Monthly Archives: September 2012

Voters Face the Veiled but Pernicious Intent of Voter ID Amendment

Crying wolf – for real.

Well fed wolves in sheeps’ clothing are pulling the wool over the eyes of naïve voters in state after state.  Good people are following like lambs to the slaughter a well-orchestrated, determined and pernicious drive to skew the election of 2012 – and elections to come.

Though by nature Minnesotans are not mean-spirited we may have too much confidence in the wise and independent judgment of some elected officials who may themselves be innocents in a national crusade to purge the rolls.  We quibble with the legislative process and grump about Legislative intransigence.  Still, Minnesotans are accustomed to wrapping ourselves in the virtual security blanket of good government.  We tend to our own business and trust that others will butt out of our open democratic processes.

If we were around in the 60’s we have vivid memories of the terrible struggle for voters’ rights in the South.  Still, we are shielded so that for most 21st Century Minnesotans passage of the voting rights amendment is a legislative blip from another time and place.

Most Minnesotans have always known same day registration and a hassle-free – even pleasant – experience at the neighborhood voting site.  Reading the wise words of former Secretary of State Joan Growe in last week’s StarTribune was a great reminder of the intent and effective application of state law we take for granted, a law by which Minnesotans abide and that has effectely protected the system from fraud.

Still, one of the two Amendments to the State Constitution that will face us on November 6 is the quietly stealthy Voter ID Amendment, the silent killer of an open electoral process.  We know, but somehow want to ignore, this blatant intrusion on freedom of many of our friends and families to exercise their inalienable right to have a voice in the democratic process.

Though the tide appears to be turning, the  we ignore the implicit threat at our peril.  Polls continue to indicate that Minnesotans, particularly young voters, are oblivious to the pernicious underpinnings of the Voter ID amendment.  If you’re able bodied, enjoy discretionary time, and are the proud owner of a valid ID, you’re safe.  No problem.  Let’s face it – that’s an alibi, not a reason to ignore the clear and present danger.

For the elderly and American Indians who lack a valid state-issued ID (excludes a tribal ID), for people with disabilities, for those who never had or cannot afford the cost of a birth certificate, for those who don’t have time to go through the hoops, and for those who lack transportation to the county clerk’s office, the amendment is an insurmountable obstacle.  Prior restraint or fear of confrontation can be a barrier to felons who have a right to vote but an instinctive fear of encountering the System.

What Minnesotans should fear is the intrusion of a well-organized cadre of wheelers and dealers whose intent it is to skew the electoral process by barring access to the voting booth to those they fear will vote “wrong.”  For these manipulators this small but significant segment of the general populace is understandably inclined to vote for Democratic candidates who they believe will protect their hard won rights..

Everyone has heard the stories – the problem is we remain complacent, blithely ignoring reality as we wrap ourselves in the security of living in a good government state.   In our innocence we are disinclined to look for culprits or to probe the source of malicious maneuvering with the facts by the media.

The pernicious implications of the Voter ID and inherent but subtle.  The Voter ID Amendment is a lethal tool that doers of evil can and will use with abandon.

Young voters, ask your grandma or a visually impaired friend or an documented immigrant mom about the implications of passage of the Voter ID.  Learn the facts and cast a vote that’s informed not instinctive.  Seasoned voters, have one of those facts of life talks with the young people in your life.  This is not the time for sheepish surrender to the inevitability of voter suppression.


Native American Catholics Reflect on the Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha



It is a peculiar irony that the most famous of all the Mohawks – arguably the most well-known nation of the Rotinonhson:ni (Iroquois) Confederacy – is a 17th century woman who, by her vow of celibacy, isn’t an ancestor to any of us.

Daren Bonaparte, A lily among thorns

 Minnesotans Know the Lily of the Mohawk – Kateri Tekakwitha

The canonization of Catholic saints is generally of interest to a devoted cadre of the faithful who have promoted the blessing of the Church on a pious soul who meets the rigid criteria for sainthood.  Though the event of the person’s canonization has a profound impact on the community of supporters, it is of minor consequence to the world, even the Roman Catholic world, at large.

The October 21, 2012 canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha does not fit the traditional mold.  It is, in fact, an occasion charged with unique political and religious aspects.

For Minnesotans the focus on the “Lily of the Mohawk” offers an occasion to reflect on both the political and religious aspects of a forgotten, if ever known, history and on the role of this simple woman whose life story is veiled by the complexity of the inherent symbolism.

