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PHOTOS: 'We're Still Here' event held in Paul Bunyan Park

Racial justice, environmental protection and treaty rights were the focus of a "We're Still Here" event held Tuesday in Paul Bunyan Park.

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Nancy Beaulieu, center, of MN350 and the RISE Coalition, addresses the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, with concerns about Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- The RISE Coalition and the Indigenous Environmental Network hosted a community round dance on Tuesday, April 6, in Paul Bunyan Park to speak for racial justice, environmental protection and treaty rights.

The "We're Still Here" event featured dancing, speakers and local drum groups.

"What honestly brings us here today, in a good way, is that our words continue to fall on deaf ears," said Nancy Beaulieu, of MN350, at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

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Timberland Drum plays during a “We’re Still Here” demonstration on April 6, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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"We’re here to remind our local governments -- Bemidji City Council, the Beltrami County Commissioners -- that we’re on 1855 territory," Beaulieu said. "Not once did we ever surrender our inherent right to protect our water and our land."

Beaulieu also spoke of the importance of having two Native Americans seated on the city council -- Audrey Thayer and Dan Jourdain -- and expressed regret about the hesitancy other councilors have in flying the flags of local tribal nations .

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Demonstrators hold up flags and a sign on April 6, 2021, while cars pass on Paul Bunyan Drive. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

After songs from Leech Lake and Red Lake drum groups were played, demonstrators eventually marched to the Beltrami County Administration Building to address certain county commissioners on their support of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project .

Beaulieu was the first of six women to speak to the board. Simone Senogles of the Indigenous Environmental Network also spoke on the recent reimbursements to Beltrami County related to law enforcement around Line 3.

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A group of women stand around Nancy Beaulieu as she addresses the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, with concerns about Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Senogles said she knew some of the reimbursements for items like batons and chemical irritants were denied after she looked at the request invoices.

"That fund is meant for public safety," Senogles said. "Public safety does not include beating up your citizens with batons."

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at (218) 333-9786, (218) 996-1216 or at jgandsey@bemidjipioneer.com.
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