Unorganized Territory

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Life in unorganized territory
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Cooperation is needed to get there

Sat, 10/10/2015 - 4:33pm

The Ojibwe students from Cook County High School who respectfully asked that the county proclaim Monday, October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of honoring it as Columbus Day. (L-R) Joe Deschampe, Jr., Jaden Aubid, Dyami Blackwell, Samantha Scalise, Michael Hendrickson, Trusen Gordon, Marcus Logan, Brent Sorenson. Seated: David Logan.

As the discussion grew more heated over whether Cook County should change the designation of the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I was reminded of how the matter was handled by the Science Museum of Minnesota.

I enjoyed a visit to the museum in August. There was a wonderful mix of new and old, high tech and low tech. There was a great historical section with information on the fur trade, on early efforts at mining and an impressive display of Ojibwe artifacts.

There is an interesting display about logging that includes a monster-sized slab of white pine polished to a sheen with pushpins marking historic dates that coincide with tree rings. For example, May 14, 1607: Founding of Jamestown settlement; April 19, 1775: Start of Revolutionary War; May 11, 1858: Minnesota became the 32nd state and so on.

Next to the giant tree was a display with a single pin that had been removed from the timeline. The label read: October 12, 1492: Columbus discovered America. Below the label was a drawing of Christopher Columbus and a well-written explanation of his accidental discovery of the “New World.” The display went on to describe the devastation caused by the arrival of Europeans, both intentional and unintentional.

The display also shared the convoluted history of Columbus Day which was declared a federal holiday by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937.

The museum didn’t attempt to erase history. It did not deny the accomplishments of Columbus—he did expand the horizons of the European people. But it also didn’t sugar coat the mistreatment of the natives he encountered and enslaved. And, finally, the museum reported that the city of Minneapolis, where the museum sits, no longer celebrates Columbus Day, honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

I think the museum did a great job with a sensitive subject. I wish our county board had done the same.

I think that Commissioner Frank Moe thought his request to adopt a resolution to change the designation of the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day was a no-brainer. His constituents are the people of Grand Portage and from talking to them—including the 10 youths who bravely came to the county board to ask for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day—he knew this was something many people felt strongly about. It’s one I support.

Commissioner Moe also lives in the same community as Deb White, the Hovland-area school board representative who has been advocating for the establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day for over a year. They have likely discussed the initiative at town hall meetings.

It would have been helpful if Commissioner Moe had gotten his proposed resolution in the county board packet in advance of the Grand Portage students’ earnest request. If Commissioner Heidi Doo- Kirk had the chance to get her questions answered, she likely would have been supportive. However, she is also committed to doing what is best for her constituents—many who are county employees. So upon hearing the request, she thought logically—is a resolution necessary? Is a proclamation a better way to handle the request? Can the county make a difference with its opinion? How would this change affect the county employees? Would this impact union negotiations regarding days off?

It was disappointing that Commissioner Doo-Kirk thought more with her head than her heart on the first hearing of the request. But now that she has had time to think about the questions and do a little research, she has voiced her support for a proclamation designating the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to add her vote of support.

A special meeting has been called by Commissioner Moe at 2 p.m. on Monday, October 12. Commissioners Doo-Kirk and Garry Gamble told their colleagues they would not be available for that meeting, but Moe, eager to do the right thing before the federal Columbus Day holiday, scheduled the meeting anyway. Commissioner Moe’s enthusiasm is great, but I’m disappointed that he didn’t give his colleagues more time to also do the right thing.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if discussion continued, if the Grand Portage youths were invited back to the regular meeting on Tuesday, October 13 to plan for Indigenous Peoples’ Day next year.

I’m guessing that the Science Museum of Minnesota didn’t get its Columbus Day label removed the first time the request to do so was made. I’ll bet it took a lot of discussion and debate to come up with the wording on the panel that is now next to the historic timeline.

I hope that the county board will follow suit. The board best serves the county by being a model of cooperation on potentially divisive issues. Because perhaps most important—more important than when the county gets the second Monday of October designation changed—is how the county gets to that point.


It’s not so much the journey that’s important; as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way.
Jeremy Aldana

Categories: Member Feeds

A winning campaign

Fri, 10/09/2015 - 4:18pm

It was fun getting to know the candidates who were running in the primary for the Minnesota House 3A seat. As Rob Ecklund said in the statement that he gave to the Cook County News-Herald

Rob Ecklund of International Falls advances to the special election for the Minnesota House 3A seat in December.

the day after the primary, it is a sad way to get to this election, with the passing of Representative David Dill, but it was nice to see an intelligent and caring field of candidates coming forward to fill the vacancy.

I didn’t know Rob Ecklund at all before the primary campaign, but he seems like the type of person who will be straight with you. He didn’t dodge the tough questions at the Cook County Chamber Election Forum or tailor his answers to the audience. Statements he has made in articles in other newspapers in District 3A have been consistent.

And, he is friendly and easy to talk to, so although I’ve only talked to him a few times, I feel like he’s a friend.

Of course I already knew our “local guy,” Bill Hansen. It was nice to see the overwhelming support he received from the North Shore. And it was really nice to talk to Bill the day after the primary, to hear his still-positive voice. He assured me he will still be involved in the community in some other way, so that is good news.

I did know Eric Johnson. I met him the last time he took a run at the House 3A seat and he too, is a hard-working, goodhearted guy. He became a good friend of my son, Ben, when they took a class together during the previous campaign. He stops by to say “hi” whenever he makes it to Cook County. And of course he got bonus points with me when he told me what nice guys both of my sons are.

