Another one

Today’s unfounded allegations come from Vince Hill, who described himself to me recently as a “good friend” of Joe Fellegy’s. Maybe Joe is the one who provided Vince with his caricature of me as a liberal who uses his position as editor to “save the ‘poor Indians,'” as Vince put it in an article in the Ojibwe News today.

I learned a long time ago that the “poor Indians” are doing just fine without my help, and aren’t paying that much attention to what I say. I might’ve been a bleeding heart once upon a time, with a patronizing desire to deliver the oppressed from bondage, but if I was, it’s so long ago I don’t remember. Nowadays it’s all I can do to keep my children in vegetables. I have no illusions about being anybody’s Great White Hope.

Maybe Vince’s friend Joe told him “liberal Brett Larson” (as Vince referred to me in his article) is all about “saving the poor Indians.” If so, all that shows is that Joe’s view of me is as shallow as he says my view of anglers is. I guess it’s easier for conservatives to stereotype liberals to fit their worldview than to respect them as complex individuals. They’re not the only ones guilty of that crime.

When I interviewed Vince a couple months ago about his campaign to be chief of the Mille Lacs Band, he struck me as an interesting guy. He’s a native speaker of Ojibwe and worked as a social worker in Minneapolis for many years. I thought I did a nice profile of him for our paper. When we talked, he betrayed no antagonism toward “liberal Brett Larson,” and I felt none toward him. I took some crap for putting his picture on the front of the paper over the words “Band leader.” Some members apparently don’t consider Vince a leader.

Maybe Vince’s dismissive comments shouldn’t surprise me, considering he writes for Bill Lawrence. Lawrence has had it in for the Messenger since before I showed up.

Lawrence is a conservative Ojibwe publisher who is well connected to the anti-tribal sovereignty movement (locally and nationally), is a crusader against tribal government corruption, writes the longest editorials I’ve ever seen, and prints anonymous personal attacks by members of various Ojibwe bands along with the occasional article accusing liberal journalists like me of patronizing Indians. And he doesn’t return my phone calls.

I’ve tried to cut Bill and Vince and Joe some slack over the years. I guess I shouldn’t expect the same.

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4 thoughts on “Another one

  1. Brett Larson’s comments about tribal elder Vince Hill are demeaning and an insult to him, and really to all Mille Lacs Chippewa Indians. The implication here is that a Vince Hill can’t think political thoughts on his own without being influenced (contaminated?) by a non-Indian. And if he makes a crack about a liberal newspaper editor, well, an Indian just can’t do that without being taught by some bad non-Indian rat. Eh? How sick!Fact is that Vince Hill can think for himself. Brett Larson’s plotline here—that I, Joe Fellegy, somehow influenced this dumb Indian into making a crack about “liberals” out to save the “poor Indian”—is false. Vince is a compulsive book buyer, a voracious reader, and has had an interest in reforming the modern tribal government system for years. I recall his being on a video, maybe in the mid-1990s, when he was already advocating for freedoms of speech, press, and assembly for Indians on Indian reservations, and for more accountability by tribal governments.Through his years of activism, Vince discovered, quite on his own, that a major obstacle to the reforms he wants are “liberals” who give unwavering support to tribal governments and today’s version of government-centered tribal sovereignty. And, like tribal governments, they think negative thoughts when someone, Indian or non-Indian, raises questions about that system and its impacts.As though reporting on a crime, Editor Larson declares (on the worldwide web!) that Vince Hill described himself as “a good friend of Joe Fellegy’s.” Apparently, in Brett’s view, that’s an automatic negative and discrediting point for anyone, especially for a Mille Lacs Band member.(Being the local history buff that I am, I knew about Vince’s grandfather, Tom Hill, being active in tribal government in the 1930s; that Tom sold bait, ran launch, and was a friend of Mille Lacs resorters; and that Tom, wife, and son were killed in a tragic car-train crash.)As a former Mille Lacs County DFL chair, liberal professor, and liberal editor, Brett Larson might not appreciate independent thinking by a Vince Hill or by other Indians, since there’s a nationwide effort to have the “tribal vote” delivered (in the absence of free and open politics) to the Democrats.Vince’s diverse thoughts and statements about tribal issues, and politics in general, may or may not be like mine. Either way, he has a mind of his own, and doesn’t need help from me or others. Editor Larson might embrace the present system, where academics, public relations firms, and tribal government spokespersons like Don Wedll define Ojibwe culture, present the “Ojibwe view” of things (as though Indians lack individual minds), plan their lives 50 years in advance, and determine their politics. But the fact that Vince and a few others think out of the box shouldn’t discredit them.Larson’s plotline here, that I’m behind Vince Hill’s use of “liberal Brett Larson,” is both false and an insult. And would Brett have me, an evil political force, apologize every time I get within a hundred yards of a Chippewa Indian, or his or her mind?What low-brow politics for a newspaper editor!END

  2. Brett Larson’s comments about tribal elder Vince Hill are demeaning and an insult to him, and really to all Mille Lacs Chippewa Indians. The implication here is that a Vince Hill can’t think political thoughts on his own without being influenced (contaminated?) by a non-Indian. And if he makes a crack about a liberal newspaper editor, well, an Indian just can’t do that without being taught by some bad non-Indian rat. Eh? How sick!Fact is that Vince Hill can think for himself. Brett Larson’s plotline here—that I, Joe Fellegy, somehow influenced this dumb Indian into making a crack about “liberals” out to save the “poor Indian”—is false. Vince is a compulsive book buyer, a voracious reader, and has had an interest in reforming the modern tribal government system for years. I recall his being on a video, maybe in the mid-1990s, when he was already advocating for freedoms of speech, press, and assembly for Indians on Indian reservations, and for more accountability by tribal governments.Through his years of activism, Vince discovered, quite on his own, that a major obstacle to the reforms he wants are “liberals” who give unwavering support to tribal governments and today’s version of government-centered tribal sovereignty. And, like tribal governments, they think negative thoughts when someone, Indian or non-Indian, raises questions about that system and its impacts.As though reporting on a crime, Editor Larson declares (on the worldwide web!) that Vince Hill described himself as “a good friend of Joe Fellegy’s.” Apparently, in Brett’s view, that’s an automatic negative and discrediting point for anyone, especially for a Mille Lacs Band member.(Being the local history buff that I am, I knew about Vince’s grandfather, Tom Hill, being active in tribal government in the 1930s; that Tom sold bait, ran launch, and was a friend of Mille Lacs resorters; and that Tom, wife, and son were killed in a tragic car-train crash.)As a former Mille Lacs County DFL chair, liberal professor, and liberal editor, Brett Larson might not appreciate independent thinking by a Vince Hill or by other Indians, since there’s a nationwide effort to have the “tribal vote” delivered (in the absence of free and open politics) to the Democrats.Vince’s diverse thoughts and statements about tribal issues, and politics in general, may or may not be like mine. Either way, he has a mind of his own, and doesn’t need help from me or others. Editor Larson might embrace the present system, where academics, public relations firms, and tribal government spokespersons like Don Wedll define Ojibwe culture, present the “Ojibwe view” of things (as though Indians lack individual minds), plan their lives 50 years in advance, and determine their politics. But the fact that Vince and a few others think out of the box shouldn’t discredit them.Larson’s plotline here, that I’m behind Vince Hill’s use of “liberal Brett Larson,” is both false and an insult. And would Brett have me, an evil political force, apologize every time I get within a hundred yards of a Chippewa Indian, or his or her mind?What low-brow politics for a newspaper editor!END

  3. I certainly didn’t intend to demean Vince or Mille Lacs Chippewa Indians, and I think Joe is stretching the bounds of reason to accuse me as he does. My implication was simply that since Vince and I hardly know each other, and since Vince didn’t really imply that he knew anything about me when we visited a few months ago, maybe Joe filled him in on his view of who I am. That was a stupid assumption, and I shouldn’t have put it in writing, but if anything, it was a back-handed slap at Joe, not an insult to Vince, or to Indians everywhere. The implications Vince made about me in his story are simply wrong, and I should’ve put it that way, but I was a bit paranoid after reading Joe’s Outdoor News column one day and Vince’s article the next.Although I am a liberal, I’m not part of any secret cabal to make sure all Indians everywhere toe the Democratic party line (just as Joe and Vince and Bill Lawrence are probably not part of a secret cabal to besmirch my reputation). There’s a reason why I’m a FORMER DFL county chair. I don’t really care how anyone votes.Joe says I was implying that Vince is a “dumb Indian.” Read my post. That implication is not there. It’s insulting to me to say it is. Anyone who knows me knows me better than that. I like Vince and respect him. Which is why I was disappointed that he has such a simplistic view of me.

  4. I certainly didn’t intend to demean Vince or Mille Lacs Chippewa Indians, and I think Joe is stretching the bounds of reason to accuse me as he does. My implication was simply that since Vince and I hardly know each other, and since Vince didn’t really imply that he knew anything about me when we visited a few months ago, maybe Joe filled him in on his view of who I am. That was a stupid assumption, and I shouldn’t have put it in writing, but if anything, it was a back-handed slap at Joe, not an insult to Vince, or to Indians everywhere. The implications Vince made about me in his story are simply wrong, and I should’ve put it that way, but I was a bit paranoid after reading Joe’s Outdoor News column one day and Vince’s article the next.Although I am a liberal, I’m not part of any secret cabal to make sure all Indians everywhere toe the Democratic party line (just as Joe and Vince and Bill Lawrence are probably not part of a secret cabal to besmirch my reputation). There’s a reason why I’m a FORMER DFL county chair. I don’t really care how anyone votes.Joe says I was implying that Vince is a “dumb Indian.” Read my post. That implication is not there. It’s insulting to me to say it is. Anyone who knows me knows me better than that. I like Vince and respect him. Which is why I was disappointed that he has such a simplistic view of me.

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