Wednesday, June 22, 2011

UMD Master of Tribal Administration readies for inaugurial year

More than two years in planning mode, the first-of-its-kind Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) degree program at the University of Minnesota Duluth is ready for its inauguration next fall.

American Indian leaders from tribes across the country will have the opportunity to pursue coursework in various classes that include tribal sovereignty, tribal accounting and finance, federal Indian law, leadership and ethics. In addition, tribal language and cultural elements will also be weaved into coursework throughout the program. The UMD Board of Regents approved the program in February, 2010.

“This program will prepare students to apply their skills to manage the daily realities of tribal governance,” said Tadd Johnson, chair of the American Indian Studies Department and MTAG program director at UMD. “There is no program exactly like this. To me this is designed by the tribes.”

What makes this program unique, Johnson explains, it that virtually all of the tribes in Minnesota provided feedback to program coordinators at UMD that emphasizes a “hands-on approach” versus a more traditionally academic theoretical method.

An enrolled member of the Bois Forte
, Johnson worked in Washington D.C. for Sen. Mo Udall (check) and with the Clinton Administration on Indian gaming issues before becoming tribal attorney with the Mill Lac (check)
He is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School.

University of Minnesota Duluth graduate and Fond du Lac (check)
Tribe Chairwoman Karen Diver provided input into the process of establishing the program, Johnson said. A graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Public Management (check) at Harvard University, Diver and other tribal leaders persuaded the MTAGH administration to take the exponential approach in designing the degree program.

With tribes positioning themselves to provide a wider range of programs and services for their members, Johnson says the partnership between the tribes as sovereign nations and the university has been one of collaboration.

“The tribes wanted an applied program that dealt with practical things,” Johnson said.

Other leaders agree with the premise.

“We know talented young people who would like to work in tribal government,” said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. “This new degree program will provide the training and development students need to effectively serve their people and build a career.”

The two-year, master’s degree program will begin in late August 2011 and will feature weekly online meetings and face-to-face weekend meetings at the UMD campus every three weeks. The curriculum and schedule will allow students to continue working while pursuing their degree.

The curriculum includes classes on principles of tribal sovereignty, tribal budgets, finance and accounting, principles of tribal management, federal Indian law and leadership and ethics.

Students in the program may already serve as tribal administrators, council members or tribal leaders. The curriculum is based on the roles that tribal administrators, leaders and professionals play in formal and informal situations that support tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Traditional language and culture is an important thread throughout the program.

The two-year program, which begins in Fall 2011, features face-to-face meetings at the UMD campus once every three weeks. Interaction with experts in each area of the curriculum will include special guests as well as UMD faculty, staff and students. The classes at UMD are offered from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. In order to accommodate working professionals and support existing commitments to families and home communities, a portion of the program will be offered online.

"The low-residency schedule was essential to allow American Indian tribal members from throughout the Midwest to attend," Johnson said.

Brian McInnes, assistant professor in the Department of Education, played a significant role by designing the Leadership and Ethics course, which he will teach. UMD is the only university in the country to offer this unique masters program focused on tribal leadership development. Dean Paul Deputy and former Associate Dean Tom Peacock of UMD's College of Education & Human Service Professions played a key role in the early meetings of the concept.

Tribal Collaboration

The program scope was developed by UMD through extensive consultation with tribal governments throughout the Midwest from 2009 through 2010. Johnson and Rick Smith, director of the American Indian Learning Resource Center, spent months meeting with leaders of American Indian tribes.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Susan Maher also has been actively involved in the development of this program. She is especially impressed by the support from the American Indian community.

"In October 2010, the 35 tribes of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes passed a resolution specifically supporting the program," Maher said. "All of the tribal governments from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa are advocates for this new offering."

Input on Program Development

On Feb. 10, 2011 the University of Minnesota Board of Regents instrumental in the development of MTAG.

On Feb. 10, 2011 the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Many approved of UMD's approach.

Chief Executive Marge Anderson of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said, "UMD developed this program by asking tribal governments what was needed."

Barb Brodeen, executive director for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, agreed: "The Bois Forte Band is pleased that the degree program reflects our ideas and wishes."

Assisting the tribes and students was an important goal.

"Many of our talented young people would like to work in Tribal Government," said Billie Mason, commissioner of education of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. "Thanks to UMD's collaboration with Indian leaders and educators, this new degree program will provide the training and development both current employees and students need to effectively serve their people and build a career."

Smith noted that the elected leaders of tribal governments frequently come from the ranks of the tribal administrators: "UMD may be training some of the next generation of tribal leaders under this program."