I didn’t know Heidi Omerza before the primary campaign but I’m glad to have met her too. She’s a well-spoken and outgoing person and you can tell she is passionate about public service. She’s also warm and friendly. I’d love to sit down over coffee with her sometime.

I wish Eric and Heidi well in whatever they go on to do. I hope they are facing the disappointment of the defeat as well as Bill Hansen is. As Bill said in his concession statement, they ran campaigns that were always cordial and they stayed focused on the issues that are important to the voters. I really appreciated that.

I would like to add my thanks to all of the candidates. It takes a huge leap of faith to run for office. Taking on the task of phone calling, traveling, speaking to the press, posing for photos and TV interviews is daunting and all of the House 3A candidates appeared to be having a great time doing it all. There is energy to spare amongst these folks.

It takes a major financial commitment. In addition to raising money for advertising and yard signs and travel, it means a lot of time away from regular jobs.

It also takes immense courage to run for office. I can only imagine the reactions of these candidates’ families. “You want to do what?”

Running for office you put not only yourself in the public spotlight, but spouses and children as well, so that is a hurdle to overcome even before applying to run for office. The candidates were all able to get their family members on board and they went on to campaign with smiles.

In that respect, they were all winners.


Advocacy groups and voters are not wrong to push candidates to declare their position clearly on policy issues. That is good citizenship. Hard questions should be asked of every candidate, every politician. And those public servants should be prepared to answer, but in their own words.

Mark McKinnon

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Where were we in September?

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 1:37pm

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE? I’m a little late getting this one posted, so we’re asking Where were we in September?

If you know where this photos was taken, give us a note!

All of the people who entered the August contest were correct—the old car being reclaimed by the forest is on the Moose Viewing Trail off of the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais. Drawn from the correct guesses was Nicole Bockovich of Grand Marais.

Nicole will receive a free subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the September photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn from the correct entries will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the September WHERE ARE WE? must be received by October 12, 2015.

Send your entry to:

Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
Questions? 218-387-9100

Categories: Member Feeds

Serious and trivial in Unorganized Territory

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 1:29pm

My husband Chuck and I were at an event recently, and as it frequently does, the question “What’s happening at the paper?” came up. Usually my answer is “what isn’t happening?”

Our small Cook County News-Herald staff is constantly on the run. We spend a lot of time covering meetings. There is a meeting of one of the myriad governmental entities nearly every day. There is a list on page C1 of meetings that we try to keep track off.

We don’t attend every meeting every time. It’s enough to cover the “core” newsmakers, the county, city, townships, the school, hospital and EDA boards, especially when there are big projects or actions that require special meetings.

Case in point, the hospital board with its renovation and School District 166 with its administrative shakeup. Lots of extra meetings!

We keep our ears open for news that comes out of the meetings we don’t attend. And of course, after the meetings we do make it to, there are often follow-up questions, which means phone calls and emails later.

My colleague Brian Larsen was recently asked why he wasn’t “on time” for a meeting. The reason—he had been at another meeting!

And sandwiched in between meetings of all kinds there are events of all kinds. Those are actually really fun. Because we cover celebrations, we also attend things like the Schroeder Historical Society Lunde Tour, Unplugged and Mountain Stage concerts, plays, concerts, art openings and more.

There is always something to do and something to be written up. So when my friend also asked, “So, I suppose you have several weeks of your columns typed up and ready to go?” Chuck and I burst into laughter. When I mentioned the comment to my friend Laurie in the office, she also laughed out loud.

Chuck has seen me frantically typing away in the wee hours of the morning. Coworkers have seen me putting finishing touches on Unorganized Territory in the minutes before the paper is sent off to the printer.

Our stellar proofreader Bill has also suggested that I write several columns in advance. He recommended writing random thoughts, similar to what longtime Cook County News-Herald Editor Ade Toftey used to do in his Jots by Ade column.

And a disgruntled reader recently suggested that we do away with Unorganized Territory altogether. He said the column takes up a lot of “prime space” in the paper and said it should be used for more interesting topics. The reader suggested that my column space should be used to comment on “hard current events” in Cook County and closed by saying if I am not up to the challenge, I should consider finding someone who is.

My friend, Sporto, says the same thing, albeit in a kinder, gentler way. He has scolded me for writing too much about “warm fuzzy stuff.”

I take the comments to heart and there are times when I do tackle Cook County issues. However, as I’ve explained in the past Unorganized Territory is just that—an unorganized collection of thoughts, a bit like Jots by Ade. Sometimes I do comment on local politics and infrequently on national issues. I sometimes write about the history of Minnesota or the history of my family on the North Shore. Sometimes I talk about my grandkids or pets and sometimes—well, perhaps often—I write about the weather. There is no rhyme or reason to the column, which is why it is titled Unorganized Territory.

So apologies to the folks who feel I am wasting their time. But I am going to continue writing Unorganized Territory for as long as I can. I’ve been writing the column for 16 years now, without missing a single week. So there are weeks that are trivial, the rushed, finishing-up-on deadline weeks or the weeks that someone has suggested a silly idea for a column.

But I disagree that I don’t sometimes tackle tough topics. It’s just that when I do, I try not to just spout off my opinion. I feel it is more important to encourage people to learn more about an issue and to become involved. Because wherever you live, whether you’re in unorganized territory, in the city, up the Gunflint or far away in Minneapolis or Chicago, the people who show up and speak up are the ones who make a difference.

Regular readers have heard me say more than once, more than a dozen times, probably more than a hundred times, to pay attention and get involved with politics.

And that’s not a wasted commentary at all.


There never were two opinions alike in all the world, no more than two hours or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.

Michel de Montaigne

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