Longfellow Directory: Use to support local merchants

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

View from the Messenger

Denis Woulfe has been working for the Monitor and Messenger since her was a college intern from Hamline.


Over the years the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has had the good fortune to have a great working relationship with the Longfellow Business Association (LBA). Since the early days of the Messenger in the 1980s, the Messenger has relied on the LBA to get information on things going on in the Longfellow community, and also to tap the mindset of business owners in our community. Many of the stories that the Messenger has covered over the years have started with ideas that have come out of the LBA and/or LBA sponsored meetings in our community.
I currently have the pleasure of serving on the Board of the LBA along with other business reps and business owners from Longfellow who are devoted not only to improving the business climate in Longfellow but also the quality of life for residents and businesses alike in the community.
Without a doubt, however, one of the most important byproducts of the relationship between the Messenger and the LBA is the Longfellow Business Directory, which is published every two years as a joint effort between the LBA and the Messenger.
The Longfellow Business Directory has had a history in the Longfellow community going back to the 1990s. It was started with the assistance of City of Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds to help foster better communication within the business community. When grant monies dried up, however, the Longfellow Business Association (LBA), recognizing the importance of the Directory, approached the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger about taking on the project despite the absence of an outside funding source.
While prior Directories had contained some advertising, the question posed to the Messenger was whether there would be enough support in the Longfellow business community through advertising to cover the costs of the printing and distribution of the Directory to the Longfellow community.
The first Longfellow Business and Community Directory published in cooperation with the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger was produced in 2004 and the cover was a vibrant mosaic of the Lake Street Bridge in full autumn bloom. The text on the cover of the book described it as “Your guide for everything you need to work and live in the Longfellow area of Minneapolis.” Since then the Longfellow Business Directory has been published every two years, being released with the December issue of the Messenger.
This brings me to today. I’m pleased to announce that Longfellow readers of the Messenger will find a copy of the Longfellow Business Directory delivered along with their December issue of the Messenger this week. It’s a hefty book, chockful of important information. It lists the Longfellow businesses that provide the goods and services that our kind readers use on a weekly basis. I would encourage you to hang on to the Directory and use it as a guide to find local merchants and “Buy Local” when you need to restock your refrigerator, service your automobile, or perhaps find those special gifts for your friends and family during the year. Your local merchants need your support and work hard to earn your respect and patronage.
If you would like additional copies of the Longfellow Business Directory, or perhaps live outside the boundaries of the Longfellow community, additional copies can be found at the Longfellow Community Council at 2727 26th Av. S. You will also find copies of the Directory at many of the Longfellow businesses which already carry copies of the Messenger.
And if you own a business in Longfellow and are not currently a member of the LBA, I would strongly encourage you to check out the LBA and consider becoming a member and getting involved in the organization and in your neighborhood.
If you have questions about the Directory, don’t hesitate to email me at


Click here to view the 2020 Business Directory.

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What’s happening in the neighborhood?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen



3801 Hiawatha Ave.
The southeast corner of Hiawatha and 38th may not be empty much longer.
Base Camp Development and DJR Architecture have proposed a four-story, mixed-use multi-family building for the site. It would have 102 units and 2,300 square feet of retail space in the 36,865 square foot structure set on 0.85 acres.
The Longfellow Station residential building next door is five stories tall.
The commercial space will be located at the Hiawatha/38th St. corner with a 52-spot parking garage taking up the bulk of the remaining first floor.
A highlight of the plan is a spacious second-story plaza overlooking Hiawatha Ave. Units available will be a range of studio, alcove, and one-bedroom ranging from 375 to 695 square feet. The c-shaped building will also offer six walk-out units right off Hiawatha.
There will be just over 50 parking stalls compared to 102 units because it’s in a transit oriented development (TOD) district and the building will be accessed using the drive lane currently used by the Longfellow Station apartments off of 38th, pointed out Longfellow Community Council (LCC) Program Manager Justin Gaarder.
A public hearing hasn’t been set yet, but will be shared by the LCC when it is.

