.............................. Rum River Name-Change Movement

The Rum River Name-Change Movement is a movement to restore the sacred Lakota/Dakota name [Wahkon] to a Minnesota river, the "Rum River". This river is sacred to the Lakota/Dakota people.

The name Wahkon is often spelled Wakan. Within the Rum (Wahkon) River Watershed there is bay located on Mille lacs Lake named Wahkon Bay. There is also a town located on Wahkon Bay named Wahkon.

This sacred river currently has the faulty-English-translation name [Rum], it is a profane name; and because this river is a sacred Dakota place, this movement is part of a larger movement, a national movement, to restore Native names to sacred places.

The Dakota name for this river is Wakpa Wahkon or Watpa Wakan. When translated it means Spirit River.

During a public hearing the county commissioners of the four counties in which the river runs through would determine what the river's new name would be and how it would be spelled. They would decide if it would be spelled Wahkon or Wakan. Or they could decide to name it Spirit River or give it some other name.

Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer is the founder and current leader of this movement.

Meet Tom Dahlheimer
Image
This picture of [Tom] was taken at Cambridge, Minnesota's [Spirit River Nature Area].

In reference to this river and the Isanti Dakota Indians, an interpretive sign at this nature area reads: The Rum River was the super highway of the Isanti Indians. To them this important waterway was known as Watpa Wakan, the Great Spirit River, until a white man's pun turned "spirit" into "rum."

The Great Spirit or Wakan is the supreme divine "spirit", or mystical force that permeates the world. The Great Spirit also transcends the world and is infinite. Among the Dakota the term Wakan is used to denote all that is mysterious or divine. The gods are the embodiment or medium of Wakan.

Wakan or Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit) is also known as Wakanda in the Omaha-Ponca, Ioway-Otoe-Missouri, Kansa and Osage languages; and Wakatakeh in Quapaw. ref.

The Dakota's wakan is the essence of all life, pervading all nature, animate and inanimate. It is also everything that is sacred in the spiritual and material worlds. Various terms are used to describe it, such as holy, sacred, mysterious, spirit and spiritual. Spirits and gods are embodied within it. And it has many names: Wakan, Tunkashila, Taku SkanSkan, Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit and Grandfather.

Therefore, the word wakan in the name Watpa Wakan can be translated to mean holy, sacred, spirit, mysterious and Spirit or Great Spirit. Thus, various translations, such as "Holy River", "Sacred River", "Mysterious River", "Spirit River" and "Great Spirit River" have been give to this river.


In the book [Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origins and Historic Significances], published by the Minnesota Historical Society, its author Warren Upham wrote, when referring to the Dakota or "Sioux": "Their name of Mille Lacs, Mde Wakan, translated Spirit lake, was given to its river, but was changed by the white man to the most common spirituous liquor brought into the Northwest, rum, which brought misery and ruin to many of the Indians." ref.

In the same book Upham wrote that the Rum river, "a badly named river", was given its current name by a "punning translation" of the Sioux name for the river. And that the name Rum is "the white men's perversion of the ancient Sioux name Wakan." ref.

Upham made it clear that he believed the name Rum , "...rum, which brought misery and ruin...", is incompatible with the sacred Dakota name for the river...and that because the name Rum is "a punning translation" name, a profane name, or "the white men's perversion of the ancient Sioux name Wakan", that this was another reason why the name Rum is incompatible with the sacred Dakota name [Wakan]. ref.


When referring to the name Wakan and a Siouan subtribe, the Mdewakantons, Upham wrote: "Wakan island, noted on a following page for the present village of Wahkon, was the source of the name Mde Wakan, to the lake and to this great subtribe of the Siouan people , and was accountable, by a punning translation, for the Rum river, the outlet of this lake...and Spirit island...Wonderful as this island is, it was the origin of the Sioux name of the lake, of this village, and, by a punning perversion noted on a later page, the name of Rum river."

The following picture is of Leonard E. Wabasha and his interpretive sign statement at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. In his statement, Mr. Wabasha refers to the "Rum River" as [Spirit River]. Chief Wabasha's people are the Mdewakanton Dakota Oyate, this is one of the four sub-tribes of the Isanti Indians. Wabasha supports the current effort to restore the sacred Dakota name [Wakan] to the badly named "Rum River".

To view a larger picture of Wabasha's sign click here


In the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community's letter of support Jim Anderson wrote:

I believe that renaming the river "Wakpa Wakan" or "Spirit River" is a great stride in mending the circle that we share with all four colors of man. We, as Dakotas, are very happy that there are people out there that are trying to understand that by using names like "rum" and "devil" to label sacred sites and places is degrading to our children, our elders and also to our ancestors. These places were already named in our language by our people because of their special meaning. When we have to tell our children why these places have been named after a poison or the worst words in their language. It is demoralizing to us to have to explain why a place is named after the same things that helped to steal our land and language.


This movement was started about twenty years ago and now-days...all up and down the river - parks, trails, businesses, and even a city street sign have been named Spirit River, such as Spirit River Drive, which was originally named West Rum River Drive. ref.

There is even a Cambridge, Minnesota city nature area [Spirit River Nature Area] with a trail named [Watpa Wakan Trail], it translates as Spirit River Trail, or Great Spirit River Trail. The Dakota words watpa and wakpa, when translated into English, mean river.

The following picture is of Jim Anderson, the Chairman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community (MMDC) and a leading MN Dakota activist. To read the MMDC letter supporting the name-change effort click Here.

Mdewakanton Activist   
This picture of Jim Anderson and his tepee was
taken in Anoka, Minnesota, near the confluence of the
"Rum" and Mississippi rivers.
 
 
The following picture of the Wakpa Wakan (Wakan River),
or "Rum River", was taken in Cambridge, Minnesota.

Rum and Mississippi



Links To Pages
Why Restore The Sacred Dakota Name To This River
Mission
Get Involved!
Supporting Documents
Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community's letter of support
Dakota group canoed the "Rum River" to connect with the past and to reclaim the river
News
My river pictures ...MN DNR river pictures
River videos
2007 Minnesota bill to rename the "Rum River" and 13 other offensive names
Recent comments
Minnesota name-change precedents
Saint Paul Pioneer Press article
2012 article in The Arizona Republic and USA Today
2013 Isanti County newspaper story
2013 Mille Lacs County newspaper story


The headquarters of Rum River Name Change Organization, Inc. are located in Wahkon, Minnesota. Our director's name is Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer.

Our effort to restore the sacred Dakota name [Wakan] to the "Rum River" has received support from many organizations and individuals, and two Mdewakanton Dakota communities are also on this list of all supporters

If you wish to give your support and/or make a comment
Click Here

-------Tom's cell phone number: 218-380-5827

-------Send letters of support to:
-------Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer
-------P. O. Box 24
-------Wahkon, MN 56386

-------E-mail Address: Wahkon@scicable.com
-------Another e-mail address is: wahkonrainbow@gmail.com

-------Copyright © Tom Dahlheimer
-------Revised 4/15/2013
-------Url: http://towahkon.org