On Saturday, May 13, Dakota traditional spiritual elders will gather to discuss the return of In-Yan Sha (the sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota people. The meeting will include a discussion of In-Yan Sha’s history and an announcement of the sacred site where the elders would like In-Yan Sha placed.
This meeting will be open to the public with limited seating. It will take place from 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 East Franklin Ave., Minneapolis. Those are welcome who come with a good heart, and with respect for the elders, In-Yan Sha, and Dakota sacred sites.
In-Yan Sha is connected to the Dakota origin story. Methodist settlers took the rock in the 1800s; it became a symbol for the Methodist church camp. The seizure of the Red Rock is one symbol of how settler culture tried to assimilate and erase Dakota culture and religion. The rock has moved several times, and now resides in front of the Newport United Methodist Church (UMC). Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the UMC Minnesota Conference has expressed his interest in returning the rock; efforts have started to do this healing work in a good way.
While undoubtedly Dakota people have wanted the rock returned for decades, Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) has been instrumental in a recent breakthrough. Wolfchild has researched the history of In-Yan Sha for years, and worked with the church historian at Newport UMC to document the various locations the rock has been.
This work fits into Wolfchild’s larger effort to raise awareness of the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, the forerunner to Manifest Destiny. Quick background: The Doctrine of Discovery refers to papal edicts from the 1400s and 1500s that gave European monarchs the legal and religious justification to send explorers abroad and seize new lands (as long as no Christians were there already). The Doctrine allowed explorers to enslave, convert, or kill the indigenous “heathens”.
This way of thinking justified the taking or destruction of sacred indigenous objects, too, such as In-Yan Sha.
Wolfchild produced the documentary film: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. Healing Minnesota Stories has worked with Wolfchild to show the film to many congregations, including Methodist Churches. The film and post film discussion have brought new light to the history of Native American genocide in the United States and in Minnesota, as well as the issues such as In-Yan Sha.
In 2014, at one of the early screening, a panelist raised the need to return In-Yan Sha to the Dakota people. The question has percolated since then. It emerged again at a March 16 Doctrine of Discovery screening at the Centennial United Methodist Church in St. Anthony Park. At that event, Bishop shared his intention to help facilitate the proper return of the Red Rock.
(For more, see our earlier blog: “Methodist Bishop Commits to Returning Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota People.” In that blog, we used a different phonetic spelling for the Red Rock: Eyah Shaw. That has been corrected here with In-Yan Sa.)
Returning the rock to the Dakota people is one small – but very important – part of the healing process. And Wolfchild is grateful to the UMC for protecting In-Yan Sha. Other sacred rocks in Minnesota were destroyed.
The May 13 meeting is a next step in the ongoing collaboration between the UMC, Dakota elders and the managers of the new site where the elders would like to see In-Yan Sha placed.
At the request of Dakota elders, representatives related to the new site will be present at the meeting to answer questions and to listen. A brief presentation about proposed plans to protect In-Yan Sha will be shared. Elders also have invited a registered mediator with experience in helping with sacred sites to work with them to help facilitate the formal process with the Bishop and the UMC church in Newport.