Indigenous panel on Land Acknowledgement Statements held at Metro State on Indigenous Peoples Day. From left to right: Mary Lyons, Rhianna Yazzie, Kate Beane, Rose Whipple, Cantemaza.

Kate Beane, Director of Native American Initiatives for the Minnesota Historical Society, recalled sitting in her apartment a year ago, wishing she owned her own home with her husband and two little girls.

“I was so frustrated,” said Beane (Flandreau Santee Dakota and Creek). “I wanted a big garden and a dog. … I worked so hard for a doctorate. I wanted a home. We couldn’t have that.”

She recalled getting an email one day that summer from a man who owned a new condo development in Bloomington. He wanted Beane to come and give a land acknowledgement to welcome all the new condo owners.

It was a deeply hurtful email.

Land acknowledgement statements honor the land’s original indigenous inhabitants. Such statements are common practice in Australia and Canada, and have made their way to the United States. If done well, they can serve an important educational purpose. They also can do harm. In Beane’s case, she was being asked to welcome new homeowners on her family’s ancestral lands, lands where she couldn’t afford to own a home herself.

This past Indigenous Peoples Day, Beane and other Native American leaders participated in a panel discussion on the value of Land Acknowledgement Statements and what makes a good one.The Native Governance Center and the Lower Phalen Creek Project hosted the Oct. 14 event at Metro State. In addition to Beane, panelists were Mary Lyons, an elder from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Rhianna Yazzie, Dine, a playwright, filmmaker, director, performer and producer; Rose Whipple, Isanti Dakota and Ho Chunk, a youth activist and student; and Cantemaza (Neil Mckay) Spirit Lake Dakota, a Dakota language instructor at the University of Minnesota.

Key takeaways

There are a sample statements and helpful resources online

Beane referred the condo owner to the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture’s website, which has a section on Land Acknowledgement Statements. During the panel discussion, she recommended the Land Acknowledgement Statement developed by Rick Smith for the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). It reads:

We collectively acknowledge that the University of Minnesota Duluth is located on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of Indigenous people. The University resides on land that was cared for and called home by the Ojibwe people, before them the Dakota and Northern Cheyenne people, and other Native peoples from time immemorial. Ceded by the Ojibwe in an 1854 treaty, this land holds great historical, spiritual, and personal significance for its original stewards, the Native nations and peoples of this region. We recognize and continually support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native nations in this territory and beyond. By offering this land acknowledgment, we affirm tribal sovereignty and will work to hold the University of Minnesota Duluth accountable to American Indian peoples and nations.

Don’t sugar coat your language

Land acknowledgement statements can be one way for the colonizers and the colonized to come together, raise consciousness and tell the truth, Cantemaza said. He warned against using benign school textbook language that says the Dakota people “were removed” from Minnesota, or that they “moved westward.”

Land Acknowledgement Statements need to use words such as “genocide,” “forced removal,” and “ethnic cleansing,” he said, and the U.S. government should be named as the perpetrator.

Don’t talk about Native peoples in the past tense

Cantemaza recalled hearing short Land Acknowledgement Statements that go something like: “We just want to acknowledge the indigenous peoples on whose land we stand.”

“For Dakota people, we’re still here,” he said. “Please don’t talk about us in the past.”

Yazzie echoed that sentiment, saying the best land acknowledgements she’s heard acknowledge indigenous peoples past, present and future.

Look for teaching moments

Several panelists suggested adding context to Land Acknowledgement Statements or engaging the audience in some way.

Land Acknowledgement Statements could acknowledge contemporary indigenous leaders in the community. Yazzie, who has spent years in theater, recalled being asked to make a Land Acknowledgement Statement during a visit to Miami. “I knew a couple of Native playwrights from Miami, so I mentioned them and brought their names into the room,” she said.

That helps disrupt the power dynamic, where Native artists typically remain invisible. That disruption “is what a land acknowledgement is there to do,” Yazzie said.

Whipple suggested engaging people in Land Acknowledgement Statements by teaching them one word in the local indigenous language. In the Twin Cities, that would mean teaching people a word in Dakota. (Here is the online Dakota Dictionary she recommends.)

Whipple also has been active in efforts to stop the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. She suggested using the time for a Land Acknowledgement Statement as an opportunity to lift up concerns of local indigenous peoples, such as how Line 3 threatens treaty rights and how to engage with pipeline opponents.

Cantemaza said it is important to know and name your treaties. These can be included in the Land Acknowledgement  Statements, such as UMD did. (For those of us who live in the Twin Cities, here is background on the “treaty” which ceded the lands upon which we live: How a Spanish spy set in motion a fake treaty to acquire lands that would become Minneapolis and St. Paul.)

Other reflections by panelists

The way that white and colonized people think about acknowledging land different from how indigenous people think about it.

In the springtime, Dakota people will walk around Bde Maka Ska and put tobacco down, Cantemaza said. That’s how they acknowledge the land and the beings that are there.

Lyons said when people start talking about “land” it can get a very territorial feel, which is the wrong way to approach it.

“When we talk about land, land is part of who we are,” she said. “It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current and our future. We carry our ancestors in us and around us.”

