Watertown is finally joining the 21st century and eliminating the racially insensitive aspects of its “Ki-Yi Days” homecoming celebration. Under the guidance of superintendent Dr. Lesli Jutting, students and Watertowners have rewritten their local homecoming fable to remove all references to Native Americans. They are changing the name from the “Ki-Yi Legend” to the “Legend of the Arrows.” Students will replace the mock Indian garb of their homecoming ceremony with medieval costumes.
The May 25 vote to keep homecoming Red was 4–3, with one member abstaining and another absent. Tomorrow folks in Sisseton get a chance to vote to make the school board more Red:
This Tuesday June 21 there is a School Board elections in Sisseton-Three seats are up for election. There are six candidates running, three of those running are Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribal members Debra Flute, Dr. Sherry Johnson, and Tom Wilson. The hope is to fill all three open seats with Tribal members. With Tribal members on the school board the school board will more accurately depict the diversity of our community. Sisseton, South Dakota is a small town with many wonderful attributes: a thriving arts community, many progressive residents, and an overall sense of comradery, [sic] hopefully soon our small town will follow the lead of communities all across the nation in changing outdated and detrimental mascots and homecoming coronations [Sierra Wolcott, “Same Ol’ Same Ol’,” Sota Iya Ye Yapi Online, downloaded 2016.06.20].
Wolcott writes that Native Americans make up about 60% of the student body at Sisseton, compared to less than 10% at Watertown. If Watertown can recognize the need for changing its racist homecoming practices, so can Sisseton. We’ll see if tomorrow’s election results move Sisseton in that direction.
Update 10:10 CDT: The Sisseton school district appears to post no information about tomorrow’s election online, but I learn from Wolcott that the three candidates joining the three SWO candidates on Tuesday’s school board ballot for the three available seats are incumbents Jenny Evenson and David Nelson and challenger Jeannie Hubert. Evenson voted for the May 25 resolution to leave the homecoming coronation unchanged; David Nelson voted against that resolution.
Has the Bosworth precedent kept a municipal referendum off the ballot in Watertown?
Glacial Lakes Energy in Watertown wants to build a four-track rail loop that will allow them to load more train cars without backing trains up and blocking traffic on Highway 212 to the north.
According to data presented at the March 7 meeting of the Watertown City Council, since the construction of the South Bypass (from Highway 212 at Sharp Auto and the Prairie Stop southeast to Broadway, Glacial Lakes, and Highway 81) in 2012, daily traffic along that 2,500-foot stretch of South Broadway has decreased 44%, from 2,033 vehicles to 1,139.
The City Council thought vacating South Broadway was a great idea and approved it March 7. Jon Dagel, the owner of the Little River City c-store at South Broadway and 212, former city alderman Mike Davis, and others* did not. Obviously not wanting to lose business from Glacial Lakes workers taking Broadway to and from work, Dagel, Davis, and friends took out a petition and collected 1,004 signatures to put the road vacation to a vote. City Finance Officer Rochelle Ebbers validated the necessary 703 signatures last week, and Watertown’s off to the polls—
—Not so fast, said Glacial Lakes Energy. CEO Jim Seurer came to Monday’s council meeting and demanded that the city reject the petition based on irregularities uncovered in its circulation. Specifically, Seurer alleged that circulators did not witness the signatures on their sheets. Mayor Steve Thorson said law enforcement officers had confirmed that allegation, and the council declared the petition invalid, thus forestalling any referendum vote.
The Watertown City Council has taken a very different approach to this petition challenge from Secretary of State Jason Gant’s approach to my challenge of Annette Bosworth’s nominating petition in 2014. I made the same argument that Seurer did: circulators did not witness signatures, therefore those signatures and all signatures gathered by those circulators were invalid. Secretary Gant rejected my challenge, saying his office had no authority to go beyond a facial review of the petition and that a challenge based on the evidence I presented had to be resolved in court.
If Secretary Gant had taken the initiative shown by the Watertown City Council, Annette Bosworth would never have made the 2014 primary ballot. If Secretary Krebs adopts the Watertown stance with respect to my pending challenge of Lisa Furlong’s petition, the fake 18% rate cap won’t make the ballot.
