|Stop Highway 55 Reroute|
Dec. 9, 1999
We are about to see the same repression in Minneapolis that we saw last week in Seattle--
unless we help stop it . . . PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS WIDELY!
Immediately e-mail Gov. Ventura through his web site: http://www.mainserver.state.mn.us/governor/
and/or call: (
From Linda M. Brown, Mendota Dakota Community:
This month has been a difficult time for all of us. This is the time of year when all the world talks of peace and love and understanding, it is still hard to believe and understand what the State of Minnesota has done here. Somewhere in the back of my mind I try to rationalize and understand, but my heart and soul has not been able to accept that the Four Sacred Oaks are gone. Many people came to visit the site after the trees had been cut, I could see the pain and disbelief in their eyes. The only way I could deal with all of this was to just continue working to get the wood out of there and to a safe place.
Friday Decemeber 17th we had to be in federal court to hear the lawyers argue about MNDOT's motion to dismiss our federal lawsuit, I can't really remember too much of the arguments, but the judge said he would take it under advisement,so we continue to wait for his verdict.
Thursday December 23rd we held ceremonies at the Sacred Spring. It was good to see everyone, but much of the joy that we have always felt at these gathering was missing, everyone is still trying to recover. After the ceremonies I drove past the site of the encampment, there is nothing left there, just bare ground, even the stumps are gone.
Although we spent time with family and friends over the holiday weekend, it was a very quiet time and with everyone scattered all over, I miss the gatherings at the encampment that have been held over the last 16 months. Many of our people are ill right now and we are trying to continue to gather our strength back. In a few days a new year will start and we still have much to do. There is to be a New Year Pow Wow at the Indian Center here and many of us will be attending this. We all need to start the healing process, because our work is not done yet.
Many people that have been arrested over the last months and will be going back to court again this month. Please check the website at email@example.com/noreroute/Highway_55_occupation for current information on what is happening and I will continue my updates as much as possible. Your continued support and prayers are very important to us. Peace and Happiness to all of you this New Year. Love LindaMendota Dakota Community Updates, see http://www.aics.org/mendota.html
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To all our friends and supporters:
What MnDoT did to the Four Sacred Oaks is what this State and Federal Government have been doing to the Native People for 500 years. Our Elder's told us that this area from the Falls to the Spring was an area that was a place where our people would gather for ceremonies and to bury their dead.
Where the Veterans' hospital and administration building now sits was Taku Wakan Tipi, or Gathering Place of the Spirits. Later it was called Morgan's Mound by the settlers who also used the area for burials. Our Relatives' remains were removed from this area and we aren't sure where they are EVEN today.
The spring, Camp Coldwater Spring, is a block south of where the Four Oaks are on the eastern edge of Taku Wakan Tipi. Dakota oral teaching tells of unk-teh-he, the Water Spirit, would travel from the Mendota, where the waters meet, up to Taku Wakan Tipi. This area was and is very sacred to the Dakota People.
MnDoT killed these Four Trees on December 11, 1999. They took a slab from the West tree to the University of Minnesota to count the life rings. Now they say the trees aren't old enough to be significant to the Dakota People, they counted 137 life rings. So that puts the trees at being planted in 1862, the same year they exiled most of the Dakota People out of this state.
The Hotop Report says "the trees couldn't have been planted by any Dakota because of the exile." All the Dakota were absent from the area. Well that's not true. During the conflict 360 Settlers were saved by the friendlies, or the farmer Indians. These settlers were the women and children. These Dakota, our relatives, were kept by General Sibley on ten acres of land on top of modern day Mendota. Our relatives numbered about 100 and were rewarded for saving the Settlers by being able to remain at Mendota. The Dakota have always been in Mendota and planted these marker trees, to mark the place in Mother Earth where other trees had been before they were cut down by soldier's or settler's. So when they tell us this place is not sacred to our people it's the same thing they have always done with their Cultural Genocide of the Native Peoples of this Turtle Island.