Portico at the Falls
The plan for Portico at the Falls, a 37,000-square-foot, four-story building on the former Greg’s Auto Site at Nawadaha and Minnehaha Parkway (4737 Minnehaha), has been approved by the city.
The building project by The Lander Group, Assembly MN and Martha Dayton Design will offer 26 condos with 10 flexible floor plans. Prices will range from low $300s to mid $900s for the one bedroom plus den, two bedroom, and three-bedroom units.
In response to residents’ concerns, Assembly submitted a revised plan that converted the original two-story townhome-style units along Minnehaha Ave. into one-story flats. The first floor will still have a front entry stoop and landscaped approach from Minnehaha.
The individual at-grade parking garages off of the alley were replaced with two condos with at grade patios. All parking will now be below grade and there will not be a drive lane along that side of the building.
The building will still have 26 units and 27 underground parking spaces plus a car lift system that provides the ability to have owners park a second car over their first car. Assembly anticipates a total of approximately 37 cars in the parking garage using this lift system.
The building remains a four-story building, with the fourth floor set back on Minnehaha as previously shown. General building materials and massing are similar to that shown at prior community meetings with modifications as necessary to accommodate the townhomes.
Low limestone walls, concrete walks, and high-quality landscaping (including pollinator-friendly approaches) will provide a setting for the building that complements its aesthetic and creates a connection to the park. Bike parking will also be provided both outdoors and within the building.

Time for stage 3 at Minnehaha Crossing
The third stage of the Minnehaha Crossing project is underway at the former Rainbow site at Minnehaha Ave. and Lake St. Midtown Corner is the next project in Wellington Management’s multi-phase redevelopment there.
The new, six-story Midtown Corner project will include 189 apartments, of which 38 affordable apartments will be available to households earning 60% or less of area median income. Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units will be available for rent starting early 2020.
The project also includes 8,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space. An additional 3,500-square-foot retail building, located in the southwest corner of the site, will be constructed in 2022.
Building construction began in October. Prior to that, the existing parking lot in front of the Aldi grocery store was improved.

Starbucks at 42nd?
The planning commission said no again to a proposed Starbucks drive-through at 42nd and Hiawatha.
Property owner Nick Boosalis of Wash Me Corporation proposed two buildings at the 0.57-acre site (4159 Hiawatha Ave.) to replace the car wash. One is the Starbucks single-story drive-through at the interior of the lot. The second would house a restaurant and office space that would surround the drive-thru building and would have frontage on E. 42nd St. and Hiawatha Ave. A 17-stall surface parking lot was proposed along the east side of the property. The submitted materials indicated that the buildings would be engineered to accommodate up to nine additional stories in the future for residential expansion.
The applicant received a conditional use permit and site plan review from the city planning commission on June 11, 2018 to construct a new four-story building with a coffee shop drive-thru and 43 dwelling units. The approved building had a very similar footprint as the most recent one. Those approvals expire two years from the date of approval on June 11, 2020. According to the city staff report, the applicant has indicated they prefer to construct the first floor at this time without the upper residential floors which requires a new application to the planning commission.
The city of Minneapolis recently adopted a regulation that prohibits new drive-thru facilities city-wide, but will allow anything that went through prior to Aug. 8, 2019.
Residents have expressed concern about adding traffic at that intersections.
“This intersection is already overloaded during rush hours. If it’s use is even close to the drive through at Cedar and the parkway our neighborhood and it’s habitants will suffer,” said local resident Eric Johannessen in a written statement given to the planning commission.
Fellow neighborhood resident Joanna Olson wrote, “The thought of a drive‐thru on that corner is terrifying to me as a bicyclist and pedestrian using that intersection at least twice daily.”
The proposal was denied by the planning commission on Oct. 21 due to traffic safety concerns. The developer appealed that denial to the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee and it will be back before the committee on Dec. 5.

28th Bridge
The completion of the 28th bridge at Minnehaha Creek has been delayed due to weather and issues with utilities. Public works staff is working out options with the contractor to determine the new timeline.

Look for more updates in the next edition of the Messenger.

