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A Bemidji statue reveals uncomfortable Native history

We grew up hearing the story of local trader and store owner Andrew Myrick, who told starving Dakota people to “eat grass or their own dung” if they were hungry. He was one of the early fatalities of the 1862 US-Dakota War, a figure our very conservative father offered as a cautionary figure to encourage us to use civil discourse Continue Reading

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Backers push for vote on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

More than three hundred Latino residents rallied in front of the St. Paul Capitol building to urge Governor Dayton and House Speaker Paul Thissen to pass HF348, a bill  that would allow drivers licenses for all.  Organized by Mesa Latina and supported broadly by the immigrant rights movement  protesters raised signs and chanted “Si se puede!” “Yes we can!” Many drivers and passerby joined in solidarity, supportively honking or walking along. The demonstration concluded at the Cedar Street Armory in a cultural celebration with musical performances by local artists.  
Currently, more than 34,500 Minnesotans with temporary visas or deportation reprieves under a 2012 Obama program have driver’s licenses that say “Check status” and list their visa expiration date. Continue Reading

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American Indian Month Kickoff

May is American Indian Month in Minneapolis. To celebrate thebeginning of the month and all the activities and celebrations that will follow, people and organizations gathered at Little Earth on Friday, May 1 for a parade through the Phillips Neighborhood. Continue Reading

MinnesotaCare should not be eliminated in the state budget

The Minnesota House passed a Republican-led budget plan last week that eliminates MinnesotaCare, a public health care program that provides coverage for the working poor. Unfortunately, such a plan would harm these individuals the most. The strongest justification that conservatives use for their budget is that the nearly 100,000 Minnesotans currently on MinnesotaCare could switch to MNsure, the insurance exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act. Even with tax credits, poor Minnesotans could pay more under MNsure than MinnesotaCare. Individuals on MinnesotaCare pay between $15 and $50 in monthly premiums for their plans. Continue Reading

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Hooray for Mayor Hodges’ Courageous Soccer Stadium Stand!

Bill McGuire and his sports buddies the Pohlads, who own the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves, want to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis just for soccer.  And here’s the good news: They want to build it using private money.  And here’s the bad news: They want a rebate on sales taxes and they want a permanent exemption from paying local property taxes. Mayor Betsy Hodges went on record as saying “No,” and she said it in a public and detailed letter:
“There is no need for a subsidy for this facility, or this ownership group, whatsoever. The subsidy they are requesting will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis. “First, the McGuire group is asking to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes—not just for a limited term of time, but forever. “The land where the MN United ownership group proposes to build the stadium is currently privately owned, so it currently pays property taxes [$334,000 a year] that would disappear if the soccer stadium were exempted from taxes. Continue Reading

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Dinkytown panel compares 1970s, current activism

For one month in 1970, protesters occupied two buildings slated for demolition to build a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.One predawn morning in early May, police in riot gear cleared the protesters while bulldozers leveled the buildings. Within a day, the demonstrators built a peace garden on the site and, a year later, Red Barn gave up the idea of building another fast-food store in Dinkytown.Subsequent efforts to stop development in Dinkytown haven’t gone so well. Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown in an unsuccessful effort to stop a much larger development two years ago, said he felt awe and jealousy as he watched Al Milgrom’s “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film about the Red Barn protest.Hawbaker and a panel of other neighborhood activists and residents compared notes April 20 with Monte Bute, one of the protestors featured in the film.“We went with a more political solution,” said Hawbaker, who noted that they came close to having the City Council block demolition of buildings to make way for the mixed-use Opus Development, now called Venue. “The projects that are proposed are not the best shot for independent business,” he said. “We got a Starbucks, a Great Clips and an offshoot of Goodwill.”He and Lynn Nyman, a manager for Loring Café and Varsity Theater, said that more than 60 percent of Dinkytown’s businesses are still local, adding that the area has been and continues to be an incubator of small business.Another panelist, Hung Q. Russell, chairman of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use Committee, called the film a well-drafted story narrative. Continue Reading

Image by Bill Sorem.

Columbus Statue Celebrates Genocide and Should Be Removed

Native American activist groups in Minnesota would like people to learn the real history of Christopher Columbus and quit putting him up on a pedestal at the State Capitol.“We all know in 1492 he sailed the ocean blue,” said American Indian Movement Chair Mike Forcia. “And in 1493 he stole all that he could see.”For more than 83 years a statue of Columbus has gazed from the Capitol toward Minnesota’s Justice Center. For Forcia, real justice would be removing the statue.“We need to deport Columbus,” said Forcia. “We can’t be celebrating genocide anymore.”Genocide isn’t a word most history books associate with Columbus, but he enslaved Native Americans. As governor of the large island he called Espanola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Columbus’ programs reduced the native population from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496.Minnesota’s legislature is considering a bill that would change the engraving on the statue from “Discoverer of America” to “Christopher Columbus landed in America.” A co-sponsor of the House bill includes Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), who taught high school government classes 35 years.That change misses the point, say Native Americans who marched through downtown St. Continue Reading

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Black Folk: Cause for a Different Type of Reporting

Attorney, Jeff Hassan is Executive Director to the African American Leadership Forum. The mission of AALF’s Executive Director is to create full employment, build wealth, close the achievement gap, affect legislative policy and promote healthy living in the Twin Cities African American Community. To accomplish these tasks, Mr. Hassan must first address an age old issue that affect the thought process of every day Minnesotans, especially those who read the Star Tribune. These thought processes could very well inadvertently affect legislation and funding crucial to change necessary in the African American community. As a father is to his child and as a leader is to his tribe —Mr. Hassan is the Alpha Male, and he is very protective of African American leaders and passionately demonstrates this in his open letter to the Star Tribune today. Continue Reading

PHOTOS: White Earth Council (left to right): Tara Mason, Secretary/Treasurer; Steven "Punky" Clark, District I Representative; Erma Vizenor, Chairwoman; Kenneth "Gua" Bevins, District III Representative; and Kathy Goodwin, District II Representative (Top).

White Earth constitutional reform stalled by infighting

“The people of White Earth voted for a new constitution, and a judge upheld the validity of that referendum. So why don’t we have a new constitution at White Earth?” For Lorna LaGue, White Earth’s Director of Constitutional Reform, the question is rhetorical. After all, she’s had a front row seat to the clash taking place on her reservation between those who support the new tribal constitution and those oppose to it. Both sides are polarized, passionate, and deeply entrenched after years of infighting which surfaced in conjunction with the first White Earth Constitutional Convention in 2007.The latest dust-up — between White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, who supports the new constitution as “the will of the people” and those who oppose her efforts — has taken place in the pages of White Earth’s newspaper, Anishinaabeg Today.In the December issue Vizenor used her monthly column to explain that a gag-order had been imposed to prevent the tribal newspaper from printing information about constitutional reform efforts.“The White Earth Tribal Council voted to censor the press from printing any more information or updates on the Constitution of the White Earth Nation,” Vizenor wrote. “The vote took place on Nov. Continue Reading