But, it only provides a very small part of what actually took place and the things said and issues raised. I will be posting a great deal more about my participation, views and perceptions of this event in the days ahead along with many photographs; because, for a variety of reasons, this event will probably be one of the most important events of the entire gubernatorial campaign here in Minnesota.
Since I was part of the circle Brad Swenson, the journalist for the Bemidji Pioneer was covering, I would like to note some things Brad Swenson did not pick up on:
1. That their is tremendous confusion as to just what "sovereignty" means.
2. For whatever reason, perhaps due to space, the following topics were not reported on here even though Brad Swenson heard them being discussed:
A. Affirmative Action; in general and specifically relating to the Bemidji Regional Event Center
B. Institutionalized racism
C. Casino workers
D. Power lines
E. The Enbridge oil pipelines that will carry raw crude to be refined in Wisconsin with a parallel pipeline carrying the waste and the sludge after refining back to Canada to be dumped on Indian lands.
F. Peat mining in the Big Bog
G. The fact no Native American Indians are in the Minnesota State legislature.
I want to just hit on Affirmative Action at this time because, as far as I am aware, the one and only real commitment from any candidate presenting at this forum came from Mark Dayton and Brad Swenson was right there taking notes in our circle when Mark Dayton made the commitment to find out why Affirmative Action is not being enforced when it comes to over 100 million dollars of public funds being spent to build the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
Now, Brad Swenson could not have missed this and I have photos of him taking notes during this discussion; as well I had a tape recorder.
Here is the gist of what transpired during a portion of the time in our circle with former United States Senator Mark Dayton.
Mark Dayton entered our circle and began shaking hands with everyone. When he began shaking my hand, I did not let go of his hand as I firmly grasped his hand and told him: "The last time you and I shook hands while you were a United States Senator you promised you would research the questions pertaining to what might be done about the injustices casino workers employed in Minnesota were being subjected to by being forced to work in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws under the perverted views of sovereignty enforced by funds the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association fills your campaign coffers with." Finally, as Mark Dayton pulled and pulled trying to get away, I let go of his hand.
I then brought up the issue of Affirmative Action not being enforced right in Bemidji with the Bemidji Regional Event Center and Mark Dayton responded: "There is nothing I can do about this I am not yet governor."
I then said, to a startled Dayton, "There is something you can do right now. You can wage a campaign that isn't afraid to take on issues in trying to solve problems as part of your campaign. The purpose of political campaigns is not just about electing a politician, or at least campaigns should not be run in this way."
And Dayton responded, "How can I help?"
I suggested he get up to speed on the issue of Affirmative Action as it relates to the Bemidji Regional Event Center and then meet with Bemidji City officials to insist Affirmative Action policies be implemented in the hiring of staff and maintenance of the BREC.
Dayton agreed to do this.
He then got up, shook my hand and thanked me for bringing this matter to his attention and apologized for failing to look into the issues of the injustices of casino workers and explicitly stated he would be tending to this Affirmative Action issue.
After he left the circle to move on to the next circle, he briefly returned, shook my hand again and said: "I did the wrong this the first time you asked me to look into a problem and I didn't respond; I will not make the same mistake twice." And shook my hand again.
Then, at the conclusion of the forum as people were leaving Dayton came up to me again and said, "I promise I am going to look into this problem. I will not make the same mistake twice." And shook my hand and thanked me, again, for making him aware that Affirmative Action was not being enforced on the BREC.
Now, as far as I am aware, besides Tom Bakk's pledge to support Indian Gaming--- though he didn't mention the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions he and the Democrats receive--- no other candidate took it upon themselves to do anything for anyone as part of their campaigns.
We shall see to what extent former United States Senator Mark Dayton who failed to look into the injustices of casino workers--- which continue to this day without any intervention by any DFL politicians--- does with this issue of the City of Bemidji failing to enforce Affirmative Action in hiring for the construction and staffing of the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
It is my understanding others made Mark Dayton aware of this problem, too.
