Side Trip to White Earth Nation, MN

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  1. Steph cuts veggies for our pasta lunch
  2. A pair of dancers enter the pow wow during opening ceremony
  3. Solar panels to the right, pow wow center tent on the other side, the Roadshow represents on the res
  4. Winona LaDuke tells the Roadshow that Callaway, MN has huge potential for wind powered turbines
  5. At the rice processing facilities for the Native Harvest organization

A new week begins and the Roadshow has finally left its humble parking lot HQ in Minneapolis for the big city of Chicago. Hit Yocum Oil to top off Pricilla before laying miles into Wisconsin. Fifty-five miles out of Eau Claire at the moment and cruising at our smooth 60-ish mph under beautiful puffy cloud cover and rollin fields of corn. We hope to make Madison before evening to refuel the vehicles at a station that has remnants of B100 biodiesel. The bio supply chain has dried up for anything over B20 due to the seasons changing into the cold months.

As I have learned on the bus, our vampiric addiction to electricity and wifi has caused me to finish this post from the Maui Wowi cafe in Chicago. Both buses have electrical nuances so all my tech was drained when we rolled in late last night. Got the phone and laptop charging and will finish up this post so I can get on task for Chicago promotions.

Got a feel for a cold Minnesota night when eight of the crew took Priscilla and the truck north to Callaway for the Niimiiwin Pow Wow. Winona LaDuke saw the Roadshow at Ripple Effect in St. Paul and offered an invitation to come to her home land of White Earth to be part of their small gathering. We had invitations to Wookie Foot’s Harvest Festival but opted instead to have our third gig on the reservation up at White Earth Nation. Tom and Zach stayed on Julia to do advance admin for the upcoming dates. Tyler had gotten sick so stayed behind to sleep and lay low.

On the drive up, my own sickness went away. I began to drink carbonated drinks, finding mostly Sprite in our hood, and bought Pepcid at a truck stop to Callaway. That helped, but I think the idea of heading to the res to meet Winona LaDuke and her tribe also calmed things down a bit with my ills. I felt deep badness work out on the bus ride up, so good medicine had begun to work on the Pricilla crew.

We arrived to the pow wow grounds in a thick blanket of fog. Callaway sits due east of Fargo, MN, on the corner of White Earth Nation. Slipping into the fog gave the feeling of porting into another land, far away from San Francisco. While figuring out where to park, several security guards came over to show us a dry patch to land on. We went straight to bed once the engine turned off. I almost didn’t bring my sleeping bag but was glad I did when we settled down to sleep on a cold October night. We awoke the next morning to find folks setting up for the day.

Geoff and Moe began to meet folks and tell us where to put the Roadshow. We only set up two games and the eco-info zone so we had the Roadshow up about an hour before start time. The Niimiiwin Pow Wow took place for the first time on the ball field on the edge of Callaway. A large tent stood in the middle of the outfield and chairs were set up about 15 yards away in a circle around the tent. Vendors set up a ways behind the chairs, mostly towards the main road. A truck pulled up a trailer with solar panels on it. We met John, from White Earth Nation, and got him to set up the panel array beside the Roadshow. The panels powered the PA system for the inner tent, which is where the drums of all the represented tribes were located and played. Moe got instructions on what to video tape and photograph and we all started having great interactions with the powwow attendees.

I helped Steph prepare lunch once the games and pow wow opened, but we all went to the opening procession to observe the White Earth national anthem, honor the veteran warriors (warrior culture stays strong in Native communities via service in the armed forces), and see all the costumes. A great MC hosted the whole day’s events, rotating the different tribes who had brought drums and keeping things going with hilarious jokes. The music, singing, drumming, and dancing didn’t stop for five hours straight. After a two hour dinner break, the pow wow continued until 10 PM.

The Roadshow was well received. We got invitations to other pow wows, thanks for being there, and many curious questions. Winona LaDuke has been a tireless environmentalist for over 30 years, championing the cause of indigenous autonomy via sound, earth-friendly environmental strategies. So people up at White Earth Nation were familiar with solar, wind, and bio-diesel alternatives to coal, oil, and nuclear. We also got a sense of their willingness to learn more. There was a money gathering and dance for a sick boy, and the MC said that he was sick because of contaminated water. The MC then noted the Eco-Info Zone as a source to find out more about that and other important issues. Marty worked the Info Zone most of the day and helped spread awareness around mountain top removal in Appalachia, where the native folks face many of the same issues as those on the res.

