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A Circle of Healing with Diane Wilson

April 2, 2013

A Circle of Healing with Diane Wilson

South s.t.a.r.t. Students and Community Members in a Smudging Circle

On Wednesday, March 27th, s.t.a.r.t. joined co-hosts South High Foundation, South All Nations, Discussions that Encounter and the One Minneapolis One Read for a circle, dinner and dialogue to honor the work of Diane Wilson, author of Spirit Car:  Journey to a Dakota Past.  The book was this year’s selection for the One Minneapolis One Read community read.  At the event, 280 students and community members joined together for prayer, a traditional meal and reflections on the Dakota Way of Life.  Chef Austin Bartold of Waite House through the Pillsbury United Communities prepared the wild rice soup, fry bread and cracked corn salad.  Discussions that Encounter provided brownies and other desserts and beverages were served by the Brotherhood Brew (see:  http://brotherhoodmn.org/brotherhood_brew).

As student Amira Elhuraibi led the smudging ceremony, Sheldon Wolfchild (great great grandson of Medicine Bottle, one of two Dakota men hung at Fort Snelling), blessed both the large community and our meal.

Students Amira Elhuraibi, Winona Vizenor, Sara Osman, Saida Mahamud, Elek Harris-Szabo, Haley DeParde, Shira Breen and Lamia Abukhadra all made statements about their own work and studies inspired by Ms. Wilson’s two books, “Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past” and “Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life.”  Haley DeParde spoke about her article for the South High newspaper The Southerner, “Unresolved Conflicts Remain 150 Years after the U.S.-Dakota War.”  (See:  http://www.shsoutherner.net/features/2012/10/26/unresolved-conflicts-remain-150-years-after-the-us-dakota-war/.)  s.t.a.r.t. student Elek Harris-Szabo presented Ms. Wilson with a framed photograph of their own South High mural in addition to the textbook used by s.t.a.r.t., To Be Free:  Understanding and Eliminating Racism by Dr. Thomas Peacock.  Students also gave Ms. Wilson a donation for the farm she manages, Dream of Wild Health.

Diane Wilson thanked the students for honoring her Dakota heritage through their extensive studies of the War that so strongly impacted her own mother’s life.  She told the students that she was there as a Grandmother, wanting to listen to their ideas.  She asked us how we might find ways to be good relatives to one another in the Dakota tradition and to learn how to transform our anger about what happened into a loving commitment to justice.

Following Ms. Wilson’s talk, there were table dialogues to reflect upon how we can return to honoring the Dakota Way of Life and how students can play an important role in that process.  The evening ended with an open mic period during which students and community members shared their questions and ideas:  ways to repatriate museum items that belong to the Dakota people, how to restore sacred land to our Native American Minnesotans, and how can we join together to visit and honor sacred sites.  We were asked the question, “How can we tell that we are making progress in this work?”  In addition, we were asked to reflect upon the true history of Fort Snelling, where nearly 1,600 Dakota people and “mixed-bloods” (mostly women, children and elders)  spent the winter of 1862-63 in a concentration camp, before being forced to relocate to reservations–and where Sheldon Wolfchild’s great-great-grandfather Medicine Bottle was hung alongside Chief Little Six, also known as Chief Shakopee III.

Student Shira Breen, who leads South High’s environmental group, The Green Tigers, spoke of her plans for a collaboration with South’s neighborhood Corcoran Community, to cultivate a community garden. The garden offers the possibility of growing produce for neighborhood residents, while also acting as a sister garden to the Dream of Wild Health farm (see:  http://www.dreamofwildhealth.org/mission.html).

Community members and students who participated agreed that having this opportunity to learn and reflect together was a healing moment, allowing us to return to the Dakota Way of being good relatives both to each other and to the land.

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