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Beloved Child

A Dakota Way of Life

by Diane Wilson

Publication Year: 2011

“Far greater even than the loss of land, or the relentless coercion to surrender cultural traditions, the deaths of over six hundred children by the spring of 1864 were an unbearable tragedy. Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862, Dakota people are still struggling with the effects of this unimaginable loss.” Among the Dakota, the Beloved Child ceremony marked the special, tender affection that parents felt toward a child whose life had been threatened. In this moving book, author Diane Wilson explores the work of several modern Dakota people who are continuing to raise beloved children: Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan, an artist and poet; Clifford Canku, a spiritual leader and language teacher; Alameda Rocha, a boarding school survivor; Harley and Sue Eagle, Canadian activists; and Delores Brunelle, an Ojibwe counselor. each of these humble but powerful people teaches children to believe in the “genius and brilliance” of Dakota culture as a way of surviving historical trauma. Crucial to true healing, Wilson has learned, is a willingness to begin with yourself. Each of these people works to transform the effects of genocide, restoring a way of life that regards our beloved children as wakan, sacred.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. viii

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pp. 3-4

As you read the personal stories in this book, we ask that you open your hearts and minds to understanding the experience of Native people. We ask that you consider how it would feel to have your child taken away to a boarding school and brought back a stranger. What if that child was you? What if someone...

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Where to Begin

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pp. 5-12

If I were standing in front of you at this moment, I would begin with an apology for speaking in front of my elders. I don’t yet speak the Dakota language; I’m too young in terms of life experience and too ignorant of Native culture to have earned the right to address my community. To write this book has meant...

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Kids Today

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pp. 13-22

“I seen your ma,” she said, a young Native woman with the long legs of a basketball player and the face of an irreverent angel. She was looking at her friend from the corner of her eye, her hands moving restlessly among the baskets of fresh vegetables spread on the table in front of her: a bushel of tender potatoes...

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In Harm's Way

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pp. 23-38

In the southwest corner of Minnesota, Fort Ridgely State Park overlooks the Minnesota River Valley, providing a tourist destination complete with camping, golf, and a glimpse of the role that Fort Ridgely played in the area’s history. Archaeologists have helped uncover and preserve the stone remnants of the field...


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pp. 39-42

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Harley and Sue Eagle

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pp. 43-68

I first met Harley and Sue Eagle at the 2006 Dakota Commemorative March. They drove down from Canada in a station wagon piled high with suitcases, the faces of their two young daughters, Danielle and Emma, watching from...

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Clifford Canku

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pp. 69-90

He leaned back, feeling the cool dampness of the wall through his thin shirt, his long legs stretched before him on the floor. Outside the window that opened high above his head, he could hear the measured cadence of a soldier who called out the changing of the guard. For a precious few minutes he would have...

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Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan

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pp. 91-116

The horses were eager to be moving, stamping their feet as a cloud of warm breath rose above horse and rider. On this early December morning, just a few days before Christmas, about thirty riders were preparing to leave the Lower Sioux Reservation on a four-day ride along the Minnesota River to Mankato. They...

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Delores Brunelle

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pp. 117-142

As we rounded the corner on a deserted road, I was scanning the woods for the red gleam of high-bush cranberries when Delores gently touched my arm. She said, “Look.” About two hundred yards ahead of us, three wolves stood in the middle of the road. They stared back at us without moving, watching...

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Alameda Rocha

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pp. 143-166

Alameda Rocha is a retired grandmother living in St. Paul who is committed to helping Dakota people become reconnected to their culture. The youngest of a large family, Alameda is enrolled on the Fort Peck Reservation, Montana, where she grew up. Fort Peck is home to the Dakota and Nakota, now known...

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Statement by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

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pp. 167-168

At the ceremony acknowledging the 175th anniversary of the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, September 8, 2000, the remarks of Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, included the following comments...

Star Spirit

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pp. 169-170

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A Silent Voice

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pp. 171-184

A late March snowstorm has flung a blanket of snow and ice across the newly exposed fields at the Dream of Wild Health farm. Dark, moist soil has refrozen; migrating birds seek shelter in the foliage of spruce and pine trees. A week earlier, sandhill cranes had called their loud kar-r-r-o-o-o as they flew overhead, while...

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pp. 185-186

This book belongs, first and foremost, to the people who believed in this work and shared their stories with me: 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...

Source Notes

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pp. 187-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780873518406
E-ISBN-10: 0873518403
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873518260
Print-ISBN-10: 0873518268

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Dakota Indians -- Social life and customs.
  • Dakota Indians -- History.
  • Dakota children -- Social conditions.
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