They tell us what is sacred to us. Well we have 12 hours of video taken at the State Capitol of Elders who through oral teachings tell how this area was and is very important to our history and culture. What we have done for the last 16 months is to stand our ground to try to protect this whole area from the Falls to the Spring because of history written by the first missionaries and oral history from our Elders, we have the truth and the history of this place on our side. They think they have "won" something. We have only the Creator to answer to for what has happened to this place. This fight is not over, the Spring is still in grave danger of being destroyed by their destruction. Please keep supporting us in our struggle to get the land around the Spring protected and returned to the Dakota Nation for an interprative center where people can learn about our history and culture, where Elders can come to remember our Relatives that have lived and died in this place.
What they continue to do is Ethnic Cleansing. They say it is legal, but it is immoral and wrong. It is also wrong to continue to punish the Dakota by trying to completely erase our History and Culture. This cannot be tolerated anymore. All we ask is to let us use this small but very important area to keep it the way it is, to help our people heal and relearn what was almost taken from us.
So in the name of all the Dakota, I thank each and everyone that has understood what this has always been about, the area is sacred to the Dakota and should be told to ALL people.
As many of you already know the Four Sacred Oaks were cut down on Saturday afternoon. At midnight Friday we started to receive phone calls from anonymous sources that they were coming for the trees on Saturday morning. Leo and I went to the encampment about 4:00 am and were told that state troopers had started to assemble at the MNDOT property across Highway 62, which is a short distance from the four sacred trees. Many people had started to already assemble at the encampment. We started a large scrap pile of wood for a bonfire to keep people warm, as it was very cold being outside for hours waiting. The last raid the police burned bonfires from our signs and the wood that was there, we figured why leave the wood for the police to warm themselves. Just before 7:00 am we gathered at the trees and started a ceremony. At 7:10am we could see the squads come flying down the Bureau of Mines road toward the encampment. We were then surrounded by state troopers and they waited until the ceremonies were done. At that time they informed us that anyone who would not leave then, would be arrested. The Native American people did as we had been instructed, we left the encampment and stood in vigil all day, waiting. Many of our supporters chose to stay and they were arrested. No chemicals or pain compliance was used on these people. Although we never touched the lodges or inipi or trees or the pipe that had been placed in the middle of the trees, we instructed the police how to handle these things in a respectful way and they did as we asked. The removal of the encampment and the trees are on all of them now and they will have to pay the consequences for what they have done.
Many of the young supporters had scrambled into trees that lay in the path of the Four Sacred Oaks, all day they stayed in the trees, while the whole area was surrounded by hundreds of police and squads. Tree limbs were cut from around them and still they continued to hang on for as long as they could. Many of these young people have been arrested and brutalized throughout this whole occupation time and time again. Many of these young people are minors, their courage and continued belief in this cause, has humbled so many of us. They are the future and the future will be brighter because of their heart and willingness to fight against all odds.
Bob, Jim, Bear, Representative Karen Clark, and other Native Americans were at the site and participated in ceremony before the trees were cut in the afternoon. Leo and I stood in vigil with others behind police tapes, and witnessed. All day long I avoided the press and other officials, my heart was too heavy. When the first tree was cut it seemed to just fold within itself as it touched the ground. That was the hardest point of the day for me. So many people stood and cried in their grief. I held many people and was comforted by many people. We had done all that we could to save the Four Sacred Oaks. All of last week we made phone calls to officials, did research, tried in every way we could, even until the last minute Representative Karen Clark was trying to get a restraining order. As it grew dark, the last of the young people in the trees were taken down and arrested. 33 people went to jail, the last of them were released this morning. There are still many people who are facing court cases in the next few months and we must continue to pray and support them.
Sunday we gathered at the Four Sacred Oaks for ceremony and to start to cut the wood. We started in the morning and ended when it got dark. The wood will be used in inipi's and for the Sundance in Pipestone. It is the last thing we can do to honor these grandfathers who stood as a beacon and brought people from all over the world and all races to this Sacred place to pray for understanding and acceptance of our people and spirituality.
