The way I look at it, is that this country is still ours, spiritually, because it is God-given.

Dr. Canku discussed the Dakota connection to Minnesota.

Things to think about: 

How does displacement from one's homeland affect them? How does this happen today?

Audio Chapters

DL: What is the Dakota relationship to the land?

CC: Dakota relationship to the land is that she’s our mother. And every hill, every river, every valley has its historical past in terms of what happened there. For example, me coming back to Minnesota. I have a strong spiritual relationship and sometimes even while sleeping at the Holiday Inn [while visiting], I have visitors who are spiritual. You could say they are spirits or you could say they are ghosts, but I call them friends. So our descendants have been here thousands and thousands of years. So every valley, every road, every location has a spiritual connection with it [the land] yet. And so, the way I look at it, is that this country is still ours, spiritually, because it is God-given. And when God does something, he doesn't take it back. So, even though physically this country is not ours no more, it is still ours.

DL: I have two questions from that. One of them is about the spirits who came and visited you. Are they welcoming?

CC: They're relatives in a sense, so they act very welcoming. They come in ways that either they want something from me or they want me to do something. They expect me to be able to do what they want me to do.

DL: Have you been to Camp Coldwater?

CC: Yes.

DL: And what is your sense from that place?

CC: It's the same as a spiritual connection with creation. People like myself, when we would go there, the spirits of the ancient – whether Little People, or ancient people or God, or angels – they're very open and receptive. It's almost like going home to your relatives, wherever your relatives are. They hug you, they shed tears, and they have that kind of experience when you go there. It's very self-fulfilling.

DL: Is it a place of renewal, of sorts?

CC: I would say, that's one ingredient – renewal. But I think that the greatest one is affirmation. Affirming that there's a connection there with us. And it will never – they are faithful, they are not fickle. So, when they're faithful, it's forever.

DL: An argument I have heard is this: when the Dakota came to Minnesota, they displaced the Cheyenne, so the land has a long history of different inhabitants. Therefore, when the Dakota were moved by both the Ojibwe and the European settlers in the 1850s and 1860s, it was just a natural sort of transformation. So, it's not that it was a good – but it was just the way that history sort of moves. What would you say to that?

CC: I would say they have their stories, and there's some motivation in terms of why they say that. It is to disconnect Dakota people from this location. But, we have factual information in terms of our creation account of how it happened here, between the confluence of the Mississippi River and Minnesota River, and the rivers that come here. This is where our creation began. So we were created here by God.
I think that in a sense, many voices say otherwise but we ourselves believe the truth – the truth is that we were created here. This is where our DNA has been, so that no matter what happened in the past, we always come back to Minnesota. This is our ancient homeland. For example, we have a lot of Dakotas but because they were exiled, they don't come here. But their hearts and minds, and spirits are connected here because it's the birthplace of the Dakota people. Wherever you are born, it's a sacred place. And so when we come back to this place, the spirits are happy to see us. And they say certain things to us or they have connection with us. And it's a humble experience but also an affirmation from God saying: "my son" or "my daughter." And when God says "my son" or "my daughter, welcome home," what can you say?

DL: When you describe the place where the creation story is located, would it be accurate to try to describe it to a non-Dakota person as the equivalent of the Holy Land? For example, Jerusalem? Is that a good parallel?

CC: I think a more accurate parallel would be the Old Testament’s Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve had direct contact with God, and God placed them there. And so I think that when God placed us here, at the confluence of the rivers, it was kind of like the Garden of Eden. So I would say that it's comparable to the Garden of Eden, not necessarily Jerusalem.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Dr. Clifford Canku Interviewer Deborah Locke made at Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN | Friday, June 10, 2011

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