Mni Wakan: Water is Sacred, an International Conference Planned for Minnesota

Bde Maka Ska
Bde Maka Ska

Members of the LaPointe family, other local Native leaders and their allies are working to launch an international conference next year called: Mni Wakan: The Decade of Water. It would be hosted in Minneapolis. Bde Maka Ska would be a focal point.

Bde Maka Ska is the original name for Lake Calhoun (it was the name the lake had before white settlers came.) The name Bde Maka Ska is in the process of being restored; that debate has received considerable attention. Less well known is the work going on behind the scenes to not only to change the lake’s name but to change the lake’s culture and hold up the sacredness of water.

Water connects us all, and Minneapolis is a city of water, the LaPointes said. Minneapolis should be unlike any other city in the world.

Roughly 50-75 residents met almost monthly in late 2015 and early 2016 to build relationships and brainstorm about what Bde Maka Ska could be to the world and how to tell the stories Bde Maka Ska  holds. (First Universalist, 3400 Dupont Avenue S., provided space and support for the community conversations.)

Several Native leaders attended to show their support. They included: Art Owens of Tinta Wita (Prairie Island), a traditional knowledge keeper and cultural leader for the Dakota; Dorene Day, Anishinabe, and Sheldon Wolfchild and Matt Pendleton of Lower Sioux Indian Community in Morton.

LeMoine LaPointe (Lakota) facilitated the community conversations, along with sons Wakinyan and Thorne. One of the proposals to emerge from this work was to create the “Mni Wakan: Decade of Water” Summit. (Mni Wakan means Sacred Water in Dakota.)

The goal is to hold the summit next April.

The Circle Newspaper ran a story on the planned Water Summit, posted online in August. It explained that Wakinyan and Thorne came up with the idea following the murder of Berta Caceres, an Indigenous rights leader in Honduras. It gave them “a sense of urgency to act on behalf of water, and the world’s Indigenous populations.”

Berta Caceres, who had successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam project at the Río Gualcarque – a river sacred to her Lenca people – was slain in her home last March. More than a dozen environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2014, according to Global Witness, which makes it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists protecting forests and rivers.

Along with their father LeMoine, mother Nancy Bordeaux, and sister Tiana, the LaPointe brothers conceived a plan to invite Indigenous leaders from around the world to Minnesota – the font of much of the Earth’s fresh water – for a summit, which they are calling Mni Wakan: A Decade of Water.

Wakinyan and Thorne went to the United Nations in May and presented a resolution on behalf of water to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues:

“The statement, a broad interpretation of the water crisis this world is experiencing, reiterated our Lakota values: Mni Wakan: water is sacred; Mni Pejuta: water is medicine; and Mni Wiconi: Water is Life,” says Wakinyan.

At the U.N., the LaPointes invited people to attend the Mni Wakan conference in Minnesota.

(Click on the link above for the full story.)

Here is the Facebook Page for more information on the Bde/Mde Maka Ska Community Conversations.

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