Johnson also noted that the collaboration between UMD and tribal governments "will continue in the days and years ahead as the needs of Indian country change."
Most importantly, Johnson believes that an increasing focus on American Indian Studies is vital.

"UMD was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the country to recognize that American Indian studies was a unique discipline," Johnson said. "Since 1972, UMD has taught generations of students the importance of the history, language and culture of Native Americans. Now, we are taking another bold step."

About the Program Director

Tadd Johnson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bois Forte Band is a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. He has served as a tribal administrator, a tribal attorney, a tribal court judge and has taught numerous courses on Federal Indian Law and American Indian History. From 1990-1995, he served as counsel and staff director to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in the Office of Indian Affairs

G-Tac postpones mining project in northern Wisconsin

By Eric Hjerstedt Sharp

Critics of the proposed Gogebic Taconite open pit iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties can breathe a little easier ... for a while.

State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said Monday he had heard rumors that Gogebic Taconite company officials in Milwaukee had closed the Hurley office and were not proceeding with exploration plans until the Wisconsin legislature rewrites the state’s review process law that could conceivably speed up the state’s permitting requirements for mining. 

The Ojibwe Times called immediately called G-Tac’s Hurley office, and although the company’s voice mail system was still working, company officials did not call back prior to press time. However, a Tuesday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story confirmed that the company would not be proceeding with test drilling that it had recently said it would be starting along an iron ore deposit from Mellen to Upson, roughly following Wisconsin Hwy. 77.

G-TAC official J. Matthew Fifield, told Journal-Sentinel reporter Lee Bergquist  that the company “is poised to spend $20 million to $30 million on the next phase of the project - but only if legislation addressing the specific needs of open-pit mining of iron ore is signed into law, he said.
"For us to move forward, we need iron mining laws," Fifield said.
Company officials have claimed the project would employ 700 workers with an average base pay of $60,000. While it had received support from economic development and business groups, the proposed mine didn’t fare as well with environmentalists or Bad River Tribal officials and citizens.

Critics of recent proposed legislation that would speed up the permitting process included Bad River Tribe Chair Mike Wiggins and environmental leaders throughout the state. Wiggins and others criticized the proposed project and permitting process that they say severely threatened ground and surface water surrounding the Bad River that flows into the reservation. They also criticized the proposed permitting legislation that downstate Republicans were drafting in Madison that would take away local governments’ say in determining safe mining standards and other concerns.

Herbster activist Frank Koehn had recently formed a citizens’ group called the Penokee Hills Education Project (PHEP), sponsored by the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization based in Ashland, to address “fast-track proposal(s) to begin iron ore (taconite) mining” in the area (See story, this issue). Members and other environmentalists had planned on attending a meeting tonight at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss the G-Tac project although it was not known if news of the postponement had changed their plans.

“G-Tac tried to change the mining laws to give them unlimited and free access to the waters of the Bad River watershed so they could make billions of dollars,” Koehn said.

Koehn and others are critical that G-Tac had a large amount of input into the process with Republican legislators.

Jauch also criticized the first draft and G-Tac’s dominant role in helping with its drafting. However, Jauch was involved in the rewriting of the bill, and told The Ojibwe Times last month that improvements in the second draft had been made that would give locals more of a say in land use planning.

The draft was never finished, however, and will almost surely not be introduced this session which ends June 30.

“(The) GOP has said it is possible that legislation could be considered in the fall,” Jauch said.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Water Walkers complete journey: Blend waters of the world’s oceans at Bad River

By Eric Hjerstedt Sharp

Odanah ¬– They walked.

The first group started from the west on April 10 in Olympia, Wash., the territory of the Squaxin Island¬-Skokomish. And they headed east. They walked from the east from Machais, Maine, territory of the Passamaquoddy. First Nation people took a train from Churchill, Manitoba to Winnipeg and walked from the north. From the south in Gulfport, Miss., home of the territory of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, they walked north.

They are the Mother Earth Water Walkers, and in case you haven’t noticed, they are creating quite a media stir in their quest to remind people about the primary importance of water to all people. Camera crews from local, U.S. and Canadian news outlets, print reporters, radio broadcasters and bloggers were among the hundreds of people who headed for the top of Wisconsin last weekend to gather with and welcome the Water Walkers at the Bad River Pow Wow grounds and various other Ojibwe sites in Ashland and Iron counties.

