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Eagle staff desecrated for third time at Duluth Civic Center, American Indians say

Forum News Service

A group of American Indians replanted an eagle staff on the Duluth Civic Center lawn Monday after it was pulled out over the weekend and tossed on nearby bushes. They say it is the third time an act of desecration has occurred to the staff since it was put there a year and a half ago.

The staff, made of ironwood with eagle feathers and ribbons signifying the four directions tied to the top, is considered a flag to the Anishinaabe people, said Gwiiwizens Ricky DeFoe, a member of the Duluth American Indian Commission. It was planted on the Civic Center grounds during a rally in November 2011.

“This is a symbol of the indigenous people,” he said. “To have done that, it’s like a public attack.”

He noted that the nearby Soldiers and Sailors Memorial monument and American flag were untouched, while the American Indian symbol was targeted. He wondered why someone would be bothered enough about a staff to want to remove it.

“Why could something like that be so offensive?” he asked. “There is a lot of fear in America of ‘the other.’ ”

City spokeswoman Amy Norris said city park maintenance workers did not remove the staff.

DeFoe, Gabriel Peltier and Sid Perrault performed a spiritual ceremony before planting the

staff back into the ground Monday that involved prayer and the burning of sage and cedar. Peltier sang in Ojibwe.

Micheala Richey, director of the Red Lake Urban Office, said people come to the staff and pray and put down offerings of tobacco, including some who are on their way to court appearances.

“It’s sacred to me,” she said. “I’m appalled that someone would do this for the third time. This is our flag.”

DeFoe said the first time the staff was removed happened shortly after it was planted. Last fall it was broken in half, so it was replaced with stronger wood.

Peltier said classes who visit the Civic Center to learn about the three buildings also visit the staff site to learn about Anishinaabe culture. Anishinaabe visit it because it means something to the people, he said.

“We will keep putting him up,” Peltier said.

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