Pushback Against “Bde Maka Ska” Latest Example of White Privilege

The Star Tribune ran a disturbing Op/Ed Monday titled: I asked 350 people who live along or near Lake Calhoun about renaming it — The breakdown is 20 percent for and 80 percent against. Equally interesting are the reasons.

The author is critical of the proposed name change from Lake Calhoun to its original Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska (or Mde Maka Ska). Here are four examples of how the Op/Ed embodies white privilege.

#1: White voices matter most: The author, a CEO of  a venture capital group, starts out by telling us he talked to his “Lake Calhoun” neighbors to gauge their feelings about the name Bde Maka Ska. As he describes it, he polled  “virtually every homeowner who lives directly along Lake Calhoun, plus another couple hundred neighbors who live within a few blocks.”

The result? Some 80 percent were for keeping the name Lake Calhoun. The underlying premise here is that the voices that matter most are those who live closest to the Lake, those who are predominantly wealthy and white. They see themselves as entitled to preferential treatment. Did the author think it was important to talk to anyone but his immediate neighbors, say some Dakota people? Apparently not. Apparently their opinions do not matter.

The author says his neighbors “were overwhelmingly disgusted that public officials were spending all of this time and energy on the lake renaming issue when there are so many other pressing problems facing the community that need to be addressed.” This world view ignores the fact that people in other parts of the city might have different pressing issues which are equally valid for the city’s consideration. Continue reading

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Public Art Honoring Cloud Man, Indigenous History, Planned Near Bde Maka Ska, Artists Selected

As the controversy over the installation and deconstruction of Scaffold in the Walker Sculpture Garden starts to settle, here’s an art project that celebrates Dakota history here in Minneapolis — their homeland.

A new pubic art project and gathering place is being planned to honor Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man and reveal and celebrate the history of Heyata Otunwe, a village located on Bde Maka Ska from 1829-1839. (Bde Maka Ska is the original name for Lake Calhoun, and only recently has been restored.)

Last week, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the City of Minneapolis’ Art in Public Places program announced the artists selected to create the public art for this space.

  • Angela Two Stars – Descendant of Cloud Man (Mahpiya Wicasta), member of Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, born and raised on the Lake Traverse reservation of Sisseton, SD. Currently lives in East Lansing, MI. Graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI with a BFA in Drawing and Printmaking.
  • Mona Smith – Visual and multimedia artist of Dakota heritage. Currently lives in Minneapolis. Artist lead and co-founder of Healing Place Collaborative, Owner of Allies: Media/Art, past program coordinator for the National Indian AIDS Media Consortium, and creator of the Bdote Memory Map.
  • Sandy Spieler – Visual artist. Currently lives in Minneapolis. Founder and director of the annual May Day Parade and Ceremony at Powderhorn Park, 30-year advocate for issues pertaining to water, and recipient of a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship.

The design theme is “Story Awakening;” the goal is to honor and educate visitors about the broader history and culture of the Dakota and other Indigenous peoples who frequented and resided in this area over time.

Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man’s Village was on the southeast corner of Bde Maka Ska. An early map shows the village as extending slightly north of present day West 34th Street, south into current Lakewood Cemetery, and east past Fremont Avenue, according to a Park Board document.

The artists and design team will share concepts with the public this fall.

For more information:

Here is an excerpt on Mahpiya Wicasta/Cloud Man, excerpted with permission from Gwen Westerman and Bruce White’s book: Mni Sota Makoce: Land of the Dakota.

The Southwest Journal ran a piece titled: Lakeside art to honor Cloud Man Village.

Here is the Park Board’s community engagement plan and different concepts for site development for this project.

For more information about this public art project, contact Ann Godfrey. For the full announcement about the artists selection process, click here.

Panel Recommends Restoring “Bde Maka Ska” Name, Dropping “Lake Calhoun” In Other News: Climate Change Forces Tribal Relocation; Omaha Tribe Wins in U.S. Supreme Court

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Lake Calhoun restoration plan overwhelmingly supported restoring the Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska” to Lake Calhoun. The vote was 15-4 with one abstaining Thursday night. The recommendation will be included in a larger report that will be presented to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

Restoring the name will be a long process, including stops at Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. But Thursday’s action is an important first step.

