Lower Sioux Indian Community lands to be returned from the state, MHS

Redwood Falls Gazette

Lower Sioux Indian Community is making plans to finalize a land acquisition with historic significance. The land to be returned to the Community includes Minnesota Historical Society parcels at the site where the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 started that eventually led to the largest single day, mass execution in U.S. history.

The closing for the land transfer is scheduled on Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. at the Lower Sioux Recreation Center in Morton. 

This transfer is of great historical significance. The United States established the Lower Sioux Agency site in 1853 in response to the Mendota Treaty of 1851, between the Mdewankanton and Wahpekute bands of Dakota. In 1862, after a decade of United States’ unfulfilled treaty obligations, the Dakota raised arms fighting for enforcement of the treaties. Many lost their lives on both sides.

On Dec. 26, 1862, the United States imposed the largest mass execution in the history of the United States – 38 Dakota men were hung in Mankato for defending their people.

“It is with mixed emotions we take this land back into the name of the Cansayapi Oyate – this land is situated with a backdrop of a warehouse built by the federal government to situate themselves in a position to use basic human needs to manipulate our people,” said Robert L. Larsen, Lower Sioux Community Council President. “Traders who used this land eventually worked with the federal government to access millions of dollars of tribal annuities.”

“But it is with a happy heart that we accept the return of our ancestral homelands on behalf of our ancestors who marched to Ft. Snelling, Davenport Iowa, Crow Creek; our relatives forced to scatter to the four winds, and those who gave their lives so we could live,” said Larsen. “The State did the right thing by supporting this transaction, through legislation and multi-agency support from MHS and the Department of Natural Resources — we accept this land back on behalf of all our Dakota relatives.”

The Community has been co-managing the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) property since 2007. At one point, MHS had plans to close the site, yet the Community provided financial support and advisement to sustain it.

Minnesota Historical Society land parcels at the Lower Sioux Agency will be returned to the Lower Sioux Indian Community in a land transfer scheduled for Feb. 12 at the Lower Sioux Recreation Center in Morton.

“This land transfer is a milestone in our Nation. The Lower Sioux Agency is the last place our Oceti Sakowin were gathered before being expelled from the State,” said Cheyanne St. John, the Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “Here we are generations later, reclaiming the land which holds the memory of who we were and our experiences. Now, it’s time to heal.”

The Community plans a larger celebration once safe to do so. Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota is a sovereign and federally recognized Indian tribe located in Redwood County. While “Lower Sioux” was the name given to the tribe, members of the Lower Sioux Indian Community are part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota. The Dakota, which translates closely to “friend” or “ally,” refers to its traditional Minnesota River Valley homeland as Cansayapi (where they mark the trees red).