Circle the Wagons (arrests at a Dakota Blockade)

Circle the Wagons (arrests at a Dakota Blockade)

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John Ahni Schertow
August 23, 2008
 

Note: the video that was originally posted here appears to have been deleted from the net. I’m not sure if this was a voluntary decision, I suspect it was not. In any case, the video here now is raw footage of the arrests.

This video was taken about a week before the racist suppression at Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial on May 18 of this year. A group of Dakota People gathered in Fort Snelling to block a wagon train and dispel the ‘cherished myths’ of the settlers.

“This is a place of genocide, our ancestors were force marched here in 1862 and interned in the concentration camp for an entire winter. So many of our people died here, women and children, so much of our history is ignored and suppressed. We are here to tell the truth about this history and challenge the Sesquicentennial celebration,” said Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D.. “All we’re asking is to be heard,” said Ben Yahola, amidst protestors holding signs that say “We are not invisible,” “1862,” “Site of Dakota Genocide,” and “My grandmother died here.”

It wasn’t long before “two skittish horses were steered by their mounted officers through the protestors, endangering everyone in their path, including several small children,” notes a press statement issued on the same day as the blockade, May 10. “Unsure of what to do, one officer radioed for backup. As reinforcements arrived, one officer said, ‘I thought we came down to do some thumping.’ A sheriff’s SUV tried to force its way through the crowd of protestors to clear a path for the wagon train. Then, two kids and two women laid down in front of the SUV. For twenty minutes while protestors smudged, prayer drums sounded, and speakers addressed their message about the past’s atrocities, officers conferred, debating how best to remove the blockade. Dakota protestors cried the history of the atrocities committed, including land theft, ethnic cleansing, bounties placed on Dakota scalps (up to $200 dollars), the largest mass hanging in US history, the horrors of the concentration camp at Fort Snelling, and the brutalities of the war of 1862.”

Then the arrests began.

“‘You are benefiting from the same colonial practices which justified the genocide of the Dakota people,’ Waziyatawin stated as she was pressed against the hood of a patrol car before being led away. ‘This wagon train is a fantasy of manifest destiny, as some sort of righteous thing.’ Next to go were her two minor children, Talon and Autumn Cavender-Wilson. Anita Rae, Chris Mato Nunpa, Jim Anderson and Diane Elliot followed, before the officers ceased making arrests.”

“By use of truncheon, officers pushed the protest aside, finally clearing the way for the wagon train to enter the camp. Imprisoned protestors were then released under charges of disorderly conduct. At least some of the wagon riders began conversing with protestors, agreeing to the need for truth telling. One young man softened his position and even apologized for his participation in the wagon train.”

Read a May 9 statement, Dakota People Demand Truth and Justice
See some pictures from the blockade
Watch a powerful video of Clyde Bellecourt speaking at MN state capital

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