Printer Friendly

Manipi hena owas'in wicunkiksuyapi.

(We Remember All Those Who Walked)

Although the past and its implications are self-evident, we are complicit in their denial because it is too painful or arduous or costly to imagine an existence unbound from the lies. Emotionally and psychologically, we are attached to this mythology of colonialism because it explains the Euroamerican conquest and normalizes it in our lives. The perpetrators know that it is wrong to steal a country and deny it is a crime; the victims know that it is shameful to accept defeat lying down. Yet, complacency rules over both because the thought of what might come out of transcending the lies is too ... fearsome.

Taiaiake Alfred

We've never really come out of that grief and mourning. We are yet afflicted with that. We seem to be a mourning people at times.

Ed Red Owl

**********

The Dakota populations of the United States and Canada continue to suffer deeply from decades of historical trauma and the effects of an ongoing colonization. (1) Even in the age of casinos, cigarette and gas sales, declarations of sovereignty, and a seemingly expanding political influence, our people are burdened with a sense of pain and grief that continues to affect our daily lives. This combines with the pain from the near daily assaults on our humanity that we continue to experience at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The weight of these burdens contributes to the many social ills destroying the lives of our people, yet we struggle with how to liberate ourselves from this encumbrance. The Dakota Commemorative March of 2002 was an attempt to unburden ourselves from that suffering by examining in a profound and meaningful way one historical antecedent contributing to our current pain and challenging the colonialist representation of that event.

On November 7, 2002, a couple dozen marchers set out from the Lower Sioux Reservation on a 150-mile journey to a concentration camp site at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eventually several hundred joined the walk, which was conceived as a commemorative event to honor the Dakota people, primarily women and children, who were forcibly marched roughly the same route on November 7-13, 1862, at the close of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. We were also there to remember the equally horrific journey of our Dakota men who were sentenced to death for war crimes and were awaiting their execution. On November 9, 1862, these men were shackled, placed on wagons, and transported to the concentration camp in Mankato, where those who were not hanged would spend a difficult winter. These forced journeys marked the first phase of Dakota expulsion from our homeland--they were the first phase of forced removal. The following spring, all were ousted from Minnesota as part of a successful policy of ethnic cleansing. While our primary intent was to remember and honor our ancestors who suffered on these journeys, it was also about giving testimony to the truth about a shameful past that had been largely hidden in the previous 140 years.

The idea of a commemorative march was first conceived in the summer of 2001 in a discussion among a small group of us who were attending a conference in New Ulm, Minnesota. My Deksi (Uncle) Leo Omani suggested the idea to me, Yvonne Wynde, and Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan. (2) We realized that while our Dakota people have sponsored commemorative events over the years to honor of the thirty-eight who were hanged in Mankato, little had been done to remember the suffering endured by the others involved, especially the women and children. The four of us agreed that it was important to remember and honor these ancestors. When contemplating the purpose and meaning of such a commemorative march, it became apparent to us that this event must be an honest commemoration, that is, a rendering of the event in the context of the oppression and colonization in which it occurred.

Though a more detailed historical overview will be offered in the first essay of this collection, to gain a more thorough understanding of this event it is necessary to first provide some context. The forced march and removal of Dakota people from our homeland was justified as a reasonable course of action by generations of scholars and writers who positioned it as an inevitable consequence of the "Sioux Uprising of 1862." The master narrative surrounding this event reasoned that if Sioux men were savage enough to spontaneously rise up and viciously attack innocent white settlers, the removal of the Dakota was not only warranted, it was also necessary for the safety of the settler families who were only trying to live peacefully while making proper use of the land. Thus, the particular brutality shown to Dakota women and children might be deemed unfortunate, but it was still considered an acceptable and understandable response to the savageness of the hostile Indians. The forced march was given little attention, often only briefly mentioned in entire books on the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, apparently considered to be largely unremarkable. The story of the condemned men was similarly treated. Rather than a depiction of them as the defenders of Dakota land and way of life that they were, they were cast as bloodthirsty savages worthy of only contempt and hatred. Therefore, little comment was made on this first phase of forced removal by those controlling the writing of history. Only limited records of the events were recorded by the perpetrators, and few oral accounts among the victims have been documented.