Most of all they have support from people of all colors and creeds along the route. Cars honk and drivers wave in unity to their cause, walkers were quick to point out. As one walker noted: “We all need water; first and foremost.”

Along the way they walked through communities, reservations, cities, farmland and small townships. Each day they walked. “Ni guh Ishi chigay Nibi onji,” they say. (I will do it for the water). Bringing sea water from the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and Hudson Bay, with a caravan of vehicles to provide safety, food and first aid – not to mention comfort and even music along the way – they trudged through the highway miles each day. The lead women carrying the copper pails of ocean water, the lead men carrying eagle feather staffs, they pushed baby carts and walked hand in hand with the older children. A large number of elders walked, as did walkers they met along the way that could spare a few dozen miles before returning home.

And they walked.

More than 10 million steps in all. Led by Thunder Bay, Ont. Elder Josephine Mandamin, a First Nations water commissioner who has participated in her sixth Water Walk, a graduate of 2003, ’05, ’06, 07 and 2010, Mandamin, 69, is the guiding force and inspiration for all the Water Walkers and their tens of thousands of supporters from around North America and the world. A woman from Belgium heard about the Water Walk over the Internet and flew over the Atlantic just to gather with them at Bad River and hug Josephine.

The event was a social network phenomenon, with thousands of followers on facebook and Twitter, everyone who “followed” them was swamped with “alerts” indicating changes in schedules, real time blogs relating everything from weather conditions to reactions in various communities enroute. “Look for us on facebook,” read a message on a support vehicle parked along U.S. 2; while the groups from the north, west and south walked up Birch Hill to Cedar to meet with the east walkers Saturday.

The walkers from the east who, according to organizers, had stayed in Ironwood, Mich. Friday night before resuming their walk through Iron County. Led by Madeleine T. Huntjens, the group came into Cedar singing. Spirits were high despite the long days of walking, the stiff muscles and the aches and pains each morning. “I woke up with blisters,” said one walker Thursday morning, I feel like a real Water Walker now.”

Mandamin had met up with the large group of walkers from the east, (She had walked with all four groups, for at least 10 days each) and walked with them to Cedar and the ceremony at Three Fires Mide Lodge and Ojibwe Language Immersion Center.

The walkers from the south, led by Sharon Day of Minneapolis, arrived in Lac Courte Oreilles last week, where there were ceremonies at the LCO Powwow grounds. Walkers also celebrated at Fond du Lac Reservation and Duluth, Minn. this past week.

On Tuesday, the women walkers from the north and west attended a public event at Park Point in Duluth. The two groups had met up a day earlier at Fond du Lac for a women’s sweat lodge, one organizer said Monday.

Leading the walk from Duluth to Bad River, Elsie Leoso¬-Corbine, 52, Bad River, took time out from her walk to contact The Ojibwe Times and other area media earlier this week. The message was urgent: People must act now to preserve the integrity of water everywhere.

“(The journey) is bringing awareness about the importance of keeping our water clean for future generations ... for our great, great grandchildren who we will probably never see.”

In Duluth, Mayor Don Ness proclaimed June 7 as Mother Earth Water Walk Day. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker followed suit and signed a proclamation proclaiming the Water Walk Day in Wisconsin for June 11, the day the walkers from the four directions met up.

“The 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk is about future generations and sustainability, organizers claim. “We are conducting the walk to draw attention to the importance of water in sustaining life.”

Leoso-Corbine called this year’s water walk “The Woodstock of environmental issues ...”

It is no coincidence that the Water Walk takes place in the spring, and that women are carrying the water, according to walk organizers. Spring is a time of renewal and women are traditionally the keepers of the water, they said. Men, however, were asked to carry the staff in the long journey from the continent’s oceans.

Coming into LCO last week, Day and other walkers from the south were met with stormy weather, but the clouds passed and the weather warmed just in time for ceremonies at the Honor the Earth Powwow grounds.

Each walker was committed to completing this spiritual journey, but none more committed than Mandamin. A grandmother, Mandamin shares her concern for the waters of the Great Lakes, used by more than 35 million people of Canada and the United States.

Starting out with the Walkers from the west in Olympia, Wash. Led by Dawnis Kennedy, Mandamin walked with them for 10 days beginning on April 9. She then met up with the walkers from Gulfport, Miss. also walking with them for 10 days.

The importance of water to Mandamin? “It’s life,” she said. “Not just for us, but for everybody.”

Mandamin is optimistic about the health of the planet and the opportunity to keep water clean. “Everything is changing,” she said of people’s attitudes. “The spirit is changing everywhere.”

