150th birthday celebration prompts protests, education efforts
"What does it mean when Minnesotans continue to celebrate what they gained as a consequence of genocide, ethnic cleansing, policies of extermination, policies of forced removal, mass hangings and bounties?" asked Waziyatawin, a Dakota woman from the Upper Sioux reservation. "It's a question that most Minnesotans really have not wanted to ask."
Waziyatawin and others believe that many Americans today don't realize that Indians are still paying the costs of these devastating actions. Most Dakota Indians don't live on the historical homelands and have lost some of their traditional culture and even language. Ojibwes in the state have fared somewhat better, but have still experienced many of the negative effects of colonization.
"Minnesotans pride themselves today on living in a state that is forward-thinking and compassionate," according to a statement on the commission's Web site. "We have become a haven for refugees from countries where genocide still occurs. We recoil at the holocausts of World War I and II, and the more recent acts of savagery in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Also, it seems a bit odd to blame Minnesota's 1858 statehood for the 1862 executions or the 1863 removal. Would these things not have happened if Minnesota hadn't been a state? Will the protesters forgo a 150th anniversary protest in 2012 because they've already protested in 2008? Inquiring minds want to know.
The photo below kind of reflects my puzzlement. Nobody demanded or carried out executions as the price for Minnesota's becoming a state. Statehood happened first and the executions occurred later.