The Song of Hiawatha, Minneapolis place names, and the hidden message of Manifest Destiny

Lake Nokomis (Grandmother Lake), Minneapolis (Photo: Wikipedia)

Significant Minneapolis place names come from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha: Hiawatha Avenue, Lake Hiawatha, the Hiawatha Light Rail Line, Lake Nokomis, Minnehaha Avenue, Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Falls, and Minnehaha Creek.

The poem’s opening lines are fairly well known: “On the shores of Gitche Gumee, Of the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood Nokomis, the old woman, Pointing with her finger westward … ” The poem is a fictional and tragic love story between Hiawatha, an Ojibwe man, and Minnehaha, a Dakota woman. A popular statue at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis commemorates the poem.

Less well known is that the Song of Hiawatha is a story of Manifest Destiny — the idea that white Europeans had God on their side and God’s blessing to take Indigenous lands and convert Indigenous peoples. Longfellow’s poem is a deluded fairy tale of how Indigenous peoples would gently give up their traditional customs and become Christians. It papers over the brutal realities of land theft, forced assimilation, broken treaties and genocide that was occurring during Longfellow’s day and have continued thereafter.

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This Day in History (Feb. 21, 1863): Congress Expels Winnebago from Minnesota, hundreds 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. Continue reading

News and Events: We Are Still Here Conference March 11, Maine becomes first state to ban Native American mascots, and more

News and events in this blog:

  • We own this now: A play about love of land, loss of land, and what it means to “own” something. Feb. 28
  • We Are Still Here Conference, March 11, and the We Are Still Here Advocacy Day, March 12
  • Maine becomes first state to ban Native American mascots
  • Canada attempting to change citizenship oath to include respect for Indigenous treaties

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Minnesota has tried to sweep Enbridge Line 3’s threats under the rug. That needs to change.

This is the second of a two-part critique of the state of Minnesota’s Line 3 decision-making process.

Through years of debate about the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, citizens of the state of Minnesota have not received a clear, concise statement of if this project is in the public interest, and if so, why. The first part of this series summarized the benefits claimed by Line 3 proponents, and critiques them and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) process.The following summarizes the threats Line 3 poses, and critiques the PUC’s threat assessment. Continue reading

The state has failed to clearly state Enbridge Line 3’s public purpose. That needs to change.

This is the first of a two-part critique of the state of Minnesota’s Line 3 decision-making process.

Through years of debate about the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, citizens of the state of Minnesota have not received a clear, concise statement of if and why this project is in the public interest. The following summarizes the benefits claimed by Line 3 proponents, and  critiques them and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) process.

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Weekend Reading: Unmasking treaty signers; key treaty rights case goes to U.S. Supreme Court and more

In this blog:

  • Treaty Signers Project website launched (Indian Land Tenure Foundation)
  • Can Congress Void a Tribal Treaty Without Telling Anyone? (The Atlantic)
  • Thousands march in Minneapolis to protest violence against American Indian women (MPR)
  • Can we protect nature by giving it legal rights? (MinnPost)

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News and Events: Interfaith rally to stop Line 3 at the Capitol Feb. 19; Trump’s border wall construction threatens disturbs sacred Indigenous graves

In this blog:

  • Interfaith rally to stop Line 3 Feb. 19 at Gov. Walz’s office
  • Trump’s border wall construction harms sacred Indigenous grave sites
  • Corporate capture: Canadian energy company pays for Sheriff’s unit in North Bend Oregon that monitors pipeline opponents

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