Contact the editor at

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Virtual Passport Programs opens doors for people unable to travel

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Chris Mangold said, “Remember the old View Master, where you could see the world at the push of a button? This program is similar, but uses new technology.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Longfellow resident Christine Mangold is a seasoned traveler. Some of her favorite destinations have been Paris, London, Rome, and Venice. When she worked as the Lifelong Learning Director at the Minneapolis Ebenezer Senior Living Campus, she started thinking about virtual reality travel as an option for people living in that community. A virtual travel club could be a way to give them the joy of travelling to new places easily and at no cost.
Because of successful results from a pilot study at the Minneapolis Campus, Mangold started the Virtual Passport Programs (VPP) in 2019, and now brings her Virtual Travel Club to half a dozen senior living communities in the Twin Cities each month. The one-hour sessions are a chance for people who are unable to travel (for a variety of reasons) to view 360 degree videos from far-away places. Participants are issued a passport, provided with a tour guide, and off they go.
Participants fill out a travel profile when they join VPP. They answer questions about what they would like to see in the U.S., Mexico, South America, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, or Antarctica. Mangold said, “The focus of VPP is educational, but it also brings out memories of past travels – as well as longings to see places that were not fulfilled. In each session we offer five destinations to choose from, and they are destinations the group has expressed interest in seeing.”

Virtual Passport Programs Creator and CEO Chris Mangold (left) helped an Ebenezer resident put travel stamps in her virtual travel passport. Mangold encourages people considering senior living options to look at those with enthusiasm for new technologies, as well as traditional activities. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

She continued, “Remember watching the Seven Wonders of the World on a View Master? When you pushed the lever and the circle of tiny slides advanced? This is similar, but with new, advanced technology. Now people can experience an African safari, the Northern lights in Minnesota, or the Castle of Versailles. By turning in their seats or wheelchairs, they can change the view of what they’re seeing.”
Mangold’s goal is to bring the world to people who are living within four walls because of financial limitations, mobility or cognitive issues.
She said, “My sweet spot is that I’ve worked with seniors, and I’m able to follow the thread of their interests. I choose videos from the internet that won’t cause dizziness, and that are audience appropriate. Some have narration, and some don’t. In the middle of winter, it can be nice just to look at and listen to what’s happening on a Mediterranean beach.”
After viewing the video content through headsets, participants discuss what they’ve seen and compare travel notes. Mangold brings along a stack of maps and books about the pre-chosen destinations. Acting as tour guide, she uses her resources to stimulate conversation and to help people connect.
She said, “I arrived as creator/owner of VPP after walking many paths. Over the years, I’ve been a daughter to a mom who was in a care center for stroke-induced aphasia; a volunteer to children, women, and seniors; an art director for an ad agency focused on health and wellness; and a lifelong learning program director for a senior community. These experiences sparked the idea of using virtual reality technology to enrich seniors’ lives. I believe that anything is possible if you’re open to new paths.”
For more information, visit

“I’ve been fortunate to travel to faraway places. But I am just as awed by the beauty of the BWCA or the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, the simplicity of a Minnesota farm scene or a sunset. These are the sensory experiences of life that we all yearn for and we all deserve. Virtual Passport Programs brings these experiences to people who are unable to see them in person because of accessibility issues. They can be traveling, seeing, or doing anything that they dream of.” ~ Chris Mangold, Virtual Passport Programs owner

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Informal networks promote community building at Becketwood

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Members of the Cat Consortium around 19-year-old Tally the Cat include: (left to right) Linda Kusserow, Bonnie Porte, and owner Clare Fossum, who relied on the other women during a recent time away. (Photo by Terry Faust)

by Iric Nathanson
Earlier this year, when Clare Fossum had to spend time recovering from a medical procedure, she knew she could rely on her neighbors at Becketwood Cooperative to look after her elderly companion while she was away from home recuperating at a local rehab center.
Fossum’s companion happened to be her 19-year-old cat, Tally, who had made friends with two neighbors, Bonnie Porte and Linda Kusserow. Porte lived down the hall and Kusserow was two floors away. They each took turns feeding Tally, bringing her fresh water and spending time with her while Fossum was in rehab.
“It was a great relief for me to know that Linda and Bonnie were there every day looking after Tally,” Fossum said. “She knew them and they knew her. It was not as if some strangers were always coming and going in the apartment. That would only have upset her.”
Fossum, Porte and Kusserow had been part of an informal network of cat owners at Becketwood who looked after each other’s pets when they were away. The neighbors at the “55 plus” senior co-op bonded over their common connections to their feline friends and formed their own friendship circle within the broader Becketwood community.
The network has evolved into a more formally structured Cat Consortium with two teams, one for each wing of the building. Cat owners email their team members when they need a neighbor to care for their pet.
“It is all very well organized,” Porte explained. “We even have a form that people fill out indicating their kitty’s food preferences, their medication needs, and the contact information for their vets.”

