From Wabasha to Warroad, from Sleepy Eye to Silver Bay, Dateline Minnesota scours the state to bring you breaking news from outside the Twin Cities.

Duluth one of two finalists in contest for best outdoorsy town

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: June 9, 2014 - 10:34 AM

Duluth is one step away from winning an online voting challenge for the best outdoorsy town in the country.

The city emerged late Sunday as one of two finalists for the championship in Outside magazine's best town contest. Now it is facing Provo, Utah for the crown.

Duluth beat Asheville, NC with 68 percent of the vote in the final four round, which ended at 11 p.m. Sunday, getting 28,371 online votes compared to 13,391.

City boosters have been promoting a vigorous #VoteDuluth campaign on social media. Mayor Don Ness has been tweeting about it. Monday morning, Sen. Amy Klobuchar put out a tweet saying: "We know @cityofduluth is a great place. Make sure everyone knows! Vote Duluth in @outsidemagazine 's Best Towns 2014!"

Throughout the contest, Duluth has typically emerged as the town with the most votes of any, but it may need to rally more clicks for the finals. In the last round, Provo got 34,981 votes to beat Ithaca, NY, which got 33,342.

The championship round goes until 10:59 p.m. Sunday.

Wife of Mankato beating victim Isaac Kolstad gives birth to baby girl

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: June 5, 2014 - 3:59 PM

Isaac Kolstad, the former Minnesota State University, Mankato linebacker who was critically injured in a May 11 fight, is a father again.

Kolstad’s wife, Molly, gave birth to a girl Wednesday at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, a spokesman there confirmed.

It is the same hospital where Isaac Kolstad, 24, remains hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury.

The Kolstads have a 3-year-old daughter.

The happy news came atop other good news this week. For the first time since being attacked, Isaac Kolstad responded to verbal commands from his neurosurgeon Tuesday, twice following directions to give a thumbs-up sign. Later that day, however, Kolstad's Caringbridge web page asked for prayers, saying there were concerns about pulmonary embolism if blood clots formed and dislodged. 

Two men have been charged in the incident that left Kolstad hospitalized: Former University of Minnesota quarterback and Mankato high school football star Philip Nelson, 20, and 21-year-old Trevor Shelley, of St. Peter, Minn. A punch from Shelley allegedly knocked Kolstad unconscious. Nelson is accused of kicking Kolstad in the head as he lay on the ground.

Mayo Clinic Health System director of public affairs, Kevin Burns, said both Kolstad's wife and baby were doing well Thursday morning.

Best outdoors town? Duluth beats Mpls. in magazine reader votes

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: June 4, 2014 - 2:01 PM

If you can believe voters on the Internet, Duluth is a better town than Minneapolis -- at least as far as outdoorsy people are concerned.

Duluth boosters flooded an online contest to promote the Lake Superior city in a national Outside magazine battle of best towns.

With more than 60,000 votes in the fourth round, which ended Tuesday night, Duluth scored at least 10,000 more votes than any other town on the list. It was crowned champion of the Midwest region, defeating Minneapolis 60,210 votes to 40,530.

It was enough to make a mayor proud.

"It’s a fun contest," Duluth Mayor Don Ness said Wednesday. "I don’t think there’s any question that Dulutians are taking this a lot more seriously and putting more stake into this contest than Minneaplis had or some of the other cities. I think that’s a reflection of this kind of newfound enthusiasm for this identity as a premier outdoor recreation city."

Duluth, now in the contest's final four, got a voting push from a #VoteDuluth campaign on social media, with the non-profit Destination Duluth its primary promoter.

The town is now facing off against the winner of the South: Asheville, N.C. 

Duluth enthusiasts hope former Minneapolis voters find it in their hearts to join them. 

"Now that we are representing the entire Midwest in this contest ... we want to demonstrate to the rest of the nation that the Midwest isn’t just flyover country for outdoor recreation but we have some world class experiences to offer," Ness said.

Voters have until 11 p.m. Central time on Sunday to cast a vote at

New lawsuit asks for 12 square miles in southern MN for Dakota descendants

Posted by: Curt Brown Updated: May 21, 2014 - 12:26 PM

Descendants of Dakota Indians have filed a new federal lawsuit, hoping to reclaim 12 square miles in southern Minnesota.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of the great great-grandchildren of Dakota who helped white settlers during the U.S.-Dakota War 152 years ago.

If successful, roughly 100 farmers in Renville, Sibley and Redwood counties would be among those “ejected” from the 12 miles near Morton, Minn.

The legal action is the latest attempt in what has amounted to years of litigation from the great-great grandchildren of so-called “friendly” Dakota who helped white settlers during the U.S.-Dakota War 152 years ago.

An 1863 act of Congress, which has never been repealed, set aside 12 miles for the Dakota who stayed out of the bloody, five-week war and aided white settlers.

A similar attempt to collect damages wound its way through federal claims court, eventually losing on appeal after nearly a dozen years of litigation.

“People wrote us off for dead, but that ruling left the door open to reclaim land in U.S. District Court, so it’s not as far-fetched a concept as it might appear on its face,” said attorney Erick Kaardal, who filed the suit on behalf of as many as 20,000 Dakota descendants.

If his suit succeeds, not only farmers would be kicked off the land, but schools, churches and even the Lower Sioux Community which runs Jackpot Junction casino on its current reservation near Morton.

This latest legal tactic rekindles a long-simmering inner-Dakota clash between the plaintiffs and three federally recognized tribes: the wealthy Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Lower Sioux and the Prairie Island Indian Community near Red Wing. Those three tribes are expected to challenge the lawsuit and keep things as they are.

The 1863 federal act gave “an inheritance to said Indians and their heirs forever,” according to the 35-page lawsuit.

Kaardal said if his side wins the case, which could take years, Dakota descendants from Nebraska to Canada, who were ordered out of Minnesota after the 1862 war, would be “invited back” to what would be a new reservation. Up to 20,000 people could benefit if they are found to have standing as a class, their lawyer said Wednesday.

They would all have to show that their family trees connect back to an 1886 census of 264 Dakota deemed as “friendly” after the war. More than 600 white immigrant settlers were killed in a series of 1862 summer battles, which erupted as Civil War raged down south.

The Dakota who went to war were starving when the food and gold promised in treaties never arrived  -- sparking their decision to try to win back their land. The war ended with the largest mass execution in U.S. history when 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato the day after Christmas in 1862.

Several bands of Dakota resisted the call to war and helped white settlers.

In addition to dozens of farm families named as defendants in the case, a school district and the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota are listed. Kaardal said the next step in the case will be certifying the descendants as a class.

It's official: Rukavina files paperwork for his return to politics

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under People Updated: May 20, 2014 - 4:48 PM


Two years after he bowed out of the political arena, former state lawmaker Tom Rukavina is jumping back in.


"I missed it, to be honest with you. I just missed being able to work a room and I missed being with people," said Rukavina, one of three candidates vying for a nonpartisan seat on the St. Louis County Board. 

Rukavina, a Democrat, retired from the Legislature in 2012, stepping down from the seat he held for 26 years. He filed the paperwork for his new campaign on Tuesday morning.

"For the past year and a half, people would come up to me and say, 'Oh, Rukavina, thank you for your service. We really wish you were still in politics.' So I'm going to see if they really meant it or not," he said with a laugh.

The Mesabi Daily News reports that he faces former Cook City Councilwoman Kirsten Reichel and Vermilion Lake Township resident Christina Hujanen in the nonpartisan election. The job offers a full-time salary of about $55,000 and, Rukavina said, the opportunity "to be home every night with my wife," after two and a half decades of shuttling back and forth to St. Paul.

Rukavina, whose past campaigns have ranged from Minnesota governor to the Virginia school board, was a fierce, funny force on the state political scene. During his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, he gave out underpants emblazoned with the slogan "Refreshingly Honest."

In his farewell message to his colleagues, he lamented "the changing atmosphere at the Capitol."

“I recall a kinder and gentler time here when even the most conservative members of our body still believed government could do good things for our people," he wrote at the time. "But times have changed and I haven’t so it’s time for a new direction.”

County government, he said, is another story -- a nonpartisan office and a chance to help constituents at the ground level.

"I left because it had gotten a little out of hand in St. Paul. I'm hoping it will be a little tamer and nicer in Duluth and in Ely and Virginia and Hibbing," he said.

Rukavina, 63, had been eyeing the seat of retiring St. Louis County commissioner Mike Forsman of Ely for some time. The Duluth News Tribune dubbed his campaign plans "the worst-kept secret on the Iron Range."

Rukavina has been working as an Iron Range staffer for Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan but says he will step down from that post around July, as his own campaign heats up.

"That way, if I put my foot in my mouth, I won't put my foot in his mouth," he said, laughing again.

Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler


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