Statewide Category Archive: Minnesota
This Sunday, September 23rd, marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wood Lake. It was the final and decisive clash in the US - Dakota War of 1862.
It marked the beginning of a deadly round up of Dakota people for trial and banishment from the state.
The above photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society was taken by Adrian John Ebell in October or November of 1862. It captures a scene somewhere in southern Minnesota as federal troops, volunteers and vigilantes rounded up Dakota.
Some of them would be tried by a military commission for war crimes. Others would be sent to a concentration camp near Fort Snelling to await exile from Minnesota.
Hundreds died there, hundreds more perished when they reached the Nebraska and Dakota territory.
The war's official death toll was put at about 500, including hundreds of white settlers.
The outcome of the war was predicted by the Dakota leader, Taoyateduta (Little Crow). He had traveled to Washington, D. C. years earlier and had seen the numbers of white people that could be arrayed against any foe.
The September 23, 1862 Wood Lake battle ended the war, a conflict started by Dakota desperation as they starved while the food promised them remained locked in warehouses.
A longer lens shows the conflict was also caused by the, "Indian system."
This was the strategy devised at the highest levels of the federal government to craft deceitful treaties with American Indians. The Indian system led to massive fraud and corruption in trade with the Indians that enriched mostly white people at every level.
Sunday marks another anniversary, 207 years ago.
According to the Minnesota Historical Society on September 23, 1805, Lt. Zebulon Pike, of the U.S. Army, met with a party of about 150 Dakota at the confluence of the St. Peter (Minnesota) and Mississippi Rivers.
Pike's commanding officer, Gen. James Wilkinson, wanted a site for future military posts in case of war with Great Britain. Pike made a deal with two Dakota leaders for roughly 100,000 acres of land; enough for the U.S. government to build a trading post and fort.
The combine of choice for harvesting native prairie seed is a 30-year-old Allis Chalmers Gleaner. It's simple and easy to repair.
So, the folks who own and operate the Princeton, Minnesota-based Prairie Restorations Inc. have pretty much cornered the market on them. They own about a dozen including some they keep around for scavenging spare parts because, after all, they don't make 'em anymore.
You can hear the hum of the Allis as it churns through a field of little blue stem this afternoon in my latest Minnesota Sounds & Voices story on All Things Considered.
The fun fact about the combine is part of what I learned on a visit to the company's 400-acre farm one hour north of the Twin Cities. It's close to the peak of harvest season now and the old combine is chugging through fields of native prairie plants.
However, as the photo above taken by MPR's Jeff Thompson shows, there's still lots of hand work involved in harvesting native prairie plant seeds. Trista Backlund and other Prairie Restorations, Inc. employees are harvesting Hoary Vervain on Sept. 12, 2012.
The 35-year-old Prairie Restorations company started by Ron Bowen designs, restores and manages native plant communities.
They do about 300 projects a year, planting and restoring about 1500 acres of prairie.
In the bigger scheme of things that's a significant addition in part because so much of Minnesota's native prairie, about 99 percent, is gone. It's been plowed up for fields, houses, you name it.
A visit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web page shows where the state's prairie remnants are located. The DNR along with The Nature Conservancy are part of a 25-year-long, $3.6 billion state program to protect and expand native plant habitat.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar endorsed Rick Nolan today in the Democrats' bid to reclaim the seat from the man who surprised Oberstar two years ago -- GOP newcomer Chip Cravaack. But the two politicians shared the moment with a groundbreaking woman who kept politicians in line for nearly half a century -- Veda Ponikvar.
MPR Photo/Dan Kraker
Ponikvar turned 92 on June 4. She became the first and the youngest female newspaper publisher in the country in 1946, when she founded the Chisholm Free Press at 28. According to the Minnesota History Center, political leaders from Hubert Humphrey to Rudy Perpich looked to her as a leader and interpreter of Iron Range political opinion.
Nolan and Oberstar held their event at the Minneosta Museum of Mining in Chisholm, inside Ponikvar's reconstructed office. The two men spoke in front of the original hand-crank offset press newspaper press that Ponikvar used to print the paper. Oberstar said his first job growing up in Chisholm was to deliver the paper to every house on the north side of town.