After the four groups of walkers met up, at the Three Fires Midewinin Lodge in Cedar, a few hundred yards away, Saturday, Bad River Elder Eddy Benton led a tobacco prayer for the walkers and the water.

“In this lodge,” Benton said, “we have heard so many stories about our ancestors and your ancestors. And we know that they are your ancestors because you have come to be with us today.

He said the most important thing for native people is to keep their heritage and culture. Next to the sacred fire, with lodge members tossing into it tobacco and cedar needles, he spoke: “Do not forget the people who no longer speak the language … Do not leave them behind … ”

Walker Carol Hopkins also spoke, especially about Mandamin. She said the spirit for the Water Walk came from this lodge when Benton said several decades ago that “Water would someday be worth more than gold,” and also that someday someone would walk around the lakes to focus on the worth of water.

“What are we going to do to take care of this water?,” Hopkins said Benton asked. “Add a price tag (to the water, as he predicted), is going to cause a lot of things to happen. I know it to be true. Who is going to put action to this? And it was our sister Josephine that began the Water Walks.

“Water is not only a natural resource, but it has a spirit,” Hopkins said. “The reason for the eagle staff is to create the path to protect the water. This spirit started here (Cedar) before there was a lodge.”

“Nothing deters her,” Hopkins said of Mandamin. “Nothing gets in her way. It didn’t matter if it was raining. It didn’t matter if we were whining about our blisters. She kept walking. She had knee surgery between water walks, but she kept walking.”

Back at the Bad River Powwow Grounds, several other tribal members spoke, including environmentalists who spoke out against the proposed Gogebic Taconite open pit mine between Upson and Mellen.

Northland College Professor Joe Rose calls Old Odanah home: “I grew up a couple of blocks from here,” he said. “No heat … we got our water from town pumps. It was the best time of my life, and it was good water.

“Now the ground water is so polluted. This proposed mine … it scares the hell out of me. It (the mine) is at the headwaters and it’s all downhill from there. I’ve never seen a clean mining operation and I’ve traveled all over.

“The proposed legislation eliminates the need for local needs to be considered for mining approval. Local approval would no longer be required, and it would allow private wells and surface water to be drawn down. It subjects private land owners to water draw downs and may create an ‘eminent domain’ scenario.”

Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr., also spoke at the powwow grounds. He told people it was symbolic that the first draft of the proposed rewrite of the state mining legislation was slated to be in its final form on June 11, but instead June 11 was the day the walkers gathered at Bad River.

“With an open pit mine, there is water pollution,” Wiggins said. “Sulfate pollution is a destroyer of wild rice.” The very same open pit mining that has devastated the Minnesota rice beds was caused by sulfate pollution. With sulfate pollution there is a tremendous amount of mercury that is released … that we see in our fish, in our bodies, that is causing learning disabilities in our children.

“In the Great Lakes, there are already fish advisories. There is a tremendous amount of impacts. Our way of life is threatened. The spiritual connection to the creator: that we are here for a short time and these things are gifts for us.

“We’ve already been eroded here in Indian Country,” Wiggins said. “We’re still grieving that we can’t drink the surface water. It goes hand-in-hand with what’s happening to other indigenous people around the world. When we talk about the water it’s hard to get people to listen.

“In this economy, It’s jobs, jobs, jobs. The timing (of the Water Walk) has been cosmic … that notion that it was meant to happen. The legislation was to have happened on June 11. Since then the legislation has been pulled back. I know that the Water Walkers had a lot to do with that too.

“It all goes kaput if we don’t have water to drink. For Bad River, I want to say thank you … Miigwiich … they were all totally needed. We’re water people. We’re people of the water. We are the wealthiest tribe I’ve ever seen. In our water, in our woods. Ninety percent of our reservation is wilderness.

“We’re interested in staying around for the next 1,000 years,” Wiggins concluded. “When (the mine project proposal) goes away, all the people of northern Wisconsin are going to benefit.

On Sunday, the Water Workers walked their final steps of this journey to Waverly Beach close to where the Bad River empties into Lake Superior. There, the Mandamin and the other elders from the various tribes across North America emptied their copper pails of water from the oceans into Gitchee Gumee.

The public was invited, but like parts of the tobacco ceremony at the Three Fires lodge, the press was asked to not take photos or videos.

The buckets of salt water gathered with waters from Lake Superior. The Mother Earth Water Walk 2011 was completed. The walkers had come full circle. The struggle, however, is not over, and walkers no doubt will be once again be organizing another water walk to focus attention on the importance of water.