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Land will be returned to Lower Sioux Indian Community

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lower Sioux Indian Community tribal leaders say that land with historical significance will be returned to the Community from the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society.

According to Community Council President Robert Larsen, plans are being finalized for the land acquisition, with the closing date of the transfer expected on Feb. 12. The land includes MHS parcels at the site where the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 started, which eventually led to the the “largest single day, mass execution in U.S. History.”

“This transfer is of great historical significance,” the tribe said in a release. “The United States established the Lower Sioux Agency site in 1853 in response to the Mendota Treaty of 1851, between the Mdewankanton and Wahpekute bands of Dakota. In 1862, after a decade of United States’ unfulfilled treaty obligations, the Dakota raised arms fighting for enforcement of the treaties. Many lost their lives on both sides. On December 26, 1862, the United States imposed the largest mass execution in the history of the United States – 38 Dakota men were hung in Mankato, MN, for defending their people.”

Larsen says the tribe takes back the land with “mixed emotions” because the land was used by the federal government and traders in a way that took advantage of his people.

“But it is with a happy heart that we accept the return of our ancestral homelands on behalf of our ancestors who marched to Ft. Snelling, Davenport Iowa, Crow Creek, our relatives forced to scatter to the four winds, and those who gave their lives so we could live,” said Larsen. “The State did the right thing by supporting this transaction, through legislation and multi-agency support from MHS and the Department of Natural Resources – we accept this land back on behalf of all our Dakota relatives.”

The Lower Sioux Indian Community has been co-managing the MHS property since 2007 and Larsen says the Community has provided financial support and advice to sustain it.

“This land transfer is a milestone in our Nation,” said Cheyanne St. John, the Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “The Lower Sioux Agency is the last place our Oceti Sakowin were gathered before being expelled from the State. Here we are generations later, reclaiming the land which holds the memory of who we were and our experiences. Now, it’s time to heal.”

A celebration will happen when it is safe to do so.

The Lower Sioux Indian Community is located in Redwood County, Minnesota.

Sharon Lennartson and the Faribault Dakota Project

Jeff Jarvis Faribault Dakota Project Mendota Dakota Sharon Lennartson Mdewakanton

Sharon Lennartson, tribal headwoman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, exploded with joy when she learned of the Faribault Dakota Project in the works.

“I yelled and screamed to my boys, “Somebody’s finally going to listen,’” Lennartson recalls. I wanted every bit to be a part of it.”

In partnership with the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission, Rice County Historical Society, Faribault Mural Society and Santee Sioux Nation, the Mendota Dakota Community will offer historical insight to a project that will honor the Dakotas’ impact on Faribault’s early years.

Jeff Jarvis, a Faribault artist, designer and historian, connected with Lennartson after taking the lead on the project.

The idea for the memorial began several months ago when the commission became aware of a hand-drawn map that illustrated where Native Americans had lived on city namesake Alexander Faribault’s property after the Dakota Uprising. Faribault and Bishop Henry Whipple both wanted to protect the Dakota, who had helped Minnesota settlers during the U.S.-Dakota War, from being banished from the state.

Although the HPC initially envisioned land near the River Bend Nature Center as the location for the Faribault Dakota memorial, the new options include Peace Park, the Buckham Memorial Library Plaza and Heritage Park. The project is expected to begin in 2021.

Jarvis plans to combine written word, artwork and photography to depict the story of the Faribault Dakota on a three-panel interpretive sign. The panels will provide backstory of the Faribault Dakota community, including a history of the Wahpekute, partnerships that supported Native Americans in Faribault, maps, timelines, photos of tribe leader and Dakota verbiage with English translations.

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Sharon Lennartson, tribal headwoman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, exploded with joy when she learned of the Faribault Dakota Project in the works.

“I yelled and screamed to my boys, “Somebody’s finally going to listen,’” Lennartson recalls. I wanted every bit to be a part of it.”

In partnership with the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission, Rice County Historical Society, Faribault Mural Society and Santee Sioux Nation, the Mendota Dakota Community will offer historical insight to a project that will honor the Dakotas’ impact on Faribault’s early years.

Jeff Jarvis, a Faribault artist, designer and historian, connected with Lennartson after taking the lead on the project.

The idea for the memorial began several months ago when the commission became aware of a hand-drawn map that illustrated where Native Americans had lived on city namesake Alexander Faribault’s property after the Dakota Uprising. Faribault and Bishop Henry Whipple both wanted to protect the Dakota, who had helped Minnesota settlers during the U.S.-Dakota War, from being banished from the state.

Although the HPC initially envisioned land near the River Bend Nature Center as the location for the Faribault Dakota memorial, the new options include Peace Park, the Buckham Memorial Library Plaza and Heritage Park. The project is expected to begin in 2021.

Jarvis plans to combine written word, artwork and photography to depict the story of the Faribault Dakota on a three-panel interpretive sign. The panels will provide backstory of the Faribault Dakota community, including a history of the Wahpekute, partnerships that supported Native Americans in Faribault, maps, timelines, photos of tribe leader and Dakota verbiage with English translations.

“That was the first time any of us at the office had seen [the map],” Lennartson said.

One of the houses on the map is labeled “LeClair,” which could refer to Lennartson’s great-grandfather, Wakon LeClair, who was Alexander Faribault’s helper. Lennartson explained “Wakon” means “holy,” and her great-grandfather was a medicine man or spiritual advisor. Her family tree also contains Faribaults and a common ancestor with Chief Little Crow, acclaimed leader of the Mdewakanton from 1846 to 1863.

Thinking about the project and what it means to have her people recognized, Lennartson recalls the tragic stories of her late grandparents, Lily and Albert LeClair. Her grandmother died at her Mendota home after the medical staff at a hospital failed to take proper care of her, and her grandfather, who broke his back in a car accident on the reservation, was turned away by another hospital because he was a Native American. He suffered for months because the hospital that did take him in didn’t have the proper medical equipment to treat his broken back, and Lennartson said he “died of a broken heart.”

Lennartson herself was not raised Native, but she and other Mdewakanton descendants started the Mendota Dakota Community nearly 25 years ago to return to their roots. Other members of the tribal council will have opportunities to share their input for the Faribault Dakota Project, and so will members of the Santee Sioux Nation and Lower Sioux Agency.

The Mendota Dakota people have been in Minnesota for thousands of years, Lennartson said, and Dakota ancestors and descendants have been in Mendota for over 130 years. She and the others in the Mendota Dakota community are related to Chief Cetanwakanmani, Chief Taoyatwduta from the 1862 war, and Chief Wabasha as well as Agathe Winona Red Woman Angelique DuPuis Renville and Mazasnawin Iron Woman Rosalie Freniere. Some of their ancestors are from Little Crow’s village, Kaposia.

“This is about as happy as I’ve ever been,” Lennartson said of the announcement of the Faribault Dakota Project. “It’s time … Just to know that different families are recognized and not forgotten — they’ll never be forgotten.”

This story written by MISTY SCHWAB misty.schwab@apgsomn.com

Sharon Lennartson Dakota Project Aug 2020 Mdewakanton Mendota.jpg

IMPORTANT BIA UPDATE! To all members: call the office make sure your file is in order

To all current members in good standing, please call the office make sure your file is in order and complete. If you want you file to go to the BIA.

We are working on how we are going to send in the narrative when it is done. We want you to understand what the process  and when this will happen. Hope to have a meeting maybe at the DuPuis House outside? We will keep you informed.

Your tribal council

Sharon, John,Jason and Greg.