February 2019 News Briefs


State and Local News Briefs

Sober Squad member speaks at Red Lake: Randell Sam, a Mille Lacs Band Sober Squad member, spoke at the Red Lake Nation's Community Wellness Gathering in January. Randell was quoted in the Bemidji Pioneer, saying, "Everybody, friends and family, they were dying, they were OD’ing and everything, and I wanted to be one of them. I did OD once, and when I came out of it I was alone, and that’s the most alone I ever felt in my life. About three weeks after that was when I made a motion to get sober." Randell concluded, "The Creator put me here for a gift, and my gift is to make other people happy and proud to be sober."
Source: bemidjipioneer.com.

Feast marks end of homeless camp, beginning of "something great": On Friday, January 11, a feast was held at the American Indian Center in Minneapolis to mark the end of the "Wall of Forgotten Natives" homeless encampment and the beginning of a new chapter. The feast was called "WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag," which means "They Help Each Other" in Ojibwemowin. Red Lake Tribal Secretary Sam Strong, who was a leader in the effort to help people in the encampment, said, "To me this is the beginning of something great. The beginning of a renaissance in how we think about our own people. How we think about people as assets, not liabilities." Source: mprnews.org.

Prairie Island tribe buys land near Pine Island: The Prairie Island Indian Community has purchased about two-thirds of a 1,904-acre parcel north of Rochester as part of an ongoing effort to find land located a safe distance from Xcel Energy's Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station, which sits about 600 yards from tribal homes near Red Wing. The sale marks the end of a planned biosciences park that was planned for the parcel. The tribe has been asking for the removal of nuclear waste stored at Prairie Island since 1994, when the state agreed to allow Xcel Energy to store waste at the site. Source: startribune.com.

Wild rice task force fails to reach consensus: A task force appointed by Governor Mark Dayton aimed at finding ways to protect wild rice has ended with several recommendations but no consensus on regulations. The recommendation is to create a new Wild Rice Stewardship Council with representation from all 11 tribes. The six members bands of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, including Mille Lacs, chose not to participate in the task force because of an imbalance in favor of industry groups seeking to weaken environmental standards. Source: Duluth News Tribune.

Walz, Flanagan inaugurated; Governor appoints former commissioner: Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan took the oath of office January 7 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Flanagan, the first Native American to hold a statewide post, attended the ceremony in a ribbon skirt and took the oath on an Ojibwe Bible. Walz announced in December his choice of former Mille Lacs Commissioner of Education Dennis Olson to head the state office of higher education. Dennis had been serving as executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and is also a former director of Indian Education at the education department. Source: startribune.com, mprnews.org.

National News Briefs

U.S. Supreme Court to decide Crow hunting case: The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last month in Herrera v. Wyoming. The case concerns the citation of Clayvin Herrera of the Crow Nation, who followed a herd of elk into the Big Horn National Forest, shot three elk, and returned home. Herrera said the hunt was legal under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which allowed hunting on "unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon, and as long as peace subsists among the whites and Indians on the borders of the hunting districts." Source: Indian Country Today.

Education department to investigate discrimination against Indian students in Montana: The U.S. Education Department plans to investigate accusations that the Wolf Point School District in Montana discriminates against American Indian students. The decision to investigate came a year and a half after the Department received a complaint from tribal leaders of the Fort Peck Reservation. The investigation will focus on whether Wolf Point schools discipline Indian students more harshly than white students, assign them to remedial programs without cause, and deny them special education evaluations and services. The department will also examine whether the district failed to respond to a parent’s accusations that an Indian student was racially harassed. Source: startribune.com.

Federal shutdown may affect Indian Health Service: During the federal government shutdown, direct clinical services provided by the Indian Health Service are funded, but federal funding for tribal clinics isn’t. Samuel Moose, director of the Department of Human Services at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said the tribe is using other funding sources to cover shortfalls. “I think for us, we’re able to cover those expenses probably a couple of months out,” said Sam, former Commissioner of Health and Human Services for the Mille Lacs Band. "When you call up to Indian Health Services right now, I think they have four or five people that are still in the office of the 30 people. The rest of the people are furloughed."
Source: Duluth News Tribune.

Distillery opens on Red Cliff Reservation: Red Cliff Band members Linda and Curt Basina are hoping to bring jobs to the reservation and take part in the booming craft spirits industry by opening Copper Crow, the first Native-owned distillery in the U.S. The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Washington planned a brewpub restaurant in 2018, but during the permit process, they learned from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that federal law prevented them from moving forward. Late in 2018, Congress lifted the outdated 1834 law prohibiting distilleries on tribal lands and banning the sale of alcohol to Native Americans on reservations. Source: Duluth News Tribune.

Zinke era ends at Interior Department:
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who faced federal investigations into his travel and conflicts of interest, left the Trump administration at the end of 2018. Zinke, 57, played a leading part in Trump’s efforts to roll back federal environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development. He visited Mille Lacs in 2017 to offer federal law enforcement assistance after Mille Lacs County rescinded its law enforcement agreement with the Band. Source: startribune.com.