January 2019 News Briefs


State and Local News Briefs

Tribal flags installed at Juvenile Justice Center: Representatives from the White Earth and Leech Lake bands presented their flags for installation at the Hennepin County Juvenile Justice Center, which will be used for most Indian Child Welfare Act cases. Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig, a White Earth descendant and the first Native American to serve on the court, presided over the ceremony with Hennepin County District Court Judge David Piper. The court intends to install the flags of all Minnesota tribes at the center. Source: minnlawyer.com.

Red Lake Nation plans bison farm: Thirty bison — ”mashkode bizhiki” in Ojibwemowin — will be introduced to an 80-acre paddock as a ”seed herd” for what will become a 560-acre pasture that will double as an economic and cultural hub. Among the possibilities are an interpretive center, cultural tours, and sales of meat and jerky. One inspiration is a similar farm run by the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe in North Dakota, a 1,300-acre park with camping, educational events, and fishing. Source: bemidjipioneer.com.

St. Paul debates racist murals: Murals in the St. Paul City Council chamber show black men loading cargo onto a riverboat, American Indians looking up at a white priest holding a crucifix, and other larger-than-life white people looking down on people of color. The Council and Ramsey County Board are considering commissioning a new set of murals to temporarily cover the old ones, which were painted in the 1930s by Chicago artist John Norton, whose work is displayed across the country and has become a source of controversy. City Council President Amy Brendmoen said, ”There is something that’s sort of contradictory about the feeling we want people to have when they’re in the chamber, and what the murals portray.” Source: startribune.com.

Cass County, Leech Lake Council celebrate cooperation: The Leech Lake Tribal Council and Cass County Board have been partaking in annual joint meetings to work on projects to benefit residents of the overlapping jurisdictions. According to Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson Sr., the open dialogue has led to trust. Tribal police work well with the county sheriff, the probation department meets with clients in Cass Lake (instead of Walker, the county seat), and the two governments have worked together to assign street addresses to improve 911 response times. They are also working on highway issues, land management, health, and human services. Source: brainerddispatch.com.

Court weighs climate defense: Three men arrested for chaining themselves to a Wells Fargo security gate in Duluth are claiming that their actions were justified in the name of environmental defense, arguing that the illegal actions are less harmful than following the law. Scot Bol, 67, used a U-shaped bike lock to secure himself to the gate at the customer entrance of the downtown Wells Fargo. He was joined by Michael Niemi of Duluth and Ernesto Burbank of the Navajo tribe. Referring to themselves as ”water protectors,” they kept the bank from opening on schedule on January 12, 2018, calling for Wells Fargo to divest itself from fossil fuels in general and Line 3 pipeline owner Enbridge Energy in particular. Source: Duluth News Tribune.

National News Briefs

North Dakota Native representative takes oath in traditional dress: Ruth Buffalo, the first Native woman Democrat to serve in North Dakota’s Statehouse, was sworn into office December 3 wearing a Native American dress and holding an eagle feather fan given to her by a clan brother hours before. A member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Buffalo said, ”It’s part of my identity and who I am. It was to honor my ancestors, those that have gone before me, and the future generation.” Buffalo won in the 27th District, which includes Fargo, in a shocking upset, unseating Republican Rep. Randy Boehning, who sponsored a voter ID law that was believed to suppress the Native vote. Source: huffingtonpost.com.

U.S. to defend Indian Child Welfare Act: The United States will join four tribes in defending the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) against a Texas district court ruling. The Department of Justice, Department of Interior, and Department of Health and Human Services filed a notice of appeal November 30 after an October decision by Texas Judge Reed O’Connor deemed ICWA unconstitutional. ICWA was created to keep Native families together by giving priority in adoptions to the Native child’s biological family, members of the child’s tribe, or other Native families. Source: Indian Country Today.

U.S. Attorney for Minnesota bolsters law enforcement on Tribal lands: Erica MacDonald, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota who took office in June, has tripled the number of prosecutors working crimes in Indian Country while taking on more cases from Tribal jurisdictions. MacDonald has agreed to prosecute 28 of 32 cases referred from four tribes over which the U.S. has jurisdiction. Her predecessor declined to prosecute two-thirds of such cases. The Justice Department has faced criticism over poor data collection and unsolved disappearances of Native women. Source: startribune.com.

Farm bill provides benefits for Indian Country: The 2018 Farm Bill approved by the Senate by a vote of 87-13 on December 10 includes several provisions that Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) considers wins for Indian Country, including expanding tribal self-determination, a tribal advisory committee on agriculture, tribal ”promise zones,” international trade missions, research at tribal colleges and universities, a technical assistance program, and a study of the farm credit system to consider improvements to unique needs of Indians. Source: nativenewsonline.net.

Wisconsin tribes sue state, local governments over taxes: Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac du Flambeau, and Lac Courte Oreilles bands of northern Wisconsin are suing the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and 11 towns for taxing fee simple lands in violation of the Treaty of 1854. ”The 1854 Treaty does not authorize the imposition of state taxes of any kind on the property of the tribes located within the reservations created therein,” the complaint reads. ”None of the historical documents relating to the negotiation of the 1854 Treaty indicate that the Indians were told that the lands reserved for them by the 1854 Treaty would be subject to state property taxes.” Source: Duluth News Tribune.