There are a number of stories that have been told about how the place known as Can sa yapi got its name. The place where they painted the trees red is a sacred spot for the Dakota, and many believe that site has its roots in what is Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls.
“Our people have always had a connection to the water,” said Robert “Deuce” Larsen, current vice-president of the Lower Sioux Community tribal council. “For us this is a very significant place.”
A few years ago a group made up of leaders from the Lower Sioux Community and the City of Redwood Falls began discussions about how to recognize that significance. The outcome of those discussions has led to a change that is being made to some of the signs in the park.
New signs are going to be installed, including the one at the main entrance on the west side of the park that will now include both English and Dakota language.
Larsen, who completed a Blandin Foundation leadership program, has access to what is known as a Quick Start grant in the amount of $5,000, and he thought a great way to spend that funding was the installation of new signs at the park.
“For me this is about restoration,” said Larsen. “The park already had a name before it was known as Ramsey Park.”
No, said Larsen and Cheyanne St. John. Lower Sioux tribal historic preservation officer, the intent is not to change the name of the park. Rather, they want to make the park more inclusive and to honor it as a place important to both cultures.
For Larsen and St. John the key is to raise awareness, provide education and work collaboratively in a way that can heal relationships and restore the park area as a place of great significance.
The Redwood Falls city council discussed the idea of dual language signs during meetings held earlier this year, and during its March 6 meeting the council approved moving forward with the sign project.
The total cost for installation of the main entrance sign and three smaller monument-style signs that will be erected, including one at the Zeb Gray shelter, one at the falls entrance and one at the Lower shelter, is estimated at $33,850.
The Friends of the Park has also committed funding for the project, with the Lower Sioux Community also assisting.
A major effort has been taking place to help bring back the Dakota language and to help people see just how much of an influence the language has had on the culture.
For example, St. John said so much of Minnesota recognizes the Dakota language in its names. There are many places and communities that are named after Dakota people or using Dakota words, St. John added.
For St. John the addition of signs that include the Dakota language is a great first step, adding she is hopeful that the dialogue that has begun can continue and can lead to even bigger things that recognize the influence the Dakota culture has had in this area.
“This is a positive step forward,” said St. John, who also attended the Blandin leadership program and also has access to a $5,000 Quick Start grant.
The Redwood area has a rich history, and St. John and Larsen believe efforts to help educate the public about the entire story of the region will help to further the understanding of the people who have lived here and who call it their home today.