January 25, 1999
It has been awhile since you have gotten an update on our situation here in Mendota. The simple reason is that so much happens everyday it is hard to know when to stop and write. Hopefully this letter will give you an overview and bring you up to date.
On Jan, 15th, we attended a rally held at the Walker Church (Mpls). The evening began with an honor song and drumming. Throughout the evening members of Earth First took turns telling their stories of being arrested. The stories were enough to make grown men weep. I knew that there had been brutality used by the police but I didn't realize that they had used torture. These young people told us that the police repeatedly swabbed pepper gel into their eyes after they were helplessly handcuffed. Not only was there 600 police, but the police were told by bystanders and the protesters that they were non-violent and would not hurt anyone. The police ignored these comments and after hurling tear gas, they hauled many of these youth out violently, (one girl was hauled out by her jaw), hit them and kicked them, used profanity and dumped them in the snow (some barefoot and without coats for hours), to freeze until they were taken down to the jail.
There was one kid who was beaten and his head was bleeding. He was yelling for a medic, all they did was wrap his sweater around his head so no one could see him bleeding. What is wrong with a society that would allow their kids to be treated this way because they care for Mother Earth and are willing to stand up for what they believe in? It is insanity! Another couple of Native American protesters who were arrested as well, told their story. They were singing with the drum just outside of the perimeter when the police came and arrested them. They asked the police to be careful with the drum at which point the police, kicked the drum till it broke. Later they watched horrified as the police burned and buried it so no one would find the telltale remains.
The evening continued with wonderful talks by Mike Haney and Clyde Bellecourt. Talks I wish we had recorded as they were so profoundly moving. If they were, I will ask for copies and write them out for you at a later date. For now let me tell you that the hair was stranding up on the back of my neck as Clyde Bellecourt talked about the history of the Mendota people in that area and Mike Haney filled my heart with joy when he talked about the future of these sacred sites and the way that other tribes like the Iowa's are coming to our aid. Throughout the evening, many of the Earth First people sang their folk songs that they had composed. All of a sudden, I had the feeling that I was back in the 60s with those young hippies that were protesting the Viet Nam war. One of the ceremonial drummers got up at the end and said basically the same thing. He then ended the evening with an honor song that he had composed for Mendota. Not a dry eye in the house I suspect.
One of the guests in the audience was Karen Clark. She is of the Minnesota House of Representatives. She spoke briefly and it was very evident that she was moved by the evening. She vowed that there would be an investigation into the police raid and she came down to the Sacred Trees the next day where she had a great meeting with the people there. She is writing a resolution to the house to pass legislation to bring Minnesota State laws protecting Traditional Cultural Properties, up to the same standards as federal laws. If you would like to reach her and thank her for her support, her address is Karen Clark, District 61A, Minneapolis, Minnesota House of Representatives, 503 State Office Building, 100 Constitution Ave., St. Paul MN 55155, email her at rep.Karen.Clark@house.leg.state.mn.us or phone her at 651-296-0294.
Now I would like to respond to some questions that have arisen lately and deserve an answer.
Some of you have asked if there are more people involved with this protest and occupation than the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota.
Yes. There are many groups that have been involved over the years and presently there are a number of groups still involved. Earth First, The Sierra Club, Stop the Reroute, and others who have spent much dedicated time trying to save this land.
We are a loosely knit coalition and although we may differ greatly in philosophy, lifestyle, and approach, we share a common goal and that is to protect this land. This land is home to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota and if we lose, we have nowhere left to go. The other groups can go on to other causes but we will have been stripped of our land one more time. That is why this is so vital to us and why we are so thankful for the support and help from all of the other groups involved. Many of these young people have shown such courage and we thank them for that. We thank them for alerting us to this catastrophe in the making.
You have asked about the strange items listed in the "Request List". Some of you have expressed concerns about items like chains, krypton locks, rappelling gear and so on. You have wondered if this is truly a nonviolent occupation.
Dear friends, we would not tolerate or condone a violent occupation. These items are used by the Earth First people to lock themselves down with. This is how they nonviolent help to protect these trees, they lock themselves down as a form of protest.
You have asked why there are so many addresses where contributions can be sent. Each group that is involved has their own address.
Our address is listed at the bottom of this letter for your convenience. When we receive contributions of money or other items, they go through our Council. The Council makes sure that you receive a receipt and a thank you letter for all monetary donations. Then, the Council determines how the donation should be distributed. Boxed items go directly down to the site and are shared with the people there. Money designations are determined by the Council. It may go to pay court costs, camp supplies, or to whatever is the most pressing need at the time. Every penny is accounted for and records are kept. Donations are tax deductible. We want to thank so much those who have made donations and remind those of you who haven't yet, we are still in dire need. Especially legal fees.
You have asked about the variance from North American Indian philosophy and beliefs you have noticed in other posts.
Again, we may differ in our ideas and actions but we are united by a common goal. We uphold our traditions and our beliefs but we cannot legislate them. Others are welcome to join us and we do welcome them. They are free to think the way they want as well.
We have many differences but we must work together to save these precious Sites and this beautiful land. Please don't hesitate to ask us questions. We would rather have you share your concerns than lose your support due to a misunderstanding.
I warned you! It is a long letter and I only have a very little bit left. We were told about a phone number to the White House. Apparently, the way it works is that it records messages and then they count how many have come in regarding a particular issue. That is how they decide what is important. Well! We know how to do that right? Here is the number, pass it on and let's phone the heck out of them and let them know that we want the highway 55 reroute stopped!!! 1-202-456-1111.
Last but not least, your prayers have been so important. We know that only the Creator knows how to do any of this and it is your prayers that have helped us all along the way. Don't stop praying please.
Send contributions to M.M.D.C. 420 Belle Aire Drive, Champlin, MN., 55316
Click the following to visit the web site http://members.aol.com//dmkerr9/Mendota_Sacred_Sites.html