CAC members Carly Bad Heart Bull and Tracy Nordstrom led the effort supporting the name restoration. In a media release, they said: Continue reading

This Day in History: John C. Calhoun Creates the BIA; New Exhibit at All My Relations Gallery, and More

John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun

On this day in history, March 11, 1824, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created the Office of Indian Affairs, which would later be renamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Calhoun, who also served as a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, is the namesake of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. According to Wikipedia:

[The Office of Indian Affairs] became responsible for negotiating treaties and enforcing conditions, at least for Native Americans. In 1849 the bureau was transferred to the Department of the Interior as so many of its responsibilities were related to the holding and disposition of large land assets.

A separate Wikipedia entry on Calhoun adds that Calhoun “supervised the negotiation and ratification of 38 treaties with Indian tribes.”

This Day in History: Ojibwe Cede Minnesota Land, the United States Defines What it Means to be an Ojibwe “Chief”

Also on this day in history, March 11, 1863, several Ojibwe bands signed a treaty with the United States. The TreatiesMatter.org website explains the details:

During the Dakota War of 1862, there was some dissension among the Ojibwe on which side to support: the Dakota, or the U.S. The Mille Lacs band unequivocally sided with the U.S., actively protecting white settlers and military installations. As a result, in their treaty with the U.S. in 1863, the Mille Lacs band became “unmovable,” securing their reservation against future legal maneuverings. …

The direct payments to individuals who signed the 1863 treaty were one aspect of a larger U.S. role in internal Ojibwe politics and life ways. The treaty also defined for the time in U.S. terms what an Ojibwe “chief” would be: a leader of a band of at least 50 people, who would encourage “the pursuits of civilized life,” A “board of visitors” representing Christian religious denominations would report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs on the “qualifications and deportment of all persons residing upon the reservation.”

Click on the link above for more details.

New Exhibit Opens at All My Relations Gallery

Synthesis, the debut solo exhibition by artist Aza Erdrich, will open Friday, March 18, at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 East Franklin Ave. According to the announcement:

Erdrich shares works that pull from her life as a young woman of mixed Native and non-Native ancestry growing up in Minneapolis.  She draws influence from Anishinaabe artistic traditions and personal experience to create uniquely coded works of self and familial narrative. Aza Erdrich is

The show is guest curated by Dyani Whitehawk. There is an opening reception on Friday the 18th from 5-8 p.m.

Grand Portage Band, state diverge on collaring moose

From MPR: Last year Gov. Mark Dayton ordered the state DNR to stop collaring moose, saying the stress of the research into the declining population was harmful to the animals. The Grand Portage Band of Chippewa came to a different conclusion. Click here for full story.

Action Opportunity: Renaming Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska; Upcoming Movie: Songs My Brother Taught Me

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board last year changed the signage on Lake Calhoun to add the lake’s original Dakota name: “Bde Maka Ska,” or White Earth Lake. A citizens group advising the Park Board on a new master plan for the area wants to take the next step and make the name change official.

The recommendation will be made to the Calhoun-Harriet Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on Friday, March 24, at 8 p.m. at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. Members of the CAC’s Equity Committee will speak in favor for 5 minutes, and members of the public will have 15 minutes to speak, according to Tracy Nordstrom, who serves on the CAC.

Even if you don’t speak, it’s a great opportunity to attend and show support for the name change.

Continue reading

Petition Update and Community Events about Reinventing Thanksgiving, Remembering Medicine Bottle, Renaming Lake Calhoun, and more

Petition Update: We just surpassed 400 signatures. (Yay!) We also have gotten some press. The Southwest Journal just ran an opinion piece State Capitol renovation a rare opportunity to update art. (We previously reported on the article that ran in The Circle newspaper, Art glorifying the conquest of Indians needs to leave state capitol, Please keep circulating the petition among your networks: Make the Minnesota Capitol more welcoming: Remove offensive art, add inspiring art.