Parishioners at the Catholic Church of Gichitwaa Kateri, the place of worship for many Native Americans as well as for the community at large. Many of the parishioners and advocates for Gichitwaa Kateri have been active in efforts to learn about and to promote the canonization of Kateri and to bridge the spiritual mores of the American Indian culture with the traditions of the Catholic Church – a challenge that has not been without an occasional – and painful – clash.

Following the process of Tekakwitha’s canonization with special interest are scores of American Indian women who know something of her legacy from their experience at Kateri Residence, a program of St. Stephen’s Church in South Minneapolis.  Kateri Residence offers a home and help with recovery that blends contemporary recovery methods with a focus on American Indian culture and spirituality.

Needless to say the American Indian community watches with interest and some ambivalence the process and impact of Kateri Tekakwitha’s canonization.  The challenge for all is to understand and assess the meaning of this unique blending – or the contradiction of trying to blend – Native American and Catholic/Christian traditions.

 The story:

Kateri Tekakwitha was a Seventeenth Century Algonquin Mohawk woman , member of the Iroquois Confederacy, born in 1656 in the Iroquois village of Ossemenonunder in what is now New York state.  She died just 24 years later in a Jesuit mission village near present-day Montreal.  Though stories of her short life are inconsistent, what is generally understood is that she was the eldest daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Roman Catholic Algonquin who had been adopted into the tribe after her Huron tribe was captured.  Kateri’s mother had been baptized and educated by Jesuit missions.

While Kateri was a young girl her family, including both parents, was decimated in a smallpox epidemic that left the orphaned girl with scars and impaired eyesight.  Her name meaning “she who bumps into things” speaks to her reputed poor vision. Because the Mohawk tribe followed a matrilineal kinship tradition Kateri was adopted by her maternal uncle.  Kateri’s early life brought her in contact with the Jesuits, for whom her adopted uncle had no time.  Nonetheless, at age eighteen Kateri met the Jesuit Father Jacques de Lamberville and began to study the catechism, the first step in her conversion to the Catholic Church.

Still a very young woman of 20 Kateri was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church in 1676.  Rebuked by some in her tribe she moved to the Jesuit mission of Kahnawake near Montreal, a sort of gathering place for converts, primarily women.  These women believed in self-mortification as a way to absolve themselves of their sins.  It was in this period of her impressionable young life that Kateri “took Jesus for her husband”, a decision that led to her subsequent reputation as the “first virgin among the Mohawk.”  The influence of the Jesuits is complex.  Some Native Americans argue that it negated her Indian roots, while others, including Mohawk leader Tom Porter, maintain that “she was raised mostly by our tradition, so her spirituality was mostly of the real old faith” adding that “I don’t look at it like she gave up her native believes. She added to her faith.”

Many suggest that it was Kateri’s life of self-mortification that led to her final illness and death in 1680.  She is buried at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cahnawake, Quebec, South of Montreal.

Soon after Kateri’s death the people of her community noticed a physical change.  The pockmarks changed so that one Jesuit observed that “this face, so marked and swarthy, suddenly changed about a quarter of an hour after her death, and became in a moment so beautiful and so white that I observed it immediately.   There were reports of individuals who claimed to see Kateri in the weeks following her death.

A chapel was built near her gravesite.  By 1684 pilgrimages had begun to honor her there.  Her physical remains were used as relics for healing.  The epitaph on her grave read “Kateri Tekakwitha – The fairest flower that ever bloomed among red men.”

All of these happenings were recorded by the Jesuits.   From earliest days the story of Kateri became a sort of bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.

Representations of Kateri Tekakwitha:

Many 21st Century Americans have learned about Kateri through architectural and literary depictions of her life.  As the wheels of the Vatican have ground slowly, the laity has not waited for the decision about her canonization.  Tekakwitha is already honored in three national shrines in this country – the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, New York, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC and the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, originally constructed to honor three slain and canonized Jesuits in Auriesville, New York.  The humble shrine at Fonda, New York, focuses on devotion to Kateri Tekakwitha.  A statue of Tekakwitha also stands outside the Basilica of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre in Quebec and outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Closer to home, visitors to the campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville will recall the Statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha on the Eastern shore of Lake Sagatagan.  The statue, installed on the tri-centenary of Kateri’s death, was a gift to St. John’s from St. Olaf parish in Minneapolis and its pastor, Father Leonard P. Cowley.  The statue originally stood outside the original St. Olaf Church before it was destroyed by fire.

A bronze statue of Blessed Kateri kneeling in prayer was installed in 2008, created by artist Cynthia Hitschler along the devotional walkway leading to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  One of the Bells of St. Mary at the Basilica in Minneapolis is dedicated to Kateri Tekakwitha.  The entering class this fall at the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute will be named after her.


The stories and the veneration of Kateri have endured over the decades.  In fact, the Catholic Church commemorates her feast day on July 14; along with St. Francis of Assisi she is honored as the patroness of the ecology and environment. The canonization is a long and protracted process that requires persistence on the part of the faithful and manipulation of an intricate system by the hierarchy.  In 1884, three centuries after Kateri’s life began, Catholics in the U.S. and Canada began the process for her canonization.  In 1943 Pope Pius XII declared her “venerable.”  She was beatified on June 22, 1980, by John Paul II.

A critical canonical requirement is the verification of miracles realized through the intercession of the saint-to-be.   In December 2011 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, part of the Vatican establishment, certified a second miracle.    This cleared the path to Kateri Tekakwitha’s canonization as the first Native American/First Nations woman to qualify for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Numerous literary works depict the life and legacy of Kateri Tekakwitha.  Among the most important are Allan Greer’s Mohawk Saint – Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits (2005) and Darren Bonaparte’s A Lily Among the Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Kateri Tekakwitha. (2009These and other books and articles include references to the records of the Jesuits as well as descriptions of the miracles for which she credited as part of the canonization process.  The implications of this historic canonization will be interpreted in very different ways by Native Americans in particular, by Roman Catholics and by historians of this era.

For some Native Americans the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha is an attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to deflect attention from the reality of history, particularly the pain inflicted by the controversial boarding schools that separated American Indian children from their families and traditions during the late 1800’s through much of the 20th Century.  Some harbor deep resentment for the ways in which Christianity in general eroded their traditional culture and religion.

Others look to the potential of the interweaving of Christianity and Native religion as a positive development.  Thousands of American Catholics, including many of this nation’s 600,000 Native American Catholics, will travel to Rome for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha.  For the faithful who are devoted to Kateri Tekakwitha the occasion speaks to a movement towards tolerance and integration between Native ways and Catholic traditions.   For Sister Kateri Mitchell, executive director of the Tekakwitha Conference located in Great Falls, Montana, Kateri’s canonization is an important historical moment; for Mitchell Kateri Tekakwitha “ is the face of our future church.”  For the faithful who worship at Gichitwaa Kateri in South Minneapolis the canonization of the first Native American saint is a time to reflect and pray.





Advocates Offer Powerful Exploration of Voter ID Amendment

The Advocates for Human Rights to Discuss Civil Rights and Voter Disenfranchisement at World Premiere of Appomattox at the Guthrie Theater 

Minneapolis, MN (September 19, 2012): The Advocates for Human Rights will join the Guthrie Theater on October 2, 2012 for a performance of Appomattox, a new play about freedom, human rights, and race. Robin Phillips, executive director of The Advocates, will moderate an expert panel after the performance addressing current issues of civil rights and the Voter ID ballot initiative in Minnesota. 

The two-act play begins in April 1865, with Ulysses S. Grant meeting Robert E. Lee to sign the treaty to end the bloodiest war in U.S. history. The days preceding the signing are depicted through the eyes of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, Julia Grant, Mary Custis Lee, and others. The second act opens in February 1965, when St. James Baptist Church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson is shot by an Alabama state trooper during a peaceful protest for civil rights. The play then follows President Lyndon Johnson and his push to pass the Voting Rights Act through Congress.  

“The arts are a natural place to discuss human rights issues,” says Phillips. “Appomattox addresses civil and human rights issues that have shaped the United States throughout its history, including the right to vote. Today in Minnesota, the right of citizens to vote is once again threatened. The proposed Voter ID amendment on the ballot in Minnesota would, for the first time in the state’s history, narrow suffrage. Voting is a human right, not a privilege. The Advocates for Human Rights opposes the amendment.” 

The proposed Voter ID amendment would narrow suffrage because many thousands of Minnesotans, who are currently eligible to vote, do not have a government-issued photo ID. According to the Minnesota League of Women Voters, those least likely to have a government-issued photo ID include: 

·    18 percent of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.

·    15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID.

·    18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name.

·    10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID.

·    25 percent of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID. 

For more information please contact:

Robin Phillips                                                    Sarah Herder

Executive Director                                            Director of Education   

(612) 746-0859                                               (612) 746-4691                            

# # # 

The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, is dedicated to the promotion of internationally-recognized human rights. To learn more visit


Logan Park Honors a National War Hero and Patriot

Logan Park residents enjoying the ten-acre open space where neighbors gather probably do not spend much time reflecting on the life and times of their community’s namesake; it’s unlikely that most even know the political drama that surrounded the selection of John A. Logan for the honor.  Still, Logan was a legend in his own time — racist turned anti-slavery advocate in defense of the Union, Major General in the Civil War, Republican nominee for vice president in 1884, and the man generally credited with the establishment of Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day), a day to honor those who died in the Civil War.

