By Chris Mato Nunpa,
Statement to organizers of Minnesota's 150th birthday genocide celebration
To: Jane Leonard, Director of the Sesquicentennial Commission, State of Minnesota
Jane, I just heard a brief excerpt of a speech you gave at the State Capitol. Again, you talk a good game. You have fine rhetoric. As long as you don’t talk about massive land theft, 24 million acres alone in the 1851 treaties signed at Traverse des Sioux and at Mendota, as long as you don’t talk about the broken treaties with the Dakota, which were violated by the U.S. government and its U.S. Euro-Minnesotan citizenry; and as long as you don’t talk about the genocide of the Dakota People of Minnesota, you are still presenting, literally, a white-washed history.
You are like the other colonizers/white supremacists (not meant to be mean-spirited but to convey a reality) who suppress the TRUTH and substitute myth for reality. The wagon train at Ft. Snelling is an excellent example of replacing the TRUTH with myth. The invaders/settlers came up the river by boat to steal land in Minnesota. You, the Sesquicentennial Commision, the Minnesota Historical Society, etc. would rather create lies (the wagon train) and suppress the TRUTH (bounties, concentration camps, mass executions, etc.) about what really happened in this state, especially in the past 150 years.
I did notice that you said "internment camp" instead of calling it what it really is - a CONCENTRATION CAMP. This is the social practice of herding innocent civilians, non-combatants in one concentrated place, holding them there for protracted periods of time without charging them with any crime. This is a Concentration Camp. As Jack Weatherford writes in his book NATIVE ROOTS, as he studies a photograph of the concentration camp consisting of tipis, he said he was watching "the birth of an institution which was to haunt the 20th century."
You talk about "mistreatment" - how about "GENOCIDE" Bounties, Concentration Camps, forced marches, forced removals/ethnic cleansing, warfare, all related to various criteria of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention such as: #1 killing members of the group (viz., Dakota People). Bounties, Warfare, would fit this; #3 deliberately inflicting conditions upon a group calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part. concentration camps, forced marches, forced removals/Ethnic Cleansing fulfill this criterion. If you think you’re telling the TRUTH, then you need to begin using these terms.
Also, you talk about "Reconciliation," which, in my opinion, is a totally inappropriate term. This implies that that once Dakota People and the wasicu were once one entity. They were NOT! The Wasicu (white man) always wanted land, he had no land. The Dakota People had land. Then, the White man stole the land, and now, the Dakota People are living in a state of oppression and exploitation in their own land. What is more appropriate (than reconciliation) are terms such as TRUTH, JUSTICE, and MUTUAL RESPECT.
TRUTH acknowledging the bounties, concentration camps, the stolen lands the lands which have not been paid for broken treaties GENOCIDE etc. and then teaching this true history in the public schools and in the colleges and universities.
JUSTICE land restitution, i.e., the return of state and federal lands, e.g. within the Treaty of 1805, the 155,000+ acres upon which the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis set; land reparations - payment for the lands. For example, the lands upon which St. Paul and Minneapolis set have not been paid for (the Treaty of 1805). The 24 million acres involved in the Treaties of 1851 were grossly under-paid for. and, finally, reparations for GENOCIDE which the U.S. government, the State of Minnesota, and its Euro-Minnesotan citizenry perpetrated upon the Dakota People!
MUTUAL RESPECT The white man, including the Euro-Minnesotans of yesterday and of today, have generally NOT respected for the past 500 years the languages, religions, the world-views, the perspectives, the values, the customs and traditions, the cultures, etc. of the Indigenous Peoples of the U.S., and of the Dakota People of Minnesota. They have NOT respected the Indigenous Peoples as human beings, as PEOPLE. Instead, the Euro-Minnesotan and the U.S. Euro-American have viewed the Indigenous Peoples and the Dakota People as sub-human, as animals, wild animals, therefore, it’s OK to put bounties on them, and as uncivilized and SAVAGE!
These things the Euro-Minnesotan, the Sesquicentennial Commission, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the other colonial institutions of the U.S. and of Minnesota need to acknowledge and then to teach in the texts and schools and in the colleges and universities.
I have some time now - I am now retired. I may have to attend some of the sessions where you, and representatives of the MHS, and of other racist, colonial institutions are talking and then add my two cents to the discussion. You need to invite people like me, Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa; Waziyata Win (Dr. Angela Cavender Wilson); Jim Anderson of the Mendota Dakota Community; Ms. Gaby Tateyuskanskan of the Sisseton Wahpeton Reservation. If you can’t tell the TRUTH, we can!!!!
Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D.,
Formerly Associate Professor of Indigenous Nations & Dakota Studies (INDS) at Southwest Minnesota State University,
5690 250th Ave. Granite Falls, Minnesota 56241
For more on Dakota resisting colonization and exercising their fishing rights, go to:
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