The Watertown City Council is right: oaths matter. We have a duty to protect the integrity of petitions and elections. As much as I love initiative and referendum, if people don’t do petitions right, their measures should not make the ballot.
However, there is a statutory argument that the city, just like Secretary Gant, really does lack the authority to reject the South Broadway petition. Rules 05:02:08:00 and 05:02:08:00.01 lays out the requirements for accepting petitions and counting signatures. None of them specify that the office accepting petitions should investigate circulators for violating their circulators oath. That was Gant’s argument in 2014. More importantly, SDCL 9-20-4 appears to say that once the city finance officer has validated a referendum petition, “The governing body shall submit the petition to a vote of the voters….” Shall submit.
The Watertown City Council’s action this week runs counter to Secretary Gant’s (in)action on the Bosworth petition violations in 2014. The Bosworth trial (and her hubby Chad Haber’s plea bargain) established that muffing the circulator’s oath can result in criminal charges. The press surrounding Bosworth’s sensational trial may have motivated Seurer and the council to take the position they have, but the Bosworth trial did not provide clear legal precedent for rejecting a petition based on felonious circulator activity. If Dagel, Davis, and their fellow circulators go to court, Watertown’s rejection of this road referendum could provide such a precedent.
Correction 12:08 CDT: A Watertown neighbor corrects me: Jon Dagel owns Little River City; Mike Davis is a former city alderman. I originally misread KXLG’s report and listed Davis as the c-store owner.
The common response among Watertown’s Ki-Yi supporters is that the tradition “honors” Native culture, but critics insist that is not their decision to make. Plumage cites studies that show such stereotypes are harmful at a time when Native youth need present-day role models rather than sloppy and demoralizing depictions of Indian “heritage.”
“There is a distinct difference between appreciating a culture and appropriating a culture, and this bastardized version of a very real and prevalent culture is unacceptable,” Plumage wrote in her petition.
Gross and Assistant Principal Brad Bransrud think it is possible to remove the Indian aspects of the celebration.
But Watertown Superintendent Rick Melmer remarked during the 90-minute meeting, “You’re more optimistic than I am.”
…Melmer drew a parallel between students imitating Indians in the legend and the nation’s enthusiastic adoption of Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Gross said unlike the Irish, who are a major component of the country’s dominant society and who shaped the St. Patrick’s Day tradition, American Indian culture had been appropriated for Ki Yi Day without Indians’ consent or participation.
“It was all whites that made up the legend,” she said with exasperation.
…Melmer noted a tradition nearly 80 years old is strongly attached to the Ki Yi celebration in both the school and community.
“You’ve asked us to change something that has been around for a long time,” he said. “That’s not going to happen quickly.
“There’s a whole other group that says this is part of their heritage, and they don’t want to see it disappear” [Peter Harriman, “Watertown Debates Use of Indian Tale,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2001.03.15, quoted in Rootsweb, downloaded 2015.09.25].
The crux of the issue is that Betty Gross indicated she represents a number of Indian people and the Indian people see (Ki-Yi) as being degrading,” Melmer said. ”We do not. We consider it an honor, not for native American people, but for the students involved. That’s the big rub. We see it as something honoring these students” [“Watertown Addressing Complaint About Indian-Themed Homecoming,” AP via Yaknton Press & Dakotan, 2001.03.16].
Thus spoke Rick Melmer, who went on to be a highly paid consultant for GEAR UP, a federally funded program South Dakota has aimed at helping American Indian students get ready for college. Given Melmer’s intransigence on Ki-Yi Days, letting him make money off a program meant to help American Indian youth seems a bit like putting Donald Trump on the board of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Roger Foote | Coordinator, Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project
Mitch Peterson | Attorney, Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith LLP
Laura Krebsbach | Field coordinator, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
Donna Williams | Tribal activist, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe
These speakers will discuss what should be obvious: that crowding 4,900 cattle onto Willow Creek, at the top of the Big Sioux River watershed, is a bad idea for water quality and recreation along the river.
Hmm… I wonder which would provide more net economic benefit: another mega-dairy polluting the Big Sioux, or a 225-mile river recreation path that would draw visitors from around the country to see South Dakota’s natural beauty?
