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Minnesota Native News

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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


Good News for Leech Lake and Wonder Woman Fans

This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock.

On December 11th a bill passed by the U-S House and Senate was presented to Donald Trump. The bill would restore 11,760 acres of land to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Reporter Melissa Townsend talked with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe District 3 Representative Leroy Staples Fairbanks about this welcome news.

The land was illegally taken from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe by the U-S Secretary of the Interior in the 1940s and 50s. 

But only an act of Congress could repatriate the land to the Band.  

When the bill passed the U-S House and Senate earlier this month, Leroy Staples Fairbanks says there was no celebration or a ceremony.

STAPLES FAIRBANKS: I think there was a sigh of relief like - oh it did happen, it did pass? (:05)

The Leech Lake District 3 Representative says the tribe has been working on this for years.  

The original bill was introduced in 2018.

STAPLES FAIRBANKS: We’ve gotten quite far on this particular legislation before and we got to the finish like and ran out of gas.  Things happened in DC.  So you are hesitant to get too excited, although indicators were showing that it was going to happen. 

He says he was alerted that the final House vote was going to actually happen on December 3rd. 

STAPLES FAIRBANKS: Hey, it’s going to happen around this time and people were watching. (:05)

And many Leech Lake citizens had a lot of questions.  

STAPLES FAIRBANKS:  I ran into people the following day - and they were hearing about it on social media and the were saying what =does this mean?  Why are we getting back 12000 acres and so I said it means we smile and we enjoy the day. And these were some elders. And I said you haven’t seen this happen in your lifetime and who knows if we’ll see it again in my lifetime. So this is a big day for Leech Lake. (:21)

This deal involves the nearly 12000 acres of what is officially called Secretarial Transfer Land. In the 1940s and 50s the Secretary of the Department of Interior transferred the land to the Chippewa National Forest.

Leroy Staples Fairbanks says there was a lot of people paying attention to this land repatriation effort. That includes industry in the area, units of government from townships to towns to counties, and those who have leases and easements and contracts on some of this land. 

There were those who supported the effort and those who opposed it.

Staples Fairbanks it’s taken years to negotiate and make compromises to get these 11,760 acres back to the tribe. 

The specific parcels have not yet been identified.

STAPLES FAIRBANKS: We have a lot of work to do with the Chippewa National Forest in identifying how this map will look going forward. (:06)

Leech Lake representatives will report back to Congress 180 days after the bill is signed with the final map of repatriated lands. 

So now, all that’s needed is for Donald Trump to sign the bill into law. 

It was presented to the President on December 11th.

MELISSA ON TAPE: Are you concerned at all that President Trump won’t sign it?

STAPLES FAIRBANKS: Me and Donald were tweeting each other day and he confirmed [laughter] I’m just kidding.  The politics of it all - I think - there was Republican support that I don’t really have that concern although I have the weariness of overly excited until the ink is on the paper. (:23)

As of December 16th, the President has not yet signed the bill. 

In othernews — later this month Wonder Woman makes her return to the big screen - or to your television set or computer since we’re all at home these days… 17 year old Lakota comic book expert Gerald Zinc has this preview of the upcoming movie.

Wonder Woman 1984 is the direct sequel to the Wonder Woman movie from 2017. It features the two main stars of that movie, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, and it is set in the year 1984. The movie brings two of Wonder woman’s most famous villains to the big screen, Maxwell Lord and The Cheetah. 

Maxwell Lord is a character in the comics who has the ability to mind control people, and - in the comics - he is famous for forcing a fight between Superman and Wonder Woman. The movie version of the character seems to be highly modeled on the public persona of Donald Trump in his 1980s era. Going by the trailer, the character also appears to be a politician, who claims to offer anyone their base desires. 

The Cheetah will make her first appearance in Wonder Woman 1984. The character will be played by actress Kristen Wiig, a well known actress in Hollywood. The movie features a more modern take on the Cheetah from the comics, even though the trailers are intentionally vague about the character’s motivations.

Also featured at the end of the trailer is the golden Wonder Woman armor from one of the best comics DC has ever published, Kingdom Come. The suit fits well with the 1980s inspired aesthetic of the rest of the trailer, and it is great to see the imagery from the comics getting its due on the big screen. 

For Minnesota Native News, this is Gerry Zink.

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