Minnesota Called to Apologize to Native Americans (Video)

Students at the University of Minnesota are backing a revived call for a state apology for past treatment of Native Americans.

In March 2010, Minnesota Representative Dean Urdahl introduced “a house concurrent resolution expressing regret for conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers.”¯ It attracted three supporters but then went nowhere.

The students produced a film, which you can watch below, examining the Dakota Conflict of 1862, the treaty violations preceding it, and the cultural genocide and stolen land that followed.

The students point out in their film that an apology is just the beginning.

“The fight for indigenous rights fits into a larger struggle for social justice. Social justice is the upholding of the natural law that all persons irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc. are to be treated with equity and without prejudice,” they say in the video.

“The path to justice for American Indians in Minnesota starts with recognizing the implications that these historical events have on relations between Native and non-Native communities. Things like the Dakota War and the dispossession of White Earth are part of a colonialist system that damages Native sovereignty and identity.”

The concept of apologizing to indigenous peoples as a part of reconciliation has been taken up in Australia, where in 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, moved a motion of Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, which was unanimously supported in Australia’s Parliament. Also in 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a long-anticipated apology to tens of thousands of indigenous people who as children were ripped from their families and sent to boarding schools, where many were abused as part of official government policy to “kill the Indian in the child.”

Both occasions were seen as historic turning points and watched by large numbers of people live on television.

Both the Australian and Canadian apologies were tied to compensation and other financial commitments. Australia made a commitment to close the massive gap in health and there was a $2 billion compensation package for Canadian aboriginal peoples who were forced to attend residential schools. Canada also established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the consequences of these institutions.

In 2010, an ‘apology to Native Peoples of the United States’¯ was included in the Senate defense appropriations bill. The statement says that the U.S. government is committed “to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together.”¯ However, it also says that it isn’t intended to support any lawsuit against the government (of which there are many) and received far less attention than the Canadian or Australian apologies: there was no public statement by the President or even White House press release.

Said Indian Country Today:

“Is an apology that’s not said out loud really an apology? What if the person expressing the apology doesn’t draw attention to it?”

“Those are questions that some tribal citizens are asking upon learning that President Barack Obama signed off on the Native American Apology Resolution.”

Paul Udstrand writes about the students’ call:

“We’re talking about our history, and who we are. History defines us and points us in certain directions. A history that suppresses the Dakota conflict and the conquest of Indians creates a very different history than one that acknowledges those events. Such a history also points us towards a different future. Indians have not disappeared from the landscape, they are real people, fellow human beings, and fellow Minnesotans. We do not live in a museum. An apology acknowledges our history, and points us towards a future where we treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Said MinnPost of the students’ efforts:

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow … maybe it will spark some kind of official, mighty-oak apology from the state of Minnesota.”

The first part gives an overview of Dakota and Ojibwe history in the state, a timeline of events and touches on treaties, boarding schools, the Dakota War of 1862, important Indian legislation, and Indians in Minnesota today, including Anton Treuer.

Page 2: Watch the rest of the series, showing Dakota ways of life, their history and what can be done to help >>

The beginning of part two focuses on the Dakota, their ways of life and delves deeper into the atrocities of the Dakota War. Towards the end of part two, Ojibwe lifeways are touched on, including traditional foods and how birch bark was integral to daily life.

Part three focuses on the allotment of land and blood quantum by discussing what happened to the White Earth Reservation, which was created in 1867, when the Nelson Act was passed in 1889. Boarding schools are also discussed more in depth in this segment.

“One of the first Native traditions to come under assault at the boarding schools was the names of the Indian students,”¯ one of the students says in the video. “Symbolically, the casting off of the Indian name and the assumption of a Christian name was the first sign that civility had indeed touched the savage.”

Part four starts the discussion about economic revitalization through American Indian gaming, how it has helped not just Natives and the pros and cons of the industry. Toward the end, see how much a random sampling of people around the university know about Native Americans.

The final installment of the documentary discusses working toward justice and how an apology will begin the healing process.

Related stories:

Sacred White Buffalo Killed, Skinned

Native American Says He Was Branded in Hospital Hate Crime

Colorado: Native American History an “Atrocity,” not “Genocide”


Photo credit: Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, Minn. July 23,1851 [Sioux]. From painting by Frank Barnell Mayer.


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Deep and sincere...

Don H.
Don H5 years ago

Rather than yelling, "America, f*ck yeah!", like complete idiots, we should work to transform this nation into a nation we can justifiably be proud of.

You know, a nation that doesn't trump up false reasons to start wars, a nation that isn't consumed with war, a nation that makes certain that all citizens are treated with equal justice regardless of their race or income level and a nation that encourages all citizens to participate in the democratic process.

To achieve such an ideal nation we should first seek to right the obviously wrongs of the past. I can think of no better place to start than apologizing to the Indians. After the Indians there is a long list of others deserving of an apology.

annie s.
christine s5 years ago

Yes an apology is the least they should do.

annie s.
christine s5 years ago

Yes an apology is the least they should do.

Richard Zane Smith

actually many First Nations people use the term "Indian."
Its used all the time here in Oklahoma. We use it among ourselves, when we aren't referring to our specific nation or anothers nation. Some even dislike being referred to as "Native American."
so much for political correctness, eh?

Johnice R.
Johnice R5 years ago

The author should apologize for incorrectly labeling the people he is reporting on, the long accepted term: Native Americans reads more accurately and gives more weight to the article.

Cynthia Blais
cynthia l5 years ago

sorry about the typo's an apology to All Native American's is in order

Cynthia Blais
cynthia l5 years ago

overdue an apoogly to all Native Ameericans is in order

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Long overdue ... for the entire United States.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence5 years ago

WHY just Minnesota??????