Dakota Elders Support Rematriation of Sacred Red Rock, In-Yan Sa, to Wakan Tipi

Wolfchild talks about In-Yan Sa.

In-Yan Sa, the sacred red rock of the Dakota people should be moved to Wakan Tipi (also known as Carver’s Cave), one of the Dakota people’s sacred sites, Dakota elders say.

Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota/Lower Sioux) has been leading Dakota efforts to “rematriate” the rock. (Rematriation because the rock is part of Mother Earth.) He visited Dakota elders in South Dakota and North Dakota to speak about the Red Rock and get their feedback. “This is an apolitical process,” Wolfchild said. “It is the elders who are in charge of our sacred sites and objects.”

The elders gave a positive response, and backed plans to move In-Yan Sa to Wakan Tipi.  Wolfchild announced the elders support at a meeting of Dakota elders and allies on Saturday at All My Relations Gallery.

In-Yan Sa used to reside near the Mississippi River near the Dakota village of Kaposia. United Methodist missionaries took the rock after the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. The rock became a symbol of their church camps. The rock now sits outside Newport United Methodist Church, and calls have been growing from Dakota people for its return.

Bruce R. Ough, the Bishop for the United Methodist Church in Minnesota, agreed earlier this year to restore In-Yan Sa to the Dakota people. While that was a significant milestone, that commitment required serious conversation within both the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC and the Dakota community about next steps. Continue reading

Center Planned to Honor Dakota People’s Sacred Site and Heritage: Take a Survey to Help Shape the Idea

Historic stereoscope of Wakan Tipi (Carver’s Cave). Wikimedia Foundation

A nonprofit group wants to build an interpretive and visitors center to honor the Dakota sacred site “Wakan Tipi” (House of the Spirits, also known as Carver’s Cave) in St. Paul.

The idea comes from the Lower Phalen Creek Project, a group whose mission is to strengthen St. Paul’s East Side and Lowertown communities by developing local “parks, trails, ecological and cultural resources, and by rebuilding connections to the Mississippi River.” It was the lead agency in reclaiming a once contaminated rail yard and transforming it into the 27-acre Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, a site which includes Wakan Tipi.

Continue reading

Black Hills Sacred Site Sparks Strong Words, Legal Battle

The Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) Nations successfully purchased a small chunk of land in the Black Hills, land sacred to their people. But they still face battles, both over the land’s legal status and white politician’s condescending attitudes.

A quick historical recap: The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 affirmed Lakota ownership of the Black Hills and closed it to whites. Whites came illegally anyway, found gold, and provoked a war. By 1877, less than 10 years after the treaty, the U.S. government claimed the Black Hills, forcing the Lakota off their sacred lands onto much less productive land.

In 2012, a group of Native nations raised $9 million to buy 2,300 acres in the Black Hills at the sacred site known as Pe’ Sla. So far, so good.

At this point, the government can classify the land in one of two categories: trust status or fee status. Under trust status,the federal government technically owns the land and holds it in trust for the Native nation. The nation has sovereignty on the trust lands and does not pay taxes. If the land is in fee status, it means the tribe owns the land but has to pay property taxes on it (in this case, about $80,000 a year) and state laws, not tribal sovereignty, applies.

Determining the land status is a lengthy process. The Oceti Sakowin Nation has applied to put the land in trust status. The state of South Dakota is officially opposing the request, and doing so in patronizing terms. Continue reading

Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Reconciliation Action Steps; Canadian Tribe Turns Down $1 Billion in Order to Save River; Black Hills Sacred Site Gets Land Trust Protection

Here are three important stories that have come to our Inbox in the past few days.

Leader of Canada’s Anglican Church Lays Out Action Steps for Healing with First Nations

On March 19, Archbishop Fred Hiltz responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action on behalf of the Anglican Church in Canada. He made his remarks at Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, Six Nations of the Grand River. He opened with this apology:

My heart is heavy with the burden of our many sins against the Indigenous Peoples throughout Turtle Island. For every way in which we insulted their dignity and took their lands, silenced their languages and suppressed their culture, tore apart their families and assaulted their children, I must never weary of saying on behalf of our church, “I am sorry”.

In his speech titled, Let our Yes be Yes, Hiltz also presented specific action steps, including: Continue reading

Request to Preserve a Sacred Dakota Site: Afton Effigy Mound

We just received a last-minute request through the Showing Up for Racial Justice MN Facebook page to help preserve the Rattlesnake Effigy Mound in Afton, a sacred site to the Dakota People. The writers are asking people to contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and ask the state to delay construction of a holding pond and related tunnels that would affect the area. Emails need to be sent today. A sample letter is included below.

This is a verbatim reprint of the post, with the details:

There is a “very historic area of the lower St. Croix River, ‘the place where the fish lies.’ One of the most amazing and significant Dakota sites along that river is a rattlesnake effigy mound at Afton. It is located on the shore opposite the sandbar, Catfish Bar, which is the subject of Dakota legend. All of these places are connected, which is something that the cultural resource specialists in government agencies never seem to understand! For years the rattlesnake effigy mound was ignored, houses were built around it, and archaeologists, after a very cursory examination, announced several times that there was nothing left there, but secretly a few residents of Afton knew that there was plenty there and protected what they could. They knew that even if the mound was not visible on the surface it was still there under the ground. “Now, the city of Afton is carrying out a project to destroy what is left of the mound by building a holding pond and tunneling through the mound for a wastewater treatment facility. I [Bruce White] testified at a hearing of the Pollution Control Agency last June about the need to consult tribes about this mound and about what has happened to it and what the area still means to Dakota people. The PCA said it did not need to do that, but lo and behold now they are undertaking a Section 106 process with the least amount of consultation possible. 

“Bones were found there, but apparently that is still not enough…People were buried there because they were sacred places. The burials were a reflection of the sacredness that was already in the place and that is still there regardless of how many bones are still there. The question is, who will stand up for sacred places like this?”

“All I want is for the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and other Dakota people who care to be consulted on this project and given enough accurate information to know exactly what is happening to this important place.”

We have an opportunity today to stand with Bruce White and Marcie Rendon and the Dakota Peoples by contacting Corey Mathiesen (corey.Mathisen@state.mn.us) at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and requesting that action to build a holding pond and related tunnels be delayed in order for the Pollution Control Agency to consult directly with all tribal representatives, given the history of the sacred site and the discovery of human bones there.

EMAILS MUST BE RECEIVED BY 11:59 PM ON DECEMBER 31. Can you take this action TODAY?

Here’s a sample email, if you’d like to use it:

Mr. Mathisen, 

I am contacting you today to request that you delay action to build a holding pond and related tunnels at the site of the Rattlesnake Effigy Mound in Afton. I believe that the Pollution Control Agency needs to directly consult with all tribal representatives, given the history of the sacred site and the discover of human bones there. Please do not rush into this process without proper consultation that respects the significance of this site to the Dakota Peoples. Thank you for your time.


[Your Name]