“To me, when you talk about land and land acknowledgement, it is humanity. … You can’t separate it, you can’t put ownership on it. Because if you do, you prostitute it. That is not what it is meant to be.”

Acknowledgement of Country Statements are challenging for everyone in the room

It’s important for those who plan to do a Land Acknowledgement Statement to ask themselves why they are doing it, Beane said. Are you doing it to make yourself feel better and/or ease your guilt? Are you doing it because you agree that education is really important? Is there something that can come out of it?

The United States is behind other countries in telling the truth about what happened to indigenous peoples here, she said: “We are seeking acknowledgement and action at the same time, and that can be really hard,” she said.

Yazzie said Land Acknowledgment Statements can be uncomfortable for Native peoples, too. She described her first experiences with such statements as “grim” and “sad.” People would be in a theater, then someone would say something to the effect of: “Let’s take a moment and acknowledge the original peoples of this land.”

“As a Native person in the room, you feel like, ‘Oh my God, this feels terrible.’ It makes me feel like I’m at a memorial,” she said. “… It needs to be a celebration, not something that moves the nervous system into a depressed state.”

Said Beane: “I think truth telling is incredibly important. And I think that for a long time our truth and our experiences weren’t acknowledged and … sometimes still aren’t acknowledged. It’s really delicate to figure out: How do we talk about this stuff in a way that’s healthy and productive?”

 

Reposted from What to consider when acknowledging you are on stolen indigenous lands

Yesterday, the Trump administration issued its presidential determination on refugees, limiting refugee arrivals to a historical low of 18,000 in 2020.

 

The administration also released an executive order that would allow state and local leaders to block resettlement in their communities.

 

The Minnesota Council of Churches strongly condemns both of these actions, policies that will limit our country’s protection of vulnerable families and individuals and further dismantle our country’s longstanding resettlement program. The historic average for the annual refugee admissions goal has been 95,000. The FY2020 determination of 18,000 refugees is the lowest in the forty year history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and an abdication of our country’s moral leadership.

 

Further, to allow states and localities to block resettlement in their communities is blatantly discriminatory and legally suspect. It would allow communities to restrict who lives there, akin to racial segregation policies of the past found to be immoral and unconstitutional. It would limit many from resettling near their families and community members, at the whims of local and state authorities.

 

Since 1984, the Minnesota Council of Churches, in deep collaboration with congregations, interfaith partners, individuals and communities, has welcomed and served refugees in Minnesota. Called by the faith of our member church communities, we welcome those in need of protection, providing services, resources and connections so that they can live in safety, meet basic needs, and achieve their dreams. Your support is critical to MCC’s mission to offer hope and opportunity to our newest neighbors.

 

We are deeply concerned by the administration’s policies that undermine our country’s longstanding commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people.  We urge all people of goodwill to speak up for refugees, and against these policies that will devastate families and dismantle our country’s welcome of refugees. We ask our representatives in Congress to support legislation that restores our country’s proud refugee resettlement program to historic norms.  Please join us in voicing your support for our country’s commitment to refugees.

 

CALL YOUR SENATORS & REPRESENTATIVE TODAY: 

Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 3 times and ask for your 2 Senators and 1 Representative

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I urge you to protect the refugee resettlement program. I am outraged that President Trump intends to set a new historically low refugee admissions goal at 18,000 for FY20 and allow state and local officials to block resettlement in their communities. Refugee resettlement facilitates U.S. diplomatic, national security, and foreign policy interests. Congress must act. I urge you to issue public statements urging the administration to resettle 95,000 refugees in 2020 and condemn the administration’s dismantling of the resettlement program. Another way you can show your support is by co-sponsoring the GRACE Act (H.R.2146, S.1088), which would set the minimum annual refugee admissions goal at 95,000 and ensure greater accountability. My community welcomes refugees, and I urge you to reflect the best of our nation by supporting refugee resettlement.”

Minnesota Council of Churches leaders are applauding Gov. Tim Walz’s Feb. 12 announcement that his administration will continue a lawsuit to block the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline, a dangerous and unnecessary project.

Days before Walz’s announcement CEO Rev. Curtiss DeYoung and Director of Racial Justice Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs joined faith leaders at the Capitol calling on the Governor to stop Line 3.

DeYoung has made racial justice a top priority in his Council leadership. He and Jacobs were among the 550 clergy members and faith leaders who signed a 2018 letter to Gov. Mark Dayton opposing Line 3 on moral grounds.

Jacobs and DeYoung joined roughly 75 other faith and indigenous leaders who gathered in the Governor’s Conference Room last week to pray, sing, and urge Walz to continue Dayton’s opposition to Line 3. Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light organized the event.

DeYoung spoke about the importance of protecting water and indigenous rights. He recalled how Jesus’ ministry began with water through his baptism in the Jordan River. Jesus also lived on land that was not controlled by his people, but by the Roman Empire.

“As he’s baptized, Jesus is also starting a ministry of protest against the actions of empire as it relates to indigenous people,” DeYoung said. “If we are faithful in our following of Jesus, there is no other place that we would be than right here [in the Capitol].”

