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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues to oppose DAPL
Friday, September 09 2016
 
Written by The Circle,
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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South/North Dakota have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline since April of this year. The 1,170-mile oil pipeline would run just north of their reservation and under the Missouri River, which the Tribe says would endanger the main water supply to the area. The protest has been building in numbers over the months and in August it was estimated at over 3000 protestors taking a stand outside of Cannon Ball, N.D.

The protest has gathered national and international support, with tribes from across the US sending representatives and support. Groups from all over the world are posting signs of support on social media. And in August Amnesty International sent observers to the encampment. (Photos courtesy Camp of the Sacred Stones: www.facebook.com/CampoftheSacredStone )

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Nimiikinaa: Riding for the land
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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In July Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, lead a horse ride along Enbridge’s proposed route for Sandpiper and Line 3 in Minnesota. The horse ride followed the Enbridge proposed route between two of the most important wild rice producing lakes for the Ojibwe, both called Rice Lake – which were established as federal wild rice refuges by Congress for the exclusive use of the Chippewa at the beginning of the 20th century.
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winonahorse2.jpgThe road is interesting. Many of us do not travel these days. Opting instead to rest at home, often with the television or Facebook. We have become comfortable to view much of the world from the inside of our houses, sometimes our air-conditioned houses. That is until the big storms hit and there is no power. 
 
Let me tell you what it was like on the road for me. I’ve ridden horse for the past five days through the l855 treaty area, through Anishinaabe Akiing. I follow Dakota riders from the Santee Nation, who took their name in this world from this place – Isanti, the people of the knife. For eight thousand years, the people came to this territory to get good materials for knives – the primary equipment for feeding yourselves. Long before the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) our people used knives and knew the land. 
 
I am riding with Ojibwe people as well. We are riding together, through our territory, the territory upon which the Creator placed us. It is long after the l826 treaty, when the new white man, US government made a treaty between our nations. We had always made our own treaties and agreements before that. That is, after all, how nations govern themselves.
 
For many of the young men who joined us, this is the first time they have seen the lands of their ancestors. The riders  include Iyokpiya  Eastman, Monga, Matt, Jason (Skinny Bull) Garret, Westley and a little man of seven; Wakanhdi.
 
Many of these man have ridden with the Dakota 38 riders, those who commemorate the 38 plus 2 who were hung in Mankato in l864, the largest mass hanging in US History. These are the survivors of those families. And they are the most amazing riders, riding through minus zero temperatures for two hundred miles on horseback. They are strong riders.
 
The Ojibwe riders are led by Todd Utrech and Annie Humphrey. These are real riders, bronc and bull riders, thousands-of-miles-a-year-on-horse-back riders. Riders, with a big R. I am a rider with a little R, a “little C” cow girl. I tell the young men that, and we all laugh. Each, in our own way, is humbled by the horses and the beauty of the land. 
 
We began our journey at East Lake, Minisikaaning Minis, in the traditional territory of the Rice Lake Band of Anishinaabeg, home of several of the traditional drums of our nation, and the land near Sandy Lake. Sandy Lake is the place where hundreds of our people died. They died from starvation in the hard cold winter and their forced death march, brought about by the federal government – that was l850. We remember them.  
We stay at a place the Mille Lacs Band has purchased, and is now returning to a farm as a part of work to grow food for the community. Wolves are out at night, especially on a full moon, and the land is lush with the rains. Most of us camp but we keep a washing room at the local hotel, the Country Meadows. We can’t have more than a room there because the rest of the hotel is rented out to Canadian Mining companies, which have permits to explore for the miskwaabik, the copper ore.
 
The Tamarack Mine interests leased 35,000 acres of land not far from Big Sandy and Round lakes, and at last count had over l24,000 feet of drill core samples. The project is a venture of Talon Mining and Rio Tinto Zinc/Kennecott (the largest copper mining company in the world). A year ago, when I came to this village for the funeral of Mushkooub Aubid, the hotel was also booked by exploration crews. Geologists estimate more than 10 million tons of mineable ore lie below.
Dollar General and Enbridge Company take hits from courts
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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generaldollar.jpgIt may be time to work with Native people. Two court decisions, one at the US Supreme Court and another in Canada’s federal appeals court, came out against big companies who do business with tribes, and neglect tribal authority.

Late June’s US Supreme Court decision let stand a lower court decision acknowledging tribal government authority to regulate a non-Native business on tribal lands.  The case involved Dollar General, the discount retailer, and a sexual assault charge. After a 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, the Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians decision left intact the Fifth Circuit of Appeals decision.

The decision upheld civil jurisdiction of a Choctaw tribal court to hear a suit against the retailer Dollar General concerning an alleged sexual assault by one of its employees against a tribal member in a store on tribal land. The suit now continue in tribal court against Dollar General, and we should all probably be watching that… it will be interesting.

Up north, in a Canadian court ruling, the Enbridge Company had a major set back when the Canadian Federal Appeals Court ruled that the $7.9 billion proposed Enbridge Gateway Pipeline (a pipeline proposed from the Alberta Tar sands to the west coast) would not go ahead because of lack of tribal consultation. On June 30, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeals overturned approvals for Enbridge pipeline, finding, the government fell short in its obligations to consult with First Nations groups.

The appeals court ruled that while the federal government designed a proper framework to consult with First Nations during the planning of the pipeline, the execution fell short in a critical phase of the consultation process. Frankly, the Minnesota PUC might take note.

What does this all mean for the White Earth band, and Native people of the US and Canada?  It may mean that the times are changing; the era of pushing pipelines, mining projects or retail stores onto tribal land, with immunity from tribal jurisdiction or consultation is over. We will see…  
It may also mean that if a corporation enters into a consensual  agreement with a sovereign jurisdiction; that corporation’s activities will be subject to jurisdiction by that tribe…aka the sovereign jurisdiction.  

Over time, there has been little regard for tribal jurisdiction by non Indians who come onto tribal land. In fact, until the passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act ( VAWA 2014) there was no recourse for a Native woman  in a domestic dispute by a non tribal member on the reservation.

Until 2014, the ability of tribes to protect our most vulnerable was not guaranteed. Consider these statistics: 34% of Native women will be raped,  39%  will be victims to domestic violence; 67% reported  assailants were non-Native individuals. This set of facts is paired with little or no justice: U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of violent crimes that occur in Indian country; and 67% of cases declined were sexual abuse cases.

Under the 2014 federal law, there is now some recourse, but it is far from perfect.

To the Native community, the debate remained a clear example of a discriminatory legal system. Since the Supreme Court’s Oliphant decision stripped tribal communities of criminal jurisdiction over non- tribal members, many reservations like White Earth, with over half the residents as non-enrolled band members, face complex jurisdiction issues, ie: which cops, which agencies and which courts… let alone the three counties which have entrenched themselves inside the reservation borders. In short, it gets pretty confusing.

In contrast, Native people are prosecuted under both tribal and non-tribal law, and are eleven times more likely to be in prison than a non Indian. Native people are subject to the laws of a different political entity, but non-Native criminals have found themselves free of charges in Indian country.

Times may be changing. In 2003, Dollar General leased land from the tribe and entered into an agreement with the Mississippi Band of Choctaws. In a youth opportunity program, Dollar General enrolled a then-13-year-old tribal boy member into its youth-opportunity program. He accused a store employee, non-member Dale Townsend, of sexual advances and sexual harassment. Unresolved, his family brought the case to tribal court in 2005. Dollar General was named as a defendant through vicarious liability, and it filed to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the tribal court did not have the authority to try it.

The relatively narrow facts of the Dollar General case illuminate a larger set of questions increasingly being reviewed by US, Canadian and international courts. The core issue revolves around the idea of sovereignty – the right of a people to govern itself – and order their own affairs. Buried in the questions about jurisdiction over a $2.5 million civil suit are deeper questions about how the US (or in the Enbridge case, Canada) recognizes tribal authority and how and where sovereignty arises. In short the times seem to be changing; although the Indian wars are far from over.   

For the people of White Earth and other tribes, both cases may mean that our tribal government and legal institutions may be able to protect citizens from non Indian businesses who break our laws. I would say it is about time.

Peace and Dignity Journey runners come through Minnesota
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by The Circle,
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runnercover.jpgPeace and Dignity Journeys are spiritual runs that embody the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. The prophecy mandates that at this time all Indigenous Peoples in the Western Hemisphere shall be reunited in a spiritual way in order to heal our nations so they can begin to work towards a better future for our children and generations to come.

