Monday, October 27, 2008

Random Groggy Thoughts

I am sick. I'm not usually a big complainer when I'm sick but I'm gonna complain about this bout of illness. We are 7 days out from Election Day. I can't afford to be sick. I can barely talk and I'm achy all over :(

I've been thinking a lot about Paul Wellstone lately. On October 25th, it was the 6 year anniversary of his passing. I definitely want to be more coherent when trying to express my thoughts on life 6 years later.

I would like to have one wall in my house that is completely made out of dry erase board. I need to map out my plans and ideas for the election and just other things in life. Maybe I'll just settle for one wall covered in giant post-it notes.

Please don't tell anyone but I don't like carving pumpkins. I like scooping out the guts of the pumpkin but that's about it. I'm such a perfectionist that if it's not exactly the way I want it to look, I will hate it and throw it away. I am a true Virgo when it comes to pumpkin carving. I do, however, adore eating pumpkin seeds. Yummers (thanks, Nora).

I just found out that I was selected as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Minnesotans by the Jaycees. Yay! More to follow when I figure out just what this award entails.

That's all for now. I'm going to take some Nyquil and knock out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Franken rallies for American Indian vote

Brad Swenson Bemidji Pioneer
Published Monday, October 20, 2008

CASS LAKE – American Indians face unique challenges that need representation in Congress, says Al Franken, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, who Sunday visited three reservations.

“There are unbelievable challenges facing these folks and it’s very daunting,” Franken said Sunday afternoon in an interview after meeting with about 20 Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe members at the Dik-in-aa-gan Child Care Center in Cass Lake. “The spirit and resilience of these folks is very inspiring.”

After Leech Lake, Franken then met with Red Lake Band of Chippewa members at Red Lake and ended the day with White Earth Band of Ojibwe members at Mahnomen. He’s visited all three reservations throughout his campaign, with Sunday’s trip to Red Lake his third. In August, he participated in a Red Lake powwow by dancing in four songs.

“Their needs are tremendous and … this is about the unique challenges that Indians face by being on the reservation, they’re so easily isolated and there is this legacy of cultural trauma that is still with them,” Franken said. “There is a legacy of poverty and of problems like domestic violence or violence, and the pathologies that come out of addiction and things like that they face that compound some of the other challenges they face,” he said.

Franken likes to quote the late Vice President and Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey who said the nation’s greatness is judged by how it helps the weakest. Humphrey “always talked about what defines a society, and he was talking about people who are in the shadows,” Franken said. “Very often I feel that American Indians are still in the shadows, and that they need an advocate, and I want to be that.”

In speaking to the group, Franken said if elected he would seek a seat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The last Minnesotan to serve on that panel was the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat who Franken said he wants to emulate, serving on both the Indian Affairs and Senate Veterans Affairs committees as did Wellstone. While on USO trips to Iraq, Franken said he noticed that American Indians “are the most represented peoples in the military.”

Democrats such as Humphrey and Wellstone often visited area reservation, a place Republicans rarely visit. It was a point not missed by Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Arthur “Archie” LaRose.

“Where is Norm Coleman?” LaRose said in introducing Franken. “He hasn’t come to see us and to my knowledge he hasn’t been up to see our relatives at White Earth or Red Lake. …The fact is that Leech Lakers have historically been Democrats and are today strong Democrats. We know who our friends are and will support them.”

He noted that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty only visited when “he was trying to sell us on a one-sided casino deal that would have cost us and lost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Both Coleman and Pawlenty did visit the Red Lake Reservation for the funeral of Daryl Lussier and the wake of Chase Lussier, victims of the March 2005 school shootings on the reservation that left 10 people dead.

Republican Sen. Coleman is seeking a second six-year term, while also in the race is Independence Party candidate former Sen. Dean Barkley.

LaRose said that tribal members “don’t have a lot of money so we aren’t listed as big donors. But what we lack in money we more than make up for in voting power. … What we have on Leech Lake is a strong record for voter turnout and this year the most important thing we can do to ensure our future is to make sure we all vote.”

That push also includes state House DFL candidate John Persell, whose House 4A district includes most of the Leech Lake Reservation, LaRose said.

Votes to win the open House 4A seat “will come right out of here,” said Persell, who faces Republican John Carlson and Independence Party candidate Sharatin Blake, “We will win this right straight down the ticket.”

A campaign brochure passed out at the gathering, prepared by the State DFL Party, shows Franken in photos with officials of all three local bands, and lists as his issues that he recognizes and respects sovereignty, will improve the Indian health care system, will help every Minnesotan go to college and would seek more funding for tribal colleges, and “stand up for our [Indian] veterans.”

“It seems to me,” Franken said,”it’s a senator’s job to represent everyone in the state, and also especially represent people in the state who have had historic cultural trauma visited upon them.And it’s an obligation of any U.S. senator, especially one from Minnesota, to address them”.

Before the rally, LaRose and Franken talked privately, and LaRose listed three chief issues that are foremost in treaties between the United States and the tribes – education, health care and welfare – and that all are underfunded.

Franken told LaRose that if elected, he would seek the seat on Indian Affairs and establish a direct relationship with Minnesota tribes “to get stuff done.” In health care, he suggested an incentives program to get doctors to serve in reservation health care facilities and some kind of program to allow urban private doctors to spend several weeks on the reservation similar to what is done for Third World countries that lack access to health care, especially specialists such as eye doctors or dentists.

“I want to steer health care toward preventive care and I want to have more primary care physicians, and I want to use loan forgiveness for doctors,’ Franken said.”It’s not a revolutionary idea, but I want to promote that for getting doctors here.”

Improving health care on the Leech Lake Reservation is a main focus of the Leech Lake Tribal Council, LaRose said to Franken. “The solutions you are bringing up would be good for us.”

In introducing Franken, LaRose said that “you know Al Franken has a lot in common with Indian people. He has great respect for family – he has great respect for our Mother Earth – he listens well and he has an honest and true heart.”

With the Leech Lake Tribal Council formally endorsing Franken for the Senate post, LaRose said the election is one of the most important to Mother Earth. “Our great Mother Earth has been violated and she needs healing. We can no longer allow the careless policies of the past eight years to ravage our Mother. It’s time to admit that we have huge problems and get about the business of fixing them.”

"Franken understands tribal sovereignty and respects Indian nations as governments,” he said.

Having Franken visit “means a great deal to the Leech Lake Reservation,” LaRose said in an interview. “We’ve always been strong Democrats and supporters. I feel we’ve lacked the U.S. senator’s representation and support on tribal issues. … Al Franken can bring a lot to the table. He can help out all tribes in programs and businesses, economic issues.”

Transportation, health care, education are Leech Lake’s main problems needing federal help, he said.”There are a lot of other issues, too, related to those three main issues. … Al has made an effort to come here to meet with us and to find out what our issues are on the reservation level.”

Franken, whose career as a satirist shows through at times, told the group that if the United States can’t uphold the treaties as it should, “I guess, if we don’t keep our end of the bargain, the only thing to do is give you all your land back.”

Pioneer Editorial: GOP absent from Indian politicking

Bemidji Pioneer Editorial Board Bemidji Pioneer

Published Sunday, October 19, 2008

Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken’s visit to our area today begs a question. He will today visit with members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe on the three separate reservations.

Why make special visits to American Indian reservations?

American Indian tribes are sovereign nations whose members are also U.S. citizens and entitled to vote in non-tribal elections which include the reservation in their jurisdiction. And, as sovereign nations under treaty, tribes as a government have needs that must be raised to a government-to-government basis with federal, state and county governments.

Today’s visit by Franken isn’t his first — he’s visited the three reservations numerous times over the summer.

To our knowledge, U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the Republican seeking re-election, has never set foot on the Red Lake Reservation, either as a candidate or a sitting senator. Why is that? Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another Republican, has never visited Red Lake during his administration, and only met with its officials in trying to get more state revenue through a joint tribal/state casino.

Columnist Dorreen Yellow Bird writes in the Grand Forks Herald last week of a pitch by longtime South Dakota native journalist Tim Giago’s suggestion that a Native American Party be formed to “educate” both Republicans and Democrats on Indian issues and how important the Indian voting bloc is.

“In the past, Giago said, the Republican Party ignored Indian people because they knew we voted Democratic. The Democrats, for their part, took us for granted because we were a done deal; we always vote Democrat,” Yellow Bird writes.

Why does it have to be that way? Can’t American Indians present their case before both Democrats and Republicans, and gain respect for those concerns equally from both parties? Perhaps the relationship has been tainted by the Republicans’ longstanding policy of assimilation of Indian tribes, yet it was Republican President Richard Nixon that set forth a policy of self-determination without termination.

The bottom line is that American Indians are a constituency with needs, along with other citizens, and should draw the attention of both parties.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Working for a candidate who actually cares about my community. Yay!

It has been incredible to work for a candidate who genuinely cares about my community. I have been able to hire Valerie Martinez, one of the best community organizers in the state. We have been given resources for ads in tribal newspapers, literature targeted to American Indians and, most importantly, the candidate's time.

Yesterday, Franni Franken attended a Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) meeting with me. She gave a heartfelt speech about Al's commitment to Indian people. Franni also shared personal stories about Al as a husband and father. I am always amazed by her ability to connect with anyone. Go Franni!

After the meeting, it was off to a lunch event with the former acting president of the United States, MARTIN SHEEN! He gave a really funny and inspiring speech. I can't remember what he said exactly but I do remember laughing and feeling inspired. I got an opportunity to speak with him briefly and get two, count 'em, two hugs. I told him I was on the school board and he was very congratulatory. We chatted about Native American outreach efforts in Minnesota. Valerie and I got a photo with him (it will be posted here as soon as it's available). Finally, he gave me another hug and told me, "Congratulations on your accomplishments. You are at the beginning of a long career of positive change. Don't ever stop! Keep fighting!". OMG, thank you President Bartlett, thank you.

Next it was off to a roundtable meeting with U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan, chair of the Indian Affairs Committee. We had about 30 urban Indian leaders at the table and got to speak with the Senator for about 40 minutes. It felt great to be able to give the urban community an opportunity to speak with him. Urban Indians rarely get the chance to talk to congressional leaders, too often, reservation Indians are the only folks who have a voice in Washington. Yay, urban Indians!

Over the next few days, we're prepping for Al Franken's Rez Tour on Sunday, October 19th. We'll be taking Al to Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth. I am excited and terrified all at the same time. It's a short amount of time to organize 3 events in one day.

I'm off to a 4 hour meeting. Woot!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus was a punk.

I can't believe that United States still celebrates a man who got lost and accidentally "discovered" America. Newsflash: there were already people here. That would be like me stumbling on a house that I really like on Lake of the Isles and just moving in because I "discovered" it.

Once Columbus landed on our shores, he proceeded to enslave, rape, torture, dismember and kill the Native people who were minding their own business. That deserves a holiday, don't you think?

We are all familiar with the little rhyme we learned in elementary school, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue". I think it's time we tell our children the truth so their not shocked when they get to college and learn that most of the history they learned in school was all lies and misinterpretation.

I propose we teach our kids the following: "In 1492, Columbus launched the Atlantic slave trade and initiated the most devastating mass genocide of a people in world history". It's not catchy but at least it's the truth. If anyone can come up with a catchy rhyme that tells the truth about what a d-bag Columbus was, please share it with me.

I guess when the football team of our nation's capital is still called the "Redskins" that I shouldn't be too shocked by this federal holiday.

Happy Columbus/Mass Murder, Slavery, and Colonization Day!