And when Oberstar said he asked the 92-year-old whether she could still operate the offsett press, she quickly replied, "Yes I can!"
Posted at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2012
by David Cazares
Filed under: Minnesota
Photo by Dave Engen
By Sasha Aslanian
Marge Hames, a 74-year-old retiree in New Ulm, is protesting the closing of her local Kmart.
"Kmart may have been a [chain store], but I always felt it came up like a local store. I don't like that the ownership doesn't care what the store means to a town," Hames told the New Ulm Journal in March when she began her protest.
She's been out every day since late March (except Sundays) and will be there until the store closes in early June.
Her one-woman campaign inspired communication professors Dave Engen at MSU Mankato and Robert Jersak of Century College who were looking for a story to tell about neighbors. They recorded Hames for a short doc competition for the Third Coast Audio Festival.
"The story is about Kmart, yes," writes Engen. "But really it's a story about loyalty and faithfulness to her neighbors."
Listen to the doc here. It's a lovely audio portrait of a determined neighbor, an unexpected object of affection, and two teachers with ears and hearts for a good story:
(Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)
State budget cutbacks have lead to a huge stack of newspapers at the Minnesota Historical Society. That's causing concern at county and local levels, reports the Pipestone County Star.
Dennis Meissner, the historical society's head of collections management, says state law requires newspapers that print official public notices to file a copy of each issue at the society. With more than 400 "official" newspapers across the state, that's means thousands of issues a year are sent to the historical society for permanent storage.
Until 2009, the historical society largely archived the newspapers on microfilm. But state budget cutbacks forced them to halt that process.
Since then, the society has been storing the actual paper and ink version of each and every edition of these newspapers. That's a lot of copies -- "about 50,000," Meissner says.
He says about 10,000 newspapers are stored at the main historical society building in St. Paul. The remaining 40,000 issues are at a separate storage site.
The above photo shows workers packing some of the 40,000 for transfer to the second storage area. The historical society is switching to a digital newspaper storage system, which will be available on line.
If everything goes according to plan, Meissner says, in a year or so the historical society will be able to stop storing the paper versions.
The University of Minnesota's extension service, which has served the state for more than a century, continues to shrink. The service plans to close regional offices in Fergus Falls and Hutchinson at the end of the year, Extension Dean Bev Durgan said.
About 14 employees will be affected. Some will retire and others may be moved to other extension offices.
Durgan said a drop in state funding forced extension officials to close the offices.
"We have seen budget cuts at the state level for the last three years," she said.
The extension service started in 1909, with the goal of bringing the University's research to every corner of the state. Through the years extension has provided answers and support to everyone from farmers to home gardeners and 4-H clubs. The service went through a major reorganization in 2002-2003 when it ended state-funded offices in most Minnesota counties. Instead, it established 18 regional centers.
Offices in Albert Lea and Mora closed two years ago.The latest cutbacks in Fergus Falls and Hutchinson will reduce the number of regional centers to 14.
Durgan still believes the extension service can serve all citizens of the state.
"We are throughout the state, we're working in all the program areas we always have," she said. "But reduction in funding does affect some of the programs that we can offer and some of the things that we do, there's no doubt about that."
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has awarded $18.5 million in grants to 51 communities in Greater Minnesota for rehabilitating housing and commercial properties and improving infrastructure. The grants come from the federally funded Small Cities Development Program.
DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips says more than 100 communities across the state will see direct benefits from this latest round of grants.
"This funding will improve the quality of life of people living in Minnesota's small towns and help create jobs in the construction industry," Phillips said.
The grants target cities and townships with populations under 50,000 and counties with populations under 200,000. They will be used to improve existing housing stock for low and moderate income residents; improve sewer and waste water treatment systems; and provide help for commercial revitalization efforts.
