Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 5, 2011

Dakotas 'Beloved Child' Singing the people home

Censored News Bookshelf
Beloved Child, A Dakota Way of Life

Singing the people home

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Gabrielle Tateyuskanaskan rides horseback along the frozen Minnesota River to Mankato to remember the 38 men who were hanged in 1862. Gabrielle is an artist and poet, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and among about 30 horeback riders on the Dakota 38 Memorial Ride. She rides to remember.

“Horses are sacred animals that have sustained the people through these tough periods,” Gabrielle says. “Riding horses through this beautiful scenery in the winter strengthens something in my spirit.”

Gabrielle is among the Dakotas whose stories are shared by author Diane Wilson, in Beloved Child, A Dakota Way of Life. The book carries the stories of Glenn Wasicuna; Harley, Sue, Danielle and Emma Eagle; Clifford Canku; Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan (also Yvonne Wynde, Lisa Lopez); Delores and Dolton Brunelle; Alameda Rocha (and her relatives) and Naida Medicine Crow.

Harley Eagle is Dakota/Salteaux First Nations, enrolled in the Wapaha Ska (White Cap) Dakota First Nations reserve near Saskatchewan, Canada. Wilson met him and his family at the 2006 Dakota Commemorative March, walking to the concentration camp below Fort Snelling. Harley speaks of the rhythm of the circle and earth based rhythms and the need for love to permeate.

Harley speaks of reconnecting with the land and reestablishing relationships. He talks of falling in love with the earth.

“I think her shoulders are big enough to hold our pain,” Harley says. “I think that’s always the first disconnect that’s imposed, the disconnect from the land. And then it’s our children. The residential school process was about taking our children away. And then it’s about changing the relationship between man and woman. All of that is designed to keep up disconnected from our own spirits. And from trusting the energy that’s within us, that connects us.”

Alameda Rocha, from Fort Peck, Montana, now lives in St. Paul and helps others reconnect with their Dakota culture. Alameda remembers being beaten black and blue in boarding school and her hair chopped off. She was taken away from her loving family at the age of 12 and placed in the Wahpeton Indian School, between the years of 1965 and 1968.

After years of cruelty, she made it home to her relatives. She remembers her brother, who drank to forget the pain of the abuse in the basement of boarding school. She also remembers the young girls who killed themselves, one because she was pregnant after abuse by a male matron, and another who committed suicide because she was beaten so severely.

When Alameda did make it home, she went to Grandpa’s where they spoke Dakota.

“They had a ceremony for me. What happens to a person when they’re severely abused, there were times when I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. The elders were there at the ceremony, a few other people. They had me stand and smudge while they prayed. They told me I had a very strong spirit. I may not have known it, but the Creator was watching over me. When you believe in the Creator, you give it to him, and he takes care of it. I felt better.”

Clifford Canku, teacher of Dakota language and culture, shares letters from Dakota prisoners. Those letters are from Dakota prisoners in Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa, after the Dakota War of 1862. Those letters told how the women were raped by the prison guards, how the men could not protect them and sang to them to let them know that they were praying for them.

Canku was born on the Lake Traverse Dakota land in northeastern South Dakota and his mother is Sisseton-Wahpeton. He speaks of a lifetime of struggle which led him to where he is today.

“You have to be true to what you’re supposed to do.”

Delores Brunelle, Dakota counselor, works with families of intergenerational trauma, often the result of abuse in boarding schools. She shares her story and this song. She sings of telling the trees “our story,” which concludes with:

“We know you
We hold you in our hearts, we hold you in our hearts
We love you.”

Gabrielle Tateyuskanaskan, on horseback on the land, remembers gardening with her grandmother, a storyteller, and reflects on this time for Dakota.

“If you think of the thousands of years we’ve been on this landscape, this hard period is really short,” Gaby said. “It’s probably the blink of an eye for the earth. When we sing those prayer songs, we’re singing the people back to our homeland.”

From the publisher, Borealis Books, Minnesota:
Among the Dakota, the Beloved Child ceremony marked the special affection between parent and child. In her new book, Beloved Child, Mdewakanton descendant Diane Wilson explores the work of modern Dakota people who, sustained by rich traditions, are transforming the historical legacy of their people into a better way of life for their children.
About the author:
Diane Wilson is a creative nonfiction writer. Her essays and memoir use personal experience to illustrate broader social and historical context. Her first book, Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, (Borealis Books, 2006) won the 2006 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir, Autobiography, and Creative Nonfiction. Her second book, Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life, (Borealis Books), will be released in September 2011.
Spirit Car is an historical memoir about cultural identity and heritage. This project has received awards from the Jerome Travel & Study program, the Minnesota Historical Society, Norcroft Writer’s Retreat, and Blacklock Nature Center. Beloved Child--a collection of personal stories on transforming historical trauma--has received awards from the Jerome Travel & Study program, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Ragdale Artist Residency, and the Hedgebrook Residency for Women Writers.
Her work has been published in Fiction on a Stick; American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice; Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time; The American Indian Quarterly, The View from the Loft, Minnesota Women’s Press, Pioneer Press and many other local publications. She was the editor for Minnesota Literature, a newsletter containing news and information of interest to Minnesota’s writing community, from 2002-2004. She is a past board chair and member of SASE: The Write Place, and the founder and editor of The Artist’s Voice, a publication of artists writing about their own work, published by the Southern Theater.
Diane currently works for Dream of Wild Health, a Native owned 10-acre farm in Hugo, Minnesota. She lives with her artist husband, Jim Denomie, Emma the love bully, and two wild cats. A master gardener, Diane maintains a large butterfly garden filled with native plants. She has helped organize the Dakota Commemorative Marches on the Lower Sioux reservation.
Diane’s work is inspired by her daughter, Jodi, and her wonderful family. She is also blessed with two step-daughters, Cheryl and Sheila, a step-son, Cody, and six grandchildren, Tyler, Kelci, Logan, David, Bradley, and Kyle.


No comments: