“Mall of America” to Native Americans: Happy New Year; You Are Under Arrest

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Idle No More organizers Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow were arrested on New Year’s Eve after entering the Mall of America following a press conference they held outside of the massive shopping center in Bloomington, Minn. Their arrests came exactly one year after last year’s New Year’s Eve Idle No More round dance at the Mall, in which nearly a thousand Native people and allies flooded the vestibule near the entrance to Sears, drumming and dancing in a circle.

The Idle No More movement originated among Native tribes in Canada at the end of 2012 in response to the Jobs and Growth Act, which was passed in December of that year. The law removed thousands of bodies of water from Canadian government protection and made changes to the Indian Act — actions that opponents said infringed on treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. Essentially, the law reduced the requirements for privatizing Native-owned land. The movement quickly grew beyond Canada, with Idle No More solidarity rallies popping up all over the United States, including one on Dec. 31, 2012 at the Mall of America, which is owned by Triple Five Group, a Canadian company.

On the Triple Five Group website , the company touts “exciting services and opportunities to First Nations in Canada and the Native Tribes of America.” The webpage goes on to list its programs, which include “development of casinos, residential commercial and industrial — on or off reservation,” “Exploration and development of mineral resources” and “exploration and production of oil and gas.”

Plans were in the works from several Minnesota-based Native groups to hold another Idle No More event at the Mall this New Year’s, but Shepard and Crow — along with other Native leaders in the community — recently received letters from the Mall of America threatening them with arrest if another event took place. “The Idle No More group caused disruption to our customers, tenants and employees, and resulted in a significant commitment of time and resources by our security and management teams,” the letter stated.

At a press conference held outside the Mall at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Crow called the letter discriminatory.

“Singling out one particular group of people and telling them that they’re not welcome to have a positive family event, a gesture of friendship and healing in the Mall when so many other cultural groups are welcomed is to me absolutely appalling,” Crow said.

Shepard took issue with the letter’s characterization of the event as a protest. While the Idle No More movement began in Canada, it has grown far beyond its initial purposes, she said, and the planned event was intended to be more about educating and sharing Native culture than protesting.

After the press conference, Shepard planned to bring traditional gifts of sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, maple sugar and water to managers of the Mall of America. “As Anishinabe women, we are the caretakers of the land, we are the caretakers of the water, and we’re also the caretakers of future generations,” she said. “We want to gift the Mall of America management team and let them know that we are not here to protest against anyone, we are not here to cause problems. All we want to do is have the same equal access to the Mall as other flash mobs [that] have been here.”

However, Shepard was arrested after entering the mall. In a video posted by Sarah Little Redfeather Kalmason, Shepard can be heard calling out that the officers are hurting her hands. “You don’t have to squeeze those handcuffs when you’re cutting off my circulation,” she says in the video.

According to Bloomington Deputy Police Chief Vic Poyer, Shepard asked to be taken to a hospital instead of jail, but when she learned that she would just be given a citation, she chose not to go to the hospital.

When Crow followed Shepard into the Mall, a security guard asked her to leave, as well. “The reason I’m asking you to leave this Mall is a result of this event,” the guard told Crow. “This event is not authorized.” The guard continued by saying, “I’m giving you three options: You can go across the street, you can go to a restaurant, or you can go to the Native American Center downtown.”

When Crow refused to leave, she, like Shepard, was charged with trespassing and taken away by the Bloomington Police. At each of the entrances to the Mall, there were security checkpoints where security officers were checking customers’ bags at entry, apparently in an effort to keep out tribal drums or other dance instruments.

“They were checking everything,” said Stacy Saros, who came for the planned round dance. “You can’t bring drums in, you can’t bring staffs in, you can’t bring nothing in here, which is messed up,” she said.

In Kalmason’s video, officers are seen asking a man if he has a drum, and stating that drums are not allowed at the Mall.

“What happened is really disturbing and racist,” said Jordan Kushner, an attorney for both Shepard and Crow, after the arrests. “The Mall of America singled this group out because they didn’t appreciate a Native American group having a cultural celebration.”

According to Kushner, the officers “violently accosted both of the organizers of the event and then arrested them with the intention of trying to break up any kind of gathering than might happen.”

Though numerous legal observers and several dozen Native individuals were present where the Idle No More event was planned to take place, no round dance occurred following the arrests.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

Sheila Regan

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis-based journalist. She's a regular contributor to The UpTake, and also contributes to TC Daily Planet and City Pages. Her work can also be found at mnartists, VitaMN, Classical MPR and in other local publications.

  • Sarah LilRedfeather

    Notice the Security said to Reyna which is really is an insult was when the guard tells Reyna go across the street to the bar or go to the Native Center downtown stereotyping her as “drinker” and go to the Native Center downtown … She said she was going to get a cup of coffee after she said she was outside at the free speech area giving a conference, and the guard suggested she go to the bar.

  • LiftedLorax

    The “Mall of America” video is further proof that the First Amendment is null and void. Although I’m legally required to identify myself as “caucasian” on official documents, my Native American roots have been traced back (on my maternal side) to the Susquehannock tribe near Three Mile Island in the mid 17th century and genetically made an appearance in my mother, myself, and my youngest daughter. The older two daughters show little if any physical signs, but definitely spiritual ones.

    As such,and having a long ancestory in this country, I have adopted the name Pinfeathers Eagle and consider myself a Susquehannan. Curiously I live quite close to the homestead now.

    The “guardians and protectors” we refer to as “police” show little difference from those of Nazi Germany, or the Roman Empire, or Chalemaigne, and the wealth of other totalitarian regimes throught recorded time. All they protect is corporate interests and speaking out against their fascism in this country has been a crime for the past 12 years at least. If we don’t stick together and revolt against this plague on our country, we’ll be on the same path Germany once went down. Racism is rampant, as is religious discrimination.

    Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it. My ancestors faught against tyrrany, fascism, and other forms of political oppression and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by idle and watch this country destroy itself from within.

    I’m sure the NSA will intercept this message because of the content, but I’m not expecting black helicopters or SUVs just yet. I’m chump change to them. Still, it is our duty to stand up for the land that was taken by illegal immigrants, meaning Europeans, and many in my family fit that description.

    While Congress is restricted by the text, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”, the failure of the federal government to crack down on such obvious local and state violations implies approval, including that of Congress. Write your Senators and Representatives, not that they will care, but it can’t hurt.

    May all be at peace with the earth.

    Pinfeathers Eagle