The list of recipients includes the city of Fosston, which received $654,056 to rehabilitate 13 owner-occupied homes and nine commercial properties; the city of Wadena, which got $482,962 for the rehabilitation of 17 owner-occupied homes and 14 rental units; and the city of International Falls, which will use its $346,150 award to rehab 14 owner-occupied homes in in International Falls and Littlefork.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
By Melody Ng
You've probably already heard that La qui Parle is Minnesota's healthiest county. The new County Health Rankings report, which compares health, county-by-county, across the nation, gives residents and public health advocates in La qui Parle, McLeod, Steele, Brown, and Carver (Minnesota's top five) reason to celebrate. And, it's likely left their counterparts in Cass County, our least healthy place to live, biting their nails.
Healthy doesn't seem to require great health care though. According to the report's measures of health care access and quality, La qui Parle County placed 80th out of 85 counties; Cass County did slightly better at 76th.
La qui Parle's low clinical care score may reflect its high number of hospitalizations that could have been avoided by better outpatient care -- the fourth worst in the state. Also, 16 percent of the county's adults lack health insurance. Only eight other Minnesota counties are less insured. Keep in mind, though, that the national average is 20 percent.
Another data point that stood out was the extreme shortage of primary care doctors in Marshall County, near the northwest corner of the state.
Marshall is Minnesota's ninth healthiest county, so not having a lot of doctors doesn't seem to be a huge problem. But at 9,312 residents per primary care doctor, Marshall County has more than five times the national ratio of 1,718 residents per doctor -- and one of the worst in the country. The only worse ratios I ran across were for two counties in Texas, two in Mississippi, and one in Alaska. Of course, there are also counties in the United States with no primary care docs.
The data from this report are intriguing, but MPR News is even more interested in the stories behind the numbers. So if you can tell us about how your community deals with physician shortages, or explain why one in three Beltrami County adults smokes, -- or if you want to tell us about what health care is like where you live, we're listening. Share your story here.
If any of Minnesota's nuclear plants had a disaster today, people living in a 10 mile radius of the plant would be evacuated. That's according to current U.S. emergency-response plans. But when disaster struck at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that American within 50 miles of the disaster evacuate. So far high levels of radiation have been detected 25 miles away from the plant. The Wall Street Journal has compared the two evacuation approaches. Here's what they look like in Minnesota.
Do you live near one of Minnesota's nuclear plants? What would you do if disaster struck the closest one to your home or office?
True, the Census shows that Rochester overtook Duluth to become the 3rd most populace Minnesota city, but you still can't do this in the land of Mayo.
The rivers are rising in Minnesota, and the experts have been handing out plenty of advice on what you should do to get ready. But even if you're not close to a river, some of their advice could be helpful this spring or at some other point in the future.
Protecting your home or business
Most homes have sump pumps and now is a good time to check and make sure they're working right. Some owners buy a backup pump, to build in a little redundancy should the main one go out. Some home and business owners find warning systems handy as they sound an alarm when water starts flowing into a basement.
Beyond that, there are things you can do to prevent sewage backup, another real flood headache. It may be too late for this spring, but you can have a check valve installed on your main sewer line to prevent sewage from backing up into the basement. That could cost about $500 to install, depending on how much soil you have to move. There are also plugs available to seal drain openings.
For homeowners facing the potential of actual river flooding, beyond sandbagging, the experts say the basement walls should be a major consideration. If you're certain they're been reinforced and braced, and if the water just laps at your foundation, you may be able to keep the basement mostly dry with pumps. But if those walls are not reinforced, experts say you probably should let the basement fill with water to equalize the pressure on the walls.
Another priority is to move documents and other valuables to the highest possible point in the house -- or move them out of the structure entirely to a safe location. This may go double for businesses, make sure computer and paper records are secure.
If you have to evacuate your house, have the gas, electricity and water shutoff before you leave. When you return, have professionals re-start those utilities for safety.
On the farm
Farmers probably are more on their own than city residents. And even though they're used to coping with all sorts of situations, the high water will test them too.
Farmers with livestock should make plans about how they'll care for those animals if they face severe flooding.They have to make sure there's enough feed and clean water available. Roads are also a problem. Dairy farmers need to truck milk off their farms on a regular basis, so if high water cuts off access they have a real problem and may have to make alternative plans.