We are not finished, we still have the Sacred Spring to protect from their destruction, the road is not yet built. You can walk through this area and stand and see the land laid bare and ripped apart for the path of this road. The destruction starts at Minnehaha Park and continues through the area that the Elders spoke about in the affidavits and hearings. Across the world people have been there with their support and prayers, we are truly blessed as a people. From the Falls to the Spring it is Sacred to us. We will never forget.
MENDOTA SPIRITUAL CAMP DESTROYED SATURDAY
BY POLICE RAID IN MINNEAPOLIS
For background on the 16-month occupation of the Highway 55 reroute site in Minnehaha Park by the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and Minneapolis environmentalists, see http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/content.html#DAKOTA/LAKOTA
Tony Kennedy / Minneapolis Star Tribune
With the removal of four oak trees completed, highway construction crews on Sunday finished clearing a section of woods that included the Hwy. 55 protest site in south Minneapolis. "We got all the cutting done that has to be done," said Kent Barnard, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
As part of a previous agreement made with transportation officials, American Indian activists Sunday began removing the four felled bur oaks, which the activists consider sacred. Barnard said the removal should be complete within a couple of days.
Jim Anderson, cultural chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, said some wood gathered from the site will be burned in traditional ceremonies. Other pieces will be used to make drums and some may be sculpted into pieces of commemorative art, he said.
Experts will inspect the cuttings to determine the age of the felled trees, Anderson said. He said his 11-year-old nephew on Sunday counted 135 rings on one of the tree trunks, signifying that it was at least that many years old.
The section of woods cleared Sunday with heavy equipment included brush and hundreds of small, much younger trees. Barnard said crews today will begin disposing of trees and brush with a wood chipper.
Sunday's demolition work between 54th Av. S. and Crosstown Hwy. 62 was done behind a perimeter that was heavily guarded by the State Patrol and the Minneapolis Police Department.
Compared with Saturday, when at least 31 protesters were arrested at the end of a 16-month occupation of the land needed for the reroute of Hwy. 55, the scene Sunday was calm. Barnard said police arrested one protester.
Anderson said 25 to 30 Hwy. 55 protesters gathered at dusk Sunday outside the Hennepin County jail for a peaceful candlelight vigil in support of those arrested Saturday.
December 11th, 1999 the State of Minnesota Department of Transportation, with support from the State Highway Patrol and the Minneapolis Police Department, carried out their plans to remove the Four Oaks Spiritual Encampment, to kill the Four Sacred Oaks, and to desecrate Mother Earth. All this destruction to prepare the way for their unneeded reroute of Highway 55.
At 10:30 PM on December 10th the camp received several tips that the State Troopers would be gathering to stage the raid at 5:00 AM, and coming into camp at 7:00 AM. Several helicopters with infrared sensors hovered over camp around 11:00 PM. Immediately the emergency phone tree was activated and the media contacted. Consistent to their inability to tell the truth, the Department of Transportation, had promised us that they would be contacting the media to ensure that the raid would be handled differently than the raid on December 20th of 1998 in which 802 state troopers, cops and sniper units pepper sprayed and tortured non-violent activists already in custody and destroyed sacred items including a ceremonial drum of the American Indian Movement. At around 5:00 AM the media told us that they had heard nothing, so many people became skeptical that anything would happen in the morning.
At 4:15 mobile security units of our encampment spotted the State Troopers gathering a mile south of camp at a Department of Transportation storage yard by the airport. Word of this build up was relayed back to camp. We called the media again, and they promised they would be at camp soon. People had been filtering in to camp all night and soon a gigantic bonfire was raging because we were not going to let them burn all of our supplies like they did on December 20th, 1998.
