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Gov. Laura Kelly tips hat at influence of Flint Hills grassland on Kansas beef industry

Rancher Jan Lyons provided the fitting backdrop of Flint Hills native grassland and about 100 Angus cows and calves Thursday for signing by Gov. Laura Kelly of a proclamation affirming the high value of the beef industry in Kansas.

“We have excellent spring water in this pasture,” said Lyons, the first woman to serve as president of the Kansas Livestock Association. “The green grass that is growing here is so full of nutrients that our cattle are in this at least 90% of their life. We’re able to grass feed healthfully and secure carbon in the ground.”

She said the Kansas beef industry was the single largest sector of the state’s agriculture economy and merited recognition with the governor’s designation of May as the state’s beef month.

Before sitting down at a table placed in the pasture to sign the honorary decree, Kelly said she took comfort in preservation of such large swaths of sustainable bluestem and other grasses that give the Flint Hills color, texture and economic muscle. The nutritious grass growing out of the rocky ground — mostly unsuitable for crops — is consumed each year by more than 1 million cattle grazing hills of central Kansas.

“I can’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate than right here in the heart of a flourishing cattle ranch, looking out over the pasture, which is absolutely stunning,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a Democrat seeking re-election in 2022, said the rural economy in Kansas was propelled by farmers growing hay and grains consumed by livestock, the cattle ranchers who raised livestock, and large and small processors delivering meat products to consumers.

The beef industry contributed nearly $13 billion annually to the state’s economy, she said, and the industry exported $1.7 billion in beef products annually.

“Kansas is recognized across the nation and the world for raising healthy cattle and producing high-quality, nutritious beef,” the governor said. “Family operations like the Lyons Ranch are the standard in Kansas agriculture. Eight-five percent of the farms and ranches in Kansas are family owned. I will continue to work for policies that help our Kansas farm families across every county in the state.”

She said she was committed to funding highway projects necessary to efficiently move livestock and products through the food chain, expansion of broadband services to promote commercial opportunities and meet demands of precision farming, and provide emergency assistance during disasters such as wildfires and tornadoes.

Mike Beam, secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said appreciation for the value of native grasslands and the role cattle played in sustaining that resources was growing. At the same time, he said, the beef industry was challenged by rising costs of fuel and feed as well as broader supply-chain issues.

The lack of rain in some areas of the state, especially southwest Kansas, remained a concern for producers who needed moisture to generate grasses required by cattle herds, he said.

“What I worry about? Are we in a 2012 drought?” Beam said. “If that is the case, these pastures are not going to hold up. That’s a wild card.”

Lyons, who has operated the multigenerational cattle ranch for decades, said her grassland vista was among potential targets of eminent domain in the 1980s by the U.S. Army. The Department of Defense theorized another 100,000 acres of central Kansas property was needed to expand space for military training exercises at Fort Riley.

A political and economic coalition known as Preserve the Flint Hills was formed to push back against the Army’s proposal, she said. Area farmers and ranchers took part along with U.S. Sens. Nancy Kassebaum and Robert Dole, and the Department of Defense eventually set the plan aside.

“It was good to join together,” Lyons said. “As I’ve learned over the years, that’s how we get things done.”

Manhattan man arrested for 2020 kidnapping

A Manhattan man has been arrested in connection with a 2020 kidnapping.

Antonio Cooper, 45, of Manhattan was arrested Wednesday for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery, criminal possession of a weapon by a felon, two counts of criminal threat and two counts of aggravated assault.

Officers responded to the incident shortly before 4 p.m. Sept. 19, 2020, in the 500 block of North Manhattan Avenue. A 44-year-old woman reported Cooper forced her into a car and hit and threatened her with a gun.

Riley County police arrested Cooper on a warrant after he was extradited from the United States Penitentiary facility in Florence, Colo.

Cooper remains confined in Riley County Jail on a $105,000 bond.

US grappling with Native American boarding school history

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Deb Haaland is pushing the U.S. government to reckon with its role in Native American boarding schools like no other Cabinet secretary could — backed by personal experience, a struggle with losing her own Native language and a broader community that has felt the devastating impacts.

The agency she oversees — the Interior Department — released a first-of-its-kind report this week that named the 408 schools the federal government supported to strip Native Americans of their cultures and identities. At least 500 children died at some of the schools, but that number is expected to reach into the thousands or tens of thousands as more research is done.

“We are uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to undercover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long,” she said Wednesday during a news conference. “As a pueblo woman, it is my responsibility and, frankly, it’s my legacy.”

The U.S. government hasn’t been open to investigating itself to uncover the truth about boarding schools that operated from the late 18th century to the late 1960s. It’s possible now because people who know first-hand the persistent trauma caused by the boarding school system are positioned in the U.S. government.

Still, the work to uncover the truth and create a path for healing will rely on having financial resources in Indian Country, which the federal government has chronically underfunded.

Tribes will have to navigate federal laws on repatriation to take Native children who died and are buried at former boarding school sites home, if desired, and might have no recourse to access burial sites on private land. The causes of death included disease, accidental injuries and abuse.

Boarding school survivors also might be hesitant to recount the painful past and trust a government whose policies were to eradicate tribes and, later, assimilate them under the veil of education. Some have welcomed the opportunity to share their stories for the first time.

Haaland, the first and only Native American Cabinet secretary, has the support of President Joe Biden to investigate further. Congress has provided the Interior Department with $7 million for its work on the next phase of the report, which will focus on burial sites, and identifying Native children and their ages. Haaland also said a year-long tour would seek to gather stories of boarding school survivors for an oral history collection.

A bill that’s previously been introduced in Congress to create a truth and healing commission on boarding schools got its first hearing Thursday. It’s sponsored by two Native American U.S. representatives — Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas, who is Ho-Chunk, and Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is Chickasaw.

“Working with the Interior, knowing that there are representatives in the federal government who understand these experiences not just on a historical record but deep within their selves, their own personal stories, really makes a difference,” said Deborah Parker, chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and a member of the Tulalip Tribes.

More than two decades ago, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Gover issued an apology for the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual violence committed against children at the off-reservation schools. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama quietly signed off on an apology of sorts for “violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” The language was buried deep in a multibillion-dollar defense spending bill.

The proposed commission would have a broader scope than the Interior’s investigation to seek records with subpoena power. It would make recommendations to the federal government within five years of its passage, possible in the U.S. House but more difficult in the U.S. Senate.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support Native American Boarding Schools. The goal was to civilize Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. Religious and private institutions often received federal funding and were willing partners.

Capt. Richard Henry Pratt described the essence of the federal boarding schools in a speech he gave in 1892 where he said, “Kill the Indian and save the man.”

Minnesota resident Mitch Walking Elk ran away multiple times from boarding schools he attended in the late 1950s and early ‘60s because “my spirit knew it wasn’t a good place for me,” he said.

Boarding schools aren’t the only thing that has led him to distrust the federal government, even as it seems willing to uncover the past. In 1864, Walking Elk’s ancestors from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were attacked in the Sand Creek Massacre. At least 200 people were killed, and victims’ bodies were mutilated.

“I have reservations about what’s going on right now because I don’t trust them,” said Walking Elk. “If Deb Haaland makes too many waves, the far right, the extremists will manufacture something to put the brakes on this.”

Boarding school survivor Ramona Klein testified before Congress on Thursday, describing seeing her mother cry as her children got on a big, green bus for boarding school, being scrubbed with a stiff brush once there, and sleeping under a scratchy wool Army blanket. She put on a large rubber hand when she spoke of being touched at the school at night “like no child’s body should be touched.”

“Being in that boarding school was the loneliest time of my life,” said Klein, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. “It has made it difficult for me to trust other people, including the people on this committee, with my emotions, my thoughts, my dreams and my physical being. And how could that not be the result?”

Republican Rep. Jay Obernolte of California said Congress would need to consider the financial investment in the proposed commission and whether those who serve would do so as a public service or be compensated.

“I’m not opposed to investing substantial taxpayer resources in this commission, but I think we need to be explicit about what those resources are,” he said Thursday.

Canadian alternative-energy fuels manufacturer to open plant in Manhattan

A Canadian company producing alternative-energy fuels and nanomaterials using Kansas State-developed technology plans to open a manufacturing plant in Manhattan.

HydroGraph Clean Power Inc. announced this week that the planned commercial-scale facility will produce graphene — nanomaterial with physical and electronic properties used by a wide range of industries — and hydrogen for alternative-energy fuels.

Stuart Jara, chief executive officer of HydroGraph, said the location was a strategic choice.

“The close proximity of our manufacturing facility to our research partners at Kansas State University will help us maintain our competitive advantage with a virtuous cycle between our commercial production and continuing R&D,” she said in a written statement.

The company, publicly listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in 2021, was founded in 2017, using K-State research as the basis for its work. HydroGraph exclusively licensed the patented detonation process discovered by Chris Sorensen, a physics professor at K-State.

Jara said Sorensen’s method produces the most consistent, high-quality and cost-effective graphene available on the market and has the lowest environmental footprint. K-State Innovation Partners, also known as the Kansas State University Research Foundation, coordinated the exclusive license.

“Watching the research grow from a patentable discovery to an international company has been an exciting and rewarding process,” said Aarushi Gupta, licensing associate with K-State Innovation Partners. “The global impact our world-class researchers have is truly incredible.”

Officials said production in the Manhattan pilot-scale facility — an existing building in Pottawatomie County — could start as early as this fall. Over the next five years, HydroGraph plans to expand to a larger production facility and create more than 100 jobs.

“As part of the university’s Economic Prosperity Plan, we have committed to bringing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment into the state,” said David Rosowsky, K-State vice president for research. “The establishment of this facility in Manhattan is a testament to K-State’s ability to be a powerful economic driver for the state of Kansas.”

Lt. Gov. David Toland said HydroGraph is the type of company Kansas wants. “International investment and innovation-based growth are important economic drivers for Kansas, and we are proud to partner with HydroGraph to grow the innovation ecosystem in the state,” he said.

K-State Innovation Partners and Manhattan’s Knowledge Based Economic Development, or KBED, partnership facilitated the company’s manufacturing presence in the region.

“This project aligns with our community’s economic development strategies to drive innovation and entrepreneurship and is a prime example of how targeted economic growth can work when university, community and industry partners come together behind a common goal,” said Jason Smith, president/CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce and chair of the KBED board.

Three people injured in a head-on car crash in north Manhattan

Three people were injured in a head-on car crash Thursday afternoon in north Manhattan.

Riley County police said the crash occurred at 4:06 p.m. in the 5700 block of Tuttle Creek Boulevard, east of its intersection with Seth Child Road.

Police said Helen Curry, 16, of Riley, was driving a 2003 Ford Focus heading east when she crossed into the westbound lane and hit a 2010 Chevrolet Equinox driven by Rebecca Slack, 58, of Manhattan.

Emergency flew Slack to Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka for treatment of “lower extremity injuries.”

Responders also took Curry and a passenger in the Equinox, Mark Danford, 57, of Manhattan, to Ascension Via Christi for treatment of their injuries.