Environmental (In)justice in Mni Sóta Maḳoce Storytelling Contest

April 27, 2022

The University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) and the Saint Paul Almanac are excited to announce the winning pieces from the Environmental (In)justice in Mni Sóta Maḳoce (Minnesota) Storytelling Contest! 

This collaborative project seeks to uplift voices from communities across Mni Sóta Maḳoce (Minnesota) who have been affected by environmental injustice and those who seek an environmentally just future.  Contest Curators and SCP Artists-in-Residence Brad Hagen and Said Shaiye have selected the winning pieces from 43 submissions.  These works will be published on the Saint Paul Almanac and Sustainable Communities Partnership websites.  Please stay tuned!

Congratulations to the award winners!


“Children of Michigan” by Stephani Maari Booker

“Let Us Consider” by Christine Mounts

“Fire Medicine” by Sagirah Shahid

 Creative Nonfiction:

“Big Lake Smelt Don’t Lie” by Robert Hale

“Animal Economics” by Eric Wilkinson (University of St. Thomas student category)

 Visual Arts:

“I want my future back” by Evelyn Staats

From our Contest Curators

Brad Hagen and Said Shaiye are local writers and photographers.  They approach the concept of environmental injustice from a particular perspective, which they share here.

From Brad Hagen

As an Ojibwe person, when I think of environmental justice, I’m thinking of how our actions today will affect those seven generations from now and how our decisions will impact not resources, but relatives: Water, trees, plants, animals – those with whom we share this land. To act with environmental justice is, for me, to act with respect toward the rest of creation. It’s when we don’t mind our relations that injustices occur. Pollutants filling lakes and rivers, choking the fish who reside there; carbon emissions raising temperatures around the globe, causing illness and displacement; pipelines slinking beneath waterways, threatening both safety and sovereignty among tribal nations; these things are all at the forefront of my mind when I think of the environment.  

From Said Shaiye

When I think of environmental justice as a Black immigrant, I’m thinking of actions that have affected people in the lands they came from & the lands they now call home, from Africa to America & everywhere in between. I think of the common theme connecting these people and places: economic exploitation that causes suffering in people, suffering for the Earth. I’m also thinking of the wide diversity of national backgrounds represented within the twin cities, and how many types of injustice, both environmental and otherwise, brought those people here (Hmong, Oromo, Liberian, Arab, Somali, etc). Climate change is exacerbating those types of excursions. And of course, the historical injustices committed against Native & African American communities who continue to be disenfranchised and systemically held back from healing, as even more traumas are piled on top of the historic ones, with no sight of restitution or reparations in sight.