At around 6:00 AM people began to prepare themselves ceremonially by smudging with sage and circling around the four sacred oaks. At 7:05 AM a lookout high in an oak tree shouted to the people around the trees, "They're coming", and around the hill came four unmarked white rented trucks with their lights off. Following the trucks was a long line of state trooper vehicles and from the north end of camp the Minneapolis Police Department began to set up a cordon around the entire woods and camp.
Captain Kevin Kitridge approached the seventy or so people gathered in prayer around the four sacred oaks, and was told by David Manuel that we were in ceremony and that ceremony should not be interrupted. Kitridge was informed that we would be singing two more songs on the drum and that the sacred chanupa would be smoked by the entire circle. He was obviously taken off guard, but he agreed to let us finish the ceremony, but asked us if there were "some kind of problem", because we were taking so long. David said that we were in ceremony before the troopers arrived and not everyone wanted to get arrested, so Kitridge said that people who did not want to get arrested could go west outside of the police cordon when the ceremony was completed. Those who remained would be arrested.
33 people were carried away that morning, and immediately the camp was destroyed by their bulldozers. Later that day the four sacred oaks were killed by one man with a chainsaw.
We are still fighting to save Camp Coldwater Spring that has flowed for over 9,000 years. It is medicine to our people, and should be sacred to all people. We need your help and prayers now more than ever. All of our elders have told the truth about this sacred water, and we cannot let it be destroyed for commuters convenience.
Contact the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community Office at (651) 452-4141
Jim Anderson Cultural Chairman of the Mendota Mdwakanton Dakota Community Marshall Law
Four Oaks Spiritual Encampment destroyed.
Over 100 police raided the encampment around 7am. The four oaks in the four directions have been cut, as have nearly all of the other trees that had remained around the four oaks. Three people remain in the trees and have yet to be removed. Thirty-three people have been arrested and are in the Hennepin County jail (612-348-5112). The sacred sweat lodge was dismantled by the state police, the sacred pipe, and other sacred items handled. Absent was the blatant brutality of the police towards the protestors. Today there was no teargas. pepperspray, or pain-compliance holds.We will return to protect the sacred spring. This is not over yet. Rally against injustice and cultural genocide, and in support of the arrested at the Hennepin County Government Center on 5th Street, between 3rd Ave and 4th Ave. 12/12/99 at 4pm
For more information:
Jim Anderson: 612/910-0730
Bob Greenberg: 612/879-8929
POLICE RAID SPIRITUAL ENCAMPMENT TO STOP THE HWY. 55 REROUTE
ATTEMPT TO REMOVE NATIVE AMERICANS, NON-VIOLENT ACTIVISTS AND SUPPORTERS,WORKING TO SAVE MINNEHAHA PARK AND SACRED SITES TO THE DAKOTA PEOPLEWHERE: SPIRITUAL ENCAMPMENT: FOUR SACRED TREES, SOUTH OF 54TH STREET, EAST OF VA HOSPITAL HOMES, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA.
"Our people have always been the stewards of this land. The spirits of our Grandfathers are here," said Jim Anderson, Historian of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community. "These sites that are sacred to our people will be destroyed if this road goes through. If we let them take these sacred trees, they will come for the water, our sacred Coldwater spring, next. We will not allow this to happen. We have placed sacred items such as a sweat lodge, eagle feathers, sacred pipes and prayer ties in the path of destruction. It is a violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 for the police to handle or remove these items. They have asked for our assistance in removing these items, and we have refused."
Police and workers crews are destroying our cultural heritage, our church, and the natural environment upon which we all depend for clean water, clean air, and safe food in order to cut three minutes off the drive time between the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington, MN, and downtown Minneapolis. They claim they must reroute the road to accommodate the Light Rail Transit system that they want to put in, even though federal funding has not been secured. In all events to date the protesters have remained non-violent while enduring violence perpetrated by the state of Minnesota. Witness the lengths that the criminal state will go to protect the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of minorities, the poor, and the earth.