The broader context for this first phase of forced removal is the cycle of invasion, conquest, removal, and colonization that occurred repeatedly in the settlement of America. More specifically, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 sheds considerable light on this first phase of forced removal as it helps to explain the mindset of white settlers and their ability to carry out unjust acts because of their relentless desire for Dakota lands. The 1862 war offered the rationale whites needed to seize all Dakota lands, and it thus remains a major turning point in Dakota history. It marks the loss of our homeland and the subsequent diaspora of our people.

Historians of the last several decades have written about the circumstances leading up to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, circumstances that left the Dakota with little choice but to go to war or die. (3) The injustices perpetrated upon the Dakota are well documented and set a clear pattern of invasion, oppression, conquest, and colonization. While the Dakota had trading relations with Europeans by the 1660s, they were able to maintain control of their resources until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Treaty of 1805 marked the first land cession for the Dakota, but it was so fraudulently negotiated by Zebulon Pike that its ratification by the Senate was shameful. Only two Dakota signatures graced the treaty (for which they immediately received alcohol and presents), and they were considered by the U.S. government to be representative of the entire "Sioux nation," a population estimated by Pike to be 21,675. (4) Pike's mission was to establish United States sovereignty in the area, in competition with the British who sought to maintain their own influence. From this perspective the Dakota were merely pawns in the imperial enterprises of more powerful nations. Unfortunately, because Fort Snelling was erected on lands from that original cession, its establishment opened the way for soldiers, missionaries, Indian agents, and settlers to invade Dakota lands further. As an immediate war with the Dakota over lands and resources would be both dangerous and costly, more peacefully negotiated land cessions became the method of choice for further dispossession. More land cessions followed in 1830, 1837, 1851, and 1858. In all instances the U.S. government used foul means of obtaining signatures, and they often ensured the wealth of agents and traders in Dakota lands. For example, in 1837 the Dakota believed they were being summoned to negotiate a peace treaty with the Sacs and Foxes and instead were pressured into signing away lands east of the Mississippi. In the 1851 treaties the Dakota were illegally threatened and bullied into ceding remaining lands confining them to a 20-mile wide, 140-mile long strip of reservation land.

Furthermore, the government consistently violated the treaties it negotiated, which should have meant the return of lands ceded. For example, though the Doty Treaties of 1841 were never ratified, the letter from Doty to the secretary of war accompanying the treaty signed by the Bdewakantunwan Dakota acknowledges the repeated treaty violations by the United States government:
   In consequence of the failure of government to pay to Indians their
   annuities at the time appointed by the treaties with them, and at
   the seasons of the year when these necessities require, the supplies
   which they can only obtain on a credit from their traders, or with
   their annuities, the system of credits has been continued, and
   indeed been absolutely necessary in many instances to save the
   Indian from suffering. Nothing but punctuality on the part of Govt.
   can establish the relations which ought to exist between the Indians
   and the Govt.--that is, the Indians should feel dependent on the
   Government, and not on the Trader. Unless this dependence is
   established, it is in vain for the Govt. to attempt to exercise any
   influence over them, except that of force. (5)


By the 1840s the Dakota were facing incremental land dispossession through treaties, which were nonetheless repeatedly violated. However, the Dakota were additionally, as this excerpt highlights, subjected to a policy of forced dependency that was already well-established.

In spite of the first phase of forced removals being a devastating experience for our Dakota ancestors (as well as a major and necessary course in the opening of prime agricultural Dakota lands to white settlement by white standards), until 2002 there was no public recognition of these removals either to memorialize the suffering of the Dakota or the treacherous means by which white hegemony was achieved. If memorials are commissioned and built among a community with shared and admired values that are expected to continue into the future, it is clear that citizens and planners of Minnesota assumed a future without a Dakota presence. (6) It is equally clear that Minnesotans have not wanted reminders of the costs paid by us for their occupation of our homeland. Thus it is precisely because the ethnic cleansing was so complete that no public memorials dedicated to the forced removals exist.

Publicly and collectively invoking Dakota historical memories of these forced marches becomes a site of political contestation because of the shockwaves sent through the foundation that has upheld the master narrative. When that narrative is disrupted the social order is called into question and challenged. Throughout the first century of historical scholarship on the 1862 war, the Dakota are depicted as militant, hostile, savage Sioux Indians who spontaneously rose up and viciously slaughtered innocent white settlers. This sentiment was graphically recorded in the earliest accounts from the era and continued to be echoed, albeit more subtly, in subsequent decades. Even the name eventually applied to the war, "The Sioux Uprising of 1862," is a phrase that both captured and embedded this interpretation.

As Edward Linenthal has noted about the sanctification of the Little Big Horn, which was considered to be "hollowed by the blood of America's warriors," so, too, has this sanctification occurred in Minnesota. Linenthal comments, "These kinds of sacred places and martial rituals have communicated a parochial ideology and awakened a certain kind of patriotic enthusiasm, a mood that affirmed the rightness of American arms and aims in its wars." (7) While the attention given to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1861 has not captured the American imagination on the same scale as Little Big Horn, the messages carved in stone are the same.

Numerous obelisk monuments that dot the landscape of southern Minnesota have literally fixed in stone this historical narrative. They may be seen in places like Acton Township, marking the site of the first white casualties, or at battle sites such as Wood Lake, Fort Ridgely, and New Ulm, where citizens and soldiery valiantly defended themselves against Dakota aggression. A monument in New Ulm was dedicated to the "Guardians of the Frontier." In the master narrative the title of guardians was stolen from the Indigenous occupants and bestowed upon the new settlers now guarding Indigenous lands against Indigenous attack. This is the colonial perversion of reality referred to by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. (8) Dedicated to the preservation of the settler's memory of the 1862 war, they make frequent reference to the heroics demonstrated by the white settlers in the face of "Sioux violence and brutality," and those who lost their lives in the war have been cast as martyrs.

Few memorials to Dakota people exist, and those that do reflect a colonialist agenda. Six Dakota men are honored through commemoration in stone in a smaller background monument at Birch Coulee for saving the lives of white settlers. They would be considered traitors by Dakota standards but are provided a celebrity status within the colonizing class because of their assistance in serving the colonialist agenda. In Hutchinson a statue of Chief Little Crow was erected by their celebrated hometown artist, Les Koubas. Situated there, the statue carries a particularly ironic message. Though this is the place where a white father and son, Nathan and Chauncey Lamson, killed Little Crow to collect a bounty payment, the accompanying text makes no mention of this Minnesota policy of ethnic cleansing. Instead, on the accompanying text marker the visitor reads: "The red of the sunset upon these waters reminds us that all blood is red--even that of the red-skin who fought us for possession of this stream, and in the mist which rises from the river we see the smoke of the pipe of peace between all peoples curling upward forever from the valley of the crow." Yet, Hutchinson is only at peace because the Dakota presence was eradicated.

In another example, the Milford State Monument just west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of fifty-two white settlers killed during the war. The figure was created to symbolize Memory (with a capital M), but their notion of memory was restricted to that which would support the colonialist claims to the land. (9) In southern Minnesota the Dakota memory of resistance became nonexistent, metaphorically exterminated and removed, just as our ancestors bodily suffered the same fate.

In consideration of the larger context in 1862, the elderly people, men, women, and children, who suffered the assaults outlined here are Dakota martyrs. Yet, in Minnesota we do not see monuments to them, either individually or collectively. We do not see buildings, counties, roads, schools, or parks named in their honor. Indeed, those are reserved for those who believed in their superior right to our land, who believed the Dakota did not even have a right to go to war over wrongs committed, and who believed Dakota people should either be exterminated or removed from our homeland. Our homeland is littered with the monuments erected to glorify the bravery and martyrdom of those who invaded our lands and fought our people, some of whom lost their lives. Southern Minnesota markers celebrate those who helped in our annihilation and expulsion. It is about time we question those monuments and the ideologies they represent. Some have suggested that we need to dedicate additional monuments to Dakota people (such as the more recent markers at Mankato and Fort Snelling), but this is not nearly enough. While these kinds of memorials are a step in the right direction in reeducating the public regarding the events of 1862, they do not erase the continuing assaults on our spirits occurring from the ongoing celebration of the colonizers.

In the last several decades scholarship on the 1862 war has perceptibly challenged this narrative, and there has been increasing acknowledgment of the crimes perpetrated against the Dakota. Even in the mid-1960s, however, the rightness of American invasion was still defended, as can be seen in this telling passage from one historian on the expulsion of the Dakota from Minnesota: "While the state mourned the loss of her citizens, the removal of the Indians was a source of untold benefit, for the whites occupied the land in peace, and this extensive domain is the pride of the state, and increasing years will add to its value and its greatness." (10) In this narrative what happens to the Indigenous population is ultimately inconsequential as peace and prosperity has since reigned in the state for the white population. While more recent scholarship (and I am referring specifically to scholars such as Gary Anderson, Roy Meyer, and Kenneth Carley) has largely transcended this Manifest Destiny dogma, it has ultimately configured the war as a closed chapter in American history. They write from the perspective that though unfortunate, the damage has been done, as if there is only one window in time for justice to occur. Ultimately, though much useful information may be gleaned from their analyses, it remains disempowering to the Dakota population because it denies the possibility of present and future justice.

