grew up in my ancestral homeland. I lived in Minnesota in relative
happiness with my family, all the while ignoring where my people
came from, what they went through, and the effects they've been
suffering ever since. I grew up in my ancestral homeland, but I
took it for granted.
For years I lived, attended family reunions,
and heard stories, but never embraced my heritage. Being lighter
of skin than some of my relatives, I was able to slide through adolescence
unrecognized as a Dakota and I preferred it that way.
It wasn't until attending college that
I took a particular class dealing with minority issues that my eyes
began to open to a history I had chosen to ignore. I could feel
something gnawing at the edges of my soul, creeping closer and closer
into my consciousness. Still, I was able to fight it off.
When I left my homeland and my family
for a job in Florida, I could feel a void form within me. For the
next three years I tried to fill that void with ... anything. I
was looking for a way to feel whole again. I began to realize that
that void did not come from leaving my home and family, but my severed
connection with my home and family had drawn my attention to the
void that had existed all my life. My ignorance and avoidance of
the people who came before me, my lack of knowledge of my own history
and culture, and my attempts to disregard the inherent feelings
and intrinsic memories that flow through my blood, as it does all
Dakota people, created the void.
So, I began to fill it in a good way.
I began speaking to my elders and writing down stories. I began
collecting art and artifacts. I delved into the depths of the history
surrounding my people forcing my eyes to keep reading, fighting
the urges to shut down as a reaction to horror and atrocity upon
horror and atrocity. I began the long process of trying to learn
some of the old language.
For the first time, I felt I was on the
right path. I could feel my ancestors pushing me to examine further
the actions that set in motion the genocide and exile of an entire
race of people from their ancestral homelands and began to learn
there's so much more to this than a few boys stealing a handful
of eggs. The story began long ago with the European invaders pushing
further and further west into Dakota Territory and bringing with
them disease, alcohol, and greed. It's a story of broken promises
and shattered lives. It's a story of death and exile. A story about
how we've all lost our connection to this land, including both the
exiled and those non-Dakota that inhabit it now. It's the story
of the Dakota/US War of 1862. A war with a distorted history, or
no history at all.
Soon after my return to Minnesota, I was
approached by the Artistic Director of the History Theatre in St.
Paul and was convinced to take my research and findings and create
a play. That play has since had two staged readings and will hopefully
become a fully staged production utilizing a Native American director
The goal of the play is not to make people
feel guilty, but to give exposure to a mass audience of people who
have never been given access to the truth surrounding the genocide
that occurred right here in our great state. I want Native people
to be able to go to a traditionally "white" venue and to see themselves
and their history reflected in the art before them. I want to prompt
acknowledgment of these atrocities that have long since been ignored.
I want my ancestors and relatives to know I'm doing this in a good
way and I want them to be proud of me.
I'm becoming whole again. The more I learn
the more whole I become. Our entire Dakota nation needs to be healed.
We need to cry and need to be acknowledged and then we need to heal.
I'm just attempting to use my own strengths and skills to contribute
to the well-being of my people the only way I know how.
U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 - Minnesota History Center Exhibit
When you visit the "U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 exhibit
at the History Center, you'll examine the evidence, hear heart-wrenching
stories and learn about the broken treaties and promises that
led to this disastrous chapter in Minnesota history. The war ended
with hundreds dead, the Dakota people exiled from their homeland
and the largest mass execution in U.S. history: the hangings of
38 Dakota men in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862. 2012 marks 150 years
since the U.S.-Dakota War. It was waged for six weeks in southern
Minnesota over the late summer of 1862, but the wars causes
began decades earlier and the profound loss and consequences of
the war are still felt today.
The Dakota-U.S. War
In 1862 Mankato, Minnesota was the sight of the largest mass execution
in American history. What followed was an exile of the Dakota
people from their ancestral tribal lands; an exile that is still
legislatively in force today. This new play explores the events
leading up to the Dakota-U.S. War invasions of indigenous
sacred lands, cultural genocide, and starvation through
the court trials of the 38 Dakota warriors who were prosecuted
as war criminals and executed by the United States government.
Drawing on articles, letters, and diaries, this provocative new
play personifies the famous, infamous, and nameless people who
were caught up in this tragic moment in our countrys history.
It is a story that has been waiting one hundred fifty years to