Speaking of CAFOs, Watertown appears to be caught in the crosshairs of Governor Daugaard’s push for more dairy production. Brookings County factory dairy magnate Michael Crinion wants to build another CAFO, the Waverly Dairy, six miles north of Watertown. However, after receiving unanimous approval from the Codington County zoning board, the Waverly Dairy is now on hold, thanks to a lawsuit from local opponents. KXLG reports that makes four proposed dairies in the I-29 dairy corridor now on hold due to litigation.
KXLG notes that heavy rains caused manure to run off from Grant County’s Lakeside Dairy on July 5. (“Lakeside”—did you think about that name, planners?) Such spills properly alarm Watertown mayor Steve Thorson, who says he recognizes that big dairies are necessary but that we just can’t put them that close to the Big Sioux River and Watertown’s water supply. Mayor Thorson also says communities like his in the I-29 dairy corridor are under pressure to allow more CAFOs due to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s state-subsidized cheese factory in Brookings:
Behold the power of cheese. If Governor Daugaard wants us to make more cheese, then Watertown and other communities downstream from factory dairies will have to put up with the occasional fecal flood. Mmm… tasty.
In today’s litigation from Google Hell, a guy named Larson sues a guy named Olson….
Another young South Dakota food worker has sued a regional franchise owner over an insulting name tag. Caleb Larson, now of Aberdeen, is suing his former boss, Watertown Pizza Ranch owner Ross Olson, for the defamation and emotional distress incurred when he forgot his nametag and the boss handed him a tag labeled “braindead”:
Larson… claims in the civil complaint that he went to work at the restaurant on May 25, 2013, but left his name tag at home. Larson says he told Olson that he could either clock out and go home to retrieve it or he could ask a family member to bring it to the restaurant.
Olson, according to the complaint, responded, “I got one,” and handed Larson the offensive name tag.
“Maybe this will be our new pass around here for people who forget their name tags,” Larson claims he was told by Olson when he first refused to wear it. He ended up wearing it during the shift, though, because he says he feared losing his job [“SD Pizza Restaurant Ex-Employee Sues over Offensive Name Tag,” AP via Aberdeen American News, 2015.05.15].
Olson pretty much concedes the first part of the story. His defense relies on the plaintiff’s burden of proof:
In his response to the lawsuit, Olson admits he gave Larson the name tag, but he denies Larson wore it and challenges Larson to present “strict proof” [AP, 2015.05.15].
When I read that Olson admitted giving Larson the name tag, I thought, “Where’s his lawyer?” Unless Larson is waving that name tag for the cameras (the way Tyler Brandt has been able to show the “Gaytard” name tag over which he is suing the Yankton Taco John’s), the first statement from Olson should have been, “What name tag?” But Olson’s lawyer has recovered with an entirely logical response to a defamation lawsuit: defamation requires saying something unpleasant and untrue about an individual to people other than that individual. Larson bears the burden of proving not just that the boss gave him heck for forgetting his name tag but that the boss then subjected him to public humiliation.
Olson gets no sympathy from me for bad management practices—you don’t get better performance from employees by humiliating them in private, never mind in front of other workers or customers. But if Larson wants money out of this deal, he’s going to have to find witnesses—and surely customers would have noticed and could recall encountering an employee wearing a tag that said “Braindead”—who can corroborate his story. (Witnesses, feel free to submit your recollections in the comment section below… and be ready to attest to those recollections under oath!)
To the Class of 2015, you have earned the chance to walk the road to freedom and to make of your lives what you will; to write that next great chapter in our American story. And your path will not always be easy, and your way forward will not always be clear. But you have worked hard for this moment. And if you hold fast to that faith in yourself and in your country and in our God, then the greatest moments of your journey are the ones that still lie ahead [President Barack Hussein Obama, commencement address, Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, South Dakota, 2015.05.08].
Our God? Barack, you’re killing me here! Did your advance people really verify that you and the 700+ graduates whom you honored yesterday all believe in the same God? Are you really saying that holding fast to your God (not even any god or gods, but your one God, with a capital G) is a necessary condition to enjoying a successful life? Do you really believe that everyone who adopts the Christian faith will avoid poverty and other hardships? And is it really the place of any elected leader who has sworn an oath to uphold the properly church-state separating United States Constitution to exhort any American to adhere to that leader’s religion?
