Regaining The Dakota Oyate's Mille Lacs Ancestral Homeland

by Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer

Note: Links to several Mille Lacs Messenger letters of mine are presented below.

On June 17, 2017, the title of my article "Fighting Racism Against Natives In Mille Lacs County, MN," plus the link to it, along with a map highlighting Mille Lacs County, was posted here on the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community's Facebook site.

Mille Lacs Lake Image

Here I present information about my campaign to help the Dakota Oyate regain their sacred Mille Lacs traditional/ancestral homeland and independent sovereign nation status and rights.

This campaign also seeks to rectify other historical and present-day injustices against the Dakota people within their sacred Mille Lacs traditional ancestral homeland. This traditional Dakota homeland is located in the Mille Lacs Lake area of Minnesota. The area is called Mille Lacs. The Dakotas' name for Mille Lacs Lake is Mde Wakan (Spirit Lake). One prominent Lakota/Dakota creation story says Mille Lacs Lake is the birth place of the Great Dakota Nation.

Mille Lacs Lake (Mde Wakan) is considered sacred because the original Dakota people, who consisted of seven closely related bands - including the Mdewakanton, Wakpekute, Wahpeton, Sisseton, Yankton, Yantonai and Teton - merged from it as human beings into this world.

In 1656, the Dakotas were living near Mille Lacs Lake, in five villages numbering about 5,000 people. It is possible the Tetons and Yanktons had at this point already begun migrating to escape the westward-moving white European settlers/invaders. Father Hennepin found them above the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River in 1680. In 1701, they were at Lake Traverse. The Yankton and Yantonai left Mille Lacs at about this time. These Dakota bands moved west to escape the westward-moving, white European, imperialist invaders.

In the "battle of Kathio", which occurred around 1750, the Santee Dakota - or, Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Sesseton and Wahpekute bands - were forced from their sacred Mille Lacs homeland by a trespassing band of Ojibwe (Chippewas) and their white European allies who instigated the battle and helped the Ojibwe win the battle by giving them guns, bullets and gunpowder . The pressured departure of the various bands of the Dakota people, including all seven bands, from their sacred Mille Lacs homeland began a transition from a woodlands culture to a culture on the fringes of the Great Plains, and later, for many, on the Great Plains.

On a Santee Tribe Website where is the following statement: "The Santee's defeat by the Chippewas at the Battle of Kathio in the late 1700s forced them to move to the southern half of the state which would bring them into close contact and eventually conflict with the white settlers. From that point on, survival for the Santee Tribe would become a daily struggle." The Santee's expulsion from their sacred Mille Lacs homeland eventually caused escalating conflicts with the white invaders in the southern half of the state, this ultimately caused the U.S. Dakota war of 1862 and (after the Dakotas defeat) expulsion from Minnesota to neighboring states and Canada, where most of the Santee Dakota still live in exile.

Links to Mille Lacs Messenger newspaper letters about my Dakota rights activist initiatives in Mille Lacs are presented in the following section of this site, plus key quotes from the letters are also presented. In addition, titles and links to related articles are displayed. The Mille Lacs Messenger is Mille Lacs County's offical newspaper.

Note: I am working to help all of the Dakota people, including all seven bands, to regain their sacred Mille Lacs traditional homeland. For a decade or more I have been working closely with the Mdewakanton Dakota hereditary chief who is a leading Dakota activist. Therefore, in the second paragraph (displayed below) from one of my Mille Lacs Messenger letters I wrote: "The Mdewakanton Dakota people are coming back to reclaim their sacred Mille Lacs homeland." This is true, however, I believe that it is not only the Mdewakantons who are coming back to reclaim their sacred Mille Lacs homeland. I believe that all of the Dakota people, including all seven band, are coming back to reclaim their scared Mille Lacs traditional ancestral homeland.

My Mille Lacs Messenger letters to the editor:

Dakota homeland - Messenger letter - Wednesday, 07 December 2011

Father Hennepin - Messenger letter - Wednesday, 02 March 2016

I recently created a facebook group named "Regaining the Dakota Oyate's Mille Lacs Traditional Homeland" .

Reconciliation - Messenger letter - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

[Kevin Leecy is the chair of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council] "This Kevin Leecy’s article is a sign among a number of other signs that indicate that Minnesota is coming into the forefront of the American and global movement that is shining a light on the dark chapters of colonialism, with the aim “to move beyond guilt and anger to real healing.” I (Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer) am an activist who has worked with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council in the past. Rep. Dean Urdahl recently told me that he will soon honor my request to introduce a bill to change some of Minnesota’s derogatory geographic place names, including a lake named “Redskin Lake.” Several years ago, during a meeting with Minnesota Dakota tribal leaders and Rep. Dean Urdahl I was asked to write and present a draft Minnesota apology resolution to Urdahl. After he received my draft resolution he edited it and introduced it [as a resolution expressing reget] to the Minnesota Legislature. It has the Doctrine of Discovery in it, mentioning the harm it has caused Indian people. ..."