As far as Matt Entenza who boasted that he fought for Native rights in Wisconsin; Entenza had no inclination to fight for Affirmative Action here in Minnesota... he ran from talking about this problem just as he has run for years away from addressing the plight of over 40,000 Minnesotans employed in the Indian Gaming Industry.
And Tom Bakk, when confronted with the issue of the injustices casino workers are subjected to, wrenched his face in anger as it turned fighting red without comment; as if he had been insulted being asked about the problem. Of course, we all know, with John McCarthy, the white racist who heads up the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association right there trying to keep this forum under his control, Tom Bakk was not about to upset his master.
R.T. Rybak became a little annoyed and flustered when I pointed out to him that sovereignty is more than supporting a bunch of corrupt tribal councils bribed by the same Minnesota Indian Gaming Association bribing him and the rest of the Democratic Party and let me know in no uncertain terms that MIGA had not contributed a dime to his campaign to become governor; but, the Mayor of Minneapolis shut his mouth when it was pointed out that MIGA most certainly has funded him in his campaigns for Mayor. Rybak did say he would do a walk along the proposed route for the power lines slated to run through Leech Lake Tribal Lands to see what is going on.
None of the candidates came to this forum prepared to do anything about any of the problems in northern Minnesota which are mainly caused by institutionalized racism.
Poverty was not even mentioned by any of the politicians; a point, in and of itself, which in my opinion should have been noteworthy and newsworthy in this article.
Let's see if Mark Dayton keeps his promise to look into the institutionalized racism responsible for Bemidji City officials refusing to implement Affirmative Action at the BREC and see if he can get some results... we shouldn't stop grassroots activities and hold our breath waiting based upon previous actions--- but, it is possible Minnesotans might have some reason to hope; remembering as we hope what we got from Barack Obama who hoodwinked so many people into hoping.
None of the politicians and none of the organizers of this event addressed the issue of why the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has no platform as part of its Action Agenda in support of Affirmative Action... now, there is a problem for some journalist to explore. Shouldn't this have been one of the questions posed to each of the candidates by the "moderators" who attempted to manipulate and control discussion with these DFL candidates; most of whom are themselves examples of the very embodiment of institutionalized racism here in Minnesota... after all, it has been almost thirty years since any Democrats tried to elect a Native American Indian to public office and that candidate faced the institutionalized racism from the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party at every level.
Stay tuned to my blog for photos, the issues and more on this important event that John McCarthy and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association got more than they bargained for... beginning that the idea of sovereignty is limited to Indian Gaming.
I hope others are going to be blogging and sharing their opinions about this forum.
I would really like to have John McCarthy and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association provide their definition of "sovereignty."
If anyone, including John McCarthy, would like to use my blog for a "guest" blog I would be more than happy to publish their views in their entirety without any editing.
By-the-way... it is my opinion that if these DFL candidates for governor, as part of their campaigns to become governor, cannot even challenge institutionalized racism by getting the City of Bemidji to enforce Affirmative Action in hiring at the BREC, they are not going to accomplish anything of any benefit--- except to help perpetuate the injustices spun by the Indian Gaming Industry and these very politicians bribed--- we can expect nothing from them should they become governor.
Please feel free to distribute this blog to your friends.
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
Published January 15, 2010
DFL governor hopefuls talk American Indian issues at forumMinnesota can do more to build trust with American Indian tribes, say nine Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, starting with respect of tribal sovereignty.
By: Brad Swenson, Bemidji Pioneer
The candidates talked about tribal sovereignty, American Indian gaming, the environment, health care and more before about 150 people in traditional native circles on Thursday night in an American Indian issues forum on the Bemidji State University campus.
Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk of Cook cut to the chase with his opening remarks:
“If I am governor, the state is not going to expand gaming in Minnesota,” he said to a round of applause. “I have seen the tremendous benefit that gaming has brought to the Bois Forte Band, and Indian Country where I live is different today and more prosperous and has more opportunity than when I grew up.”