Mr. President, I have never held fast to your religious faith. I don’t have a problem with your or my wife’s holding fast to said faith. Throughout my counterexemplary faithlessness, my adult life has only become richer, bringing me ever more interesting, challenging and satisfying experiences and friendships. Your statement that the “greatness” of my “journey” hinges on my faith in your God thus appears to be not only unconstitutional but incorrect.
* * *
Deep breaths. Snack break. Walk around the block.
* * *
Other than that, the President’s speech was pretty good. A majority of his text—well over 2,000 out of the 3,700 words delivered—was specific and unique to South Dakota and the Lake Area graduates. It was funny: the President issued an executive action guaranteeing the graduates lifetime student discounts at Buffalo Wild Wings (“B-Dubs”—the President is hipper than I). Even Governor Dennis Daugaard, stuck in the TV frame to the President’s right throughout the Commander-in-Chief’s 24 minutes at the LATI podium, had to crack a smile when the President said the graduates probably weren’t thinking about hard work, sacrifice, and the idea that we Americans are all one family while they “celebrated Thirsty Thursday last night.” He knocked the “He’s so arrogant” fabrication out of the Limbaugh-listeners in the hall by saying, “I didn’t come here to inspire you. I came here because you, the graduates, inspire me.”
The President also made some vital points on principle and policy. Invoking Hubert Humphrey, he said, “The road to freedom begins in the classroom.” Working toward that line, the President laid out the case for making community college free and universal:
So stories like Joe’s, and Leanna’s, and Maysa’s, and Colin’s — they are our proof that community colleges like this one are a vital path to the middle class for millions of Americans. In just two years, schools like this can change lives, change careers, grow our economy. It can change our country.
All of us are better off when our businesses have access to the best-trained workers in the world. All of us are better off when entrepreneurs like Colin and Maysa can boost their hometown economies, and make it more attractive for young people to stay. All of us are better off when a parent like Leanna can make ends meet and provide for her kids. All of us are better off when a patriot like Joe can keep serving his country [President Obama, 2015.05.08].
(Ah, the speech coach says: excellent use of repetition, combined with continued references to people the audience knows and cares about.)
The President noted that we helped lots of this year’s LATI graduates with Pell Grants. He said we could offer that same help to every willing worker with one simple policy change and a little gumption from Congress:
I want to lower the cost of community college in America to zero. I want to make it as easy to go to community college as it is to graduate from high school, if you’re willing to work hard.
Now, I know some of you graduates are wishing we could go back in time and make the last two years free. (Laughter.) I get it. I do, too. But if folks in Congress decided to make this a priority, we could do the next best thing and make community college free for an entire generation of young Americans, as long as they’re willing to work, keep their grades up, be responsible, graduate on time. And we could pay for it by closing just one loophole for millionaires and billionaires. Just one. (Applause.) Just one tax loophole enjoyed almost entirely by very few at the top, we could offer a quality education to millions of middle-class Americans. It’s in everybody’s interest.
We live in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge and innovation like never before. So as a country, we can’t afford to let any striving American be priced out of the education they need to get ahead. For everybody willing to work for it, we need to make two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. [President Obama, 2015.05.08].
President Obama’s offer to add two-year degrees to part of our American concept of free and universal public education would make history. It would also help nine million young Americans make more money. Yet our Congressional delegation walked out of yesterday’s ceremony saying this bold plan is just too big, too costly.
It’s Day 39 of our petition drive to refer Senate Bills 69 and 177, the Incumbent Protection Plan and the youth minimum wage. If you’d like to sign our petitions and help protect democracy from our power-hungry Legislature, here are four upcoming opportunities:
Madison signers can head to the post office downtown to sign petitions Monday and Tuesday, May 11 and 12, morning and afternoon.
Watertown signers can find petitions at Classroom Connections, 321 1st Ave NE, Monday – Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10-4, for the duration of our petition drive, which runs through June.
Looking ahead a couple weeks, Huron signers can catch me at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday, May 21, noon to 1 p.m., at the Huron Events Center, downtown, 100 4th St. SW.
Speaking of protest and the President, Indians, cowboys, and other folks who prefer water to oil are coming to Watertown to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. Starting at noon Friday, pipeline opponents will gather in Belmont Park, right across from the Watertown Civic Arena, to prepare to welcome the President with their call to stop TransCanada from taking South Dakotans’ land for their private profit.