Comfort Singers
While their small feline friends brought members of the Cat Consortium together, other neighbors at Becketwood have bonded over their love of singing. They are known as the Becketwood Comfort Singers. They bring their music to people at Becketwood or in a care facility who may be house-bound or seriously ill or facing end-of-life issues. Their leader, Ruth Gaylord, patterned the Comfort Singers after a similar group she had formed at the Basilica of St. Mary.
Gaylord, a former high school choral director, lives with ovarian cancer. She said that she has thought about being surrounded by beautiful choral music when she is dying. “I would like a small ensemble to sing beautiful music to me as I approach the end of this life. So I looked for men and women from Becketwood who had experience as choral singers who would want to be part of a small ensemble to offer that gift to others.”
She added, “We offer our singing to those who request it, and then only when we have checked with them or their families in advance to find out what kind of music they would like to hear. Some people don’t want to be sung to when they’re going through a difficult time. We understand that.”

Member activities

Enjoying an excursion to Urban Growler are, left to right, (starting in the front) Carol Bechtel, Mickey Monsen, Gerhard Johnson, Loren Flicker, David Liddle, Lorene Liddle, and Howard Bergstrom. (Photo by Terry Faust)

The Comfort Singers may be a select group with limited membership, but that is not the case with more than a dozen special interest clusters at Becketwood known as the Member Activities Committees. The individual committees are coordinated by an umbrella organization, the Members Activities Council (MAC).
“They may be called committees, but they are activities for people who may not like to go to committee meetings,” says Bob Kirk, a former MAC chair. ‘We have a craft committee for people who like to paint, knit or quilt, a workshop group for people who like to do woodwork and a pantry committee for folks who want to help run our little convenience store. If you are having fun at Becketwood, you are probably involved in a MAC committee.”
Kirk, himself, has had fun organizing a series of pub crawls sponsored by Becketwood’s Excursion Committee. “When all the brew pubs started opening up, I thought people here might want to see what they were all about. They all liked that first excursion so we started doing more of them,” Kirk said.
“Now, when we do a pub crawl, some of us come for the beer, but others come for the camaraderie even if they are not beer drinkers. If you are sitting next to someone who has just moved into Becketwood, it is a good way for you to get to know the newcomer or the newcomer to get to know you.”
Newcomers also get to know their neighbors in Becketwood’s workshop which hosts a coffee gathering every weekday morning starting at 10 a.m. “Morning coffee used to be all men, but women have started showing up and they always welcome,“ said Joel Mortensen, who co-chairs the Workshop Committee with Todd Gulliver.
Ray Mikkelson, a coffee drinking regular, admits that he comes down to the workshop for some male bonding. Mikkelson remembers taking a tour of Becketwood while he and his wife, Helen, were still on the waiting list.
“I kept wondering where the men were; I didn’t see any on the tour,” said Mikkelson. “Then somebody told me that I should go to the workshop in the basement. When I got there and opened the door, I saw a group of men drinking coffee and having a good time. They took me in right away and I felt at home. This is where I want to live, I told myself, and it made our move to Becketwood much easier for me.”

Community building
Wayne Tellekson, another workshop regular, also serves as a tour guide for people who are thinking about moving to Becketwood. “When I talk to prospective members about our community I tell them about the experience that my wife, Sindy, and I had when we first arrived here. We had moved from Mendota Heights where we didn’t have much contact with the people who lived nearby. On the second day we were here, two of our new Becketwood neighbors came up to us,introduced themselves, told that they were having a picnic in the courtyard, and invited us to join them. I looked at Sindy and said, ‘We are home!’”
Tellekson added, “I tend to think that we have this strong community because the people who are looking for a sense of community are the people who come here. They are not just looking for a place to live. The Twin Cities have lots of options for seniors if that is all you are looking for. They have heard that Becketwood is a welcoming place. And so when they come here, they help to build on that sense of community.”
* Editor’s note: Writer Iric Nathanson is a member of the Becketwood Cooperative.

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Trail detour will last 2 years

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Beginning the week of Sept. 23, 2019, crews will be working in the Minnehaha Park area to prepare the site for construction and construction staging. Work will include:
• Tree protection and tree removal. MCES has worked closely with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) regarding tree removal and tree protection. MPRB has been compensated for tree removals and tree replanting is at their discretion.
• Security fencing
• Erosion control installation
• Preparing for the aboveground temporary wastewater conveyance system pipes and pumps.
Temporary conveyance pipes and pumps were installed starting in October. Residents, businesses and park-users can anticipate the following:
• A section of the Hiawatha Bicycle Trail between the Minnehaha Creek Trail and Minnehaha Parkway will be closed until fall 2021. Bicycle detour signage will be posted along the trail (see trail detour map above). Parking will not be permitted on E. Minnehaha Parkway during this time.
There will be approximately 2-3 day closures on Minnehaha Ave. just north of the traffic circle and on 50th St. near Hiawatha Ave. when crews bury temporary conveyance pipes beneath the roadway. Traffic warning signs will be posted prior to these closures with as much advance notice as possible.
The National Park Service will monitor water flows to Coldwater Spring Monday-Friday during construction even though no dewatering is expected. The National Park Service will regularly post the results of their monitoring on their website. More at

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Neighborhood mail carrier retires after long, satisfying career

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Jay Morgen was inspired by grandfather, who could find all those big silver mailboxes ‘like magic’

Jay Morgen hung up his mail bag at the Minnehaha Station for the last time on Friday, Aug. 31. After nearly 20 years with the US Postal Service, the veteran mail carrier retired.
During summers spent in South Dakota, Morgan remembered bouncing along dusty back roads in his grandfather’s old jeep. His grandfather was a rural mail carrier, and he liked to bring his grandkids along when he could.
Morgen said, “It seemed like magic that he could find all those big silver mailboxes, and he knew every farmer by name. The memory of those times played into my decision to become a mail carrier years later, but it wasn’t my first career.”
He had to suffer through 18 years at a West Lake Street car dealership first, doing financing and sales in a stuffy, crowded office. In Morgen’s unedited words, “I hated it!”
When he was still at the car dealership, Morgen contacted the US Postal Service. An avid golfer and long distance runner (with several sub-three hours marathons to his credit), he thought a walking mail route would be a good fit for him. He longed for a job that required mental concentration, provided a lot of outdoor exercise, and gave him time alone to think.
Morgen took the US Postal Service battery exam, so named because it contains a battery of different tests used to determine if a candidate is best suited to be a letter carrier, a mail handler, or a clerk. The test was given to thousands of applicants in an auditorium at the U of M.
He was sent to Carrier Academy, assigned a blue uniform, and began working as a trainee in April of 2000.
Since then, the world of mail delivery has changed completely.
Morgen said, “When I first started, on a Monday there would be a dozen or more tubs of mail to deliver for each route. Now three tubs of mail are considered a lot. The volume of mail is about 15% of what it used to be, but the volume of packages has increased at least 10-fold.”

People made route wonderful
Assigned to the Minnehaha Station for the last 16 years, Morgen averaged 12+ miles of walking per day – more when he worked overtime.
He said, “The people on my route made the job wonderful. I’ve written well over 100 thank you notes in the last few weeks. I never could have been a mail carrier in the suburbs, where you drive from mailbox to mailbox and never get to talk to anyone.”
While he will miss his customers, there are a few things Morgen will not miss.
He said, “The last couple of winters have been really hard because of all the ice events. In the course of my career, I’ve fallen dozens of times. As a carrier, you learn to pull your arms in when you fall – to aim for the snow when you’re going down. Of all the surfaces, painted wooden steps are the worst.”
And in every season, of course, there are dogs. Morgen said, “I had 34 incidents where I was bitten, some nips and some multiple bites. I think I’ll always be a little leery of dogs, but I also understand why mail carriers frustrate them. Every day we come onto their property; they bark, and we leave. But then we come back the next day, and the whole thing happens all over again. Who wouldn’t be frustrated by that?”

What’s next: tiny home and golf
For his next chapter of life, Morgen is setting out on an adventure.
He purchased a tiny home from Escape Traveler in Rice Lake, Wis., and is moving to Austin, Texas.
He said, “I don’t know the city at all, but their weather is good. I’m going to treat myself to a lot of golf for the next few years. My first order of business will be to meet a bunch of people, because you need people.”

Things he’s learned as a mail carrier
Morgen’s 20 years of pounding the ground as a mail career have taught him all kinds of valuable things: to dress in layers, to be kind, to bring extra socks and gloves, to carry a first-aid kit complete wet wipes, to write thank you notes, to stick to a schedule, and to know his route backwards and forwards.