Sacred homeland - Messenger letter - Wednesday, 01 December 2009

"The Mdewakanton Dakota people are coming back to reclaim their sacred Mille Lacs homeland and I am preparing the way for them to return and reclaim it. They're coming to reclaim their sacred land, lake, river headwaters and full independent sovereign nation status and rights." related articles . The importance of Mille Lacs Lake in the history and culture of the Dakota people
. Reclaiming Minnesota..Mini Sota Makoce, the Dakota homeland
... Dakota rights activist initiatives... Dakota Land and Tradition... The Dakotas Place of Origin is at Mille Lacs Lake

Letter to the Dakota Oyate - Messenger letter - Wednesday, 08 April 2015

I am working to help the Dakota Oyate to regain their sacred Mille Lacs Lake ancestral homeland in Minnesota.

Go back to Europe Messenger letter - August 11, 2010

"When it comes to property rights, the inherent rights that peoples have received from God were not based on race, creed, color, nor civilized or un-civilized status, but by reason of their humanity. Therefore, indigenous peoples' homelands fully belonged to them when Europeans "discovered" them...and European colonists and later European Americans had no right to claim them and subjugate their indigenous habitants. Therefore, the indigenous peoples' homelands in the New World fully belonged to them and they still fully belong to them. A new paradigm is beginning to be established, in part, on this reasoning and conclusion."

Dakota homeland Messenger letter - Wednesday, 06, 2010

Valerie Larson, the Urban American Indian Health Coordinator for the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, says: "The Dakota people, due to the brutality of their historic treatment, are afflicted with a sort of collective post-traumatic stress disorder." The only solution, she says, "is a return to traditional ways of being, which can only occur by reclaiming the land upon which the people once thrived."

"In The Circle article 'Dakota Rising' its author Jon Lurie describes how Wyatt Thomas (Dakota) traveled to Mille Lacs County from Nebraska where he lives on a reservation as a member of the Santee Dakota Tribe. Thomas said that Minnesota, and Ogechie lake in particular, was, to him, "home". Thomas was on a mission to scout his tribe's Minnesota ancestral lands. An important first step in reintroducing the Santee Dakota to their original homeland."... "Thomas is one voice in a growing chorus of indigenous cultural leaders who agree that the reclamation of traditional lands is crucial to solving the Dakota mental health crisis due to the brutality of their historic treatment."

[Note: Ogechie Lake is located near Mille Lacs Lake and is a part of the Dakota people's Mille Lacs traditional ancestral homeland.]

Restore Ogechie Messenger letter - Wednesday 05, August 2009

"I support the effort to restore Ogechie Lake. I am working to influence the U.S. government and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe to give Ogechie Lake back to the Dakota Indians in a restored condition."

Alcohol in fur trade - Monday 15 March 2010...article about this topic

"Roman Catholic French colonists used the Ojibwe's weakness to abuse alcohol during the fur trade era to force the Dakota from their northern Minnesota homelands, including Mille Lacs, the center of their world."

"When the United States was established, it was founded on the racist "Doctrine of Discovery" and it also approved of the use of spreading alcohol addition amongst tribes for the propose of having them steal other tribes' original land. Therefore, it did not give the Dakotas northern Minnesota land back to them. It took possession of it and gave the Ojibwe occupancy rights to some of it. The Dakota remain an exiled people to this present-day.

Mille Lacs' role in Dakota culture - Tuesday, 07 April 2009 ... posted on my web site

"Because of my knowledge of the importance of Mille Lacs Lake and surrounding area as a Dakota homeland, I initiated and am spearheading the local, national and international movement to change the faulty-translation and profane name of Minnesota's Rum River, the river that flows from Mille Lacs Lake, back to its sacred Dakota name, Wakan."

Reclaiming the Wakpa Wakan Messenger letter - August 13, 2008

LeMoine LaPointe, director of the Healthy Nations Program at the Minneapolis American Indian Center...says "reclaiming the Rum River is important to the health of the Dakota community"..."These young people (Dakota youth) are taking the initiative to scout the length of the river in order for their tribe to become familiar with it, and in so doing, reclaim their tribal legacy," "The Rum, known for centuries as Wakan Wakpa (Holy River), is an important spiritual and cultural artery to the Dakota who, until 1745, lived at Mille Lacs (Mde Wakan) and considered it the center of their world."

Political involvement Messenger letter - December 26, 2004

"Winona LaDuke, an internationally renowned indigenous activist, was the coordinator of a meeting to address the subject of protecting sacred Native American sites, a meeting held at the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Government Center....Jim Anderson, the Cultural Chair and historian for the Mendota Medwakanton Dakota Community and a supporter of the effort to change the Rum River's name, invited me to this meeting. Don Wedll, Jim Anderson and a number of other Native Americans also attended."

