What to consider when acknowledging you are on stolen indigenous lands

Indigenous panel on Land Acknowledgement Statements held at Metro State on Indigenous Peoples Day. From left to right: Mary Lyons, Rhiana Yazzie, Kate Beane, Rose Whipple, Cantemaza.

Kate Beane, Director of Native American Initiatives for the Minnesota Historical Society, recalled sitting in her apartment a year ago, wishing she owned her own home with her husband and two little girls.

“I was so frustrated,” said Beane (Flandreau Santee Dakota and Creek). “I wanted a big garden and a dog. … I worked so hard for a doctorate. I wanted a home. We couldn’t have that.”

She recalled getting an email one day that summer from a man who owned a new condo development in Bloomington. He wanted Beane to come and give a land acknowledgement to welcome all the new condo owners.

It was a deeply hurtful email.

Land acknowledgement statements honor the land’s original indigenous inhabitants. Such statements are common practice in Australia and Canada, and have made their way to the United States. If done well, they can serve an important educational purpose. They also can do harm. In Beane’s case, she was being asked to welcome new homeowners on her family’s ancestral lands, lands where she couldn’t afford to own a home herself.

This past Indigenous Peoples Day, Beane and other Native American leaders participated in a panel discussion on the value of Land Acknowledgement Statements and what makes a good one. Continue reading

Youth Climate Intervenor Rose Whipple Wins Brower Youth Award

Rose Whipple, one of the Youth Climate Intervenors, speaks at the Block (Line 3) Party at the PUC in May..

Rose Whipple (Isanti Dakota/Ho-Chunk) received one of six Brower Youth Awards given out this year throughout  North America. The award recognizes outstanding youth leaders who are making strides in the environmental movement.

Whipple, who lives in St. Paul, is one of 13 Youth Climate Intervenors who have been working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline through northern Minnesota.

According to the announcement:

Whipple has been speaking at high schools and colleges, as well as organizing local events to raise awareness of how the pipeline would harm the Great Lakes, rivers, treaty territories, and sacred Ojibwe sites, and fuel further climate change. …

Whipple’s activism also extends beyond opposing Line 3. She has been actively involved in other intersectional issues, including the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock and raising awareness about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in North America.

Click here for more information on the Brower Youth Awards.

Congratulations Rose!

Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Enbridge Line 3 as Vote Looms this Month

Religious leaders gathered at Leif Erickson Park before crossing to the state Capitol to deliver their letter to Gov. Mark Dayton.
Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches

Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, stood before a crowd of hundreds of people Monday afternoon at Leif Erickson Park to state the shared belief of many religious leaders that the state should reject the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline on moral grounds.

“Oftentimes the faith community historically has been on the wrong side, particularly as it relates to indigenous communities and sovereign nations who we are in relationship with.” DeYoung said. “Today we decided to be on the right side.”

The event was organized by the Minnesota Poor People’s Campaign, and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MN IPL), and had the support of the Minnesota Council of Churches. (Star Tribune article here.)

The event, held just west of the state Capitol, included civil rights songs, a Jewish cantor, a brass band, chants, and a Buddhist moment of silence. It included indigenous prayer and truth-telling. It included a number of brief speeches from religious leaders from different traditions. But the event’s main goal was to Stop Line 3. To that end, the group delivered an interfaith letter opposing Line 3 to both Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Some 540 faith leaders signed.

Continue reading

Protest Intimidation Bills Moving Through the Minnesota Legislature

Bills aimed at scaring off protests against the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline are moving through both the Minnesota House and Senate. They would limit free speech and hold peaceful protesters accountable for the actions of others.

The bills, HF 3693 and SF 3463, apply to “critical infrastructure,” things like airports and crude oil pipelines. The bills create new criminal and civil penalties on Minnesotans exercising their constitutional rights to protest controversial projects such as the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The bills are a clear attempt to intimidate and silence pipeline opposition.

All that you really need to know about the bills is they are coming from boilerplate legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group which gets significant financial backing from the Koch Brothers and large energy corporations, according to PR Watch. (See ALEC’s website for more on its “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.”)

The bills’ key legal term is “vicarious liability.” It means if there is a protest on the pipeline company’s property and there is property damage, the company could sue not only the individuals involved in the direct action (current law), but anyone — or any organization — who trained, aided or supported them.

The bill is vague and opens the possibility for multinational corporations like Enbridge to engage in harassment lawsuits against Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club, faith communities supporting civil disobedience and others who oppose the project.  The suits wouldn’t have to win, they would simply make people and organizations afraid to engage in this country’s age-old tradition of protest because of the threat of severe fines and imprisonment.

This bill would be particularly burdensome on Native American nations and Native-led organizations who have the most at stake.  Their communities will be on the front lines of the protest trying to protect their treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on the lands along the pipeline’s proposed route. Their communities have the least resources to deal with law suits.

On Wednesday, HF 3693 passed out of the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee on a party-line vote and now goes to the House floor. SF 3463 passed out of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on a party line vote and now goes to the Senate floor.

The only thing standing in the way of “vicarious liability” becoming law is Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto pen. There’s no time like the present. Pick up the phone and give Dayton a call: 651-201-3400. Ask him to get ready to veto HF 3693 or SF3463. Continue reading