In 1883, when the park was first designated it was christened First Ward Park, later changed to Ninth Ward Park when the political wards were restructured.  At that point, in 1887, the Civil War veterans of the Dudley Chase Post of the Grand Army of the Republic proposed the park recognize the deeds of John A. Logan.   After some Park Board deliberations, the name selection went instead to one Cadwallader C. Washburn, founder of the Washburn Crosby Company (now General Mills) and one-time Governor of Wisconsin.

Next, the Park Board decided the honor should go to Cadwallader’s brother William who actually ran the Minneapolis business interests of Washburn Crosby.  William Washburn, a former Congressman and a friend of a couple of park commissioners, was subsequently sent to Washington DC when Minneapolis voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1889.

That’s when the Park Board had a change of heart – and John A. Logan’s name reappeared on the agenda of the Park Board Nomenclature Committee.  Later Dr. William Folwell, who served on t he Nomenclature Committee, explained the turn of events and the role of Northeast DFLer and Park Board member Patrick Ryan, in this way:  “Because Paddy Ryan wanted that name, it probably was named for Major-General John A. Logan, who was also a United States Senator for while Paddy was a good Democrat, he also was a good politician and that may be the reason for naming the park after a republican statesman and Major-General.”

Minneapolis park historian David C. Smith suggests that [Ryan] preferred naming the park for a man who had been elected from both political parties in Illinois instead of the brother of the incumbent Republican senator from Minnesota.”

No matter the politics, Logan’s name and reputation add to the rich history of the park and the neighborhood.

John Alexander Logan was born in 1836 in what is now Murphrysboro, a Southern Illinois town that began with a gift of 20 acres of land donated by Logan’s parents.  After three years of study at Shiloh College Logan served as a second lieutenant with the Illinois Infantry in the Mexican-American War, earned a degree in law from the University of Louisville, practiced law and dabbled in local politics.  His political career took him from county clerk to the State House of Representatives and in time to election as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

With the onset of the Civil War Logan, once pro-Southern and thus pro-slavery, determined that “the union must prevail.”   While still a member of Congress, Logan fought at Bull Run as a volunteer with a Michigan regiment.  He returned to Washington, resigned his Congressional seat, and entered the Union army as Colonel of the 31st Illinois Volunteers which he organized.  It was there that he acquired the nickname “Black Jack” because of his dark complexion and black eyes; the nickname stayed with him throughout his lifetime.  Nickname or no he went on to succeed as a military hero, ultimately named by Sherman to command the Union army during the May 1865 Grand Review in Washington.  Some historians have identified Logan as the most prominent volunteer general in the Civil War.

After the war Logan, now a Republican, returned to his seat in the House of Representatives and then to the Senate.  It was his involvement in veteran’s affairs that motivated him to lead efforts to create Memorial Day, then Decoration Day, as a tribute to those who lost their lives during the War Between the States.  He was elected to serve in the Senate in 1871 and again in 1877.

In 1884 Logan was nominated for Vice President on the presidential ticket with James G. Blaine, Republican from Maine.  He nomination was based to a great extent on his military record and on his personal following as a platform speaker and partisan spokesperson.  Though the Republican ticket was defeated in that election by Grover Cleveland Logan continued to serve in the Senate until his untimely death in 1886 at the age of sixty.

Today, Logan Park is not the only public tribute to John A. Logan.  Minneapolitans know Logan Avenue, of course.  Travelers may have had their pictures taken at the equestrian statue at Logan Circle in Northwest Washington DC or at Grant Park in Chicago. Visitors to Murphrysboro will know the Logan Museum in his hometown.

Over the years, Logan Park, the park itself, has thrived as the locus and gathering place for countless community events for every age.  Dancing, singing, theater, sports events, ice skating and scores of other lively activities have engaged and united the neighborhood.   Today, Logan Park, the neighborhood, blossoms as the epicenter of the flourishing arts area that is the pride of Northeast Minneapolis.

The story of its namesake, military hero and political leader James A. Logan, simply adds a brilliant splash of color to the rich tapestry that is the Logan Park neighborhood of today..




Edison High School Celebrates Ninety Years of Welcome, Innovation, Civic Engagement

For many Northeasters, the ones that call themselves Tommies, the 90th Anniversary of the opening of Edison High School evokes memories at classmates, football games, pranks, teachers, a collapsed roof and countless legends that will be rehashed at the Alumni Reunion set for early October.