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Rename Historic Fort Snelling?

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Minnesota Historical Society convenes listening sessions across the state

The Minnesota Historical Society held its fifth public listening session about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling earlier this month. Audience members responded to questions like, “What should the MNHS consider in a name for this site?” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Does the name Historic Fort Snelling accurately reflect the multiple histories of this place?
That was the question asked by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) when it convened the fifth in a series of six listening sessions across the state on Monday, Oct. 15.
The public meeting was held at Northern Star Scouting Base Camp, 6201 Bloomington Rd. and the purpose of the listening session was to hear public comment about the possible renaming of Historic Fort Snelling.
MNHS deputy director of learning initiatives Kevin Maijala, said, “We want to be clear that the fort itself will not be renamed. However, the fort is just one piece of the 23-acre parcel owned by the historical society.”
The larger Unorganized Territory of Fort Snelling is owned by several different entities including the Minnesota DNR, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the Veteran’s Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the U.S. Navy, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Fort Snelling sits directly above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the area has been inhabited by humans for more than 10,000 years.
The reason for considering a new name is that this confluence of rivers is also a confluence of stories, and many believe only one story is being told by the current name.
MNHS is in the process of a major revitalization project at the site, with a $34.5 million budget (a combination of state of Minnesota appropriations and private donations.) Included in the revitalization is the creation of a new visitor center with 4,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Maijala said, “We’ve been trying to tell a more expanded story at this site since 2006. Many voices make up our history here, and it is our job at the Historical Society to make sure those diverse stories are heard.”

Another Minneapolis resident spoke about why the site is important to him, and why, in his opinion, the name should not be changed. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Historic Fort Snelling has been the site of many divergent experiences: some well-known and some not. Soldiers, veterans and their families, enslaved and free African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans have all lived (and sometimes died) at the fort.
Audience members at the listening session spoke across a broad spectrum of opinion.
Pam Costain, a former Minneapolis School Board member, said, “I walk in Fort Snelling State Park regularly. The confluence of these rivers means a lot to me, both historically and spiritually. This is the place where many Dakota women and children died in the winter of 1862-63. We weren’t told this story in Minnesota for a long time, and now is the time to start. I’m in favor of choosing a name that reflects this story, and also reflects the beauty of the confluence (Bdote in Dakota) because names matter.”
Dr. Curtis Dahlin is a historian with a deep interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He said, “I see Fort Snelling as a military site; that’s what is important to me. I think the MNHS wants to turn it into a Dakota site, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

Participants attending the listening session viewed information panels about Historic Fort Snelling, including its 2006 designation as a “Site of Conscience.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

To ensure a positive listening process, a neutral facilitator set ground rules for respectful communication including refraining from interruption and argument, taking turns, and asking questions for clarity and better understanding.
So far, MNHS has received more than 5,000 responses on a web-based survey about the proposed name change for Historic Fort Snelling. Go to www.mnhs.or/fortsnelling/naming to complete a survey before Nov. 15.

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Longfellow filmmaker tells redemptive stories of covering up racist tattoos

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Billy White helps a customer cover up a tattoo. (Photo submitted)

When the white supremacist rally took place in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and a woman was killed, many people were upset. It was a frightening reminder of how hateful symbols and actions were surfacing within this country.
Billy Joe White, owner of the Red Rose Tattoo shop in Zanesville, Ohio, watched the news coverage along with everyone else. But he decided to do something.
He offered his services pro bono to anyone who might want to come in and get a racist tattoo covered up.
His story has now been documented in an Emmy-nominated short film, “Beneath the Ink,” shot and directed by Cy Dodson, a filmmaker who lives in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Redemptive stories
Although the tattoo parlor was in Dodson’s home town in Ohio, he did not know anything about it. “I just saw an article going around on social media about Billy and how he was covering up tattoos. A fellow had driven three and a half hours from Cleveland to get a large head of Hitler on his calf covered up. I found it interesting and redemptive. People had opened up about their past lives.”
So while he was back in his hometown working on another project, Dodson connected with White and talked a bit. He said he had a couple people coming in that weekend. One of them was John, who had a KKK tattoo on his back. He had adopted an African American kid and wanted to cover up the tattoo.
Dodson spent the weekend in the tattoo shop and the next day talked with John at his house. John was willing to cooperate and talk about his past, what led him to get the tattoo, and what had changed in his life.
“I went back to Minnesota, edited the film and realized I needed a few more shots. So a couple months later I returned to Ohio and shot a few more things,” Dodson said.
“It all happened at once,” Dodson said, regarding the strong response to “Beneath the Ink.” It premiered in Cleveland, and then it showed here at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). It just started going around the country, and it’s done pretty well.
The film has won a dozen awards on the film festival circuit. “The festival route has been successful,” Dodson said. He did not submit it for an Emmy nomination, but the film went online and GQ picked it up for its website. “They thought it was a good fit for the Emmys, and wanted me to release it to them,” Dodson said. “They knew it had the opportunity to be at least nominated.” The film has also qualified for the Academy Awards.

