the previous conversations to participate. Teens welcome!

Roughly 50-75 residents had attended previous meetings in late 2015 and early 2016 to build relationships and brainstorm about what Mde Maka Ska could be to the world and how to tell the stories Mde Maka Ska holds. One of the ideas to emerge from this work a proposal for a “Mni Wakan: Decade of Water” Summit. (Mni Wakan means Sacred Water in Dakota.)

Come and join the conversation. For more background, here is our earlier blog on the meetings. Here is an article The Circle Newspaper ran on the Water Summit.

These sessions are facilitated by LeMoine LaPointe and his sons Wakinyan and Thorne LaPointe.

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