For Northeast newbies, a term that embraces several decades, Edison is a handsome building, a site for great theater and music, home of outstanding athletes, and the alma mater of friends and neighbors.

Celebration of Edison’s 90 years offers Northeasters of every era and every age a chance to reflect on the role that Edison has and continues to play in history and daily life of every Northeaster.

Ninety years ago the people of Minneapolis, many of them newcomers to this country, were eager to demonstrate their patriotism.  The names of public buildings and streets in Northeast reflect that national pride and the community’s rich heritage of new Americans in search of a better life for themselves and their families.  1922 saw a Post-WWI mood that buried the horror the War and ushered in the Roaring 20’s – as well as the first students at Edison High School.

Inventor, marketer and pioneer Thomas Alva Edison epitomized the American way.  His genius reflected a unique blend of the finest American traits – creativity, persistence, market development that involved creating, then meeting, customer demand for his products. Edison, who held that he found his great pleasure “in the work that precedes what the world calls success” set a tone that blended hard work with a spirit of hope that would inspire the young learners attending the high school set on the site of Long John’s Pond between Jackson and Monroe.

In a 1927 article reviewing the first years of Edison High School, two juniors in Mrs. Edith Gillies’ magazine class (Mildred Anderson and Tyrus Hillway) reflected on their experiences.  They boast of Edison’s athletic prowess, including the 1923 cross-country championship as well as success in “all fields of competition: typing, athletics, music, literature, many more.”

They also praised students’ involvement in shaping the new school by landscaping, decorating the building and establishing an extensive library “one more monument of student creation. It has steadily grown larger, until now it has on its shelves 5,400 volumes with the greatest school fiction library in the city.”  In five years, the young journalists report,   “some twenty active clubs have sprung up and prospered since the school’s first year.

Writing in May 1933 issue of The Parent-Teacher Broadcaster, Calman Kish, President of the Edison Student Council, measured the early success of Edison with a critical eye: “To teach students to live, how to co-operate, how to prepare themselves to take their places in the world are an essential part of the program of Edison High School.”  Kish went on to note that “a few months after the school opened its doors, the system of student government was firmly established at Edison High School by Louis C. Cook, first and only principal of the school.”

Cooperation, civic engagement and preparation for life are the hallmarks of Edison’s heritage, essential in a learning environment that has embraced waves of immigrant learners.  It is nearly eighty years since young Calman Kish wrote “the emotional, passionate blood of Italy, the sensitive refinement of France, the practical genius of England, the scientific mind of Germany, the steadying and sturdy influence of Scandinavia, the musical talent of Russia and Austria, the gayety and jollity of Spain – all blended and molded in the melting pot of Edison High School into characteristics truly individual, truly American. From Turkey, Roumania, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Portugal, Finland – from thirty three nations have come the parents of the students of our school, the most cosmopolitan group to be found in all of the high schools of Minneapolis.” (1933)

Though Kish’s characterization is no doubt political passé, his observations are prescient.  In the more recent past Edison has opened its doors and shaped the lives of new waves of new Americans – from Serbia, Laos, Mexico, Ecuador, Somalia and dozens of other nations.

One lasting tribute to the power of “unity with diversity” is the mural that surrounds Edison’s auditorium.  For two years Edison art students worked to paint 32-in-square “stamps” that represent many of the cultures in Edison’s student population.  Edison students and visitors stop today to admire and interpret the meaning of those murals.

Another lasting tribute to the spirit of Edison is the accomplishments of Edison graduates.  Inspired by learning in an environment rich in diversity, the arts, and a “can do” spirit. Tommies are innovators.  Practiced in participatory decision-making, they are leaders in the neighborhood, the city and the state political arenas.  Proud of their American heritage, they have served their country in war and peace.  Introduced at an impressionable age to the arts, literature, music and lifelong learning habits, they are informed, engaged, contributing members of their communities – for many that community remains Northeast Minneapolis.


Readings and celebrtion at expanded Northeast Coffee House






Audubon Eight

Writer’s Group…

presents an inter-generational reading on

Sunday, September 16, 7 pm.

at the newly remodeled

The Coffee Shop Northeast, 2852A Johnson St. NE.

Listen to young and old read from their work. A short open mic will follow. This reading is dedicated to NE resident and member of Audubon Eight, Doug Davis, who passed away this past year. Also come hear about Northeast Reads, a new reading and writing initiative for lovers of the written word.

Reading and Open Mic.