On August 10th, 1998, the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, Earth First!, and other activists began an occupation of property that MnDOT had slated for destruction to reroute Highway 55. On December 20th, 1998, MnDOT, showing blatant disregard for Human, Civil, and property rights, and the wishes of the public, raided the non-violent encampment with 802 state, county and city police officers in riot gear. They teargassed, pepper-sprayed, and brutalized 37 people, and then bulldozed the homes and burned personal and sacred items. Protesters returned to the trees to defend them 3 days later to prevent them from being cut. We are still there, and now that every traditional "legal" avenue is closed to us, we are back to direct action to defend the land and water. This is the longest running urban occupation in U.S. history.
The presence of the media and legal observers is requested to ensure the safety of these activists trained in non-violent civil disobedience. The police will try to restrict your access. Challenge them and assert your rights, please. Our safety and the freedom of the press are relying on your persistence.
Action Alert * Raid Alert * Action Alert
STATE TROOPERS ASK TO MEET WITH JIM ANDERSON AT MINNEHAHA SPIRITUAL CAMP
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9TH, 1999.
On the day before our 16-month anniversary, Captain Kitridge of the Minnesota Highway Patrol, has requested his second and last meeting with Jim Anderson and members of the American Indian Movement before they raid the Minnehaha Spiritual Encampment and cut down the Four Sacred Oaks.
Last week, members of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community met with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDoT) to see if they could move their planned reroute of Highway 55, over about 100 feet to save the Four Sacred Oaks, a sacred site to Native Americans. This was an offer that MnDoT had made to the Mendota last winter during court ordered mediation. MnDoT said that they "cannot recall" ever having made such an offer, and plan to proceed and desecrate this place of ceremony and prayer.
Kitridge has said that he has "paperwork" to deliver to Jim Anderson, and we assume that this may be the official trespass notices to proceed the raid. We anticipate that we will be raided this weekend or early next week. Kitridge has been quoted in the Star and Tribune Newspaper as saying that we would be removed before the new year.
We stand with the truth, with the graves of the ancestors of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, with the majesty and beauty of the Four Sacred Oaks, with the giver of life, the sacred spring that has flowed pure for 9,000 years. We stand with the sacredness of all life, and the original instructions of the Creator. We will not leave this place, for the trees cannot run, nor can the four leggeds or two leggeds who call this place home. We will circle the Oaks planted in the Four Directions with our bodies, and we will pray, pray for all life, pray for our opponents who come to carry out the legacy of 507 years of cultural genocide, to wipe out the memory of this sacred place of ceremony and peace, to wipe out the memory of our ancestors.
If you can come to stand with us, please come now. If you cannot, please remember us in your prayers and ceremonies. Pidamaya.
We know that they can never kill the spirit, that we will carry the memory of this place with us in our hearts, and carry the seeds of this truth with us as long as we live. We will pass on this truth to our children and our children's children, and in this way, they have not won. And some day, when the last tree has fallen, and the air is too sick to breathe, and all of our water is poisoned in the name of convenience, they will remember a small, beautiful circle of people, from the four directions who came together to try and tell them the truth, that we need these trees to breathe, and this water to live, and they will wish, deep in their hearts, that they had listened.
for the future generations,
DAVID HAWLEY STAFF WRITER
The trial of 23 people arrested last summer during protests against the Minnesota 55 reroute project came to an end on the first day Monday with a plea agreement to a petty misdemeanor.
After singing and speeches in the atrium of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis during the morning, 21 protesters accepted a plea agreement in the afternoon. Charges against the other two were dismissed.
Those who entered a plea were given the choice of a $50 fine or eight hours of community service.
"There are no criminal records from this, and you can't put them on probation and demand they can't get arrested for that kind of thing again,'' said Jordan Kushner, attorney for the entire group. ``That is very important because they still want to defend the trees and not have to worry about jail time hanging over their head if they do that again."
