In the March 2018 issue, called "Tapestry," we weave together thoughts about the ways that our society is snagged around affordable housing, mental health, and listening to other perspectives. We had no room in the print issue for the perspectives we received from readers on these subjects. Here are reader thoughts (feel free to add your own in Comments below):

Environmental Activism

Recently, I attended a hearing on HF 3280. This bill would nullify sulfide standards for Minnesota waterways. I received a notice of the hearing the evening before from the Clean Water Council, of which I am a member. The hearing was to be at 8:15 the next day. I posted it on Facebook in the morning. At the hearing there were approximately 12 people testifying from the Iron Range Mining Companies and Chamber of Commerce in support of the bill. Four individuals from environmental groups testified against the bill. Needless to say, with the exception of Rep. Jaime Becker-Finn, I was the only Indigenous Person to speak against the bill. Perhaps more Indigenous People would be there to speak to this issue had they had any notice. 

In my testimony, I said, “ this bill is a direct attack on Ojibwe and Dakota people.“ I asked the legislators, “what more can you do to us?” Wild Rice is sacred to Ojibwe and Dakota people. Do you understand what Sacred means? Sacred is something to cherish and protect.  

In the Indigenous World view, Ni Mama Akii means My Mother Earth. Our mothers bring us into the world. We love our mothers. We would do anything to protect our mothers from harm. Nibi mino bimadiziwin means Water Is Life. This is why we work to protect the earth and our waterways. If they become so befouled, our species will be extinct. It’s easier to keep something clean than to sully it and try to clean it up later.

Sulfide standards need to stay at the current limits. And then the current laws need to be enforced. The Iron Range needs to have new economic development. Development that protects the last pristine waters in the state of Minnesota.

Our voices need to be heard. Our environmental work needs to be resourced at the same levels or more than the Big Greens. If you truly want environmental justice, then fund us so we can get the people to the hearings that are most impacted by environmental degradation. You cannot speak for us anymore, nor can you impact environmental justice within your organizations by training your middle-class privileged staff, or letting us be partners and volunteer to do same work you get paid for. Either hire us or step aside so we can do our work. 

— Sharon M. Day, Ojibwe Water Walker


Our Side

Being born into a very small community of farmers and growing up in the country, I had a small picture of what I thought was life. It was a rather closed community and I was not exposed to a lot of different cultures and ideas. When the Vietnam War came, I just saw our side and thought only about our country and people. Many years later, going to St. Kate's, I met a wonderful Vietnamese woman. We talked about the war. I was struck by how I had such a small picture about how things really were. She talked about her parents, brothers, and sisters. She showed me pictures of these beautiful people and talked about how they were affected by the war and death. I thought our side was right no matter what, but I was so wrong.

— Arlene Koktavy


Mindfulness

A family friend, Cheryl, invited me to her home for lunch recently. She gave an on-the-spot, heartfelt table prayer full of the day's graces, thankfulness, requests for those in the world who were in despair, and guidance in our future. Since then I've changed our mealtime prayer to follow in Cheryl's footsteps. Our mealtime prayer had become automatic, perhaps sometime mindless. There is power in everyday prayer.

— Kristine Poelzer


Mental Health

I recently finished a 12-week intensive outpatient program for depression. My loving husband and a wise friend prompted me to get the mental health evaluation that led me to the program. When you’re caught in that undertow you don’t necessarily have the lucidity to see what’s happening, let alone make rational choices. My experience with Prairie Care was terrific. I was skeptical at first, but now I can see that it helped save my life. Smart, kind, insightful staff. And the small group component, which I initially scoffed at, ended up being surprisingly helpful. I got to know and learn from other women and men with depression, as well as people with bipolar, anxiety, and OCD. If you even wonder whether you might be in immediate danger, PLEASE get yourself to the nearest emergency room. Or call Crisis Connection at 612-379-6363 (Twin Cities) or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

— Susan Maas


Co-Housing

I have lived in North Minneapolis since 1976. I moved to this house when the city had the Urban Homestead Program. My husband and I did most of the needed home repairs ourselves. Therefore the house was affordable. After that, realtors told us, your house will never be worth more than $50,000 because you are living in North Minneapolis!

We are in a 50% Black/White neighborhood. By being involved with our neighbors in a block club, we know most by name and others by sight. We have people we can call on for help with yards and shoveling. This neighborliness has taken time to develop.

Someday I hope to move into a co-housing community in the north or west side of Minneapolis. Co-housing is a community of 25-30 households who plan a development together, hire the professionals to build it, and self manage the facility. It includes a large kitchen and dining room for residents to cook for the whole community several times a week.

Affordability and gentrification are two major issues in the metro housing situation. As middle class white people decide that the area is not too scary to live in, they may be outbidding a person of color for a house purchase. If house prices go up, so do rents in the area.

Only a deliberate set of city policies can prevent this, such as requiring a percentage of affordable units in ALL new apartments or condos. Or city programs aimed at older homeowners to sell to a land trust. Can the city assist renters who would like to buy a building as a co-op, instead of having a developer turn a low-rent building into an unaffordable “luxury” building? I think multiple approaches will be needed to keep housing available for all income levels.

— Becca Brackett, Bassett Creek co-housing