The new Line 3 pipeline would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota, threaten Anishinaabe treaty rights, threaten oil spills into Minnesota’s clean waters and wild rice beds, and add $287 billion in climate damage over three decades. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the project, but it now faces legal challenges.

Jacobs also spoke of the importance of protecting our sacred waters. He quoted from Genesis:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. … And the Spirit of God hovered over the water.”

jm-bear at Enbridge protest Feb 8 2019

“Water is the first relative of all of Creation,” Jacobs said. “And we approach this water, this sacred water, not as a resource which we can do with whatever we please, but as a relative who needs to be cared for, nurtured, and protected. Because that is exactly what she does for us.”

NEWS RELEASE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE          

August 1, 2018

 

 

 

MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Rev. Jerad Morey, Program and Communications Director

Minnesota Council of Churches

(612) 230-3211

 

 

Minnesota Council of Churches Proud to Welcome Healing Minnesota Stories; Announces 3 Dakota Sacred Sites Tours

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – (August 1, 2018) – Healing Minnesota Stories, a program dedicated to creating dialogue, understanding and healing between Native peoples and Minnesota’s faith communities, is now a part of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

 

The program began in 2011, growing from a vision of Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs and supported by the Saint Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN). Jacobs, who is Mohican, had a series of dreams about Pilot Knob Hill, a sacred burial site for the Dakota people. He began conversations with Dakota elders to understand the dreams. When the elders gave their blessing, Jacobs and Bob Klanderud (Dakota) began offering Dakota sacred sites tours to religious communities, bringing more awareness to the Dakota history, their culture, and their ongoing presence in this area.

 

At its core, Healing Minnesota Stories believes that Native people have suffered deep trauma over many years and that all who call Minnesota home are lesser for it. Because Christian churches were full participants in historic traumas, so they must be partners in healing. Healing Minnesota Stories believes healing is doable and that churches and other faith communities have a role to play in it.

 

Minnesota Council of Churches CEO Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung says, “We at the Minnesota Council of Churches are glad to welcome Healing Minnesota Stories and Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs into our programming. Racial justice is a priority for the Council. The Sacred Sites Tours and other Healing Minnesota Stories programming help the church, and all Minnesotans, to confront our state’s history and our historic complicity in the harm done to Native Americans. Rev. Jacobs will also provide leadership in our broader programming as the Director of Racial Justice for MCC.”

 

While Healing Minnesota Stories began with SPIN, it has relocated to MCC. Rev. Tom Duke, SPIN’s Founder, says, “We are happy to see Healing Minnesota Stories transition to the Minnesota Council of Churches. It will give the program more visibility and statewide reach, as well as direct relationship with MCC member denominations. MCC also has a good track record of interfaith relationships which can benefit the program.”

 

The organizations have long been interconnected. MCC has been promoting the events and actions of Healing Minnesota Stories through the MCC e-newsletter, which reaches 3,500 clergy and lay people, since shortly after the program began at SPIN. Adding Healing Minnesota Stories to MCC’s racial justice initiative is like welcoming family home.

 

“In 2012, Healing Minnesota Stories partnered with the Minnesota Council of Churches to raise volunteer support and public awareness of events observing the 150th anniversary of the US-Dakota war of 1862. MCC was a vital partner in that work, especially as we sought support from faith communities both in the Metro Area and in Greater Minnesota,” says Jacobs. “I’m excited for this opportunity with MCC as we begin to dream how we might continue and expand the work of Healing Minnesota Stories on a larger scale.”

 

Healing Minnesota Stories also offers opportunities for speaking engagements with churches and community groups on Native American spirituality, local history, and barriers to free practice of Native religions, presentations about controversial images in State Capitol Art, and film presentations on the U.S.-Dakota War and the Doctrine of Discovery.

 

Three Sacred Sites Tours have been scheduled this fall. Sacred Sites Tours all meet at Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights, 1405 Sibley Memorial Highway, Saint Paul, MN 55120. The announced tours are:

  • Saturday, September 1, 10:00am – 2:00pm
  • Saturday, September 29, 10:00am – 2:00pm
  • Saturday, October 20, 10:00am – 2:00pm

 

For more information about Healing Minnesota Stories, go to http://mnchurches.org/justice/HealingMinnesotaStories.html or to www.bit.ly/HealMNStories. To register for a tour, email jimbear.jacobs@mnchurches.org.

 

About Minnesota Council of Churches

Representing 25 member judicatories and about 1,000,000 Christians, the Minnesota Council of Churches’ mission is to manifest unity in the church and to build the common good in the world. The Minnesota Council of Churches programs include welcoming refugees, civic engagement and fostering ecumenical relationships. For more information, visit www.mnchurches.org

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“The Minnesota Council of Churches expresses great concern that another black man has been killed by police in Minneapolis. Such acts traumatize entire communities and demand that we ask the question: do black lives matter in Minnesota? As people of faith and followers of Jesus, we call for full transparency in the investigation of this police killing. We call for more systems of accountability in policing statewide. We also join those envisioning alternative ways for addressing violence and providing safety in our communities. We offer our prayers for the family and friends of Thurman Blevins, Jr. We offer our partnership to those who want to create a more just Minnesota.” – Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO