by Waziyatawin & John Stoesz
Where: Minisota Makoce, Dakota homeland in Granite Falls, Minnesota
What: A nonprofit dedicated to land recovery for the Dakota people
Mission/Vision/Principles: To help Dakota people reconnect with our homeland; to purchase land to establish communities committed to Dakota ways of being and sustainability; to help repair harm to the lands and waters under colonial occupation
The Story of Makoce Ikikcupi by Waziyatawin
Minisota Makoce, or Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies, is part of the ancient homeland of the Dakota Oyate (People). The Bdewakantunwan (Dwellers by Mystic Lake) creation story places our origins where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi River. From the beginning, our people have always been here. Just as our people were created from the clay of Ina Maka (Mother Earth), so too have the millions of bones of our ancestors become one with the earth.
We are the land and the land is us.
The land carries the memory of our presence, the songs we have sung, the tears we have shed, the laughter we have shared, and the prayers we have made.
With invasion and colonization, our relationship with our homeland was disrupted. A foreign power sought our eradication from the land to make way for others, people who relinquished their own connection to a faraway homeland so they could colonize ours. After our war with the United States government in 1862, the colonizers claimed our land and implemented policies of genocide and terrorism. With forced removal to reservations in the West and bounties on our heads, the idea was to strike such terror into the hearts and minds of our people that we would not dare to return to Minisota Makoce. Once our population was subjugated, settlers could engage in the full-scale exploitation of our homeland without fear of retribution from its Original People.
In the present day, our homeland suffers from the loss of topsoil and clean water, poisoning, and desertification from industrial agricultural practices. These practices, along with environmental damage and toxic runoff from mining, manufacturing, and energy production, have precipitated the collapse of local ecosystems.
Our nonprofit, Makoce Ikikcupi, or Land Recovery, emerged in this context.
We consider it to be a project of reparative justice. Settlers who have benefited from genocide, land theft, and our dispossession have contributed to a land buyback program since 2009 to help Dakota people, especially those who are landless and in exile, reconnect with our homeland.
The Story of Mountain Lake by John Stoesz
After almost all the Dakota people of Minnesota were killed or forced out, immigrants from Europe flooded into the state. They were attracted by the offer of “free land” through the Homestead Act of 1862. Many of the early settlers in the Mountain Lake area were German Mennonites, including my paternal great-grandparents.
Mennonites emphasize discipleship, following the way of Jesus in everyday life. This results in a commitment to justice for the poor.
A large part of my faith commitment is to work for justice for the oppressed.
The pivotal question for me became, what does it mean to benefit from Dakota genocide, forced removal, and stolen land?