This Day in History: Nelson Act Breaks Treaties, Steals Anishinaabe Land in Minnesota, Forces Assimilation

On this day in history, Jan. 14, 1889, Congress approved “An act for the relief and civilization of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota.Not surprisingly, that’s a euphemism. The act did not provide relief. Quite the opposite, it violated treaties, forced assimilation, and stole Native lands. Continue reading

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This Day in History 1868: Indian Peace Commission Report Issued (Shows Moral Blindness of the Era)

In 1867, Congress created the Indian Peace Commission to make peace with hostile Indian nations on the western plains, secure the safety of frontier settlements, and create a plan to “civilize” the Indians. The Commission was charged with identifying new reservation lands to relocate all hostile Indians east of the Rocky mountains

The Commission issued its first report 150 years ago today and presented it to President Andrew Johnson. While the report acknowledges the government had done great injustices to Native peoples, it’s steeped in the language of Manifest Destiny and white Christian superiority, as well as moral blindness.

Continue reading

This Day in History: 50th Anniversary of LBJ’s “Forgotten American” Message

It’s pretty easy to go through the archives of U.S. history to find documents with high-sounding rhetoric on issues of racial justice that never reached their goals. This isn’t to say that the speeches, proclamations, and task force reports didn’t make some difference at the time, but current realities show that collectively they haven’t brought into being the promises of economic opportunity and social justice.

Today’s example is President Lyndon Johnson’s: “Special Message to the Congress on the Problems of the American Indian: ‘The Forgotten American.’”  It was issued 50 years ago today, March 6, 2018.

The 4,200-word-plus message talks about the plight of indigenous peoples and promises improvements in housing, education, health care and more. Still, words and phrases in the initial paragraphs of this 50-year-old text are cringe worthy. And the stated goals remind us of how much repair still is left to do. Continue reading

This Day in History: The Dakota Exile, May 4-5

Following the Dakota-U.S. War, Dakota prisoners were held under brutal conditions below Fort Snelling in what amounted to a concentration camp. Many died.

Congress passed a law in early 1863 (still on the books today) banishing the Dakota people from their homeland here in Minnesota. (In a separate bill, it also banished the Winnebago who had nothing to do with the war.) In the spring of 1863, the Dakota were sent by steamship down the Mississippi River, then up the Missouri River to their reservation in exile at Crow Creek, according to William Lass’s article: The REMOVAL From MINNESOTA of the Sioux and Winnebago Indians:. There were 1,318 in all: 176 men, 536 women, and 606 children.

The Steamship Davenport left on May 4, but not before an ugly attack.

At St. Paul, the boat halted briefly to take on cargo. An ugly crowd and apparently goaded to violence by a soldier who had been wounded at the battle of Birch Coulee, commenced throwing rocks at the Indians. Those crowded on the boiler deck could not escape the barrage and several women were injured. The crowd was stilled only after the captain commanding the military escort threatened a bayonet charge. A reporter from the Press labeled the mob action a ‘gross outrage’ because the prisoners on the ‘Davenport’ were peaceful Indians, not war criminals

The last group of Dakota, 547 people, left aboard the steamship ‘Northerner’ on May 5.  At former Governor Sibley’s recommendation, the Dakota were sent by ship instead of a more direct overland route. It was less expensive, avoided clashes with white settlers, and reduced the opportunities for escape.

In case you missed our earlier blog today, check out: Dakota Truth-Telling Gathering at Fort Snelling May 4-6.

This Day in History: Nelson Act Breaks Treaties, Steals Chippewa Land in MN

Knute Nelson
Knute Nelson is not someone who deserves to be honored with a statue in front of the Minnesota State Capitol.

On this day in history, Jan. 14, 1889, Congress approved “An act for the relief and civilization of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota.Not surprisingly, that’s a euphemism. The act did not provide relief. Quite the opposite, it violated treaties, stole Native lands, and otherwise did great damage to the Chippewa people.

(Note: The names Chippewa, Ojibwe, and Anishinaabe all refer to the same people; their name for themselves is Anishinaabe, which is used in the remainder of this blog.)

This 1889 act is commonly referred to as the Nelson Act, after Minnesota Congressman Knute Nelson who pushed it through. He would go on to become both a Minnesota Governor and U.S. Senator. Though most people probably don’t know it, Nelson holds a prominent place of honor at the Minnesota State Capitol; his statue is on front steps overlooking the Capitol mall.

I am sure you could stop people on the Capitol steps and few would be able to name  Nelson let alone know anything about him. So here’s what you should know about the man, the statue, and his namesake law. Continue reading

DAPL, Standing Rock are Becoming National Metaphor and Model

p1010103Standing Rock is becoming a national model for opposing oil pipelines. Read a story about a oil pipeline controversy in other parts of the country and it will reference DAPL or Standing Rock.

For example, here is a Jan. 4 story from Folio Weekly, a Florida-based magazine, with the headline: Florida’s Own STANDING ROCK. It concerns the Sabal Trail Transmission, a gas pipeline that crosses Alabama, Georgia and Florida. According to the story:

The $3.2 billion project crosses 13 counties in Florida and more than 700 bodies of water, including the Withlacoochee, Suwannee, and Santa Fe rivers. The EPA approved the project despite its concerns about the pipeline’s path through 177 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp and Rainbow Springs in Florida. …

Similar to Standing Rock, people in Florida worry about the potential leaks and their impact on drinking water. Pipeline opponents have adopted the Standing Rock term “water protectors” and created a Water Is Life Camp near the Santa Fe River.

Wisconsin’s Chippewa Tribe also is fighting a pipeline battle, according to a Jan. 6 MPR story:

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s tribal council voted Wednesday to refuse to renew several easement rights of way for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline that expired in 2013….

The Bad River Band’s decision comes amid an ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline in which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes have argued the project threatens drinking water and tribal cultural sites.

Click on the story for details.

More updates on DAPL and environmental justice issues follow. Continue reading

This Day in History: Wounded Knee Massacre; Obama Designates Bears Ears Monument; Native Youth Trekking From Canada to Join DAPL Opposition

Burial of the dead in a mass grave after the massacre of Wounded Knee. (Wikimedia Commons)
Burial of Lakota men, women and children in a mass grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, an incident that resulted in U.S. soldiers getting the nation’s highest military honor for killing Lakota men, women and children who were trying to surrender. As a 2014 opinion piece in Native News Online summarizes: some 150 Lakota people, and possibly up to 300, were massacred by the US 7th Calvary Regiment near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It continues:

History records the Wounded Knee Massacre was the last battle of the American Indian war. Unfortunately, it is when most American history books drop American Indians from history, as well. As if we no longer exist.

Continue reading