This work, then, stands as a narrative that reclaims our right to tell our stories in our own way and for our own purposes. This is not a collection that supports the power base and status of the people, institutions, and structures that have subjugated our nation. Rather, it is designed with Dakota empowerment in mind, as a valuation of Dakota voices, perspectives, worldviews, and historical and contemporary experiences. The oral histories take a prominent position in this collection, as do the need for a multitude of Indigenous voices. Also illuminated here is the connection between past and present; the imagery, perspectives, and stories of the past impact the present in profound ways, and this message is conveyed in every contribution to this volume. This is reflective of a historical consciousness distinct from that which is apparent in histories written by non-Dakota. We cannot separate what was from what is. On a broader scale, this project is part of a growing Indigenous movement toward the reclamation of our past through a more appropriate and accurate rendering of Indigenous history. On a local level, this means we are taking back our Dakota history.

In addition, in voicing our repeated objections to our illegal and immoral dispossession that occurred in the years 1862-63, we are also raising questions about what this means as part of our long-term struggle as Dakota people Indigenous to Minnesota. In bringing these previously suppressed perspectives to the forefront, we are shedding light on some truths of Minnesota history that necessarily challenge the state and its people to rethink their treatment of its Indigenous inhabitants. In this confrontation they must then either reaffirm the white supremacist values and greed that caused our historical dispossession in the first place, or reject those values and join us in our ultimate quest for justice. Perhaps there will be others who will fall somewhere in between, but we are pushing them to do so consciously, through an honest assessment of their motivations and positioning.

The first step in realizing the humanity of our ancestors who suffered in 1862 is to remember them by name. At the beginning of this collection we have included the lists of names of those who were victims of this first phase of forced removal in 1862--the group of primarily women and children who were force marched to Fort Snelling, and the group of condemned men who were shackled and made the trip in wagons to Mankato where they awaited their execution orders. The first list is that of the Dakota names recorded as heads of families by the U.S. Army after arrival at the Fort Snelling concentration camp site in 1862. It is this list of names that was used to make the stakes we planted along the 150-mile route, two names each representing one family, marking each mile we walked. In this record, beside each name is a number representing the number of people under that head of household. To date, all those represented as numbers remain largely nameless. We need to begin to create a record of those whom we know were on the march and who were imprisoned at Fort Shelling so that we can remember those ancestors by name as we continue to walk in the future. The second list provided includes the names of the men who were sentenced to death or imprisonment as a consequence of their participation in the war. While the list is imperfect, it provides a starting place for Dakota people to identify their ancestors who were forcibly removed to concentration camps in 1862.

The forced removals are significant because they mark the first phase of Dakota expulsion from our homeland of Minisota Makoce (Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies). In addition, the forced march of women and children to Fort Snelling was perpetrated upon the non-combatants: the women, the children, and the elders. This treatment of Indigenous peoples by the colonizing forces in United States history was not unusual and, in fact, was quite routine. My Ate (Father), Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa, in his contribution to this special volume, places the forced removal of the Dakota from Minnesota in 1862-63 in the broader context of U.S. Indian policy. He draws appropriate parallels to the Tsalagi Trail of Tears and the Long Walk of the Dine. Mato Nunpa argues that in trying to make sense of these horrendous atrocities, "The genocidal and imperialistic mindset present in the Euroamerican population provides a context for understanding these 'ethnic cleansings' of the Indigenous peoples by the United States and its citizens." Not only does he discuss the event within a national arena, he also broadens the discussion further by making a connection between the treatment of the Jews under the Nazis and the treatment of the Dakota by the Americans, which he points out fulfills the criteria for genocide under the United Nations (UN) Genocide Convention. Because many Minnesotans are unaccustomed to examining the events of 1862 from this larger perspective, his arguments have met with considerable resistance in some circles. He decided to use this resistance as an educational opportunity and so shares with us recent exchanges with non-Dakota regarding these issues. He then closes his essay with a description of his most memorable experiences on the Commemorative March.

