In his attempt to give public recognition to the Aug. 24 bicentennial of the landing of U.S. Army soldiers at “Mdote” or “what is now Picnic Island,” historian Stephen E. Osman embarks on a slippery sleight of hand, intentional or not (“200 years ago, change came up the Mississippi”). Framing the entire “change” that was coming as “an impending tidal wave of outside immigration,” Osman grounds his historical narrative in the “vision” of John C. Calhoun, who at the time was secretary of war. No wonder the description of the change invokes “military movement” to secure “a decided control over the various tribes.” Osman recognizes the army’s mission was to “enforce a peaceful transition” for the immigrants. Now the sleight of hand becomes clear — what is immigration according to Calhoun, Lt. Col. Henry Leavenworth and Osman can also in fact be understood as an invasion. Can this historical narrative in commemoration of Fort Snelling be recognized as well?
Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Minneapolis
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Osman’s facts, assuming they are accurate, contribute to our understanding of Fort Snelling and Minnesota history. Unfortunately, the value of his rendition of facts is overridden by his concluding description of the genocide/eradication (Osman avoids both terms) of Minnesota’s indigenous population as inevitable.
The “discovery” of the Americas by European sailors was inevitable. Genocide against indigenous Americans was no more inevitable than slavery or our current immigration policies. And the “tidal wave of outside immigration,” which drove the natives out of Minnesota, was neither inevitable nor a historical fluke.
The 19th-century wave of (mostly German and Swedish) immigrants occurred in direct response to the Homestead Act of 1862 and the active recruitment of European immigrants — which were in turn strategies for the military occupation of Indian lands, including Minnesota.
I myself am the descendant of 19th-century Swedish and Swiss immigrants, and therefore the beneficiary of these policies (much more so than of slavery), and I try to keep this in mind when I hear of the poverty that persists on Minnesota’s reservations. But, please, don’t try to tell me that genocide was inevitable.
John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
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Osman’s article began with interesting facts about a small fleet of boats and barges ferrying U.S. troops and supplies up the Mississippi to what is now Fort Snelling. However, I was deeply disturbed by the comment that “Some accommodated, many did not, but all had to change as had countless other native peoples … .” The haunting chants of “the Jews will not replace us” from the gathered phobia groups in Charlottesville, Va., came to mind. My concern — no, my fear — is that the focus on the recent history of European colonization in Minnesota can encourage thoughtful people to develop fears that history will repeat with the current changes in U.S. population. U.S. citizens are not now and will not become “dependent domestic nations.” We will accommodate with (not to) those new to the U.S., and we will be culturally richer for it.
Michael Schock, Golden Valley
When Planned Parenthood plays politics, you have alternatives
In response to Jennifer Brooks’s Aug. 25 column “Playing politics with birth control”: Any Federally Qualified Health Center gets Title X funds. In Minnesota, 18 Planned Parenthood centers were receiving Title X funds. Planned Parenthood chose to turn Title X funds down rather than physically separating its reproductive health care practice from its practice of abortion. Federally Qualified Health Centers do not perform abortions. They perform all the other reproductive health care that Planned Parenthood does, minus abortions, but also provide many health care services outside the scope of reproductive health. Planned Parenthood’s clinics tend to be in urban areas or college towns. There are Federally Qualified Health Centers all over the state, in urban and rural areas. See tinyurl.com/fp-directory. Compare the map of Planned Parenthood’s 18 service sites vs. 173 Federally Qualified Health Center service sites in 2015 (tinyurl.com/fp-mnmap). The only one playing politics is Planned Parenthood. Check out a Federally Qualified Health Center for your health care needs.
Donna Peterson, Hutchinson, Minn.
THE STATE OF DEBATE
‘Overtalking’ (the polite term) can easily be overcome by broadcasters
Regarding Gary Abernathy’s Aug. 25 commentary “Media built it, and Trump came”:
One online dictionary begins its definition of “debate” with “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting.” It does not offer as a synonym such words as “shouting match,” “name-calling” or “bullying.” While the concept of debates between candidates is very appealing, as it offers an opportunity not only to hear candidates’ views on topics but also to see them think on their feet, the quarrelsome “overtalking” (a euphemism for interrupting and yelling) that has characterized the recent debates offers voters neither of these helpful bits of information.
In my view, one reason for this loss can be laid squarely at the feet of the broadcast media. In particular, they have lost all control despite their empty pleas about “rules.” Yet the media still have the power to intervene on behalf of voters who wish to become more informed: Instead of giving each participating candidate a microphone and leaving it on for the entire debate, they should leave the microphones off, except that of the candidate who has the floor, and turn that candidate’s microphone off when his or her time is finished. Perhaps this would lead to understandable discussion. In addition, we would all likely be better informed if this control led some of the candidates not to participate.
John D. Tobin, St. Paul
Reaction is wrong: Lyft’s rate changes help drivers, communities
As a Lyft driver in the Twin Cities area for more than five years, I can understand the knee-jerk criticism of recent changes (“ ‘Not worth the money,’ drivers say after Lyft changes per-mile rates,” Aug. 28). While there is little sympathy for a company needing to spin a profit, I hope my experience may allow some drivers to see the changes as a benefit.
When Lyft debuted in the Twin Cities, I was happy to get a couple of rides per hour during peak demand. At that time drivers kept their entire fare as profit. Even as my commission decreased over the years, my take-home pay has continued to rise substantially as Lyft has seen exponential growth. Today, Lyft is busier than ever, and its success will continue to support greater profits for drivers as a result of higher demand from riders. It’s not about pennies per mile but rather increased ridership.
Getting paid for drive time to destinations will further benefit drivers over the long term as more community members in suburban locations use Lyft. The exciting part of driving for Lyft is being part of a company solving a complex transportation problem, enjoying interesting conversations, and working a flexible schedule. Drivers who retire on the news of rate changes are leaving more behind than just table scraps, and a cadre of drivers, including me, are more than willing to do the heavy “Lyfting” in the Twin Cities.
Jeff Dorfsman, Minneapolis
Hong Kong is the new Berlin
I met the student protesters in the Hong Kong airport on Aug. 12. They are very young, earnest, and definitely nonviolent. They are defending our way of life, too — the rule of law and the democratic process against autocratic, corrupt mainland Chinese and weak Hong Kong Legislative Council officials.
The Berlin Wall was the front line of conflict between communism and capitalism. Hong Kong now is the front line of the conflict between democracy and autocracy. The students are looking for a response from the West and need our support. I hope you will extend it by writing your representatives and by learning more about the risks the students are taking to defend the principles of democracy.
Mary Voight, St. Paul
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