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WestermanWhite.indd 12 7/16/12 8:31 AM 13 “The power of the Dakotas had always dwelt in the land, from the great forest to the open prairies. Long before the white man ever dreamed of our existence, the Dakota roamed this land.” Waåbdi Wakiya M ni Sota Makoce. The land where the waters are so clear they reflect the clouds. This land is where our grandmothers’ grandmothers’ grandmothers played as children. Carried in our collective memories are stories of this place that reach beyond recorded history. Sixteen different verbs in the Dakota language describe returning home, coming home, or bringing something home. That is how important our homeland is in Dakota regardless of where our history has taken us. No matter how far we go, we journey back home through language and songs and in stories our grandparents told us to share with our children. “Back home” implies a return, a cycle of returning, as if it is expected , natural, a fact of life. Families gather around kitchen tables and remember the generations before us or journeys we make to or away from home. It is there, back home, where we are trying to return, where we belong, where the landscape is as familiar as our childhood beds and our mothers’ hands, where our roots are the deepest. It is there, back home, where we hear the repeated stories that make us who we are. So deep is that connection to the land that the word for mother and for the earth are the same in the Dakota language: Ina. Chapter one Homelands WestermanWhite.indd 13 7/16/12 8:31 AM 14 homelands Indeed, the stories—oral histories and oral traditions—are reflected in the place names of this region where Dakota people have lived for millennia and where they still maintain powerful connections to the land. Place names around us—Maåkato, Owotaåna, Winuna, Shakpe, Mni Sota—repeat these stories. Existing in different versions, carried forward by multiple storytellers, the message is the same: Mni Sota is a Dakota place. For Dakota people, stories are often tied to places in the landscape and the skies rather than to groups of people or specific bands, which were fluid and mobile. While common misconceptions perpetuated in European and later American historical accounts portray the Dakota as nomadic people, we were in fact purposeful in our seasonal migrations, following ancient and rhythmic cycles. That rhythm included not only when to harvest wild and cultivated foods and the best time to hunt and trap so the meat was good but also when to tell stories. Ceremonies were conducted and stories told based upon generations of observing the constellations. No clear boundaries seem to exist between many of these stories and which group they “belong” to unless they are associated with a specific place, person, or historical event. There are many stories, many perspectives, and many generations of oral tradition to be told and re-told. In “Grandmother to Granddaughter: Generations of Oral History in a Dakota Family,” Waziyatawiå stresses that “these are not merely interesting stories or even the simple dissemination of historical fact. They are, more importantly, transmissions of culture upon which our survival as a people depends. When our stories die, so will we.”1 The stories gathered here represent a broad base of knowledge of Dakota people from every band—Bdewakaåtuåwaå, Wa®pekute, Wa®petuåwaå, Sisitu åwaå, and Ihaåktuåwaå—that span Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. To add to the body of knowledge represented by more widely known storytellers and tribal historians , we sought out elderly fluent speakers and traditional people who were willing to share what they knew about the land. Over a period of three years, we conducted interviews with many Dakota people who were eager to share the stories they knew because they had not been asked to tell them before. Our collaborators ranged in age from thirty to one hundred years old. With other accounts taken from nineteenth- and twentieth-century oral history collections , we have brought together numerous stories and multiple viewpoints of this place and our people into a continuous narrative. At once singular and collective, they create an account of Dakota history from “beyond remembering ” to today. They endure as Dakota stories and histories of how we came to be in this land, Mni Sota Makoce, how we are a part of this land, and what our responsibilities...


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