Filmmaker Cy Dodson says “Beneath the Ink” has set a new bar for his filmmaking. (Photo submitted)

Learning how to tell a perfect story
Dodson began his career in Ohio after graduating from college in 1996.
”I took a job working in news in my hometown,” he recalled. “I jumped around for a while and ended up at KSTP in the Twin Cities. I have been freelancing since 2006.”
Dodson said he does a lot of work for corporate and nonprofit organizations, but he likes finding human interest stories in his films. He said he thinks this latest documentary about white supremacy and its rise is about a broad range of people and a current issue.
Dodson has made three documentaries in the past four years, but he said none have resonated like “Beneath the Ink.”
“My other films took a lot longer than this one, weeks and weeks of shooting for a result about the same time,” Dodson said. “For ‘Beneath the Ink,’ I didn’t shoot as much footage and the editing was not as time-consuming. With this film, I wanted to be focused on the story and not try to do a lot of other things and waste my time and everyone else’s.”
His background in working for news stations helped develop his filmmaking process, according to Dodson. “It kind of forces you to do it all in a short amount of time,” he explained. “You do it quickly and efficiently and in a short amount of time. You know how to tell a story, and you keep doing that over and over. You learn how to tell a perfect story.”
His experience led him to want to tell longer stories rather than the two-minute news items. This led him to his documentary work.

Norwegian project next
His next project has already taken him to Norway. He is documenting the story of the Letnes family from northern Norway. Stephen Letnes, a member of the family and a composer for “Beneath the Ink,” joined Dodson on his trip to Norway.
Dotson said that typically, the oldest son in Norwegian families inherits the family farm, and the second son survives on his own. Three of the Letnes sons moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area and started potato farms. The film will be about a family lineage story and Norwegian immigration to northern Minnesota.

A new bar for himself
“Beneath the Ink” has set a bar for his filmmaking, according to Dodson. “When you have something successful, how do you build on that?” He said he shot and edited the film himself, then brought on producers. He said he met his co-producers at a film festival. He brought on Melody Gilbert, a local film producer, to help with international distribution.
“You just build as you go,” Dodson said. He claimed the learning process of making films is what he likes best. But he admitted that the success of this film has brought on a new series of challenges.
“You meet with lawyers, you’re on the phones, you’re in meetings, there’s distribution. I’ve never sold a film before, and it’s trial by fire.”
Dodson, who considers himself an introvert, said he thinks shooting “Beneath the Ink” in his home town was helpful.
“The people opened up to me, and it was a different pace. There were never any questions asked, and everybody trusted each other,” he remarked.
But he said taking his film to festivals across the country has helped him be more assertive and feel more comfortable interviewing people. “It forces you to give your spiel and talk with people,” he stated.
When he attended the Emmy celebration in New York, he connected with people in the industry. He said that while LA is considered the mecca for narrative fiction, New York is the stronghold for documentaries.
He said he would like to extend “Beneath the Ink” from a short 12-minute documentary into a documentary feature.
“There are still a lot more people coming in from across the country wanting cover-ups. I am looking at teaming up with producers and doing a longer story,” Dodson said.
“I think I have aligned myself with good people to take this to the next level.”

