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