Thursday, May 15, 2008

Resisters From Dakota Nation Confront Minnesota Anti-Indian Racism

Allan Henderson, from the Dakota Nation, held a sign at Fort Snelling,MN, site of a protest where several demonstrators were arrested.

St. Paul, MN, May 10, 2008 — The sesquicentennial wagon train winding towards the state capital for tomorrow’s celebration of Minnesota statehood, came to an unexpected standstill this morning entering Fort Snelling when a group of Dakota people gathered in the road to dispel a few of their cherished myths. “This is a place of genocide, our ancestors were force marched here in 1862 and interned in the concentration camp for an entire winter. So many of our people died here, women and children, so much of our history is ignored and suppressed. We are here to tell the truth about this history and challenge the Sesquicentennial celebration,” said Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D.. “All we’re asking is to be heard,” said Ben Yahola, amidst protestors holding signs with “We are not invisible,” “1862,” “Site of Dakota Genocide,” and “My grandmother died here.”

The travelers looked on or away as Dakota speakers addressed them and a gathering group of other protestors, onlookers, and, soon, many police officers from the city of Minneapolis. They stood by, some perched atop horses, for about fifteen minutes before the tensions increased.

Two skittish horses were steered by their mounted officers through the protestors, endangering everyone in their path, including several small children. Unsure of what to do, one officer radioed for backup. As reinforcements arrived, one officer said, “I thought we came down to do some thumping.” A sheriff’s SUV tried to force its way through the crowd of protestors to clear a path for the wagon train. Then, two kids and two women laid down in front of the SUV. For twenty minutes while protestors smudged, prayer drums sounded, and speakers addressed their message about the past’s atrocities, officers conferred, debating how best to remove the blockade. Dakota protestors cried the history of the atrocities committed, including land theft, ethnic cleansing, bounties placed on Dakota scalps (up to $200 dollars), the largest mass hanging in US history, the horrors of the concentration camp at Fort Snelling, and the brutalities of the war of 1862.

Then the arrests began.

“You are benefiting from the same colonial practices which justified the genocide of the Dakota people,” Waziyatawin stated as she was pressed against the hood of a patrol car before being led away. “This wagon train is a fantasy of manifest destiny, as some sort of righteous thing.” Next to go were her two minor children, Talon and Autumn Cavender-Wilson. Anita Rae, Chris Mato Nunpa, Jim Anderson and Diane Elliot followed, before the officers ceased making arrests.

By use of truncheon, officers pushed the protest aside, finally clearing the way for the wagon train to enter the camp. Imprisoned protestors were then released under charges of disorderly conduct. At least some of the wagon riders began conversing with protestors, agreeing to the need for truth telling. One young man softened his position and even apologized for his participation in the wagon train.

The protestors will also be present tomorrow at the state capital, where the kick-off celebration for the Minnesota Sesquiscentennial will begin.

For additional information, Contact:

Chris Mato Nupa, Ph.D.
Oceti Sakowin Omniciya
Tel: (320) 981-0206

Jim Anderson
Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community
(763) 753-2833

Waziyatawin Angela Wilson, Ph.D.
Oceti Sakowin Omniciya
Tel: (320) 564-4241


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