After the list of names of our ancestors who experienced this first phase of removal in 1862, the contemporary writings begin with an opening poem entitled "Shadows of Voices," by Gaby Tateyuskanskan. Tateyuskanskan is a poet, mother, and educator dedicated to the perpetuation of Dakota cultural traditions and the restoration of well-being to our people. She also served as co-coordinator for the event. As many of us were inspired to reflect on our experience during the Commemorative March, Tateyuskanskan chose a form of expression in which she is particularly gifted. This poem offered at the beginning reflects not only the strong connection to homeland for our people; it also reflects the damage wrought by genocide and oppression in "a road made of bones." Our collection also ends with one of Tateyuskanskan's poems, "Wounded Hearts," which speaks of the pain associated with the 1862 march but also highlights the reality of regenerated strength as we walk with moral courage in our search for "Humanity, Justice & Peace."

The first essay of this collection, "Decolonizing the 1862 Death Marches," provides a historical overview of the first phase of the Dakota removal from our homeland of Minisota Makoce, when in two groups Dakota people were forced to concentration camps sites in either Mankato or Fort Snelling in November of 1862. Laced with a critical and stinging commentary, for the first time in a written history I argue that because "Violence is never initiated by the oppressed," and a state of oppression certainly existed for the Dakota in 1862, there were no innocent white settlers in Minnesota in 1862. (11) This is likely to be another controversial aspect of this collection because of the way in which it challenges the master narrative. The purpose of this approach is not simply to cast blame for the purpose of seeking punitive justice; rather it is intended to wake people up to the extent to which the colonization and oppression of Dakota people is ongoing, even in our ancient homeland. The "righteous anger" evident in this work, though discomforting and unpleasant, is a necessary step in the unburdening of Dakota grief and suffering regarding this difficult period in our past. (12) It is, therefore, also an indictment of contemporary residents of Minnesota for the way colonization has been perpetuated to the present day.

Mary Beth Faimon, in her contribution to this collection, explains the Commemorative March through the employment of "social work micro and macro practice principles," which allow her to examine the event as one that has caused considerable historical trauma. She explains, "Indescribable terror consumed the Dakota, and the legacy of that terror remains 140 years later, as evidenced in repression, dissociation, denial, alcoholism, depression, doubt and devaluation of self and culture, and the helplessness suffered by many Dakota descendants." Faimon, as a non-Dakota, is also uniquely positioned to offer insight into the responsibility of white Minnesotans in supporting Dakota efforts to seek justice. To counteract the effects of trauma, Faimon suggests that the public acknowledgment of the genocidal policies perpetrated against Dakota peoples is a step in the right direction. She points out that strides were made toward that end with this event, "The march itself brought into public consciousness a reminder of the events of 1862 in the towns and surrounding communities where the event occurred." She then closes her essay with a discussion of the meaning of the march from a personal and professional perspective.

Not everyone who wanted to walk with us in 2002 was able to join us. A few months before the Commemorative March began I received a letter with a return address from the South Dakota State Penitentiary. It was from George Blue Bird, a Lakota man writing to let me know that he and other members of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Spiritual Group in Jameson Prison were praying for us. While they could not be there in body, they would walk with us in spirit. We were all deeply appreciative of their support. With George's eloquent encouragement of our efforts and his obvious knowledge of tribal history, I asked him if he would be willing to offer some comments to include in this collection. In this piece he reminds us of our profound need for healing and makes connections between the experiences of all Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people, those who comprise the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) of the Dakota Oyate (Nation). He calls on the support of all our people in the prison systems, stating "The reason the prisoners are asked to help is because they symbolize the spirits of our relatives who were kept in Fort Snelling and other stockades or concentration camps." In so doing he makes an in-controvertible and powerful statement linking past and present institutions of oppression.

His essay is followed by my personal narrative, "A Journey of Healing and Awakening," regarding my experiences on the Commemorative March. Rather than presenting a detached, scholarly description of the walk, this is intended as a reflective thought piece, which I hope captures the mood and spirit of the event from someone who served as co-coordinator and who walked every day, from beginning to end. Much of what is contained in this section resulted from my own need and desire to process this transformative and powerful experience in a creative and productive way. Ultimately, I conclude that this commemorative walk was about empowerment: "Despite the physical and emotional hardship, or maybe even because of it, we were taking a hold of our past and controlling our history in a powerful, public effort. We were beginning a process of reclamation, steeped for seven generations in the memory and strength of our ancestors."

