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Enbridge Round Two with Tanks?
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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nodaplcops.jpgTribal unity is a lesson from Standing Rock. Thousands of people joined with the Lakota Nation to oppose the Dakota Access (AKA Dakota Excess Pipeline). That unity is spilling over into the Great lakes. Anishinaabe tribal governments and people put our bodies on the line, and not only sent flags and representatives, money, food, and wood (Menominee sent a semi load of wood at least), but political unity and commitment. In that, it would seem, we committed to follow the leadership of the people of Sitting Bull, and put our minds together. In mid December, the Enbridge Company found out that the lessons of Standing Rock were well learned by our people, but apparently the company was not taking notes.

While Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau approved permits for Enbridge’s largest project, a 760,000 barrel per day Line 3 tar sands pipeline, things on the ground were different. That pipeline is proposed for the same corridor as the Sandpiper, and also entails the beginning of abandonment of five or six 50-year-old pipelines down the Highway 2 corridor.

The Bad River Tribe in mid December announced it would not approve a continued easement for Enbridge across their reservation, and tribal members in Bemidji were threatened with arrest for asking corporate accountability questions. It turns out, the Canadian Premier can give a project a nod, but the Anishinaabeg have not.   Enbridge with the Minnesota Department of Commerce are proceeding in the environmental impact statement for the proposed Line 3 new corridor (the same corridor as the Sandpiper), as if nothing has happened.

The Ojibwe have long memories, and it turns out, can even remember November 20th, that fateful night on Backwater Bridge.
A December 13th landowner informational meeting in Bemidji was primarily aimed at white landowners and county commissioners. When Thomas Barrett (aka Thomas X) learned of the meeting, he shared the information widely, and Enbridge representatives found themselves in a room of 100 plus concerned landowners, many from Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth.  Asking a question in this forum, lead the Bemidji police and a security guard to ask me to leave.  The question was, “As one third owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is Enbridge responsible for the injuries to our people?”  That’s enough to get you kicked out of a room, it seems.

Wondering where to go? Follow Adobe DeSigns’ lead
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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adobedesigns.jpgIf you’ve wandered through the newer sports and entertainment venues in the Twin Cities, or parked in recently built business and educational parking ramps, you will find helpful signs pointing the way to seats, elevators, restrooms, or where you left your car.
It is easy to take this signage for granted. But showing you where to go is becoming a bustling business for Adobe DeSigns LLC, a Minneapolis enterprise owned by two Native American women.

Vivian Guerra, the chief executive officer, and Lisa Owen, the controller, started Adobe DeSigns in 2014 to provide signage for building projects, either alone on modernization projects or as a subcontractor with general contractor partners on major, new construction.
Some companies and institutions might contact the company directly for a project, Guerra said. More often, she added, Adobe DeSigns serves as a subcontractor for a major general construction company and often as “a third tier” supplier hired by a subcontractor to do the signage.

On a visit to their South Minneapolis offices and shop in December, Guerra and Owen paused during an interview to meet with an architect regarding replacement signage being installed in the Target Center that is home to the Timberwolves and Lynx.
This comes after their company did design, manufacturing and installment work on signage for the new Vikings stadium – US Bank Stadium – also in Minneapolis, CHS Field where the St. Paul Saints play baseball in St. Paul, and at major parking ramps throughout the Twin Cities and Duluth.

Other major projects over the past two years include signage for the Brooklyn Park Library, a part of the Hennepin County Library system; Metropolitan State University facilities; various elementary and preschool (Seward Montessori) educational facilities, medical facilities and parking ramps, and Little Earth exterior signage.

Three of Adobe DeSigns’ seven current employees are working at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino’s remodeling project undertaken by the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Owen said.
Four more employees work out of the South Minneapolis home base; most are Native American tribal members or descendants. “We are serious about minority hiring because that’s who we are and because (most) everything we do is going to require OJT (on-the-job-training),” Guerra said.