The state doesn’t belong in the gaming business, said Bakk, referring to several Republican efforts in recent years to create “racinos” or video gambling in bars.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton spoke more of party politics and recalled a 1982 Bemidji House race in which the endorsed candidate, Larry Kitto, an American Indian, was challenged. At the time, Dayton was running for U.S. Senate.
Kitto “earned the right to be elected and he was challenged by a white man … and the DFL candidate for governor and the DFL candidate for lieutenant governor refused to be seen photographed or appear with Larry in that race, because of the racism that existed,” said Dayton. “Two of us stood with Larry and went to events, stood with him all the way — our state auditor candidate Paul Wellstone and the other was myself.”
Dayton added that “in the same way, I will stand with those who are elected as the sovereign leaders of sovereign nations, your tribal leaders, and work with you as co-equal heads of state on behalf of the issues that affect all Minnesotans.”
The venue included Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, former Sen. Steve Kelley, Sen. John Marty, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Rep. Tom Rukavina and Rep. Paul Thissen.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner was the lone missing Democrat, while no Republicans showed even though organizers say they were as well invited.
They each made opening statements and then rotated from circle to circle, each one having a specific issue question to ask the candidates.
“As your governor, I will work with you, and work with the heads of government on a government-to-government relationship on equal terms,” said Kelliher, who touted her efforts on bills to fund Ojibwe and Dakota language preservation.
Kelliher said she’s ordered an “Indian Law 101” program each year for legislators, now in its fourth year. “We’ve expanded the debate from just gaming, which has brought incredible prosperity to our state … to other issues.”
Those issues include protecting the genetic purity of natural wild rice and the native language preservation. As governor, Kelliher said she would appoint a tribal member as a liaison from the governor’s office.
Rukavina said he has fostered American Indian interests for the 23 years he’s been in office, and always has an open door, “to the Indian leaders and the rank-and-file as well.”
As governor, he’d have an American Indian on his “kitchen cabinet,” he said. “You come to me anytime you want, tell me what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong.”
He “made sure” three years ago that state funding went to Ojibwe language programs at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Dakota language at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
“If you don’t preserve your language, you don’t to me have culture,” Rukavina said. He noted his grandparents homesteaded on Bois Forte Reservation land.
Rybak, too, cited a family connection as his parents ran a drug store at the corner of Franklin and Chicago avenues in Minneapolis.
“From that moment to the moment I became a mayor of the city of Minneapolis, with the largest American Indian population of any city in the country, I’ve been equally involved in all of these issues,” Rybak said. “One of the greatest things about being governor of Minnesota is that you have the ability to have partnerships with incredible Indian communities.”
There are disparity issues that must be attacked by the next governor, he said, but “there are more important opportunities with the fact that this state has never celebrated the Indian communities that are so much about who we are.”
Entenza said that as a young lawyer, he represented American Indian spearfishers in Wisconsin during the volatile expansion of fishing under treaty rights in the 1980s.
“I’m going to be the governor who leads for all people, because we need respect between us and plan to move the state and your nations forward to everyone’s benefit,” Entenza said. He also cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as saying, “We need fewer creeds and more deeds.”
When he started his campaign, Entenza said he met with tribal leaders at Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth nations.
Rebuilding Minnesota won’t be done in the State Capitol but with each other, said Thissen. “One of the most important ones is with the state and the tribes. To me, that’s focusing away from where we’ve been … and focusing more importantly on things that we share in common.”
It’s important “that we treat each other with equality,” said Marty. “Every one of us was created as a human being with dignity and deserve respect — even when we’re sick, even when we’re vulnerable, even when we’re poor.”
Everybody should have access to health care, a chance to earn a living wage, he said. Tribal sovereign governments need to be treated with respect. “That’s the way we start, and then we can work on a joint agenda.”
Billed as the first-ever statewide American Indian issues gubernatorial forum, the event was sponsored by Native Vote Alliance of Minnesota, American Civil Liberties Union-Minnesota’s Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Program, Wellstone Action Fund’s Native American Leadership Program and TakeAction Minnesota/The ReNEW Minnesota Campaign.
The event, held at the American Indian Resource Center on campus, was preceded by an Indian taco supper.