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Lawrence fought to correct American Indian abuse

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

It was in the early 1990s and I was involved in city politics in Minneapolis. Earlier, I moved from a small township in north central North Dakota almost a decade before -- to search for a new life away from the reservation.

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When I first settled in the Phillips Neighborhood in Minneapolis, I became involved in neighborhood activities at first and soon after, I was active in state and national politics. After experiencing an active role in my community I became an novice reporter for Bill Lawrence and the Native American Press.

There were many stories to be reported in the American Indian communities in the Twin Cities area, a man could get rich by writing them. There were stories of unethical practices in the workplace, investigations of sexual and physical assaults at the Hennepin County Detox Center, court hearings related to a coffee shop in St. Paul and the list goes on and on.

All had to do with American Indians. Bill Lawrence, I know, believed he was doing a good deed when reporting to the American Indian population across the state of Minnesota and let me tell you -- he was. I first met Bll when Indian female's at a local detox center in Minneapolis were crying out to the community that they were being assaulted by security personnel at the center.

Local leaders and county commissioner's became aware of the problem after Lawrence's paper reported the alleged incidents and an investigation was put into place. His paper continued to report such activities and other stories in the Twin City American Indian communities years after.

I'm glad he put me on board. At times, the paper was criticized for publishing negative stories. These complaints at times came from leaders of organizations who felt affected by the paper's content. Interestingly though, some may have lambasted his paper -- but, at times, some may have felt safe that it was around.

While reporting for the paper we had to put up with community members who wanted to physically attack us while we attended community functions. Though this happened often we ignored many of these instances and continued to report on the people's behalf.

Coincidentally, there was an incident where I was attacked from behind by the son of a self-proclaimed American Indian leader and had to seek legal action. Other than that, I continued to cover the news in the Minneapolis community.

The last time I connected with Bill was when I was writing a couple of stories regarding the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation. We spoke a little bit about the tribal corruption taking place on the reservation and touched on some land issues that affected our population. His knowledge of both areas impressed me.

In closing, I would like to say that I owe Bill a lot because he was very instrumental in my decision to write about American Indian issues. He gave me the chance to be a journalist with his paper 17 years ago.

Today I am a contributor to several papers in North Dakota. Thanks to him I will continue to do the work he has done for the benefit of our American Indian population.

My condolences to his family -- may the Great Spirit be with them all. As for Bill, we will see him at the happy hunting grounds when our times come to join him. Megwitch my good friend.

Delvin Cree of Dunseith, N.D., is a former reporter for The Native American Press/Ojibwe News. A memorial service for publisher Bill Lawrence was held Saturday in Bemidji.

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