Wabasa Village: Stories and Reflections




Wabasa Village

Chief Wabasa (read by Tom LeBlanc): "We think our Great Father may have forgotten his Red children and our hearts are very heavy ...you have said you are sorry to see my young men engaged still in their foolish dances. It is because their hearts are sick. They don’t know that whether these lands are to be their home or not."

Narrator: The Dakota nation ranged over a vast area from what is now southern to central Minnesota and beyond. By the 1850s when the European settler population exploded, the U.S. government pressured the Dakota to leave their lands. While acting as chief of his band, others also played a vital role in the community.

Dakota villages in Minnesota

Chief Wabasha (read by Tom LeBlanc): “You have named a place for our home, but it is prairie country. I am a man used to the woods, and I do not like the prairies. Perhaps some of those here will name a place we would like better.”

Narrator: In the early 1800s, Dakota land encompassed what is now the Twin Cities, and also stretched to northern birch forests. But by the time of the 1851 treaty signing, Chief Wabasha and his band were pushed further away from these forests to a small piece of land along the Minnesota river.

Tamara St. John: “We had a beautiful life here in Minnesota and that life, to be taken away from us by the ceding of our lands. And then to be reduced to a strip along the river where we were unable to sustain ourselves; a great nation down to this.”

Dallas Goldtooth: “That’s not our original villages. Wabasha Village and Little Crow Village that were there- they were only there for 10 years, 5 years.”

Narrator: For some Dakota, their family history goes back to villages located right in the heart of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan: “My grandmother would take me to Lake Calhoun and she would say ‘ this is where cloud mans village was. Tthis is where your ancestors lived at one time when they were in Minnesota.’ As a really young child I knew geographically, where my home was.”

Dale Weston: “If you go out to Lake Calhoun on the southeastern side of the lake, there’s a big stone there and it does say ‘Cloud Man’s Village’ on it. Cloud Man lived there from roughly 1820 to the late 1850’s. 'Mde Medoza' is what they called it. It had several different names but that was the one my dad used to say it is 'Mde Medoza' and that’s lake of the loons.”

Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan: “Just as all people get attached to their home and to the place where there are family memories that are rich and deep, that is true for Dakota people too.

Narrator: Archaeology confirms this long held oral knowledge of Dakota villages spanning the state of Minnesota.

Patricia Emerson: “Very close to Fort Snelling there is a documented archaeological site that appears to be the site of Black Dog’s village.”

Narrator: Today, while the Dakota people are spread across multiple states and even into Canada, Minnesota is still home.

Tamara St. John: “ Now we have youth that would say, ‘I’m Crow Creek,’ or ‘I am Flandreau.’ They forget, ‘you are a part of a much bigger family, you’re a part of an Oyate. This is your people. Those are just places.' Although at times it probably feels like Minnesota has forgotten us, we have certainly not forgotten Minnesota.”

Role of the Chief from a Dakota Perspective

Tamara St. John: “A leader was somebody that was selected by the people. And although there were hereditary chiefs, it was probably not even really a choice that they made, so much as it was the community.”

Narrator: Different members of the Dakota leadership, including the chief, played valuable roles in the community.

Dale Weston: “Cooperative societies work together and I think that’s been the goal of the foreign governments, is to get rid of that cooperativeness among the groups. And when we become individuals and we start hoarding as individuals, then we’ve lost those values that were there in the beginning.”

Narrator: Additionally, a Dakota person might hold a position of high esteem within the community, but may not necessarily hold the title of Chief.

Dale Weston: “When there was a buffalo hunt or an elk hunt, the men would come back and there would be a feast for the community. The eldest, the one that was considered pretty much the leader - he wasn’t like a king, but he was respected because he made sure everybody had enough to eat- the grandmothers, the mothers, the children, the young men that did the hunt - and then he would eat last. From my understanding the decisions were cooperative decisions that were by consensus.”