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Our Way or the Highway: Inside the Minnehaha Free State

Mary Losure
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Our Way or the Highway
    Book Description:

    Construction plans for the reroute of Highway 55 through south Minneapolis sparked an environmental movement that pitted activists against public authorities in one of the most dramatic episodes in the city’s history. Fueled by idealism and anger, a diverse coalition of Native Americans, neighborhood residents, and young anarchists banded together to try to stop the highway expansion. Beginning in 1998, this group sustained protests for more than a year and eventually faced an unprecedented show of force by law enforcement. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9343-6
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Camp
    (pp. 1-24)

    The four oaks stood at the edge of a weedy field in south Minneapolis. It was a place the burgeoning city had somehow left behind, an area not much bigger than a block or two, where asphalt ended in tall grass, woods, and a scattering of wildflowers. For more than a hundred years, the oaks had sprouted softly lobed leaves, tiny as squirrels’ ears, each spring. In the brief Minnesota summers, the leaves glowed deeper green in the sunlight; in autumn, they dried to a tough, leathery brown. As the long cold approached, the trees dropped acorns, each small cap...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Operation Coldsnap
    (pp. 25-38)

    On St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, nothing seemed out of the ordinary that Friday, December 18. As usual, there were few signs of life outside the street’s historic mansions, which sat impassive behind their walls and hedges. The governor’s mansion, with its carved stone balcony, slate roof, and many chimneys, was also quiet. There was one hint of activity, though: the parking lot tucked in back was full.

    Inside, a basement room was so packed with people that the air was hot and close, even on a freezing winter day. Outgoing governor Arne Carlson, Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, and Hennepin...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Raid
    (pp. 39-66)

    It was past midnight, and Jim Anderson struggled to stay awake at the steering wheel. He had been patrolling the streets around Riverview Road for four nights now, watching for a raid.

    For weeks, rumors had swept the camp: the National Guard would be mobilized; someone who had overheard soldiers talking in a coffee shop was dead certain. Someone had gotten a tip from somebody whose brother-in-law worked for the State Patrol, and the raid would come that weekend for sure. At each false alarm, people would lock down, chaining their arms to the dragons in the houses. They slept...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Little Crow’s Children
    (pp. 67-94)

    The town of Mendota, population 167, is a wide spot on the highway that runs atop the Mississippi River bluffs just a mile or so south of Minneapolis. Tiny old wooden houses and modest newer ones cling to wooded hills that form a semicircle above the town. The main street is lined with a metalworking shop, a post office, a supper club, and a VFW lodge with a sign saying “Fish Fry Friday Nights.” It takes a minute or two to drive the town’s entire length, before the road sweeps up a hill and into the tangle of freeways leading...

  8. CHAPTER 5 “I’ll Do Anything”
    (pp. 95-124)

    In her twenty years in the Minnesota legislature, Representative Karen Clark had always considered it an honor to represent Native Americans. Her district included an urban Indian neighborhood, one of the oldest and most concentrated in the nation, clustered along East Franklin Avenue just south of the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis. For more than thirty years, she had maintained friendships with leaders of the American Indian Movement, which began on Franklin Avenue in 1968.

    The American Indian Movement started, wrote cofounder Dennis Banks, when “Native Warriors came together from the streets, prisons, jails, and the urban ghettos of Minneapolis” in...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Piestruck
    (pp. 125-144)

    Bob Greenberg bought the pie on a morning in late March, after reading an article in the March/April issue ofMother Jonesmagazine. Under the headline “The Medium Is the Meringue,” it described a group of activists who call themselves the Biotic Baking Brigade:

    Targeting the “upper crust”—those they believe to be otherwise “unaccountable” for a variety of corporate crimes— the BBB has tossed pies in the faces (or general direction) of 11 individuals besides [San Francisco Mayor Willie] Brown, including the economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro, Novartis Corporation CEO Douglas Watson, San Francisco...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Spring Comes to the Minnehaha Spiritual Encampment
    (pp. 145-154)

    The days lengthened, and the leaf buds on the four oaks swelled for the last time. On the weathered branches, new leaves opened like a pale green mist, followed by tiny flowers dangling from slender threads. In the protesters’ garden, lettuce sprouted in sparse rows. Someone set out tomato plants and tied them to branches sunk into the warming earth. A brightly painted plywood sign read “Take what you need and leave the rest.”

    By late May, the hedge of bridal wreath bushes had burst into bloom along the driveway to Carol Kratz’s vanished house. Around four o’clock on a...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Tree by Tree
    (pp. 155-194)

    When Nettle first heard about the Highway 55 fight, she was herding sheep at Big Mountain, a remote stretch of high desert in northeastern Arizona. Nettle was a “land supporter,” one of a group of activists who chop firewood, haul water, and help Navajo elders maintain their traditional shepherding way of life. Nettle and the other activists were there to support the elders as they resisted the efforts of the federal government and the Hopi Tribal Council to remove the Navajo from disputed lands.

    Nettle had met Marshall Law and Sky, the flamboyant twenty-three-year-old Dakota, when they traveled to Big...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Four Bur Oaks
    (pp. 195-208)

    Minneapolis police lieutenant Bud Emerson would be glad when the whole thing was over. Privately, he was sorry to see so many trees lost in his neighborhood. It had been hard to watch, all that summer, but he had a job to do, and that was to uphold the law and make sure nobody got hurt, including the protesters.

    “They scared the bejesus out of the construction guys,” Emerson said. “You’re trying to operate a backhoe and some guy suddenly runs up and chains his neck to the operating part of your equipment, that’s a little scary.” No construction worker...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Coldwater Nation
    (pp. 209-226)

    In January a light snowfall covered the field where the camp had been. The squad cars and heavy equipment were gone. A school bus bench sat alone in a flat expanse littered with shreds of plastic and a few broken branches. A straight path through the trees had been shaved clean, as a surgical patient is shaved for the incision. To the south, the dark specks of the cars on Highway 62 whizzed by, now visible from the field. On the snow-covered lookout hill, Marshall Law stood in his old spot, hands clasped behind his back, feet planted wide, gazing...

  14. Afterword
    (pp. 227-228)

    On May 15, 2001, Governor Jesse Ventura signed into law a bill protecting the Camp Coldwater Spring from any state action “that may diminish the flow of water to or from” the spring. At the time, few lawmakers expected it to have any effect on the Highway 55 project.

    But a month later, dye testing commissioned by the local watershed board showed that construction of the project’s final phase, the intersection of Highways 55 and 62, was cutting the spring’s flow. The Minnesota Department of Transportation tried and failed to get the interchange exempted from the law. That September, the...

  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 229-230)
  16. Note on Sources
    (pp. 231-231)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-232)