I was asked to speak about ICWA at the Mille Lacs Equal Rights Symposium this last weekend. This was, I suppose, a chance for rebuttal to the slander that occurred last year in Mille Lacs under the banner of the Minnesota Human Rights network. However, I never mentioned last years meeting. Others did that plenty.
Dr. William Allen, the former chairman of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, was the keynote speaker. Dr. Allen was awesome.
We had the privilege of breakfast with Dr. Allen just before the symposium. We stayed with a Mille Lacs county commissioner who has been a friend of ours for years, (prior to him becoming a commissioner.) He invited Dr. Allen to come over for breakfast prior to the meeting. Bill Lawrence, the publisher of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News and a member of the Red Lake tribe, was also there. I’d written for his paper a few times in the 1990’s.
It was incredibly comfortable. Dr. Allen, who is a professor in political science at Michigan State, had some really interesting things to say about the current presidential campaign. I wish I’d taken notes.
Now the Seminar –
I was very nervous. I’ve written a lot and said a few words at a few different places, but I’ve never spoken for 45 minutes before. However, although I’m not the best speaker, the reaction after the meeting was overwhelming. A legislator from Minnesota was there and wanted more information. Others came up to speak to me – all very encouraging. One woman was almost crying! I gave out several of Roland’s videos. A pastor we knew from western Montana was also there – he’d moved several years ago. He wanted us to spend the night with him last night (but we needed to get home)
One man wanted to give me a deer-hide drum he’d made in exchange for two videos. So we traded.
But the reaction to my presentation is nothing compared to the the speech Dr. Allen gave concerning federal Indian policy, ICWA, and the underlying goals and thought processes behind them. His comments were incredibly insightful. ALSO he is interested in writing more on these issues after he’s finished with his current project in January.
Dr. Allen left from the meeting to catch his flight back to Maryland. The girls and I went back to to the Commissioners home, where we spent a couple of hours with him, Bill and their wives sitting on the porch overlooking the lake. Again, I am so grateful for how comfortable the conversation was.
Maybe it’s because we’ve all been attacked together over the years because of our tribal politics. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they knew and loved Roland. It’s been four years now since he passed, and not everyone we meet knows him anymore.
Somebody wrote this the next day…
Sent: Sunday, September 21, 2008 1:04 PM
,,, I live in Ramsey, MN.
On Saturday, I was at the meeting in Wahkon, MN and heard you speak. You did a marvelous job. I wanted to talk to you but had to leave right before lunch and couldn’t.
I will donate some $ online at your website, but not that I can afford much. But, the work you folks do is wonderful. I don’t think anyone there knew of the issues you brought up. It is disgusting and heart breaking. Hopefully, you folks can make a difference and help the kids out.