Anyone owning water wells also should be careful. Even if you seal the well, disinfect it after the high water passes and have the water tested before you drink it. Septic systems should also be sealed if possible, but make sure the tank is half full so it doesn't collapse or float away during high water.
The experts also advise home and business owners to take steps to limit pollution if they're flooded. Fuel tanks should be tied down and sealed. Some owners empty their tanks in advance to limit pollution if they're flooded.
Paints, solvents and other types of harmful chemical containers should be moved to higher ground. Farmers who have to regularly move manure onto their fields should plan ahead and spread it only on their high ground, or arrange to stockpile it in a safe location until the flood threat is over.
Remember the dog
And lastly, don't forget about pets. They may need to be moved ahead of time to a safe location.
By David Cazares
The questions have come just about every week, especially the past few months.
Why did you leave Miami for Minnesota? What were you thinking?!?
The short and simple answer has to do with the economy. After a long career working for newspapers, I was laid off. Managers of a chain mired in bankruptcy eliminated my job.
More than a year ago, I decided to move north for a new start at Minnesota Public Radio. No regrets.
Born and raised in Indiana, I'm comfortable in the Midwest, a region with the four distinct seasons and hills that I didn't see in the bottom of the country. I also like my new home's sense of order, its cleanliness and friendly people.
Still, the move has been quite an adjustment.
I do miss the tropical weather. But mostly, I long for the loud, boisterous, vibrant and colorful combination of accents, people -- and characters -- in South Florida; its ethnic and cultural enclaves and diverse neighborhoods; relatives, neighbors and friends from Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Israel. And plenty of transplanted New Yorkers.
I moved to South Florida in the early 1990s to be as close to the Caribbean as possible. The place quickly grew on me. It's where I met my wife, and where my children were born. It's a place where you can read, hear and watch the news in Spanish, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, where a buck will buy a good cup of strong and sweet Cuban coffee.
My favorite is the cortadito -- a shot of espresso and a shot of slightly frothy milk. Just try ordering that from a coffee franchise in Minnesota.
The trip north reconnected me with my Midwest roots and reintroduced me to that "other" America, a largely homogenous region where life is quieter and the tone much more civil.
But as much as I appreciate the politeness of my new neighbors, I can't forget that there are other ways to interact. I'm used to the at times in-your-face nature of interactions in Miami, where people can be quick to say what they think, even if they regret it later.
I miss living in a place where collectively minorities are the majority, where ethnic and racial politics, even when they spark division, are growing pains in a nation that truly is changing. Such conflict proves that sharing is hard, but so necessary -- a precursor, perhaps, to what will happen across the United States. The discourse can be a mess, but it's a lovely mess.
That's not to say I haven't found diversity here. In the Twin Cities and beyond, I've happily encountered many people from other cultures and countries -- even New York. But they're largely scattered.
You'll find during times of crisis, such as last year's earthquake in Haiti, which inspired a multicultural relief effort at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
I've met Somalis at events in Mankato and Rochester and am fortunate to work with some cool people at the Latino Communications Network, home to La Prensa and La Invasora 1400-AM.
An aficionado of Afro-Cuban culture, I was pleased to find a very good Cuban Film Festival in Minneapolis, and a great dancer from the island in Rene Thompson. One of my favorite things is a night at the Dakota, the jazz club that Miami can only dream about, with its world-class pianist, Nachito Herrera.
I've also discovered winter fun: tubing, sledding and ice skating. I learned how to operate a snow blower, remembered to turn into the skid when my car slides on ice, and can finally use a fireplace again.
There are days when I think I'm definitely in the right place, when I remind myself that I don't miss the traffic, the urban congestion and the rat race of working in hectic South Florida. Trust me, living there and visiting are two different things.
After a year, I'm only now beginning to push aside my other home for a new one in Minnesota. But I'm not sure I'll ever embrace winter as "real Minnesotans" do.
When does spring arrive?
David Cazares is the print and Statewide Blog editor for Minnesota Today