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Showing posts from December, 2011

Freedom of speech: Birchbark Books, Louise Erdrich’s Minneapolis shop, sells great books, saves languages

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A version of this article appeared in Indian Country Today in December 2011. 

I confess, I love Ojibwe novelist Louise Erdrich’s Minneapolis shop, Birchbark Books, and you can, too. In fact, you can admit to anything you want there, in an honest-to-God confessional Erdrich rescued from a bar and set up in the corner of the multi-leveled bookstore. Find Birchbark Books
 in a tiny strip of stores in a leafy neighborhood, along with Kenwood Café, locally popular for its home-style soups and sandwiches, and Bockley Gallery, where exhibits often feature Native artists. Recently, the gallery showed colorful, slyly humorous paintings and prints by Jim Denomie, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe.
     The cozy store offers lots of spots where shoppers can enjoy a rich array of images and experiences. Kids can climb into a treehouse-like toy-filled loft, while adults curl up and read in sunny corners. If you want absolution for anything, take a seat in the confessional, which Erdrich has renamed…

Cultivating happy, healthy kids: A visit to the Cheyenne River Youth Project

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This article appeared on the Huffington Post in December 2011.

As the sun blazed crimson and gold on the western horizon and shadows lengthened, the orange tractor chugged back and forth along rows of pale cornstalks. Days were getting shorter on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's South Dakota reservation, but master farmer Romey Garreau was still at work. That evening, he was putting the Cheyenne River Youth Project's garden to sleep for the winter, plowing under most of the two-acre tract after yet another productive season. Only a row of fall raspberries was still bearing -- thorny branches festooned with fat scarlet fruit.      The garden, in the tribe's capital, Eagle Butte, may have been quiet and serene, but the adjacent youth center was bustling. Teens were doing homework in the internet café, while little ones were in the gymnasium, noisily negotiating an obstacle course made of big cardboard boxes. Soon, they'd all have healthy dinners, made with produce from the…

Buffalo gardeners: Standing Rock Sioux restore health, fight diabetes

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I made this article a featured post because it shows the Standing Rock people's long dedication to protecting human and environmental health. This focus, which is very much in the public eye today in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, pervades the tribe's history and culture. This story first appeared in Indian Country Today magazine and on the Huffington Post in November 2011.

They like to be on high ground, so they can keep an eye on us,” said Mike Faith, vice-chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We’d driven close to a small herd of buffalo cantering around the top of a rise north of the tribe’s capitol in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The rolling hills were the gold and amber of fall prairie grasses, and the early-morning sky was a brilliant blue. Eventually, the 80 or so animals halted—the bulky bulls facing us squarely, broad foreheads slightly lowered, with the more diminutive cows milling behind them. A cool breeze ruffled their dark brown fur, which had begun …

The Adoption Era, defined: Native Americans expose a forgotten period in their history

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A version of this article appeared in Indian Country Today in November 2011. It was funded in part by the George Polk Program for Investigative Reporting. It appears in the anthology Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, edited by Trace A. DeMeyer and Patricia Cotter-Busbee.

“I’man angry Indian,” Roger St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, told the First Nations Repatriation Institute’s second annual adult adoptees’ summit. The elite panel included child-welfare specialists, judges, lawyers, community activists and scholars. The most important experts, according to the organization’s founder/director, Sandra White Hawk, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, were adult adoptees—such as St. John, shown below—who related their experiences at the three-day meeting at the University of Minnesota, in St. Paul.
          “I’m more than glad to tell you I’m pissed off,” continued St. John, a 49-year-old truck driver with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. “I was the youngest of sixteen child…