This Day in History (Feb. 21, 1863): Congress Expels Winnebago Nation from Minnesota, More Than 550 Die During Forced Relocation

Map from Cole Sutton’s blog. Used by permission.

This day in history, Feb. 21, 1863, Congress passed a law — pushed by members of Minnesota’s delegation — to expel the Winnebago people from the state. The Act was fueled by fear, prejudice, and greed; it resulted in land theft and the deaths of more than 550 Winnebago people.

The Winnebago (also called Ho Chunk) were expelled from Minnesota in the wake of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, a war in which the Winnebago did not participate. Yet Minnesota’s leaders were so eager to free up the Winnebago’s reservation lands for settlers to farm that they expelled the Winnebago before they officially expelled the Dakota.

This is a horrifically ugly chapter in Minnesota history. It includes the little known story of the Knight of the Forest, a secret Klan-like group that formed to expel all indigenous peoples from the state.

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For Indigenous Peoples, Is Full Participation in “We the People” Progress or Assimilation?

Native Leaders Offer Differing Critiques of the Doctrine of Discovery and Different Paths Forward

Steve Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) and Mark Charles (Navajo/Dutch) are both outspoken critics of the Doctrine of Discovery, an expression of Christian superiority and the forerunner to Manifest Destiny. Their critiques take them in different directions. Newcomb emphasizes that Native peoples and nations need to move toward a free, independent and sovereign existence, while Charles emphasizes moving toward indigenous equality in American society.

This clash of views came into focus after Charles made a TED Talk on the Doctrine of Discovery earlier this year and Newcomb criticized it in an editorial.

It should come as no surprise that indigenous leaders hold differing opinions. Yet as non-indigenous people look to follow indigenous leadership in truth telling and healing around dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery, such differing views create a challenge to understanding what it means to be an ally.

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Bison Slaughter of the Late 1800s Has Done Lasting Damage to Plains Indian Nations Today, Study Says

Descendants of Native Nations That Relied on Buffalo Have Less Wealth, Poorer Health, Greater Suicide Risk

1892: bison skulls await industrial processing at Michigan Carbon Works in Rogueville (a suburb of Detroit). Bones were used processed to be used for glue, fertilizer, dye/tint/ink, or were burned to create”bone char” which was an important component for sugar refining. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

A study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis late last year bares the academic title: “The Slaughter of the Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains” but the picture it paints is one of deep and lasting suffering.

The study looked at members of indigenous nations in the Great Plains, Northwest, and Rocky Mountains where buffalo had once been a primary food source for their ancestors and central to their cultures. According to the study:

Once the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-reliant people born after the slaughter were among the shortest. Today, formerly bison-reliant societies have between 20-40% less income per capita than the average Native American nation. …

We find increased levels of suicide and news reports of social dislocation among formerly bison-reliant tribes, suggesting that the bison’s decline may have generated a psychological impact that has persisted across generations. This result is consistent with the psychological literature on historical trauma …

Arguably, the decline of the bison was one of the largest devaluations of human capital in North American history …

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Events: Film Screenings of ‘The Indian System,’ Winter Storytelling Night, and More

In this blog:

  • American Indian Traditional Storytelling, Thursday, Feb. 21
  • Film screening and discussion of Sheldon Wolfchild’s film “The Indian System,” Friday, March 1 and Thursday March 28
  • Save the Date for Mde Maka Ska Community Conversations Part 2, Saturday March 2

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Walz Administration to Continue Legal Challenge Against Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

Gov. Tim Walz announced today that his administration will continue a lawsuit in the Minnesota Court of Appeals to stop Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, according to an MPR report this morning:

“When it comes to any project that impacts our environment and our economy, we must follow the process, the law, and the science,” the governor said in a news release.

When Walz took office, he said he wanted to reevaluate a decision made under the Dayton administration to appeal Line 3’s approval. He has now confirmed that decision.

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Bishop Ireland’s Efforts to Colonize Minnesota with Irish Catholics, a Doctrine of Discovery Story

Archbishop John Ireland is a well known name in St. Paul. He was the first Archbishop of St. Paul and held that post for 30 years (1888–1918). The John Ireland Boulevard runs between the state Capitol and the St. Paul Cathedral.

A little know part of Ireland’s story was his successful effort to colonize parts of western Minnesota with Irish Catholics. He created the Catholic Colonization Bureau of St. Paul in 1876, just after he became a bishop here.

Taking a broader lens, Ireland’s story is about one aspect of how the Doctrine of Discovery played out in Minnesota. The Doctrine of Discovery is the forerunner of Manifest Destiny. It refers to the religious and legal justification used by Europe’s monarchs to claim and colonize lands occupied by indigenous peoples, seize their property and forcibly, convert, enslave, or remove them. The Doctrine has its roots in 15th century papal edicts.

In this 19th Century story, Minnesota lands had been cleared of indigenous people after the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. The land was now ready for colonization, and Ireland had a plan. Continue reading

At Critical Juncture, Faith Leaders Call on Gov. Walz to Stop Enbridge Line 3

Healing Minnesota Stories Founder Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs joined other faith leaders today in calling on Gov. Walz to halt Enbridge Line 3.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories, joined roughly 75 other faith and indigenous leaders who gathered in the Governor’s Conference Room today to pray, sing, hold an Anihsinaabe water ceremony, and make a clear demand that Gov. Tim Walz stop the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline — an unnecessary and dangerous project that violates treaty rights.

“Today, my message to Gov. Walz is that you cannot claim to be an ally to indigenous people when you knowingly introduce toxins into the food and water systems. And that is exactly what Enbridge Line 3 will do,” said Jacobs, who is a member of the Mohican Nation. “… I stand with all of you in hope that Gov. Walz will take heroic action and sign an executive order halting Line 3 where it stands,”

At a minimum, Jacobs said Walz needs to support a Minnesota Department of Commerce lawsuit to stop Line 3, an action begun by former Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. The suit argues Enbridge failed to prove the new and expanded Line 3 was needed. The Walz administration is now reevaluating the lawsuit and the Governor is expected to announce early next week which side he will take.

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light organized the event. (Note: There’s still time to call the Governor this weekend — 651-201-3400to oppose Line 3.) Continue reading