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

Reflections on Reconciliation, Sacred Sites, and Broken Treaties

The term “reconciliation” is a deeply problematic word when it comes to indigenous-colonizer relationships. The word refers to restoring friendly relationships when for indigenous peoples, friendly relationships never existed with colonizers.

Canada had a lengthy Truth and Reconciliation Commission, something not attempted yet in the United States. We struggle with the first half of the proposition — simply telling the truth. Continue reading

News: Knights of the Forest Were Minnesota’s KKK; Line 3 Pipeline Direct Non-Violent Action

The genocide of Dakota people and the history of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 has rightfully been getting more public awareness in our state, but a terribly overlooked part of our history is the atrocious treatment of the Winnebago people.

Yes, the Winnebago used to have a reservation in Minnesota. That history is invisible.

The Winnebago (also known as Ho Chunk) had been forced to relocate several times, as business and settlers moved west and wanted their land. In 1855, they got resettled on a reservation in Minnesota near Mankato, just years before the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War. While they did not participate in the fighting, the war became the excuse for state leaders to remove them to get access to prime farm land.

At the urging of the Minnesota delegation, Congress passed a law exiling the Winnebago from Minnesota before they passed the law exiling the Dakota.

Part of this ugly history is the story of the Knights of the Forest, a secret society in Mankato bent on killing the Winnebago. This blog wrote about this last year in a piece titled: Winnebago Removal Act and the Little Known History of the ‘Knights of the Forest.

City Pages has come out with a detailed piece: Knights of the Forest: How Minnesota’s Klan drove out the Ho-Chunk. This story needs to be told and taught. We as a state haven’t acknowledged, let alone repented, from these acts.

The City Pages story notes that the Knights of the Forest started just after the post-war hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, on Dec. 26, 1862. According to the story:

Among the thousands in the audience that day, some viewed the spectacle through the windows of Mankato’s Masonic Lodge across the street. A week later, a group gathered in secret to form the “Knights of the Forest.” They had a singular goal: “To banish forever from our beautiful state every Indian who now desecrates the soil.”

Two years before the first meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, a secret society of white terrorists had sprung up in Minnesota.

Click here for the full story. Continue reading

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