Friday, June 17, 2011

Dred Scott -- Peace Riders -- Fort Snelling

What a full day today!  We welcomed the Unity Runners who began running from Tennessee in mid May. After the welcome feast there was a beautiful naming ceremony for one of the young men who has earned his name. Then several trips to the airport, a thunder storm and my day finished Saturday at 2:30 AM when all travelers expected in on Friday were successfully dropped off at their respective hotels.

Although I woke at 5 AM and had plenty to do before the ride, the morning formally began as the Peace Riders left the Dred Scott ballfields just after 10:05 AM when I signed my last permit for this event.  Notice the full stack of signed documents that doesn't even begin to touch the bureaucracy issues this prayer ride brought to the attention of those who were in charge of issuing permits ...  This isn't a "parade" and it's not a "slow moving vehicle."  Simply put, we need to create a new system and I'm optimistic that the ordinances will be changed.  Even with good intentions and a full bank account and millions of dollars in insurance, it is nearly impossible for someone to go to the Bdote sacred site in their traditional way to pray.   And then add the legal issues on top of that.

A flood of emotion swelled in me as I picked up the pen one last time to sign my name for the final time, just minutes before they were to ride through my own community. And suddenly a wave of emotions crashed over me as I began to walk away and saw the Dred Scott fields sign.  My legs went limp and I fell onto the freshly manicured soccer field grass and I heard the horses behind me.  The moment touched me in ways I'm not yet able to process or articulate and frankly it caught me by surprise.  For the past few weeks I had been so busy running between City halls, returning phone calls to Mayors, talking with police chiefs and filling out papers that I hadn't thought about what it would feel like when this task was actually complete.
     This Friday route was a last minute change after another community with the preferred route were unable to accommodate the Peace Riders with permits.  Bloomington staff however charted the route and our morning rendezvous was at the Dred Scott fields, named after the African American slave who was brought by his owner to Fort Snelling (was free territory); after marrying Colonel Snelling's slave, his owner physician tried to take Scott back to Saint Louis.  The Dred Scott case in United States history was a trigger for civil rights and helped usher in the end of slavery in our country.   I sensed that we were experiencing history that will be the tipping point for the American Indian human rights issue in our generation...

How appropriate that the route that would be approved by the Government entities that would allow the Peace Riders to come pray started at a field named after a slave that changed American history.

We received a warm reception at the Pond Dakota Mission for lunch and then headed to the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. En route I was the lead vehicle with my flashers on and had the opportunity to watch the reactions of people as they looked up from getting their mail, opened their garage door and spied 15 horses mounted by the Chiefs in full regalia.  One gentleman on a riding lawn mower was focused on the ground or a good song on his headphones and almost fell off his own "horse" when he saw what was riding in front of his house.  Children came smiling and waving.  Teens on bikes rode alongside on the sidewalk.  Some cheered.  Others gave thumbs up.  The best looks however came from the people on the Light Rail Transit by the Mall of America.  I saw their faces in awe as sat in their train riding with faces plastered to the windows gawking at this colorful sight heading up Highway 1 through Bloomington, the home of the MSP international airport which is the biggest suburb in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Thankful for BEAUTIFUL sunny weather!

Then to the corral outside the Historic Fort Snelling for a grazing evening meal...for both the horses and for us.

Just feet away from where Dred Scott was held as a slave 150 years ago and two Dakota warriors were hung.

The Peace Riders are camping just above the bluff where 1700 women, children and elderly Dakota were interned in 1862.  Then Minnesota Governor Ramsey said that they shall be exterminated or forever driven from Minnesota as a result of the US-Dakota Indian War.

 And here we are in 2011,  all colors of skin sitting eating potlucks together, swapping stories and gifts, talking about what unites us and how to bring justice and healing...