A walk through of the production facilities explains why. The various signage products combine a wealth of sciences and arts including chemistry, physics, metallurgy, graphic arts, engineering design and public policy/political science about laws affecting signage.
While experts are abundant in all those fields, they don’t usually come equipped across the spectrum. They may not have the manual dexterity to manufacture the standard letters, exposed neon, backlit, vinyl, sandblasted, painted, pylon, digital signs and letters for both interior and exterior signage that the company makes.

NoDAPL: The Beginning is Near
Tuesday, December 06 2016
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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nodapl-wall.jpgStanding Rock is an unpredicted history lesson for all of us. More than any moment I recall since Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War, or the time of Martin Luther King, this moment stands as a crossroads in the battle for social justice. It is also an economic issue, in a time of economic system transformation, and profoundly a question of the future of this land. The world is watching.  

As the US Army Corps of Engineers issues a December 5 eviction notice for thousands of people gathered on the banks of the Missouri River, we face our truth. Those people at the Oceti Sakowin and Red Warrior Camps, along with the 550 people who have been arrested so far, are really the only thing standing between a river and a corporation that wants to pollute it. That we know, because absent any legal protections, and with a regulatory system hijacked by oil interests and a federal government in crisis, the people and the river remain the only clear and sentient beings.  

In short, this is a moment of extreme corporate rights and extreme racism confronted by courage, prayers, and resolve. This moment has been coming. The violence and the economics of a failing industry will indeed unravel, and this is the beginning.  

The Deep North
North Dakota did not become Alabama – or the Deep North, as it is now called – overnight.   Native people in North Dakota have been treated poorly for more than a hundred years, whether by the damming of the Missouri and the flooding of millions of acres of tribal land, or by poverty and incarceration, North Dakota is a place of systemic and entrenched racism.

Two of the poorest counties in the country are on Standing Rock, Native people comprise almost a fourth of the people in prison, Native suicide rates are ten times that of North Dakotans, infrastructure (like the fifty year old hospital with four doctors for 8000 people, and a now blocked Highway l806, without a shoulder) is at an all time low, and people freeze to death and overdose in the shadow of the Bakken Oil fields. That’s the first layer of abuse, aside from the day to day racism, emboldened by Morton County and the incoming Trump government. It is visible for the world to see now.

Indian Country moves closer to the sun; takes Saga Solar with it
Tuesday, December 06 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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Northern Minnesota’s Indian Country is reaching out to the sun for clean energy and is finding innovative ways to get it.

In the most recent development, upstart photovoltaic solar panel manufacturer Saga Solar SBC will move from St. Paul to Cass Lake in the second week of December to become the first indigenous-owned manufacturer of the 21st Century technology products on tribal land. Saga Solar was founded in St. Paul about a year ago by R. Marie Zola, a Minnesota solar energy leader of Cherokee descent.

Aki Development LLC, a newly formed company based at Cass Lake, acquired a 60 percent controlling interest in Saga Solar in September. It is one of three ventures for Aki, a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe chartered corporation that is not tribally owned. One of the other startup businesses it is launching will construct housing. The third business is a new “green” industry venture, like Saga Solar, and will have a factory where employees assemble and test LED street lights.

Mike Myers, founder and chief executive officer at Aki Development, said the green companies could have as many as 24 employees within the next year. The LED light factory – LED is short for “light emitting diodes” lights – will have eight employees at the start of the coming year. Twenty jobs in the two businesses will be in manufacturing with pay starting at $12.80 per hour. Four additional jobs in marketing will be created along the way.

Aki Development recently received a $29,000 job-training grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to train employees for both businesses through the Leech Lake Tribal College at Cass Lake.

These developments further Northern Minnesota Ojibwe commitments to green, or environmentally effective and sustainable enterprises. In August, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa opened a 1-megawatt solar farm projected to light 150 homes and 10 percent of the band’s electric power needs for its Black Bear Casino. While doing so, it is also projected to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-generated plants by 2.6 million pounds annually.

Earlier this past year, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa entered agreements with construction and engineering companies for an even larger solar farming project from rooftops of its largest buildings. Design plans call for 15-megawatts, or equal to 15 million watts, harvested by solar panels that should light the tribe’s three casinos, government buildings and the tribal college. The first phase to power tribal buildings is anticipated to save the tribe $2 million a year in energy costs.

Red Lake Band Chairman Darrell G. Seki Sr. said the goal over the next five years is to generate enough solar power on tribal land to meet the electricity needs for every home on the Red Lake.
Solar and wind generation both reduce harmful carbon emissions that come from fossil fuel burning power plants. LED lighting, meanwhile, is more energy efficient than compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and the incandescent light bulbs in homes and offices.

NATIVE Act aims to promote Native tourism
Thursday, November 03 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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tourismstory1.jpgOne major exhibit in the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa’s Atisokanigamig (Legend House) shows how the Ojibwe people – over centuries – migrated to Northern Minnesota and the Western Great Lakes, creating a path a new federal law hopes will encourage tourists to follow.

In late September, President Obama signed into law the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act aimed at promoting tourism and related economic development at Native American communities. The new law had strong support from tribal and tourism groups and bipartisan support from lawmakers representing Indian Country and Native Hawaiian and Alaskan communities.

Details for bringing the Departments of Commerce and Interior and federal agencies into collaborative efforts with tribal entities are still to be worked out. The new law, however, brings hope to Bev Miller, executive director of the Bois Forte Heritage Museum, that heritage and cultural curiosity will be another driver of tourism to Native communities.

In October, for instance, a group from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe paid a visit to the Bois Forte museum. Students from Nett Lake schools visited the next day. Meanwhile, a regular stream of Canadian First Nation tour groups related to the Bois Forte come across the border each year to study at the museum while having a recreational outing to the Lake Vermillion area and Bois Forte’s Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.

“Next month (November) is Native American Heritage Month and hopefully more school groups will come in,” Miller said.

In step with the new law, Miller wants to build on heritage and culture. “We would like to see more interaction with our elders and youth and this is going to happen real soon here,” she said.
To that end, Miller and colleagues added a new exhibit in October showing regalia, the clothing and ornamentation preserved by a Bois Forte family since 1919.

Reusing, Restoring in Indian Country
Tuesday, October 11 2016
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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deconstruction3.jpgThe abandoned Eagle View Motel at Cass Lake, on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, is coming down in pieces with useful materials stored for later use in building projects in northern Minnesota. Come November, another crew of workers from the Miigwech Aki Deconstruction Co. will do similar salvage work on the remodeled and expanded Grand Portage Lodge and Casino.

Miigwech Aki Deconstruction (“Thank you Earth” in Ojibwe) is a business and training unit of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center at Bemidji. Both the Leech Lake and Grand Portage Bands of Ojibwe contracted with the firm because the salvage work it does, leading to recycling and reusing building materials, is consistent with widely shared cultural goals throughout Native American communities.
The environmentally sensitive work would be reason enough, said Bryan Lussier, the Leech Lake compliance officer for the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO). But it is more than that, he added. Contracting with Miigwech Aki “is a form of reinvesting in the community. We want to keep trained, productive people up here.”

Chris Bedeau, director of the program for the Bemidji-based community development center, said 17 construction–deconstruction workers  went through four days of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training and one day of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training before starting work on the Eagle View project in September. Most of the workers were residents of Leech Lake while at least one was from Red Lake and another was from Bois Forte, he said.

These workers are now certified from that training. That knowledge and talent is a benefit to the entire northern Minnesota area, said Leech Lake’s Lussier.
“This was the right fit,” he said. “We have worked with Chris and the Northwest Indian (Community Development) Center in the past, and we have many of the same objectives.”

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