By Thomas Dahlheimer
On July 14, 2007 the Anoka County Historical Society hosted an event to commemorate Anoka County's sesquicentennial. It was held in conjunction with Anoka's annual "Riverfest and Craft Fair". The event draws attention to, as well as celebrates Anoka's historic river, the "Rum River". Unfortunately, this river has a profane and controversial name. It is believed that the sacred Dakota name for this historic river (Wakan), which when translated into English means Spirit or Great Spirit, was mistranslated in a punning way by early 18th century white fur traders to mean the spirituous liquor (rum), and that this is how it received its current profane name.
There is a growing local, national and international movement to change the name of this river back to its sacred Dakota name. On June 10, 2007, Thomas Dahlheimer, the activist who is spearheading the river name-changing movement, asked the City of Anoka and Anoka County Historical Society officials if Jim Anderson, the Cultural Chair and Historian for the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, could set up two tepees in Anoka, preferably near the historic river, but secondly at the Anoka County Historical Society Center (ACHC), and display interpretive text and signage about Dakota culture and history. Note: Permission was granted and Anderson set up a tepee and taught Dakota culture and history.
Prior to this request, Mr. Anderson had written a letter of support for the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community. In this letter his community expressed its support for the effort to change the name of the river back to its sacred Dakota name. Therefore, when Dahlheimer asked the City of Anoka and Anoka County Historical Society officials if Anderson could set up tepees in Anoka they knew that Dahlheimer was attempting to help the Dakota people make inroads into Anoka for the purpose of helping Anoka residents understand that the river and land on both sides of it are considered sacred to the Dakota people, as well as for gaining support for the effort to change the name of the river. And also for helping Anoka residents understand that a significant number of the Dakota people could return to their sacred ancestral homeland territory now known as Anoka, to reverently celebrate and protect this sacred site of theirs. And that if this occurs, many Anoka residents will be changing their lifestyles in order to give due respect for the Dakota's cultural and spiritual sensitivities.
Dahlheimer also informed the officials about the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance and its annual Great Dakota Gathering & Homecoming event held in Winona Minnesota. He also told them about his desire to establish a similar alliance in Anoka, an alliance that would also plan, sponsor, and coordinate annual Great Dakota Gatherings & Homecoming events. Once a year a growing number of the Dakota people whose ancestors were driven from Minnesota after the 1862 Dakota conflict are coming from Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana and Canada to gather together and celebrate their return to their sacred traditional homeland in Winona.
Dahlheimer also informed Jim Anderson and another leading activist for the Dakota people, Leonard Wabasha, about his desire to establish an alliance in Anoka, a geographic location that the Dakota people once claimed as a part of their sacred homeland territory. And since they were forced from this area in the eighteenth century they have claimed it as a part of their traditional and ancestral homeland. Hence, the initiative to establish an Anoka Dakota Unity Alliance was made known to prominent members of both communities. And a short while later the Anoka Dakota Unity Alliance was established.
Since its establishment progress toward accomplishing its mission of bringing full unity and reconciliation to both communities has been continuous and glorious. (2007 statement)
To promote unity and reconciliation between Anoka residents and the Dakota people, by planning, sponsoring and coordinating unity and reconciliation ceremonies as well as cross-cultural and educational programs, for the purpose of bringing the two communities together to enhance our appreciation of our shared heritage in Anoka and to plan for a glorious future where both communities will be reconciled and united in a city that will serve as a model for other cities seeking to resolve differences and unity with Native people.
Provide a forum to express grievances associated with past injustices committed against the Dakota people and offer solutions to heal the wounds inflicted on them by past injustices. Also, provide a forum to express present-day grievances as well as offer solutions to rectify the injustices.
Provide unity and reconciliation ceremonies as well as cross-cultural and educational programs to help build a unity and reconciliation bridge. A bridge that will put an end to the cultural gap that separates us, by bring us together in justice and peace, and assisting our different cultures and spiritualities to blend into a harmonious unity, a process and end result that will enrich both communities.
To dedicate city park land in Anoka to be used exclusively for unity ceremonies, cross-cultural and educational programs as well as to display interpretive text and signage about Dakota culture and history in general and specific to Anoka.
History of the Dakota people on their sacred river
The Dakota name for the lake that their sacred Wakan river flows out of is Wakan, which when translated means Spirit or Great Spirit. French colonizers named the lake Mille Lacs. This lake figures prominently in Dakota creation stories. The lake is considered sacred because, according one Dakota creation story the Dakota people emerged from it as human beings into this world.
