A reflection from Mark Becker, who co-leads the Gloria Dei Racial Justice Committee, about his experience at the Dakota Mendota Mdewakaton Wacipi (Pow Wow) the weekend of Sept. 10-12, 2021.
Gloria Dei was invited to join with Cherokee Park United Church to help support the 2021 Dakota Mendota Mdewakaton Wacipi (Pow Wow). Living into our Land Acknowledgment Statement, we are seeking to understand Dakota people and their culture and build relationships where possible. This was a good first experience for those who participated.
A grant for $500 was awarded by the Church Council of Gloria Dei to share in the costs of the Feast, celebrating the last event of the Wacipi. More than a dozen volunteers from Gloria Dei served in a variety of ways, helping set up the grounds, prepare and package the meal, deliver the food and serve the Feast. Those who attended to watch the dancing and hear the drumming experienced a festive celebration of Dakota culture, with dancers dressed in beautiful handmade regalia. Guests were warmly welcomed, and the joy, pride and love among participants was quite uplifting in a celebration of community and culture. Dancers ranged from older ones to the young, from those who were skilled and graceful to those just learning.
The main event was the dance, the music, the colorful regalia and the community gathered. But this site near Bdote, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, is sacred to Dakota people. It is sacred because Bdote is the site of creation, like the the Garden of Eden is to Jewish and Christian people. It is also sacred land because many Dakota people were held in captivity following the 1862 war. Women, children and elders were marched across the state of Minnesota from the west to Fort Snelling to be held there in a concentration camp over the winter. Many died in the march, and many died during the winter of captivity.
A quiet but meaningful experience for me at the Wacipi was meeting a man who told me his great-great-grandmother was one of those who survived the captivity, only to be shipped to Nebraska and a reservation. This was the tragic forced movement of the Dakota people out of the place where they were created and away from the land they knew as home for hundreds of generations or more. But here we now gathered and had the privilege of being welcomed by the descendants of those who found joy again in this holy place.