Manidoo Giizisoons 27, 2010
I want to thank you for your support this past year, and tell you some of what we’ve accomplished together.
Our work is both tangible and intangible- changing consciousness. We are keen to tell our story, and make a history today, which our descendants can refer to and say, “… Ah, that is what our people did….at that moment in history….”
So, we began the year in this way, telling history. We put together a display called Mii Wenji-Migaazoyaang— Why We Fight, which was featured at the Detroit Lakes Public Library. The display of artwork, maps, photos and newspaper clippings documented the history of the land rights and human rights struggles of the Anishinaabe people. Over 250 school children viewed the exhibit (the entire freshman class at the Detroit Lakes High School). And we were able to impart to the next generation of northern Minnesotans’, legislators, and educators some essential elements of Anishinaabe history and how people make a difference.
At the same time our staff was involved in organizing the Fish Off – an exercise of Anishinaabe treaty rights as recognized under the l855 treaty, recognizing Supreme Court decisions which have affirmed our people’s right to the fish, wild rice and medicines of this land. This was the first formal exercise of our treaty rights, and resulted in both some legal proceedings and , we hope some new negotiations to insure that our people can harvest the fish, wild rice and other foods the Creator has instructed us to eat, in our traditional territory.
Finally, with your help, we were able to actualize our radio station’s funding. We have been doing a good deal of ground work to develop NIIJII Broadcasting as an on- line independent media source for our reservation. With your help we moved ahead, and by this past fall, had received our PTFP grant for our radio station- $466,000- to serve a very large area. This will be an amazing opportunity for the North Country, and we are very confident that we will have a striking impact on consciousness in our reservation and far beyond.
Most recently, you might have noted the feature on our work- The Promised Land, with Majora Carter on National Public Radio. It is this “essential consciousness” which will help us become the people we were intended to be, and help change consciousness in our region.
Our wind turbine is erected. That is an amazing feat for our people. With some major re-engineering, creation of transition tubes, and absolutely new control panels, we have a turbine which will run at lower wind speeds and lower temperatures than any in its size. Having said that, due to the United States’ push on large turbines the territory of mid-sized wind turbines is largely undeveloped and very small.
Mid-sized wind is appropriately scaled for many tribal and rural communities, as it directly meets the needs of facilities (like our certified food processing facility), and is also scaled and created in a way which will enable local communities to learn and work on these machines. At the same time, our tribal government, using largely the intellectual capital we developed, was able to secure a large renewable energy jobs training grant for work on the reservation.
Our organization undertook some of the training, and is now looking to create a regional collaborative for green jobs and training in midsized wind, with our tribe, the University of Minnesota at Morris, and we hope with other partners in the region.
We know that owning the power- owning the wind project has three times the return for a community as leasing out your wind rights to a developer. And, we know that we must stand up and really make power for the people, if we are to change the dynamics of energy justice in this country and begin to address climate change.
This work, however, goes challenged at every step. The power company- Ottertail Power has required us to jump through many hoops, and we have passed through safely. We, however, will be unable to move ahead until this next spring, and require an additional sum of capitalizing of approximately $70,000 to build the infrastructure required by the utility. That is money we have to raise to change this system.
We have also deepened our work to bring back our ancestral corn varieties. This past year, our Pink Lady, Bear Island Flint, Dakota Black Popcorn, and Manitoba flint came in, and helped us fulfill promises to future generations to have food for the people. Over the past two years, our collaborative has included a number of local farmers and North Dakota State University. In this work, we are now focusing on approximately 6 varieties, which we hope to grow to viable levels for ceremonial, community nutrition and for sale to a larger community. These include our Bear Island Flint ( provided now for our cultural events), a Manitoba White flint – this needs to be grown out aggressively for three years, at least to get quantities which are viable. Two varieties of flour and polenta corn- one derived from an Italian polenta corn, which originally came from our area, and a pink lady corn, which is a magnificent magenta-colored, sweet tasting flour corn. We also hope to grow out black popcorn for commercial sale, and a blue flour corn for various other dishes. The beauty of recovering traditional varieties cannot be understated, and is met with very great enthusiasm in our community and beyond.
When we attended the Slow Food Terra Madre gathering in Turin, this past fall, we saw our corn varieties there as polenta, and joined with many farmers and harvesters worldwide to support the beautiful work to bring back ancestral varieties, not only because they are unique, but because they are high in nutrition, and pre-industrial. These varieties, we are sure will be more resilient in a time of climate change and reduced access to petroleum.
A new project in 2010 was with goats. We decided to bring these animals to our land to help improve our pastures, create an opportunity for new foods in a lactose intolerant community, and provide a meat product which can be offered to the nearby Somali community.
Our farm to school program is now in its fourth year. We have faced a few challenges, both now having the fourth principal in the school in as many years, and, building new capacity in our staff. We have enjoyed the food, and the children have as well. We hope to expand the depth of the program in the Pine Point School in 2011, and as well, have two additional schools – White Earth Circle of Life and Naytauwash Charter School, which have begun to provide local foods to their students. Our theory is that if someone puts forward the work, then others will follow the path. This has been borne out as true, by and large in our work in local food systems. Indeed, this November, we were able to present the work on tribal farm to school programs at the National Congress of American Indians meeting in Albuquerque, at the request of tribal leadership.
On another front, we are working to oppose regulatory changes at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regarding sulfides. This discussion is underway because of the push to open a large mine in the Boundary Waters area, which will adversely impact the environment, and the wild rice. We have been part of the presentations and opposition to these changes. We will continue this work in 2011.
We will also redouble our work on pesticides in 2011. New allies have come into the arena regarding the wanton use of pesticides in industrial potato fields on our reservation and region. And, as well, we will work on the chemical Clothianidin (product name “Poncho”), and the issues surrounding EPA regulation of this Bayer product which is linked to colony collapse disorder in bees. We hope to expand the pollinators in the region, and will need to address the use of this in our territory.
To do this work, we need staff and resources. And we need your support- financially, politically, through buying our products and through passing the word on what we are doing up here on the reservation. We know that what we do is for everyone, and that the work of all of us is connected in a web which changes consciousness, and has the potential to create a better world for those yet to come.
Mino Ayaa Omaa Akiing-
Peace here on Earth,
Visit us in person 607 Main St. Callaway, MN 56521