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Dakota tribe reclaim its native land back from the government after 160 years in joyous feat

The Minnesota State has taken the rare step of returning this land to the Upper Sioux Community as a gesture of apology for the atrocities committed during that time.

Dakota tribe reclaim its native land back from the government after 160 years in joyous feat
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Korey Mollenhauer

The Land Back movement in America and Canada in recent years has garnered a lot of support. The objective of this movement is to give the control of the land back to the native tribes. These tribes lost the land because of manipulations by the colonial forces. Most of the time the authorities duped them and did not fulfill the promises they made to the tribes. For years tribes have been trying to garner some control over the land that was snatched away from them through petitioning and raising awareness. They have garnered a huge victory in this battle as the Upper Sioux Community has finally succeeded in getting their ancestral land back, as per Bored Bat.


The Upper Sioux Agency State Park holds a lot of significance for the namesake tribe because it is present as the burial site of their ancestors. These ancestors died fighting their colonial rulers in a war that was fought to make the former realize their end of the bargain. After almost a century the tribes will finally have the chance to get the land back for which their ancestors sacrificed their lives. This rare step has been taken by the Minnesota State as a means to apologize for the gruesome act that took place at the time, resulting in the largest mass hanging in US history.

Kevin Jensvold, chairman of the Upper Sioux Community, reflected on the importance of the park for his tribe, “It’s a place of holocaust. Our people starved to death there." The park measures a little more than 2 square miles and houses a federal complex in which officers withheld food and other essential items from the native tribe. This action caused a wave of death and starvation among the people of the tribe. The starvation and backing away from promises have been cited to be the primary reasons behind the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 between settler-colonists and a faction of Dakota people.


The war was won by colonists and as a show of power, they created a record of hanging the most number of people in an execution. Later a memorial was built 110 miles from the park, which honored 38 tribes that died during the war. Jensvold made it his mission to get the park again within his community and dedicated 18 years towards his objective. His struggle started when a tribal elder emotionally shared with him how he finds the fact that his people have to pay the state a fee to visit the graves of their elders, abhorrent.


After protesting for many years the dream was finally fulfilled when Democrats took control of the House, Senate and governor’s office. The Democrats being sympathetic to the tribal causes facilitated the transfer. State Senator Mary Kunesh believes that it is the relentless effort of the tribal community that has made such a transfer possible. Their voices have created an awareness that has created a desire amongst authorities to "do the right thing and get lands back to tribes.”


The park has facilities like hiking trails, campsites, picnic tables, fishing access, snowmobiling, and horseback riding routes which invite a lot of visitors. Prior to this transfer, many such places have been jointly operated by the state and tribes, but this is the first time a park will solely be run by the native tribes. The process will take years to complete with $6 million being allocated for the process. Jensvold is proud of this achievement and shares, “We’re just a small community. We’ve accomplished something that teetered on the edge of impossible.”

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