Interfaith dialogue: How t0 observe the Thanksgiving holiday in light of colonial and Native American history

The Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
 is hosting this interfaith dialogue on Thursday, November 12, from 12 – 1:45 p.m., at 1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul (View Map)

A panel of a Native American leader, Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican, Convener of Healing Minnesota Stories and pastoral associate at Church of All Nations); a rabbi, Amy Eilberg (author, interfaith leader, adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary); an imam Samir Saikali, (Islamic Institute of MN); and a Christian pastor (Joy Caires, St. Clements Episcopal) will explore how Thanksgiving might be observed well in our community. As we approach the national holiday of Thanksgiving once again, interest has been expressed in the possibility of a future community-wide Thanksgiving observance, a time when people of various religious/spiritual traditions and none might come together and give expression to gratitude. Click here for more information.

First Universalist of Minneapolis hosts community conversation on Bde/Mde Maka Ska (aka Lake Calhoun)

The First Universalist Church of Minneapolis will hold a community conversation Thursday, December 3, about the renaming of Lake Calhoun back to its original name: Bde/Mde Maka Ska. It will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the 3400 Dupont Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Here is the official announcement:

Please join us on December 3 as we welcome the broader community to a practical and generative community conversation about Bde/Mde Maka Ska (currently called Lake Calhoun), with the theme “Water Wisdom: Carrying Us Into a Bold Future of Deep Restoration.” It will be an evening in which to envision bold possibilities that transcend the boundaries of the past, to call a powerful future into the present and to advance a more vital, valuable, and vibrant future. Food provided. All are welcome.

An initial community conversation about Bde/Mde Maka Ska was held at First Universalist on October 7. MNNativeNews did a story about it, which you can listen to at this link.

Reminder: Medicine Bottle Memorial this Wednesday

Many people know about the 38 Dakota men hung at Mankato, Dec. 26, 1862, following the Dakota-U.S. War, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Less well known are the two Dakota men — Medicine Bottle and Shakopee (aka Little Six) — who were hung at Fort Snelling nearly three years later for their participation in the war. They had fled to Canada but were kidnapped and handed over to U.S. authorities.

Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild, Medicine Bottle’s grandson, plans to hold a memorial for Medicine Bottle on the 150th anniversary of the hanging on Wednesday, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be held at Fort Snelling, near the car turnaround (where the hanging took place). (Note: Go to the Fort itself, not the visitor’s center area where the concentration camp remembrances are held.)

In addition, Wolfchild will hold film screenings and lecture at the Fort Snelling Theater Tuesday, Nov. 10), noon – 4 p.m. He will show both his recently released documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code and a shorter documentary on the Mdewakanton Dakota creation story. Wolfchild will lecture on “Where did the bodies go?” reflections on his efforts to find Medicine Bottles remains. Research shows that the bodies of both Medicine Bottle and Shakopee were quickly unearthed and removed for medical research.

Minneapolis American Indian Center Breakfast Fundraiser

We get a lot of emails about fundraisers and because of time and space don’t print most of them. But I am a complete sucker for breakfast. Just got this “Give to the Max” pitch from the Minneapolis American Indian Center: Pancake, sausage, and coffee breakfast for $6, Thursday, Nov. 12, from 9-11 a.m., 1530 East Franklin Avenue.

Rise in Injured Eagles a Mystery

The “Dakota Experience” event held last month at Grace Lutheran in Apple Valley was a huge success, and one of the big draws was an eagle brought out by the raptor center. It was a great opportunity for several Native speakers present to talk about the importance of eagles in Native spirituality. With that in mind, here is a recent article from Minnesota Public Radio: Influx of injured eagles puzzles, stresses Raptor Center.

The Raptor Center in St. Paul is overloaded with convalescing bald eagles, and more are likely on the way. Officials at the University of Minnesota center say the rising toll on eagles is a troubling and expensive mystery.

Click on the link above for more.

Park Board Seeks Comments on Renaming Lake Calhoun, Greater Inclusiveness

This just in from the Native American Community Development Institute:

A Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board committee is holding a community forum seeking community input on the master plan for lakes Calhoun and Harriet, including recommendations for the Lake Calhoun name change to Bde Maka Ska. The forum will be Thursday, October 29, 3 – 5 p.m. at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis.

The Park Board’s Community Advisory Committee wants to know: How do you think the lakes can be more inclusive, inviting, diverse, and accessible?

Attend if you can and spread the word.