Epilogue: Indian Renaissance and Dakota Women’s Art
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E ach year since 2004, the city of Winona, Minnesota, located where Wabasha’s band of Mdewakantunwan Dakota once had its summer encampment, has hosted a Dakota Homecoming— in the Dakota language, Hdihunipi, They Return Home. The event was originally planned as a rebuttal to a much-publicized series of activities commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Grand Excursion, a visit up the river undertaken by President Millard C. Fillmore in 1854 to promote development of newly acquired territories. The Dakota Homecoming became an annual e¤ort to speak truths about the e¤ects of European American conquest on the Dakota people and to celebrate Dakota culture . Central to this occasion is an education tent showcasing Dakota arts and history. Ramona Kitto Stately, the great-great-granddaughter of Mazaadidi and Pazahiyayewin, survivors of the exile at Crow Creek and Davenport, coordinates the demonstrations and presentations. Myrna Weston-Louis, a descendant of Crow Creek survivors Wicacaka, Emma Red Owl, and Mary Mitchell, displays her quillwork and demonstrates the techniques of wrapping and weaving porcupine quills she uses in making jewelry and other items.1 The Dakota Homecoming is one of a growing number of events around the United States organized to educate and bring attention to the atrocities perpetrated by military, civilian, and religious institutions against Native peoples. These events also memorialize the victims and take steps 171 epilogue Indian Renaissance and Dakota Women’s Art 07Epi_Manu 2/17/2012 07:33 Page 171 toward grieving and healing for their descendants. In December 2010, for instance, the twenty-third annual Si Tanka Oyate Wokiksuye, Big Foot Memorial Ride, set out in remembrance of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee Creek when Big Foot and hundreds of Mniconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota men, women, and children were slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry.2 The Eastern Dakota have organized specific events that publicize and reclaim their history. These occasions allow the descendants of victims interned at Fort Snelling, Mankato, Davenport, and Crow Creek to mourn the grandmothers and grandfathers who were never given proper burials and to assert the survival of the Dakota nation and people. In 1972, Dakota spiritual leader Amos Owen, chairman of the Prairie Island Sioux Community, and two white men, (Louis) Bud Lawrence and Jim 172 Dakota Women’s Work Myrna Weston-Louis demonstrating quillwork at Dakota Gathering, Winona, Minnesota, 2006. 07Epi_Manu 2/17/2012 07:33 Page 172 Buckley, organized the first powwow in Mankato, a city which now holds annual powwows focusing on education and reconciliation. Since 1997, runners have completed a ninety-mile overnight relay leaving Fort Snelling and arriving in Mankato on December 26 in honor of the thirty-eight Dakota warriors hanged at the end of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War. In June 2002, representatives from several Dakota reservations gathered at Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek reservation to mark creation of a memorial park in honor of the women and children who perished during their internment there between 1863 and 1866. That November, Dakota women led a group of Natives and other allies on the first of a series of biennial Dakota commemorative marches retracing the forced march of women, children, and elders from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling in November 1862. Also in 2002, a memorial was established at Fort Snelling State Park on the site where they were incarcerated through the spring of 1863. In 2005, Lindsay Park in Davenport , where Dakota men were held from 1863 until reunited with their families in 1866, hosted the first of several Dakota Prisoner Memorial and Descendant Wacipi (powwow).3 E¤orts by Dakota women including Ramona Stately, Iyupseyusewin, She Who Holds the Reins, and Myrna Weston-Louis, Zitkanadutawas . tewin , Pretty Red Bird Woman, have helped revitalize the culture that genocide, conversion to Christianity, and reservation life threatened to extinguish. Stately and Weston-Louis focus on teaching Dakota arts and traditions to Dakota and other Native peoples. Like their grandmothers in the decades after the 1862 war and internment, these women are using the traditional arts of their nation to rebuild a culture after genocidal policies and other assaults on their communities. While their grandmothers defied oªcial policies designed to exterminate their people, Stately and Weston-Louis are part of the political and cultural “Indian Renaissance” that began in the last decades of the twentieth century. Unlike their grandmothers, they work without the guidance and teachings of elders who remembered life in the Dakota communities of Minnesota. Mary Mitchell...


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Subject Headings

  • Dakota women -- History.
  • Dakota women -- Social conditions.
  • Dakota women -- Economic conditions.
  • Dakota Indians -- Industries.
  • Dakota beadwork.
  • Indian leatherwork.
  • Quillwork.
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