Column: Ojibwe woman cited for using shovel

"Today, I offer a heart-warming Christmas story of a good Samaritan busted by Minneapolis' finest for the crime of borrowing a shovel paid for by the taxpayers, of which Lisa Bellanger is one. It is a story that may make you think Minnesota Nice is dead and buried. But there is a late-breaking happy twist to our tale. So stay tuned.

Bellanger, 46, was returning from Mystic Lake Casino to her home in northeast Minneapolis on the snowy night of Saturday, Dec. 1, when the bus -- loaded with blue-haired widows and other bingo-playing desperadoes -- got stuck in a drift left by a plow on Central Avenue near 18th and a Half Avenue NE.

It was past midnight, and the people stranded on the bus were fretting about getting home. Bellanger, an Ojibwe Indian, learned at an early age to respect -- and to assist -- her elders. Her mother, Pat, was on the bus with her.

Bellanger, who works for the school system and is developing an empowerment program for Native American parents, walked inside the station and asked to borrow the shovel.

A bus is stuck, she said.

City bus? a cop asked.

No, Bellanger said. The midnight bus from Mystic.

Then call Mystic Lake, the cop said.

The bus was stuck 30 miles north of the casino. Lisa Bellanger thought the elders -- Minneapolis citizens -- had waited long enough. She told the cop she was going to take the shovel. And would bring it back when the bus was free.

"It'll just take a few minutes," Bellanger said. "What are you going to do? Arrest me? Do you know how silly that would look?""

Get the Story:
Nick Coleman: Minneapolis cop dug a hole for himself in shovel dustup (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 12/14)