Minnesota River Valley Sites: Introduction





In awe of the prairie wind and its beauty,
I listen for the shadows of voices.
An ancestral memory of
Forgotten rituals,
Forgotten oral narratives,
Forgotten humanity.

"Shadows of Voices," a poem by Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan

Welcome to the Minnesota River Valley Mobile Tour. This tour offers reflections and historical narratives at locations along the Minnesota River that address one of the most tragic periods in Minnesota history surrounding the U.S. Dakota war of 1862.

Settlers who Moved onto Dakota Land

O. E. Rolvaag (read by John Farrell): “The caravan seemed a miserably frail thing as it crept over the boundless prairie toward the sky line.”

Robert Buessman: “Many of our people had to leave Germany because of oppression and many problems.”

Alice Henle: “They promised the 'Land of Milk and Honey,' so they came here to find it.”

O. E. Rolvaag (read by John Farrell): “Their course was always the same - straight toward the west, straight toward the sky line...”

Sylvan Schumacher: “Why you would leave and come that far, not knowing where you’re gonna go or anything - They must have really thought it would be a nice place to live.”

Alice Henle: “You go into this area and set up a homestead or something and then it’s yours.”

Robert Buessman: “The German settlers in Chicago and in Cincinnati were told: Once you cross the Mississippi; nobody lives there. They didn’t know.”

How events Surrounding the U.S.-Dakota War Resonate with the Dakota Today

Clifford Canku: “Settlers were very much a threat to Dakota way of life. They were encroaching onto their livelihood.”

Dean Blue: “When the US Government made a pact with us, will not live up to its agreement, we have to then defend ourselves.”

Elden Lawrence: “Two whole ways of life were clashing, and one was going to lose out.”

Michael Childs: “They exiled the Dakota from the State of Minnesota.”

Dallas Ross: “My family is scattered everywhere: Sioux Valley, Pipestone Creek, Crow Creek, Santee, Flandreau.”

Judith Anywaush: “500 people were killed, and virtually a nation disappeared.”

Lavonne Swenson: “I just wonder how my relatives made it through all of that.”

Pamela Halverson: “It overwhelms me. It takes me to why my people are the way they are today? why we haven’t healed?”

Dallas Ross: “People don’t even know who they are anymore or even their family lineage.”

Carrie Schommer: “You can’t just say, 'oh, I’m going to forget about this...it will go away.' It doesn’t go away.”

Judith Anywaush: “They’re never going to give back the land; that’s never going to happen. I just want my grandchildren to know what happened and use it to be stronger in their lives.”

Clifford Canku: “We're like trees. If we don't know our roots, in terms of who we are, and how we are connected from the very beginning – to creation, and to God, and to the land. If you don't have roots, the tree falls. And it dies.”

Shadows of Voices

In awe of the prairie wind and its beauty,
I listen for the shadows of voices.
An ancestral memory of
Forgotten rituals,
Forgotten oral narratives,
Forgotten humanity.
The conqueror in its insolence cannot hear the ancient heartbeat of the prairie.
The plowed and plundered grassland
has been sacrificed to a leader's arrogance.
Damaged spirit is the prize for the powerful victor,
given to the vulnerable,
who are unable to save themselves.
There is a language on the ancient landscape.
Symbols that relate ideas traveling from time immemorial to humanity.
Shadows of voices sustain memory in the continuous orator wind.
Okiya from the wise relatives.
This same prairie wind that caused pioneer women to go mad.
The heart knows ceremony and its healing virtues.
Medicine that can only be felt.
Ancestral narratives tell of Eya's genocide and oppression.
Imperialism has left its reminder,
a road made of bones.

"Shadows of Voices," a poem by Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan