Reflections from the OAP 2014 Class: Leech Lake Immersion

Salavador Miranda

Salavador Miranda

By Salvador Miranda

“Survival of the Fittest (dominant frame) OR Survival of Those With the Most Adaptive Skills”–Shirley Nordstrom

This May, the OAP 2014 Organizing Traveling Class had a two day immersion — a cultural experience hosted by Nicole Buckanaga (Leech Lake Nation) and family and friends at the Leech Lake Tribal College in Walker, Minnesota. The tour that Nicole and Jeff Harper (Leech Lake Nation) took the class on included hearing the history and update on the “super fund” site, where logging businesses, multi-national corporations, and local and federal pollution control agencies continue to debate responsibility for the clean up. Meanwhile the lake water, fish, and surrounding ecosystem are dangerous to local residents.

The tour included visiting sites where tribal lands — reservations created by treaties some 150 years ago — are home to reservation offices, family homes, and some businesses. Plans for renovated family housing, resources for training and jobs, and expansion of the Tribal College are signs of “survival” — renewed growth.

Later, we settled into the Tribal College, where we witnessed the richness of the tribal sacred spirituality, customs, traditions,language and Blessing of the Traditional Feast – powerful!!! As a native Minnesotan, raised to be assimilated in the dominant culture and language, I could feel the liberation – the power of these fellow Minnesotans committed to preserving the gifts given to them by their ancestors and Mother Earth. I was in awe of this self-determination and survival of the indigenous people in this part of Minnesota. Special thanks to Dr. Don Day, Leech Lake Tribal College President, for leading the opening ceremony.

One presenter, Simone Senogales (Red Lake Nation) shared her experiences with food sovereignty, preservation of seeds, and the Food Justice Movement growing in our communities. Efforts to grow our own food, pass it on to our children and freedom from multi-national corporations and institutions tampering with seed and natural food systems is at the center of her passion for these efforts. She also spoke of her interaction with educated whites at a Food Summit, where they spoke of food deserts in urban and rural communities and her question was a reality check – how in this abundant land, can we have food deserts? This is a structural issue of access and distribution. Manipulation by the marketplace and investors seeking wealth need to be held accountable (e.g. Walmart,  Koch Brothers, and others?).

Another presenter, Shirley Nordstrom (Red Lake Nation), spoke of “Nutricide – the practice of killing the food source – intentionally bringing about or causing deaths of large numbers of people.” Pointing out the 1800’s massive killing of the buffalo, displacement of entire tribes from the lands and food sources, and taking children from families for placement in boarding schools are all examples of Nutricide. She discussed the “ecocide” in Minnesota — the settlement of Europeans in Minnesota which created the structural violence — preventing people from access to healthy food. A colleague reminded me of what happens when cancer cells enter the body, bringing about destruction of healthy cells and ultimate death of the system. Is this what is happening? Not if these leaders have anything to do with the survival of our community/body. They are passing on ancestral gifts of survival to the children – our future.

Jeff Harper spoke of the Seasons: through syruping, fishing, ricing, and hunting that they are engaging youth in “hands on” experiences during a summer internship. Princess Titus (OAP Class organizer with Appetite for Change) asked about urban youth connecting to these experiences. Jeff responded that absolutely, let’s get urban youth up here! Jeff shared a story about the elders he encountered growing up in the area – his story is the elders would always say to him, “Pay Attention.”
Jeff reminded all of us that since Creation, our elders have done their job of taking care of us and Mother Earth. That care is threatened now if we fail to do our job!

What I took away from the experience, is that there are some who are “doing their job” — leading us to stop the cancer from spreading, taking measures to heal the environment, challenging those addicted to fossil fuels and chemical additives in food, taking back the land for growing food, trees, plants, and protect animals from extinction. The list goes on. All of this movement work will lead to the “survival of those with the most adaptable skills.“ Always has been that way and always will be…


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