[Individual articles from the Winter 2018 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]
I have two passions: riding my recumbent tricycle and Indigenous justice. A couple years ago, I decided to combine them to address the painful, destructive legacies of the Doctrine of Discovery.
In 2012, my family decided to sell my grandparents’ farm in Minnesota. My portion as one of the grandchildren was about 13 acres. Prior to white settlement, the land was Dakota homeland. Having learned about the Doctrine of Discovery and the resulting unjust benefits for white settlers and their descendants (like me), I asked my colleagues with the Indigenous Visioning Circle at MCC Central States for help. With their assistance, I decided to “pay back” half the proceeds from the land sale to Indigenous groups working for land justice. The largest reparations amount went to a Dakota non-profit group named Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery).
I decided to ‘pay back’ half the proceeds from the land sale to Indigenous groups working for land justice.
In fall 2013, I pedaled my tricycle 2,000 miles in southern Minnesota to raise awareness about what can and should be done to return Minnesota land to Dakota people. I passed through 40 counties, stopping at the newspaper office in the county seat. I tried to get an article with a picture of me on the trike. I didn’t always succeed, but I ended up getting 29 articles. My goal was 30, so I fell one short.
At present I am living in Minnesota. I have a part time job with Clean Water Action, which allows me a lot of time to do education and fundraising among white Minnesotans for Dakota land return. I’m on my trike whenever possible, of course!
I know most people are not into cycling. But you probably have something you love to do. Is there a way for you to combine your passion with working for Indigenous justice? When I speak in churches on the topic of Indigenous justice, I offer several suggestions for what people can do:
- Start with your location and your own family history. Find out who lived there before white settlement. Where and how are these people today? If possible and appropriate, make contact and start relationships.
- There are lots of good books. See the books in the Learn More sidebar for examples of books that rocked me.
- Tell the truth about what happened and is happening. We white people have ignored these issues for too long.
- Teach your children, your children’s friends and their teachers. Let’s fight back against what James Loewen has called Lies My Teacher Told Me.
- Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Let’s release ourselves from a sense of entitlement to stolen land and develop a sense of fairness.
- Take down symbols of racism. Let’s rename lots of things, like “Columbus Day,” “Redskins” teams, and “Custer” streets and parks.
- Make reparations. Pay a portion of real estate sales and “back rent” to Indigenous groups working for land justice.
Those are seven practical suggestions. What do you love to do? How can you combine that with work for Indigenous justice?
John Stoesz previously worked with MCC Central States and currently devotes much of his time to Native land return.
Waziyatawin (Angela Cavender Wilson). What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press, 2008.
Stannard, David. American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 2007