Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Ying Moua (she/her/hers) is HECUA’s student blogger for Inequality in America Spring 2021. She is student at The College of St. Scholastica majoring in Peace and Justice. Read on for her first post!
In unprecedented times, HECUA continues to adapt and thrive. Coming in as a new student to HECUA’s Inequality in America Program, I had no expectations, especially during these times. However our first encounter set the tone for what to expect. For the first time ever, HECUA combined three of its programs, Inequality in America, Making Media Making Change and Environmental Justice, at an in person meeting at the Bdote of Fort Snelling. This encounter laid the ground for what to expect this semester.
On the cold morning of February 3rd, we met new people and started a new adventure. After introductions from everyone we all moved to the Bdote. An open area where we were able to see where the water or meets the land, the hills above and the bare trees around us. The literal translation for bdote is “where two waters come together”. However Dakota people believed that this was a sacred place of creation and this is where we would spend the rest of our time. We had a crash course on Dakota history and were encouraged to have a spiritual and deeper understanding of what we as learners wanted to gain from the environment and settings around us.
Ramona Kitto Stately is an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Dakota Nation and she was our speaker. After a brief introduction, she then introduced her son Rueben. He began our meeting with a traditional song. This was to let the energy and spirits sound know that we were here, that they were home. This was a cold day in February, the wind was loud and it not only carried but also drowned our voices. But as Rueben began to sing, there was a lull in our surroundings and the wind silenced, almost like the spirits wanted Rueben to be heard.
The land of the Twin Cities and the land that we stood on at the Bdote are the land of the Dakota. It will always be considered their home. The Dakota people were faced with massacre, persecution and genocide. The very place that we stood was a mass burial ground for these Dakota people. Despite these hardships, this was a story of hope. Despite these experiences, the Dakota people are still here; they still practice their culture; they still share these stories so that something like this genocide will never happen again. Ramona’s story shows us that there needs to be a balance. So often Indigenous people are painted in a negative light, but there are good things here, it just has to be encouraged and shown.
I think that this message not only set the tone for the rest of HECUA but also for all of us, who may be in situations that seem hopeless.