Monday, May 6, 2013

Forgiveness and Understanding

CONNECTING FORT SNELLING * DAKOTA EXILE * WOUNDED KNEE * ECUADORIAN RAIN FOREST This weekend marked the 150th anniversary of the Dakota women, children and elderly being expelled from the State of Minnesota, as they were placed on river boats and literally removed. And there seems to be a lot of other stories tied to this one, albeit nowhere close on the map.

 My family participated in the commemorative march to Fort Snelling that arrived on November 13, only a few months ago, which was the historic date that the "Minnesota Trail of Tears" entourage arrived in 1862.  I help serve as a neutral, get permits, symbolically walking on two roads.  I am not Dakota and I am not a government employee or elected official.  I am a volunteer-- can't get fired.    I am not related to anyone who is closely tied to this history or culture or story.  I am not an advocate -- I'm a neutral.  Blame it on being raised as a middle kid -- but I have found a special, unique role in my adulthood and have offered it when appropriate and useful.  I don't have a cause.  I am simply willing to listen, to learn and to ask questions that hopefully help guide groups through a sticking point.

  It seemed appropriate for me to also be there on the historic date that the 1300 Dakota souls that survived their winter below the fort on the banks of the Minnesota river would leave the site. In May 1863, in two separate groups, the survivors were shipped down the river like cattle and sent far from their homeland. On Saturday, crowds gathered to honor this date, to remember, to pray, to tell the story. It's been a really long winter for Minnesotans this year, with plenty of snow and cold weather that doesn't seem to want to give way to spring. I was struck by the idea of the 1862-3 winter that officially ended with exile and a trip to a dry and fruitless land that would create a summer that probably felt like it went on forever too. Many of the Dakota imprisoned men were sent to Davenport IA and remained there for years while the women, children and elders were shipped on boats and trains to the middle of nowhere. Yesterday I received a gift of the freshly translated manuscripts of many of the Dakota prisoner letters. This fall a unity ride is being planned from Davenport back to Minnesota, a commemoration of those prisoners and a symbol of bringing them home. It seems especially appropriate that Twin Cities Public Television is showing the Dakota 38 movie this weekend and a special feature that showcases my friends, Jim Bear and Dean, sharing their perspectives. Hope you'll watch...The weekend has also included a two day educational forum at Hamline University and I'm heading back there this morning. Last night's panel on the 1805 Treaty was especially intriguing and I'm going with open ears today for another few hours of first person perspectives. And in world news I am struck by the timing of the sale of the land in Wounded Knee and the Ecuadorian government preparing to take the land from indigenous people for oil drilling. Perhaps it's like the selective perception or awareness of things (like suddenly noticing every car that matches your neighbor's new car) but there seems to be a lot of stories that seem to look pretty similar to the one next door. Much like when I became pregnant, I suddenly saw that there were a lot of pregnant ladies. In the past few years I have seen the same human rights stories repeated and repeated, with some stories in the first chapter, some in the middle of the story and some trying to go back and rewrite a few chapters after seeing the tragic end of the story unfold. You can change the names, the locations but it is really striking how many times I have heard the same narrative, the same plot played out.