It was Leo Omani's vision that inspired the walk in the first place. He and his nephew, Gerald Standing, were on the march from beginning to end, and many of us relied heavily on their strength and compassion. In his contribution he discusses his reasons for suggesting the march and his reasons for participating. Highlighting the disconnection experienced among our people as we have been separated from one another, he explains the immediate and important need for our people to reconnect. Omani views the rebinding of relatives as an essential component in the rebuilding of our nation, and he believes the march we held in 2002 will bless the future generations of Dakota people.

Unlike Omani, Molly Schoenhoff's participation in the commemoration of these events has been not as an attached descendent of the original marchers, but rather her participation has been of a compassionate outside observer committed to addressing issues of social injustice. Her commitment demonstrates the far-reaching ramifications of an event like this and the possibility of effecting change on a broad scale. Schoenhoff is one of my colleagues at Arizona State University, though her area of expertise and skill is far different than mine as a historian. Schoenhoff is in the School of Design and has brought her skills as an artist to the project. When she invited me to speak in her class about my work with the oral tradition in October of 2002, I shared with them my grandmother's story about the forced march and discussed the Commemorative March on which we were about to embark. When I returned, Schoenhoff and I began working on a text-art project involving my grandmother's story. As we worked on the project Schoenhoff's interest in the subject continued to grow, so much so that she joined us in November of 2003 when we met at Fort Snelling to further commemorate the forced removal and internment at the Fort Shelling concentration camp.

Since then, Schoenhoff has agreed to take on the ambitious project of creating a living memorial for this phase of the 1862 forced removals, which she has envisioned as Native red plantings along the 150-mile stretch of road to signify not only the blood that was shed along the way but also the lifeblood of contemporary Dakota people. As Schoenhoff describes it,
   The change in the earth's surface would acknowledge the cultural
   and physical genocide that accompanied the establishment of the
   United States. Moreover, it would be a gesture of reclamation for
   Dakota people--a means of expressing their heritage and deep
   connection to the place they know as Minisota Makoce (the land
   where the waters reflect the skies).


Her idea was discussed at the last public commemorative event and has been enthusiastically supported by Dakota people.

The following contribution, "Voices of the Marchers," is a weaving of reflections and comments offered by march participants about their experiences. While many of those who came to walk with us did not necessarily want to put their sentiments in writing, their powerful words provide important insight into the original march and the commemorative experience. One of the consequences of the diaspora of our people and the silencing of our history has been that while we have largely shared a common historical memory--that is, most of our people today have had at least a minimal understanding of the forced removals occurring as a consequence of the 1862 war from our oral traditions--we have not had a shared memory of that experience. As Avishai Margalit explains, "A shared memory ... is not a simple aggregate of individual memories. A shared memory integrates and calibrates the different perspectives of those who remember the episode." (13) There have been few opportunities since 1862 for Dakota people to participate in the integration and calibration of this historical event. This piece, and indeed this collection, is about beginning the process of creating a shared memory, an effort that is extraordinarily difficult while we remain in a state of colonization. While my voice is present in order to provide context and to discuss the experiences thematically, it is hoped that the individual voices presented will begin to compose a chorus of shared memories. This creation of shared memory through, in part, the recovery of Indigenous knowledge is part of our larger decolonization agenda.

In this process we are also creating a solid basis for understanding with our non-Dakota allies. One of the participants of the Commemorative March was a young woman named Lisa Elbert, whom many of us have known for at least several years. We began seeing her at various Dakota events and conferences while she was taking Dakota language classes at the University of Minnesota, and she continued to come even after her classes had ended. We were thrilled when she first pulled up and we saw the banner on the back of her truck, which read "Manipi Hena Owasin Wicunkiksuyapi." This was the Dakota name for the Commemorative March, which in English translates to "We Remember All Those Who Walked." We were very happy that she had come to join us, but were surprised to see her walking with a cane and still bearing the signs of surgery on her face. We learned then that Elbert had been struggling with cancer and numerous surgeries the previous year and in the process had lost her ability to walk. Elbert had been on her own incredible journey of recovery, had just relearned how to walk, yet she was there on the march, wanting to walk with us in honor of our Dakota ancestors. We celebrated with her on the first day when she walked two miles with us. This was a miracle for her. Included here in "Mending Bodies, Mending Hearts" is her story of healing and recovery and its connection to the healing and recovery we were trying to achieve on the march through walking.