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Sacred Sites Tours seek healing through storytelling

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs ended a Sacred Sites Tour with a song atop the indigenous burial ground at Pilot Knob Hill. He said, “These tours are meant to raise the level of collective conscience. We owe it to the people of Bdote to understand their story.” >> SEE RELATED STORY ON FORT SNELLING NAME. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Bdote is the Dakota word for “meeting place of rivers.” It refers to the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers: a confluence that many Dakota people consider their site of creation. The junction of these two mighty rivers is just below Fort Snelling, and directly across from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Mendota.
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican) is a local theologian, historian, and story teller. He created Healing Minnesota Stories in 2011 to foster understanding and healing between Native and non-Native people, particularly those in various faith communities.
He said, “Native people have suffered deep trauma, losing their land, language, and culture over time. While countless people and institutions contributed to this trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. We all need healing. Healing is doable, and churches have a role to play in that healing.”
About 40 Sacred Sites Tours are offered annually through Healing Minnesota Stories; each tour visits three sacred sites in the Bdote area. Jacobs thought interest in the tours might continue through the 150th commemoration of the 1862 US-Dakota War in 2012 and then wane — but interest kept growing. More than 7,000 people have participated in his tours to date. Only 4-5 are open to the public each year; the rest are for church groups, colleges, and universities.
Along with his friend and co-presenter Bob Klanderud (Dakota), Jacobs uses the power of storytelling to heal because, “stories make invisible pain visible.”

Sacred Sites Tour participants gathered at the Fort Snelling memorial site. More than 1,700 Dakota people were interned here during the bitter winter of 1863, before being deported from their Minnesota homeland. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Sacred Sites Tours start on the lawn of St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 1405 Sibley Memorial Highway, the oldest Catholic church in Minnesota.
Jacobs explained, “The first treaty between the U.S. Government and the Dakota people was signed in 1805, and the first piece of stolen land is right here. The treaty stated that cooperative use of the land beneath our feet would be protected in perpetuity. The Dakota people were assured the right to move across this land nine miles in any direction: to make their home here, to fish, hunt, and gather, to live out their lives in peace.
“This nine-mile radius of stolen land includes all of downtown Minneapolis, most of downtown St. Paul, and everything in-between, even the Mall of America,” said Jacobs.
He continued, “Like Fort Snelling, we believe St. Peter’s Catholic Church was erected as a sign of supremacy and domination over the Dakota people in their most sacred place. We hold no ill will toward St. Peter’s at this time, but we cannot ignore their presence here either. To address some of the pain we feel, the church has taken several steps to address healing. One step is that every year on the second Saturday in September, they offer their grounds to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota for their annual Pow Wow. This September marked the 20th year.”
The second stop on the tour is in Fort Snelling State Park, the most visited state park in Minnesota. In 1987, the Dakota community erected a monument near the Visitor Center: a circular enclosure made of logs that fan open to the sky. The monument bears the Dakota words, “Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan,” and the English words, “Remembering and Honoring.”

As tour participants parted, Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs said, “We believe that every human being is called upon to be an agent of justice – in a world that desperately needs us.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Jacobs said, “This valley is a place of birth, life, creation, and genesis. We tell stories of how full-term pregnant women used to walk for days to deliver their babies here. But this valley is also a place of pain, anguish, death, and genocide. This was the internment site for more than 1,700 Dakota (primarily women, elders, and children) when the 1862 U.S.-Dakota war ended. They were forced to march 150 miles from the Lower Sioux Agency in western Minnesota. They overwintered here through brutal conditions until they were deported the next spring.
“To this day, there are far more Dakota people living outside of Minnesota than there are living within. This was a diaspora.”

A meaningful part of the tour experience was being given time for quiet reflection throughout the afternoon. At the Fort Snelling memorial site, each participant received a pinch of tobacco to leave as an offering for those who died.
Jacobs said, “Walk among the trees and as you do, listen into the ears of your spirit and your heart. Hold the tobacco close, to solidify your prayer in this place.”
The final tour stop was Pilot Knob Hill, a 112-acre parcel of public/private land in Mendota that is a sacred indigenous burial ground and meeting place for Dakota people. A big circle was marked on the ground, divided into quarters and filled with four different colors of gravel (signifying the different colors of humanity).
Standing in the circle with tour participants, Jacobs said, “The earth cries out for help; her people need direction. For the protection of the earth, and for those who make their home here, we must all come together in solidarity.”
Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs is director of racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. When he accepted that position last year, he brought Healing Minnesota Stories with him. The Sacred Sites Tours are now operated under the auspices of MCC. Tours are appropriate for ages 18+ and are offered at no cost, though free will offerings are greatly appreciated.
For information about the 2020 schedule, contact

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