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Minnesota Native News

180 EpisodesProduced by Minnesota Native NewsWebsite

Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


The Impact of Illegally Killing a Red Lake Bear and Water Protectors Continue their Work

This week on Minnesota Native News, we hear from water protectors continuing their work to stop Line 3 and a Red Lake elder speaks out on the impact of the illegal killing of a bear on the reservation.

After 2 years of legal proceedings, Brett Stimac was sentenced on June 9th for illegally killing a 700 pound bear on the Red Lake reservation. Stimac is not a Red Lake citizen. He’s from Brainard Minnesota and he was on the reservation illegally. He was fined $9500 and given a 15 month prison sentence. He is expected to report to prison on July 6th.

When Stimac was sentenced, Red Lake elder, Jody Beaulieu was in the courtroom. She was there to speak on behalf of the tribe. Reporter Melissa Townsend talked with her afterwards about what happened.

Jody was asked by the Red Lake Nation to give what’s called a Victim’s Impact Statement. She was in court to talk about the loss felt by tribal members because this bear was killed on the reservation.

"It’s not just about this one particular trespasser on our closed reservation, but it’s the idea of all these trophy hunters just taking needlessly just for their ego. To try to brag and have something on their wall.," said Beaulieu.

Jody’s daughter drove her to the federal courthouse in St Paul. She says she sat by herself in the courtroom for about 3 hours. And then she took the stand to speak to the entire courtroom.

"I introduced myself as we do nowadays in our Native tongue...My spiritual name is Black Standing Woman and I am Bear Clan," she said.

She wanted to communicate how important the bear is to the Red Lake people and many indigenous people in North America.

"I told him my youngest grandchild who is 4 years old, his name is Mawkwin - Bear Robe. That should give enough indication about how we deem and how we hold the bear up to be our family, our brother, our teacher," said Beaulieu.

At one point she says she turned directly to Stimac - the man who had killed the bear:

"I looked squarely at the guy and I said - just as we have a heart, that bear had a heart and had a life," said Beaulieu.

She said the bear is valuable - not in a materialistic way - but in terms of being part of the mystery of life.

"You know they always want to define the mystery. You accept it and you have respect for it. You don’t have to break it down, put it in compartments, put it in A-B-C-D order, you just have respect...Without question, you have respect," she said.

Jody Beaulieu says she’s encountered bears many times on the reservation. It’s just part of living there. 

"I said when bears come around our yard, the dogs have a different bark. I say oh, there’s a bear in the yard and we need to rally the dogs in so the bear can go about its business and go on its way. I mean even that - do you pay attention to the animal world when they’re telling you something?" she said.

Jody says many Red Lakers she knows are satisfied that Brett Stimas was charged. They’re pleased he will do do prison time for both trespassing on the closed reservation and for illegally killing the bear.

A couple days after she spoke in court — Jody drove home to the Red Lake reservation to be with family. She says it’s always good to come home. Being in nature on the reservation is healing.

IN other news —

Water protectors focused on the Mississippi River continue to call for a stop to the new Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. Much of the action is lead by Native lead groups Honor the Earth, the Rise Coalition, the Indigenous Environmental Network. 

They want treaty rights enforced so the water and living beings in the area are protected from potential oil leaks and spills. Nancy Beaulieu is with this coalition: "We’re here as an encampment to protect the Mississippi and defend our treaty rights to be here and to exist. I just want the whole world to know those treaties are a two party agreement between our ancestors and the other ancestors - settlers who signed those treaty agreements with us." said Nancy Beaulieu.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of people have been protesting at pipeline construction sites on the Mississippi. Hundreds of people have been arrested and released.

According to Honor the Earth newsletter, actions are planned to continue in Shevlin and Palisade, Minnesota. In both places, the pipeline is planned to tunnel underneath the Mississippi River.

Melissa Townsend reporting for Minnesota Native News.

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