The last essay in this collection is a creative piece written by Diane Wilson. Wilson begins by offering an eloquent and engaging narrative describing her experience on the Commemorative March, but midway through the narrative shifts: "As we continued to walk, the pavement beneath the women's feet began to fade and disappear, the rigid layer of tar and gravel slowly giving way to the prairie beneath." Wilson then slips into a moving rendition of the original walk from the perspective of a woman who experienced it in 1862. In this way we learn how Wilson has internalized the experience, combining aspects of the historical record with the understanding she gained from placing her footsteps over those of her ancestors. She then brings us back to the 2002 commemoration and closes with a poem she composed while on the march. The words to this poem were written for the music created by her brother Dave Wilson, now available on CD.

On November 8, 2003, we gathered once again at Fort Snelling. This was an event to honor our ancestors from 1862 and to say prayers on their behalf. It was also an opportunity for us to thank the people who supported us in 2002 with a small giveaway and feast. It was very cold that day, but we stood around the circle of wooden lathes Gaby Tateyuskanskan brought from Sisseton and staked on the concentration camp site, the same kind made for the walk in 2002. Phyllis Redday said a prayer there and Kunsi (Grandmother) Carrie Schommer quietly read the names of all the heads of household who arrived at Fort Snelling in November of 1862. That circle of stakes is still standing at Fort Snelling, and it affords a way for people to seek out their family names and leave offerings. It is good for us to gather for such purposes.

I would like to take the time to say thank you to all those who helped with the Commemorative March of 2002. The 2002 Dakota Commemorative March was successfully completed with the help of numerous individuals, groups, and tribal communities. All those who supported with their energy or monetary or material donations include: Lower Sioux Dakota Community, Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Upper Sioux Dakota Community, Santee Dakota Nation of Nebraska, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Mendota Dakota Community, Eci Nompa Woonspe, Southwest State University, Lutheran Campus Ministries at Mankato State, Children of Tiospa Zina Tribal School, St. Mary's Catholic School, Coca-Cola, Shetek Lutheran Ministries, Gustavus Adolphus, HyVee, Gideon Pond Heritage Society, Joseph Brown Heritage Society, Minnesota New Country School, Department of Natural Resources, Fort Snelling State Park, Dakota Meadows School, Southwest State University Social Work Club, Minnesota Department of Transportation, University of Minnesota Indian Education, Turner Hall, Tim Blue, Winifred Feezor, Leo Omani, Angela and Scott Wilson, Chris Mato Nunpa, Yvonne Wynde, Gaby Tateyuskanskan, Mary Beth Faimon, Tina Hyde, Jon Hoyme, Arlo and Duella Hasse, Wyatt Thomas, Audrey and Randy Fuller, Jeff Williamson, Autumn Wilson, Phyllis Redday and Sisseton Women, Lisa Bellanger, Jim Anderson, Bob Brown, Neil McKay, Juanita Espinoza, Sandra Turpin, Beth Pierce, Bill Means and family, Art Owen, Mike Forcia and family, Tara Chadwick, Mary Peters, Loretta Leith, Ron Leith, Arlene Busse, Dee Thomas, Jim Whortman, Judy Thomson, Dan Breva, Richard Runcke, Darla Gebhard, Fred Fritz, Nadarajin Sethuraju, Karen Larson, Brian Kamnikar, Matt Kopperud, Dave Holm, Steve Rasmussen, Don Robertson, Lisa Elbert, Michelle Rhubee, Scott Windschitz, Naomi Stewart, Connie Kerten, Esther Mark-Babel, Peg Lundell, Cheryl Mathieries, Mary and Chris Loetscher, Helen Schneyer, Julie Soehren, Faye Schuetzle, Jean Jore, Joan Wieneke, Colleen Steinman, Nancy Besse, Eileen Campbell, Diane Wilson, Dave Wilson, and the Gordon Bird family. express sincere apologies to anyone I have omitted; it was by no means intentional. We would also like to thank all the people who supported the walk with their physical efforts and the hundreds, even thousands, of people who sent prayers on our behalf, especially the Lakota/ Dakota/Nakota Spiritual Group in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

I would encourage any non-Dakota who are interested in demonstrating solidarity with us and our ongoing struggles to walk with us and help us in our struggle for justice, Jean-Paul Sartre, in his preface to Frantz Fanon's book Wretched of the Earth, makes a powerful statement regarding the role of the colonizer in the decolonization process. He says, "[W]e in Europe too are being decolonized: that is to say that the settler which is in every one of us is being savagely rooted out. Let us look at ourselves, if we can bear to, and see what is becoming of us." (14) For non-Dakota people, you can begin to help us when you come to terms with your own role as oppressor. Although you cannot gift us our freedom from oppression, as only we can do that for ourselves, you can help to educate those around you and assist us in overturning colonial systems and institutions. For the next Commemorative March in 2004 you can think creatively about developing ways in which the non-Dakota people of Minnesota can begin their own decolonization process in regards to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. We need help from our non-Dakota allies. We need people who are willing to stand with us and commit themselves to fighting injustice. In addition, our non-Dakota allies can help us uncover the truth about Minnesota's history. As Kevin Annett has asked in his quest to uncover the truth about government- and church-perpetrated abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, "What happens ... when you try to house the truth alongside the industry of official lies that runs so much of our lives, and thoughts? Can both survive in close proximity for long?" (15) Indeed, they cannot. Help us make sure the truth survives.

As Dakota people we need to develop our minds critically. We need to train our children to recognize the injustice around us and to foster in them a desire to work toward a just society. As Dakota people our critical consciousness has been a form of intellect largely suppressed in our lengthy period of colonization. The challenge now is not simply to observe the passing of the years since these forced removals took place but rather to think critically about how we as Dakota people want to commemorate this event, to question the history forced upon us and to retrieve the voices silenced by the colonizer's brutality. We owe it to our ancestors to commemorate their suffering and their sacrifice by having the courage to stand up and to speak the truth, to examine honestly the events of 1862, unencumbered by the shackles that have bound our historical consciousness. This telling of the truth is the first step to our own true healing. After seven generations, it is about time.

NOTES

1. Epigraphs from Taiaiake Alfred, "Warrior Scholarship: Seeing the University as a Ground of Contention," in Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities, ed. Devon Mihesuah and Angela Wilson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 90-91; and Ed Red Owl, Minnesota Public Radio, September 26, 2002, "The Remnants of War" by Mark Steil and Tim Post, first section of MPR series Minnesota's Uncivil War (available online at the Minnesota Public Radio Web site, http://Minnesota.publicradio.org).

(2.) Leo Omani is a former chief of the Wahpeton Dakota Reserve just outside of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Yvonne Wynde and her daughter Gabrielle (Gaby) Tateyuskanskan are strong cultural leaders from the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. We had all gathered at a summer institute on "Reconciliation--A Bridge to Diabetes and Dakota Language/Culture Education" held in New Ulm, Minnesota, in the summer of 2001. Tateyuskanskan and I became co-coordinators for the Commemorative March held in 2002.

(3.) See, for example, Kenneth Carley, The Sioux Uprising of 1862 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1976); Roy Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux: United States Indian Policy on Trial (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967); Gary Clayton Anderson, Little Crow Spokesman for the Sioux (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1986); and Duane Schultz, Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992).

(4.) Roy Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux, 26.

(5.) Roy Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux, appendix on the Doty Treaties of 1841, 421.

(6.) Harriet Senie, Contemporary Public Sculpture: Tradition, Transformation, and Controversy (New York: Oxford, 1992), 1.

(7.) Edward Linenthal, "Ritual Drama at the Little Big Horn: The Persistence and Transformation of National Symbol," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 51, no. 2 (June 1983): 268.

(8.) See Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms (Oxford: James Curry, 1993), 84.

(9.) Carley, The Sioux Uprising, 22.

(10.) Daniel Buck, Indian Outbreaks (Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, 1965), 31.

(11.) An assertion made by Brazilian Liberatory educator Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 2001), 55.

(12.) "Righteous anger" is defined by Haunani-Kay Trask as "The emotional/ psychological response of victims of racism/discrimination to the system of power that dominates/exploits/oppresses them. Righteous anger is not racism; rather, it is a defensible response to racism." See Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i, rev. ed. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999), 2-52.

(13.) Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 51.

(14.) Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 24.

(15.) Kevin Annett, Love and Death in the Valley (Bloomington IN: Author-house, 2002), 15.
COPYRIGHT 2004 University of Nebraska Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Wilson, Waziyatawin Angela
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:7265
Previous Article:Donald L. Fixico. The American Indian Mind in a Linear World: American Indian Studies and Traditional Knowledge.
Next Article:Fort Snelling concentration Camp Dakota prisoners, 1862-63.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters