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Our Way or the Highway

Inside the Minnehaha Free State

2002
Author:

Mary Losure

Our Way or the Highway

An eyewitness account of this controversial environmental action.

Construction plans for the reroute of Highway 55 through south Minneapolis sparked an environmental movement that pitted activists against public authorities in one of the most dramatic episodes in the city’s history. Fueled by idealism and anger, a diverse coalition of Native Americans, neighborhood residents, and young anarchists banded together to try to stop the highway expansion. Beginning in 1998, this group sustained protests for more than a year and eventually faced an unprecedented show of force by law enforcement.

Sometimes a place is so full of power that it compels you to raise your voice and place your prayers in homage for its sanctity. Coldwater Spring, and the struggle for a sacred site of the Mendota Dakota, and indeed all of us, is one such place and one such set of prayers, set to action. Our Way or the Highway is a compelling and gripping account of remarkable citizen activism from the perspective of a seasoned and assured journalist.

Winona LaDuke

Construction plans for the reroute of Highway 55 through south Minneapolis sparked an environmental movement that pitted activists against public authorities in one of the most dramatic episodes in the city’s history. Mary Losure was there; as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio she witnessed the neighborhood’s transformation from a quiet street to the center of an emotionally charged standoff. Fueled by idealism and anger, a diverse coalition banded together to try to stop the highway expansion. Beginning in 1998, this group sustained protests for more than one year and eventually faced an unprecedented show of force by law enforcement.

In Our Way or the Highway Losure offers an inside view of the activist subculture that converged into a makeshift encampment dubbed the "Minnehaha Free State." Here, a retired stenographer befriended EarthFirst! members and appeared in the organization’s national journal, fist raised in protest of the destruction of her home. A pipe fitter abandoned his old life to defend what he believed to be the sacred sites of his Dakota ancestors. A dreamy, dreadlocked seeker hitchhiked to Minneapolis and spent days perched in a doomed cottonwood tree. A police lieutenant watched the trees fall and felt surprising sympathy for the activists’ beliefs. Engagingly written, Our Way or the Highway reveals the motivations, perceptions, and dynamics of those involved in this conflict of wills and ideals.

Among the issues Losure explores are the roles of ecoanarchism and grassroots activism in the age of globalization. This fascinating subculture, brought to the spotlight during protests over the World Trade Organization in Seattle and Genoa, has been largely undocumented in the mainstream press. With a practiced reporter’s eye, Mary Losure shows the activists’ world and the way the establishment views them, and ultimately she lays bare the power of the existing order and the fragility and absolute necessity of dissent.

Our Way or the Highway

Mary Losure is an award-winning reporter who covers the environment for Minnesota Public Radio. She is a longtime contributor to National Public Radio, where her work has aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Our Way or the Highway

Sometimes a place is so full of power that it compels you to raise your voice and place your prayers in homage for its sanctity. Coldwater Spring, and the struggle for a sacred site of the Mendota Dakota, and indeed all of us, is one such place and one such set of prayers, set to action. Our Way or the Highway is a compelling and gripping account of remarkable citizen activism from the perspective of a seasoned and assured journalist.

Winona LaDuke

Armed with effortless writing style that would invite you to read any story she chooses to tell, Losure takes readers inside the protesters’ camp, the ‘Minnehaha Free State,’ where a tiny band of Lakota is joined by a ragtag army of sympathizers, including colorful but unpredictable Earth First!ers bearing names such as Tumbleweed, Dr. Toxic, Moon, Tarzana, and Spiney.

Ruminator Review

Important simply because of the urgent political and ethical questions it raises: ‘How do we make decisions that shape the future of our cities? What binds us into communities? What do we hold sacred?’

Ethics, Place and Environment

An insider’s look at grassroots activism. Our Way or the Highway is the story of a group of citizens that became activists when the threat of a highway comes to their neighborhood.

E-Streams

Mary Losure’s book presents an astute and provocative account of the struggle over the rerouting of Minneapolis’s Highway 55. Our Way or the Highway is compelling, thought provoking, and entertaining. It is good reporting, good storytelling, and, in its comprehensiveness and attention to detail, an important addition to the historical record of the environmental movement.

Environmental Practice