In 1656, the Dakota were living at the headwaters of the river in five villages numbering about 5,000 people. On about July 1 hunters, 250 in number, departed, as was their custom at that time of year, to hunt the buffalo on the prairies of southern Minnesota. While canoeing down the Wakpa Wakan (Great Spirit River) they would stop and camp along the way at their favored locations. The rendezvous was at the confluence of the Wakan and Mississippi rivers, or at their people's sacred site now known as Anoka. In early fall they would return to their villages to gather wild rice, once again making their way up the beautiful Wakan. During their semiannual journeys up and down their sacred river they would reverently commune with it. Besides the journeys, there were also smaller groups of Dakotas frequently going on hunting trips down the river. The Dakota were in continual reverent communion with their sacred river as well as with their sacred land on both sides of it.
The name Anoka was derived from the Dakota word a-no-ka-tan-han, meaning on both sides of the river. Having been forced from their villages at the headwaters of the Wakan, the Dakota moved to the Minnesota and lower Mississippi river valleys. After being forced from their sacred homeland territory some Dakotas would occasionally return to try to regain the region. After about thirty years and two major battles with a band of Ojibwe they did not return again to try to regain their sacred homeland territory. White settlers and a band of Ojibwe then took full possession of their sacred homeland territory, including their sacred river.
As previously mentioned, the Wakpa Wakan has spiritual importance to the Dakotas. It was a spiritual tradition of remembrance for a family member to cut the hair of a deceased relative and bury it on the south facing bank of the river. The Dakota people believe that they belong to the sacred river and that it is a relative, and a "living" relative, to be treated with reverence and great respect.
The first Anoka Dakota Unity Alliance initiative
Initiative: Replace incorrect information currently displayed on the city's website with correct information. Information concerning [who] pushed the Dakota people from their sacred homeland territory, including the land now known as Anoka. The alliance is working with Vickie Wendell, the Program Manager for the Anoka County Historical Center and a member of the Anoka County Historical Society's Board of Directors, to accomplish this initiative.
Currently, information on the city's website state's that: "Prior to the 1800's, the area surrounding Anoka was claimed by the Dakota, but later the Ojibwa pushed the Dakota westward across the Mississippi." The alliance believes that the Dakotas once claimed the area surrounding Anoka, or the "Rum River" watershed area, including the land now known as Anoka. However, the alliance believes that the Ojibwe were not [primarily] responsible for pushing the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory; and that, therefore, the city's website information falsely accuses, for the most part, the wrong people for pushing the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory. This contributes to the present-day alienation that some Dakota and Ojibwe people feel toward each other. White people of European descent were [primarily] responsible for forcing the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory. The incorrect information on Anoka's website unjustifiably sets white Euro-Americans free from guilt for what their ancestors did. And this unjustifiably sets them free from feeling any need to offer restitution to both the Dakota and Ojibwe people.
A World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) document as well as information displayed on the United Nations Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) website presents what the alliance believes to be the true historical account of [who] forced, or rather [who] stole, the Dakota's sacred homeland territory, including the area now known as Anoka. The WCAR, UNPFII and the alliance believe that all of the land that the indigenous people of America owned was stolen from them by (first) European colonizers and (later) by the United States. And like the WCAR and UNPFII the alliance believes that it was stolen in a similar way and for the same reasons.
The alliance believes that the WCAR information about how the Native people's land was stolen will soon be published in, and broadcast from, mainstream news media outlets. This will likely occur when the City of Anoka replaces the incorrect and white racist information that it currently has displayed on its website with information that tells the correct historical account of [who] was [primarily] responsible for forcing the Dakota people from their sacred homeland territory.
Three more alliance initiatives
Because the alliance believes that the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy was [primarily] responsible for stealing the Dakota's Wakan/"Rum" River watershed homeland territory, Mr. Dahlheimer, the current executive director of the alliance and parishioner of the Church of Saint Stephen in Anoka, decided, with the support of the other members of the alliance, to meet and speak with Father Mike Van Sloun, the Pastor of the Church of Saint Stephen in Anoka, about the alliance's mission to reconcile and unite the residents of Anoka and the Dakota people. And to also inform him about the following three alliance initiatives:
(1.) Inspire the Church of Saint Stephen in Anoka to conduct blended spirituality services on the historic river.
(2.) To inspire Fr. Van Sloun to write an apology letter for the Roman Catholic Church's past injustices committed against the Dakota people in the Anoka area. A letter that would apologize for two fifteenth century Papal Bulls being [primarily] responsible for the theft of the Dakota people's land in Anoka. Fr. Van Sloun said he could write an apology letter, but that he would first need to get permission from his bishop Archbishop Harry Flynn. The Most Reverend Archbishop Harry Flynn supports the mission to change the historic river's derogatory name.
(3.) To also inspire Fr. Van Sloun to help Dahlheimer and Jim Anderson, a leading Dakota activist, to establish and teach a seminar to help reconcile and unite Church of Saint Stephen parishioners with the Dakota people. The meeting with Fr. Van Sloun occurred and great progress was made.
For over a decade, Fr. Van Sloun has been following the progress of Dahlheimer's Roman Catholic social and political activist ministry to change the profane and derogatory name of the "Rum River" back to its sacred Dakota name Wakan. Before Dahlhiemer even knew that the "Rum River" name was a profanation of the sacred Dakota name for the river, Fr. Van Sloun had been following the progress of Dahlheimer's [worldview around the name Wakan] prophetic visionary ministry. It is a ministry wherein he teaches and promotes his Catholic expression of the youth of the 1960s counter-cultural revolution. On a number of occasions he has referred to Dahlheimer as a "prophet". Fr. Van Sloun supports the mission to change the historic river's profane name.
Progress associated with the first initiative
Prior to the official establishment of the alliance, Dahlheimer had a conversation with Vickie Wendell. He told Wendell about his historic revisionist account of [who] was [primarily] responsible for forcing the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory. Wendell then stated, "the Ojibwe got some help" forcing the Dakota from their homeland territory.
Hopefully, in the future, Anoka will display its own presentation of the following information on its website:
The Dakota once claimed all of the Wakan River watershed area as their sovereign homeland territory, including the land now know as Anoka. But then in 1687, Daniel DuLuth, a French explorer, upon discovering the great village of the Dakota, a village located at the headwaters of the Wakan River set up the arms of his majesty in token of a claim by right of discovery. By doing so, he claimed the Dakota's sacred homeland territory as French territory, including the land now know as Anoka. When he did this he was following the edicts of his Pope and King, or abiding by the Christian Doctrine of Discovery. After this occurred the Dakota people's sacred homeland territory "belonged" to France and no other European nation's explorer could claim the Dakota's homeland territory for his nation, provided French colonist settlers subjugated the Dakota and annexed their land, which they could do by forcing the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory.
Then about 1745 this occurred during a violent attack. A newly arrived band of Ojibwe were in Dakota territory and were at war with the long established Dakota. French settlers took advantage of the situation and allied with the band of Ojibwe who were in Dakota territory by giving them gun powder. The Ojibwe, with the help of the white men's gun powder, then violently force the Dakota from their villages located at the headwaters of the Wakan River. The Dakota, then, unwillingly moved to the Minnesota and lower Mississippi river valleys. The Dakota people had been subjugated and their land annexed.
After being forced from their sacred homeland territory some of the Dakotas would occasionally travel to the confluence of the Wakan and Mississippi rivers and stay for a while. They considered the land now know as Anoka to be a sacred site. After staying a short while at this sacred site they would sometimes go up the Wakan River on hunting expeditions and war parties to regain their sacred homeland territory. Unfortunately, after about thirty years and two major battles with this same band of Ojibwe they left and did not return again to their sacred homeland territory.
White settlers exploited red indigenous people by ruthlessly spreading the disease of alcoholism amongst many native tribes during the fur trade era. This caused excessive competition between the tribes trading furs for alcohol, which caused intertribal wars, such as the Wakan River Watershed Area Ojibwe/Dakota wars. After causing intertribal wars they often used the newly arrived tribes to drive the long established tribes from their sacred homelands, which they were very attached to because of ancestral ties, sacred sites and often creation stories. Because of these attachment sentiments the long established tribes were harder to manipulate and exploit within their sacred homeland territories than the newly arrived tribes. White settlers, therefore, often used the newly arrived tribes to force the long established tribes from their sacred homelands. This is one reason why white men used a band of Ojibwe to force the Dakota from their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory.
Forcing the long established tribes from their sacred homelands separated them from a very important part of their traditional religions. This made it easier for white "Christian" colonizers to convert them to "Christianity" as well as to assimilate them into their "civilized" culture. This is another reason why white men used a band of Ojibwe to force the Dakota from their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory. The fifteenth century Papal Bull, Inter Caetera, instructed Christian settlers to "subjugate the barbaric nations, and bring them to the faith". Native American Indians to this present-day are a [subjugated] people. They cannot own land or have full independent nation sovereignty rights, which are two fundamental human rights .
And forcing tribes that had lived in an area for a long time from their sacred homeland territories in order to make it easier to "Christianize" them was radical state sponsored "Christian" religious persecution of red indigenous people. The Dakota people who were forced from their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory are still suffering from religious persecution. They are still exiled from their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory. It is still occupied by the descendents of the white invaders who stole it from them. And the current white occupiers are still radically desecrating their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory.
As long they remain exiled from their sacred Wakan River Watershed homeland territory they will continue to experience religious persecution, including separation from their traditional sacred sites as well as partial separation from their Great Spirit and spirits (gods). The Dakota's Mde Wakan (Spirit Lake) and Wakpa Wakan (Spirit River) were like temples or churches to the Dakota people. And they have a creation story associated with their Spirit Lake. The Dakota originally believed that they were placed on earth to live in and care for this sacred body of water (lake/river) and its immediate region. After being exciled from their homeland they lost this belief. However, the alliance believes that many of the Dakota people will re-acquire this belief as they return to their sacred traditional and ancestral homeland.
Historical information on the Minnesota DNR website states: "Early White/Indian intervention played an important role in the settlement of the area by white men. The French instigated fights between the Ojibwe and the Dakota so as to ally themselves with the Ojibwe." After white men used the Ojibwe to force the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory the Ojibwe were not given any of the land as their own. They were only given a part of it to live on. It "belonged" to France, then Britain, and it now "belongs" to the United States. The Dakota were indirectly forced by white men from their sacred homeland territory, including the land now known as Anoka.
History of the Dakota near their sacred river
Before and during the 1862 Dakota conflict there was a Dakota band located not far from the Wakan/"Rum" River. Hockokadute (Red Middle Voice) was the chief of the Rice Creek band of Dakotas whose village was located at the mouth of Rice Creek in Anoka County. After being forced from their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River watershed homeland territory the Dakota people, including Hockokadute and his band, were increasingly in contact with white settlers. From then on it was a constant struggle for the Dakotas. They had plenty of food to eat when they lived in their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River watershed homeland territory. But now years later and still exiled from their food plentiful homeland, food shortages coupled by late annuity payments from the government caused widespread hunger. Frustration and hunger led to foraging. One Dakota foraging party attacked a family of settlers near Acton, MN on August 17th, 1862. With three men and two women dead, the Dakota gathered. Hockokadute and some members of his band somehow managed to convince the Dakota leader Little Crow (Taoyateduta) that the time to go to war against the settlers was at hand. Thus began the Dakota Conflict.
It was mostly the members of the Rice Creek band who scattered throughout the white invaders' settlements administrating justice for the terrible atrocities committed against the Dakota people. This just war was meant to punish the white invaders with the intent to discourage more white racist atrocities from being committed against the Dakota people. They were also trying to regain all of their land that the white invaders had stolen and desecrated. In addition, they were also trying to preserve their culture, religion and language, which the white invaders were destroying.
The white invaders indirectly forced the Dakota from their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River watershed homeland territory and then, just prior to the 1862 conflict, they were trying to nearly starve the Dakota people to death and were also mocking them. This caused the 1862 conflict to begin. After it came to an end, thirty-eight Dakota people were brutally and unmercifully hanged in Mankato. They were largely of Hockokadute's band. It was to his village that brave Dakota warriors of the 1862 war first retreated after their last defeat at New Ulm. Here, at the Rice Creek village, were gathered about 1,000 lodges. They remained at this place until a day or two after the battle of Birch Cooley, then they moved west in a train two or three miles long.
The white invaders used the newly arrived Ojibwe tribe to violently force the Dakota from their sacred homeland territory. During the violent terrorist attract and annexation of the Dakota people from their villages at the headwaters of the Wakan/"Rum" River many women and children were massacred. The alliance believes that Hockokadute and his Rice Creek band believed that it was their responsibility to instigate the war and fight in it. If the white invaders had not continued to commit radical injustices against the Dakota, there would not have been a 1862 conflict and a Dakota band would probably still be located at the mouth of Rice Creek in Anoka County. A location not far from the heart of their traditional/ancestral homeland territory, where they could be easily traveling to, to reverently commune with their sacred river in Anoka.