The Dakota and the Ojibwa have had Minnesota as their home for several hundreds of years, and they even occupied the place before the arrival of the Europeans. The two indigenous groups have their unique history, culture, language and beliefs.
The two groups of people have withstood the test of time since various other indigenous groups have gone extinct or have been assimilated; the Dakota and the Ojibwa still posses their sovereignty because they signed treaties with the USA so that they can maintain their culture, identity and communities.
Dakota and Ojibwe in Minnesota
The Dakota in the earlier days before being joined by the Ojibwa referred to Minnesota and Wisconsin as their original home, they had seven main bands called the seven fires and which formed a political alliance. These bands were pushed and expelled by the advancing Ojibwe people.
In order to safeguard the lucrative fur business, the USA entered into a treaty negotiation with the two tribes and this treaty led to the establishment of treaty boundary between the Dakota and the Ojibwe people and they were assured of their sovereignty and autonomous system of governance (Graubard & Archabal, 2001).
Formal education was introduced to the Dakota and the Ojibwe people by the French traders who also introduced a modern form of religion. Education was considered as an instrument to eradicate tribal cultures and traditions. Education was enhanced by the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 which gave the Indian parents greater voice on the education of their children.
The heart of the Dakota and Ojibwe economy was the exploitation of forests and lakes and rivers that they utilized for fishing. They have also benefited from the booming business of casinos and gaming. English is the primary language spoken by the two tribes. Their traditional languages are taught in schools and homes so as to save them from extinction and to perpetuate their culture to younger generations (Graubard & Archabal, 2001).
Position of the U.S. and Euro-Americans on Justice
The United States and other Euro-Americans have a track record that is very poor particularly in the violations of human rights. They violated the United Nations Genocide convention by participating in the involuntary sterilization of the Indigenous people; the harms perpetrated by the 100 percent federally funded programs that had been administered on the indigenous people like the Indian Health Services that was used to perpetuate involuntary sterilization of the indigenous people (Wilson, 2008).
The United States of America and the Euro-Americans attempted to address the harms that were perpetuated on the indigenous people internationally and particularly the ongoing subjugation and oppression of the Dakota and Ojibwe people through the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people that affirmed the protection of both individual and collective rights of the Indigenous population as a way of promoting justice and ending discrimination.
The United States of America and the white citizens of Minnesota had perpetuated crimes against the indigenous communities like the elimination of the Dakota population and exploitation of their land and resources. The numerous harms that have been perpetuated against the Dakota people are still to date unaddressed and unacknowledged. The Minnesota people have still benefited from the dispossession of the Dakota people and they continue to deny them justice (Cavender, 2008).
According to the Dakota and other indigenous people, justice is understood in a reparative manner and it can only be realized in the following main ways: first is through the establishment of Dakota Truth Commission that will unravel the truth of the genocide. Also justice can be achieved through the dismantling of Fort Snelling, this is the elimination of the locations, places and the objects that held negative connotation that elicit the history of subjugation of the Dakota.
Dakota people wish for reparations and land restoration that encompass the relinquishment of public land to the Dakota. Justice according to the people will imply restoring them to the position they were prior to the period of the white settlers and help eliminate all scars that are associated with oppression and genocide. A call for justice for the people of Dakota is considered a form of change and also as the justification of the extremes of treatment that they had received (Tedrick, 2009).
The story of Minnesota’s sesquicentennial was used to illustrate the requirement to identify genocide and the oppression of the Dakota people as well as the installation of the policy of reparative justice that is aimed at returning the land that had belonged to the people of Dakota but now in the public hands as well as the desire to allow the people of Dakota to live freely.
In her book, Waziyatawin is advocating for reparative justice for the people of Dakota particularly regarding issues of land and genocide committed against them. Waziyatawin is advocating for the culture of truth telling and the possibility of removing any symbol of colonization particularly the places where the people of Dakota were executed publicly. The benefits of Dakota liberation and the need for peaceful coexistence are emphasized (Kimball, 2011).
Justice for Dakota People
Concerning truth telling, it is necessary for the people of Minnesota to initiate the culture of truth telling so as to bring to fore the problems they are facing and the consciousness of the settler community in the city of Minnesota. This will be necessary so as to deny the white people of Minnesota a chance to ignore the history of genocide, the injustices and human rights abuses perpetrated against the Dakota people (Cavender, 2008). Some more actions that will enhance justice include:
Taking down of the fort Snelling: The bringing down of fort Snelling is to happen after the settlers acknowledges the truth about the injustices and to demonstrate some sense of contrition that is needed for a restorative justice to be administered. The foundation on settlement of private Dakota indigenous land is still considered benign.
Payment of reparation: reparative justice, reparations and land restorations is necessary so as to create a moral society. Though it can be hard to return private land, a federal, state or county land in Minnesota can be used to compensate the Dakota people. An extensive cleanup should be performed on the land so as to make it fit for human settlement.
The creation of an oppressive free society: all oppressions against the indigenous people should stop if the people of Minnesota are to create a moral and just nation and to coexist together. This implies that there should be complete decolonization that will involve the overturning of institutions, ideologies and systems of the colonialists (Cavender, 2008).
The U.S. and the Euro-American citizens passed various pieces of legislation that permitted the abrogation of all Dakota treaties and for the release of Dakota treaty annuities to the white settlers. The government also gave nod to the white citizens to implement the policy of ethnic cleansing.
This was an indication that the Dakota deaths were deliberate and intentional. The government of the U.S. also orchestrated forced removal of indigenous people from their homelands hence leading to their deaths in large numbers due to denied access to their traditional homelands. This is a clear indication that USA and Euro-Americans do not honor treaties, they only violate them at will (Holmquist, 2003).
The four components enumerated and explained by Waziyatawin, according to me are the best since it captures all the aspects of justice that are deemed fit to restore the morality and justice for the Dakota and the Ojibwe people. Waziyatawin has best illustrated how the critical issues of land debt should be addressed because it still remains controversial to date and it is at the heart of the two tribes.
The euro-Americans have not benefited from the genocide but instead it is hounding them because it has remained as a scar among the people living in Minnesota. In order to maintain their traditional way of life, the Dakota and the Ojibwe are trying hard to maintain their languages since language is instrumental in maintaining cultures and passing away of traditions to coming generations.
The themes captured by Waziyatawin are important particularly to the indigenous people who have been wallowing in suffering and oppression for very long. It helps to create consciousness among other indigenous population and it will make them to fight for their rights. The history of the past guides the future of the society and from the works of Waziyatawin I have learned a lot about the history of the Dakota and Ojibwe and other indigenous communities in the North America with their distinct cultures.
Cavender, W. (2008). What does justice look like?: the struggle for liberation in Dakota homeland. New York, NY: Living Justice Press.
Graubard, R., & Archabal, N. (2001). Minnesota, real & imagined: essays on the state and its culture. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Holmquist, J. (2003). They Chose Minnesota: A Survey Of The States Ethnic Groups. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Kimball, B. (2011). What Does Justice Look Like? Minnesota Reads. Retrieved from: https://minnesotareads.com/2009/03/what-does-justice-look-like/
Tedrick, S. (2009). What does Justice Look Like? The struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland. Granite Falls News. Retrieved from: https://www.granitefallsnews.com/