Reclaiming the Dakota Indian’s ancestral homelands

By Thomas Dahlheimer


For many Dakota Indians, reclaiming their traditional/ancestral homelands in Minnesota, from which their ancestors were forced, and from which they are currently exiled, is an important mission of theirs. These Dakota Indians – including many tribal council chairpersons, cultural preservation officials, etc., are the descendents of Minnesota’s exiled Dakota Indians who were forced from Minnesota after the 1862 Dakota war, and who are now located in a variety of bands spread out through North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Canada. And they, in a joint movement – along with their Minnesota Dakota relatives who were also forced from their traditional/ancestral homelands in Minnesota – are returning to, and starting to reclaim their traditional/ancestral homelands in Minnesota.

During a recent telephone conversation with John Borman, the secretary of the Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance (WDUA), Mr. Borman told me that he had traveled to four states and Canada to address nine Dakota tribal councils, and had asked that representatives of their bands attend this year’s annual WDUA sponsored Great Dakota Gathering and Homecoming event, and speak during a “circle meeting” about the Winona-Dakota Covenant of Friendship. The tribal chairs, or at least a tribal council member of all nine Dakota bands, as well as the cultural preservation officials of all nine bands will attend this historic event.

Bruce White, one of Minnesota’s most respected historians who has written extensively about Native Americans, works closely with leading Dakota activists, and who has an interactive blog, and whose most recent blog articles, and quest blog articles, are, in a continuous updated fashion, displayed on the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission’s Native American Minnesota blog, has his blog site’s theme expressed in a short article of his, titled, Reclaiming Minnesota-Mini Sota Makoce, the Dakota homeland. A few excepts from the article are presented below.

“One hundred and forty six years after most of the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota, reclaiming Minnesota-Mini Sota Makoce, the Dakota homeland-is a goal of many Dakota people,…”

“For any people dispossessed of their lands or exiled from their homeland, it takes the talents of many to reclaim what was taken from them or return to what they left behind,…”

“It is a process that proceeds in fits and starts, concentrating sometimes on one place or another. At the moment a great deal of attention is being paid to the area of Bdote around the mouth of the Minnesota River, and specifically the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines property.”

“But in the months and years ahead, Dakota people, and those who support their efforts, will engage over many places in Minnesota, seeking to educate, to confront, and to reclaim. We hope to keep track of all the developments as they take place.”

Besides the Bdote area there is another very important place, or sacred traditional/ancestral homeland area, to the Dakota, and it also has a Dakota creation story attributed to it. And Bruce White recently posted an article about this other sacred Dakota place, it was the first article on his site about another sacred area other than the Bdote area. It was an article of mine, titled, The importance of Mille Lacs Lake in the history and culture of the Dakota people.

This sacred Dakota place, Mde Wakan (Lake Mille Lacs), is also a sacred place wherein their is activist work taking place to reclaim it, or restore it to its original Dakota Indians. I am referring not only to Mille Lacs Lake, but to the entire Mde Wakan (Lake Mille Lacs) traditional/ancestral homeland of the Dakota Nation. An area that includes the entire Wakan Wakpa (Rum River) Watershed.

Note: Brett Larson, the editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger (a MN county newspaper), recently published this article on the Mille Lacs Messenger’s new web site. The article is located at

Mr. Larson also recently published a letter of mine on the Mille Lac Messenger’s new web site. He gave the letter the following title, We need a new culture. It is located at