The highway opponents were arrested and charged with obstructing traffic and disobeying police during a July 27 demonstration at Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway in South Minneapolis. The arrests took place when protesters walked into the middle of Hiawatha Avenue, linked arms and sat down on the pavement.
The defendants had planned to represent themselves in a mass trial, but Hennepin County District Judge Richard Sherer ruled Monday morning that any defendants acting as their own counsel would have to be tried separately. The alternative was for the defendants to be represented in a single trial by Kushner, who has handled the protesters' legal battles for more than a year.
Jim Anderson, a leader of the protesters, said he was happy with the plea agreement.
"I think it worked out great for the taxpayers and for us," Anderson said.
Highway opponents held a rally in the courthouse atrium before court proceedings and returned for singing during the lunch recess.
Many of the defendants are part of an encampment that has occupied land in the route of the highway for the last 15 months. A spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol said plans are under way to clear the camp before the end of the year.
Minnehaha 25 Trial Resolved
Intimidated by the prospect of a mass political trial for the 25 people accused of defending Minnehaha Park and sacred sites in the path of the proposed reroute of Highway 55, city prosecutor Steve Heng offered the defendants an exceptional plea bargain on Monday, December 6th, 1999. By the early afternoon of the first day of trial, Heng offered all the accused a $50.00 fine for the plea of guilty to a noncriminal petty misdemeanor. Protestors accepted this deal while dictating the following restrictions:
-all charges would be dropped against two defendants
-as Alfred plea ( no contest ) could be entered rather than guilty.
-each defendant would have the opportunity to enter a statement into the record explaining her/his actions.
-each defendant would reserve her/his right to pursue civil charges against the State for discriminatory arrests and police brutality.
The defendants expressed that it is their priority to actively defend the sacred land and waters in the path of the proposed reroute rather than participate in the inefficient bureaucracies of the court. They condemned the physical violence used by law enforcement officers against nonviolent protestors and bystanders. The defendants cited federal laws and treaty rights which the MnDoT reroute violates.
They clearly demonstrated that the true criminals in the project to reroute Highway 55 are those who have put out the orders to mow down the trees in Minnehaha Park, to de-water MInnehaha Creek and to dig up the graves of ancestors and destroy sacred sites.
Press Contact: Jim Anderson (612) 910-0730.
The Minnehaha 25 will face a group trial and face charges ranging from trespassing to failure to obey a peace officer. Most of the defendants are being prosecuted for non-violent civil disobedience or non-violent direct action during the months of July and August of 1999. These defendants put their bodies in harm's way to attempt to stop the widespread destruction that now scars Minnehaha Park. Many of the defendants are members of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and other Native American First Nations and will be challenging their charges as violations of their Treaty Rights. Others will be mentioning the other flagrant violations of Federal Law that MnDoT has been guilty of during this road project. Also, charges of discrimination will be brought against the Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota State Troopers for their selective arrests of Native Americans and their gross misconduct against civilians exercising their First Amendment Rights.
There will be a Rally held at 8:30 AM on December 6th in the Atrium of the Hennepin County Government Center in Downtown Minneapolis. The defendants will be available for interviews with the media. Please come and support them during the trial, or call the Hennepin County Prosecutor's office and demand that these charges be dropped.
Press Contact Number (612) 910-0730
Write E-Mails re: Minneapolis Raid & Tree Felling. Please act soon to save this sacred place! Thank you.
Please send e-mail letters of protest to:
Josh Davis of Stop the Reroute has a page at http://tcfreenet.org/org/stop55/ which has a link about the Mdewakanton Mendota band at http://tcfreenet.org/org/stop55/mendota.htm
Tom Taylor also has a Stop the Reroute site at http://members.aol.com/noreroute/Highway_55_occupation.html which has a link to the band's own site at http://www.mendotadakota.org/index.html and also to Jim Anderson's page about the Mendota Sacred Sites at http://hometown.aol.com/dmkerr9/Mendota_Sacred_Sites.html