The children loved the games too. With their parents elsewhere, we had a constant stream of players that wouldn’t leave. Once they figured out how to play the games, they crossed the ropes whenever they wanted to and became their own carnies. One of the smarter carnies, Junior, became Jonathan’s back up. At about 7, Junior could manipulate, cajole, whine, and pout his way to play as much as he wanted to. The other children did the same and worked any rules or boundaries that we cold throw at them. Several moments broke down to chaos at the games, the worst of which came when we were away at the Native Harvest office. One teen got security to pull the kids away from the games due to their mobbing it in wild abandon.

About an hour after eating our own lunch, the pow wow broke for dinner. Everyone must be fed, no one goes without food, so Junior handed Moe a plate of buffalo bar-b-q and wild rice. The rest of our crew had dished out their own plates, and Moe didn’t want the buffalo. My appetite had returned after 5 days of barely eating, so I ate Moe’s buffalo portion and part of the rice. Cutting the veggies for our pasta meal, under the deep blue sky and beautiful clouds, I was indeed well again.

Winona made some time during dinner break to walk us over to her nonprofit. Native Harvest (White Earth Land Recovery Project) takes care of business in Callaway’s old school building. They bought the building after the school won a No Child Left Behind Award and was then renovated for $1.5 million. Inside, Winona gave us a tour of the different areas. She showed us maps of wind force, with Callaway being a red zone for great wind force. She showed us the health healing room where she wants to hire a massage therapist to give massages to tribe members. We visited Honor the Earth’s offices, and saw maps of the spiritual lands of White Earth. They currently are a landless tribe, with only 1500 acres owned among a huge swath of Minnesota.

She discussed issues that White Earth is dealing with: power exploitation, burial grounds that need to be acquired and preserved, poverty, converting heating systems to solar panels to avoid massive debt to dino-fuel companies, etc. White Earth just won an FCC micro-broadcasting license and will set up a radio station in the old school building. Winona has no radio experience, let alone experience with other things she’s working on. Her advice: push your comfort zone and lead as an example. She’s a true native entrepreneur, leading many ideas into practice on the res. Our one hour visit added fuel to our own inspiration.

After a bit of wild action on the games, we broke them down soon after sunset. A beautiful moon rose over the pow wow and we all jumped in to a late community dance towards the end. We ate funnel cake, scored free pop corn, and had another great sleep on the quiet side of the road. Sunday morning, we flew on back roads to Native Harvest’s rice processing facility. John took us there, and waked us around the make-shift machines that seared, hulled, and sorted the rice. A capitalist would’ve freaked at the antiquated devices that the natives worked. Though inefficient, they got the job done. We pulled together some money and walked away with a plastic bag of rice for each of us.

We then drove back to Callaway just in time to participate in a horse ceremony by the Native Harvest office. A visiting elder, who holds horse medicine from his years of organizing long, inter-racial horse rides across North America, held the pipe and showed White Earth how to proceed. White Earth’s last horse ceremony took place about 100 years ago, so the knowledge was lost to them. Winona initially told us to stand off to the side to watch, but the elder with the pipe waved us in to participate. We stood in a circle out side of the four horses, who stood and represented the four directions/four colors of man/four-legged friends. The horses walked into the center of the circle, where a wind turbine will soon be built, and we gave them love and respect.

The pipe was lit and the horses took the pipe first, symbolizing our connection to the four-leggeds. We then shared the pipe in the circle. All of this brought powerful horse medicine to the future wind turbine, and stood as an amazing symbol of how Winona’s vision of locally-owned native power benefits all animals of the res. After this amazing ceremony, we shared a meal of venison stew and local wild rice. We said our goodbyes, shored up Pricilla, and drove back to Minneapolis for the last night in our parking log HQ.

Since then, we have all agreed that the Roadshow should make time to hit reservations as well as inner-city locations. These are the people that we want to meet the most, and they could use a carny-style good time. Thanks to Winona LaDuke for the invitation, time, support, and inspiration. May wind turbines and solar panels cover the tribal nations across the world!