Responses to Statehood provides venue for Native perspectives

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responsestotatehoodstory.jpgWaziyatawin (Angela Wilson), Ph.D., a Dakota scholar and activist,

and the Minnesota Humanities Center in Saint Paul have collaborated to

create Responses to Statehood, an online video project that showcases

Dakota and Ojibwe perspectives on Minnesota statehood and the

sesquicentennial. The project began airing in November when the

Humanities Center began luanching new videos weekly.

New videos

will be uploaded through December. Waziyatawin (Wahpetunwan Dakota)

hosts each chapter, providing video commentary on such topics as: the

forced removal, ethnic cleansing and

genocide, boarding schools, allotment, and the seizure of Native lands.

All videos and support material can be found under "Special Projects"

on the center’s main website. Several introductory videos

guide viewers into the larger presentation. The first video explains

the connection between the Humanities Center and Minnesota statehood.

responsestotatehoodstory.jpgWaziyatawin (Angela Wilson), Ph.D., a Dakota scholar and activist,

and the Minnesota Humanities Center in Saint Paul have collaborated to

create Responses to Statehood, an online video project that showcases

Dakota and Ojibwe perspectives on Minnesota statehood and the

sesquicentennial. The project began airing in November when the

Humanities Center began luanching new videos weekly.

New videos

will be uploaded through December. Waziyatawin (Wahpetunwan Dakota)

hosts each chapter, providing video commentary on such topics as: the

forced removal, ethnic cleansing and

genocide, boarding schools, allotment, and the seizure of Native lands.

All videos and support material can be found under "Special Projects"

on the center’s main website. Several introductory videos

guide viewers into the larger presentation. The first video explains

the connection between the Humanities Center and Minnesota statehood.

Stanley Romanstein, President and CEO, says

the humanities encourage people to examine complex issues like the

sesquicentennial from interconnected specialties such as philosophy,

history, ethics, culture, and civics.

Waziyatawin then provides Dakota and English greetings before

discussing the Dakota creation story and its profound connection to the

geography of the Twin Cities area. She also presents her values

assumptions: genocide is a crime against humanity, might is not right,

white is not right, and a good society is a just society. From there,

the "Statehood Video Library" links to several Native introductions and

the topic chapters. As support material, the "Statehood Resources

Library" provides links to a variety of articles, and "Statehood

Voices" describes the many Native people who have

contributed to the project, such as Joe Bendickson, Neil Cantemaza

McKay, and Lillian Rice.

Support material also includes a list of

questions to consider. "My goal with the Responses to Statehood project

is to bring in critical perspectives you won’t find anywhere in the

mainstream," said Waziyatawin. "These are perspectives ignored by the

Sesquicentennial Commission, mainstream media, and textbooks."

The project began as an outgrowth of the Humanity Center’s ongoing

teacher-training workshops that present Dakota and Ojibwe perspectives.

The workshops received positive feedback, spurring the

center to seek other ways to share with a broader audience. "We have

worked with state teachers for over eight years under the philosophy

that all speakers, presenters, and planners of workshops

will be from the Dakota or Ojibwe community," said Matthew Brandt, Vice

President of the Humanities Center. "This has made for powerful and

life-changing experiences for those who attend." After learning of the

Sesquicentennial Commission’s limited opportunities for Native

perspectives, the center hired Mona Smith (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota) to

film some of the teacher-training workshops. The project eventually

expanded to include interviews with Native people from throughout the

state. Smith is currently producing the online videos. She is a

filmmaker and co-founder of Allies: media/art, an award-winning,

Dakota-owned media production company. "The work I do is focused on

expanding the listening range of Native, and especially Dakota,

voices," she said.

"So I was happy to producethe video for the site. Being part of providing resources from Native

points of view for teachers and learners is an honor." Smith

interpreted Waziyatawin’s presentation for a web-based format bybreaking it into small pieces and illustrating the resulting sections

in a way that was true to the speaker and compelling to the viewer. The

Humanities Center says it is committed to this project for the

long run, beyond the sesquicentennial. It has enlarged the scope of

outreach beyond state teachers to attract viewers from as many regions

and backgrounds as possible. A blog was also added to allow community

members a space to comment.

The collaboration between Waziyatawin and the Humanities Center has its

roots in a spring 2007 meeting with the Sesquicentennial Commission.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Commission Director Jane Leonard

invited Dr. Waziyatawin and Matthew Brandt to a meeting with other

community members. The commission said it wanted to get the Dakota

perspective on the sesquicentennial. Waziyatawin presented her ideas,

assuming the commission members would change their plans and include

Native points of view. However, she says the members ignored her after

the meeting.

One man even asked another member about playing golf. "I had just

finished giving a presentation about genocide and land theft," she

said, "and he was talking about golf." After the meeting, Brandt asked

to speak with Waziyatawin and said the Humanities Center wanted to

provide opportunities to share Dakota and Ojibwe perspectives. "They

are essential if Minnesotans are going to truly understand the history,

culture, and living experience of Native people in the state," said

Brandt. "The videos highlight many untold aspects of our state history

from uncompromising, indigenous points of view. We are hopeful people

will leave with a desire to learn more, even if the material might be

difficult to listen to." In addition to the teacher workshops and web

videos, Waziyatawin has also written a book, What Does Justice Look

Like. It examines the price the Dakota paid for Minnesota statehood and

the ossibility of embarking on a path of transformation to respectful

coexistence. To see the videos and blog, go to:

www.minnesotahumanities.org.