Through the Journeys, participant runners and supporters work to accomplish this goal by helping each other reconnect to their respective spiritual practices and traditions; by helping each other relearn their role in the world as Indigenous Peoples; and by reminding each other of their responsibilities to Mother Earth, Father Sky, our communities, and ourselves.

Peace and Dignity Journeys occur every four years and start with Indigenous runners on opposite ends of the continents at Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. They run for six months through hundreds of Indigenous communities where they participate in spiritual practices and traditions; spark dialogue on the issue of peace and dignity for Indigenous Peoples and receive the community’s prayers.

These prayers and converunnersbuilding.jpgrsations are then carried to proceeding communities until the runners reach the center of the hemisphere. When the runners meet at the Kuna Nation in Panama City, Panama, it will symbolize all Indigenous Peoples joining together in a spiritual way to manifest the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor.

The runner came through Minnesota, arriving in Thief River Falls on June 24th, Red Lake on June 26th, Bemidji on June 27th, Round Lake on June 28th, and White Earth on June 29th. The runners have been running for two months, and will continue for five more as part of the 2016 Peace and Dignity Journey.
Each year the runners have a different overall prayer focus. This year’s focus is on seeds. They will meet at the end of the run in Panama City sometime in November.

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Mille Lacs Tribe and County at odds over law enforcement deal
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Dan Kraker/MPRNews,
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The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is denouncing a decision from Mille Lacs County official to end a cooperative law enforcement agreement with the band.

The county says it revoked the agreement due to a dispute over state law. But what’s really at the heart of the disagreement is a long-running dispute over the band’s reservation boundaries.

The unanimous decision ends about 25 years of cooperation between the band’s police department and the county sheriff’s office.

Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh says the cooperative agreement had ceased being cooperative.

“There’s been a breakdown in communication between the tribal police department and the Mille Lacs County Attorney’s Office, between the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office and the Mille Lacs tribal police department that is tremendously concerning to me.”

The deal had allowed band police officers to respond when they saw anyone committing a crime on the reservation. It also allowed the tribe’s officers and sheriff’s deputies to call each other for backup.

The communication breakdown began about a year and a half ago, Walsh said, after the band applied to the Department of Justice to allow federal prosecutors to also charge crimes committed on the reservation.
As part of that application, which the federal government approved early this year, the Department of the Interior issued an opinion on a decades-old battle over what constitutes the band’s reservation.

The band argues it consists of the 61,000 acres set aside in an 1855 treaty with the federal government. That area spans the entire southern shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs.

However, the county says it’s limited to land held in trust for the band by the federal government – only about 3,000 or 4,000 acres.

In effect, Walsh argues, the band leveraged a decision about law enforcement to advance its point of view on the much broader reservation boundary question.

“All that Mille Lacs County wants is a truly cooperative relationship with the Mille Lacs Band,” he said, “and to put aside this boundary issue to be resolved separately.”

In response, Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said the band had no influence on the federal government’s decision. She argues the county’s decision places politics over public safety.

“It’s plain and simple, if you end a law enforcement agreement, apparently you’re not that concerned about the public safety of individuals,” Benjamin said.

And public safety is a big issue on the Mille Lacs reservation right now. Benjamin says there’s a rising tide of drugs and violence on the reservation, with more than 1,600 crimes committed since 2013. And the band cites a problem called “rez hopping,” where criminals travel from reservation to reservation to try slipping through jurisdictional cracks.

Jessica Intermill, a founding member of the Hogen Adams law firm in St. Paul, says cooperative agreements between counties and tribes allow officers to focus on stopping crime.

“What these agreements really allow people to do, they allow the first responders to be the helpers they want to be without asking those jurisdictional questions,” said Intermill, who specializes in Indian law.
It’s unclear how those jurisdictional questions will be resolved after the county board’s vote goes into effect on July 21.

County Attorney Joe Walsh says he plans to ask the state Attorney General’s office to issue an opinion on how much authority the band’s police will have without a state cooperating agreement.
Meanwhile, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Solicitor General Todd Matha says the department will continue to do what it’s always done.

“Our police officers are going to provide the same level of law enforcement services that they always have and that the community has come to rely on,” Matha said. “We believe we have that authority by virtue of federal law, tribal law, as well as state law.”

But the Mille Lacs Band says response times could be affected if sheriff's deputies are farther away than tribal cops.

To address that issue, the county is planning to hire 10 additional deputies.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at http://www.mpr.org

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