Call it Spirit Messenger letter

On a Kathio Landmark Trail interpretive sign located at the Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, Leonard E. Wabasha's statement about his people's ancient sacred homeland on the headwaters of the Rum River is displayed. On this interpretive sign Wabasha is quoted as saying:

"My people are the Mdewakanton Oyate. Mdewakanton means the People of Spirit Lake. Today that lake is known as Mille Lacs. This landscape is sacred to the Mdewakanton Oyate because one Otokaheys Woyakapi (creation story) says we were created here. It is especially pleasing for me to come here and walk these trails, because about 1718 the first Chief Wapahasa was born here, at the headwaters of the Spirit River. I am the eighth in this line of hereditary chiefs."

The following two quotes present the Lower Sioux Mdewakanton perspective on why their ancestors left their sacred Mille Lacs Lake homeland around 1750. (1.) "Long ago, the Mdewakanton Dakota lived around Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota. Around 1750, our ancestors were displaced by another nation, the Anishinabe, and they relocated throughout the southern portion of the state." (2.) "This was not the last time the Mdewakantons would be forced into a new home. Treaties in 1851 and 1858 resulted in nearly 7,000 Dakota people being moved onto a narrow reservation along the Minnesota River."

other Dakota tribes' statements on this topic

Note: The Anishinabe are also known as the Ojibwe and Chippewas.

Recognition Initiative - Messenger letter - November 27, 200

"The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.....gained possession of this land by showing no respect for the sovereign rights of the Mdewakanton Dakota, the original 'Indians' of the Mille Lacs area."

Apology needed Messenger letter - September 9, 2009 ...

"During the meeting I requested that Rep. Urdahl change the draft resolution to include an apology for the atrocities committed against the Dakota in their sacred Mille Lacs ancestral homeland, and also acknowledge how those atrocities were primarily responsible for the Dakota conflict of 1862. The Dakota tribal representatives supported my requests."

[Note: I wrote most of the draft resolution. It was introduced to the Minnesota legislature. In respect to this introduced resolution, Leonard Wabasha, a hereditary Mdewakanton Dakota Chief and a leading Dakota artivist told me "good work Tom". To view the introduced resolution click resolution

Sovereign nation status is infficient - Messenger letter - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The federal recognition of "sovereign nation status" for Indian tribes is insufficient because U.S. tribes were fully independent sovereign nations and were not subjugated by any other nation, as they are today.

You also wrote: "'So, what I am seeing in this draft is basically another attempt to return all land previously occupied by the aboriginal natives 200-plus years ago to the current tribe members.' The draft is not attempting to do that. The draft states: "Redress can include restitution of traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used lands and resources. Or if return of original lands is not possible, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status,..."

The New Israel - Messenger letter - March 2, 2011

Benjamin Franklin described the independent colony on the East Coast as "God's new Israel". While viewing America as the "new Israel", Theodore Roosevelt used a biblical story to justify a great American injustice, he wrote: "What were the abominations because of which the Canaanites were destroyed before Joshua, when compared with the abominations of the red savages whose lands they, another chosen people, should in their turn inherit?"... "The U.S. ('God's new Israel') justifies the thief of its aboriginal native people's lands, 'from sea to shining sea', because Israel of old, 'as directed by God', took all of the Canaanites' land."

A Lakota story about Mille Lacs - Messenger gest column - April 20, 2011

"One remarkable account that is included in his book Lakota Myth (p. 130-33) was obtained from an Oglala man named Left Heron. It tells of 'the Mysterious Lake,' the place known as Mde Wakan or Mille Lacs, around which many Dakota and Lakota communities were located for centuries. The account tells of the Unktehi who lived in the lake..." "Unktehi is a name for the Dakota and Lakota people's powerful underwater beings known also to the Dakota and Lakota as Taku Wakan."


The Racist "Christian Doctrine of Discovery"

In the following Mille Lacs Messenger letters I attack the roots of racism against indigenous people in the Mille Lacs area and around the world. I believe that (1.) attacking the roots of racism, or the "Christian Doctrines of Discovery", a series of 15th century papal bulls/degrees that called for the subjugation of indigenous peoples and theft of their homelands ....and (2.) working to influence the U.S. government to repeal the foundational Federal Indian Law case, Johnson v. McIntosh (1823), which is based on the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, will go a long ways in respect to helping the Dakota to reclaim and regain their Mille Lacs ancestral and traditional homeland.

Set U.S. Indigenous Peoples Free Messenger letter - May 9, 2012

"Our founding fathers' act of establishing this nation of ours was fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus."

"This land's indigenous peoples are still being held hostage in their own homelands; it's time to set them free from our nation's Christian bigoted laws and oppression."

Apology Resolution Messenger letter - April 14, 2010

"During an Aug, 18th, 2009 meeting with Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl, two Mdewakanton Dakota tribal leaders and two indigenous peoples rights activists, including John Borman and I, Urdah asked me to write a Minnesota Indian Apology Resolution. During the meeting, I stated that the Doctrine of Discovery should be included in the resolution and Leonard Wabasha, a Mdewakanton Dakota hereditary chief, said, 'Yes'!"

"Urdahl recently informed me that he introduced a reconciliation resolution to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Most of the material in the resolution is from my draft apology/reconciliation resolution, including material about the Doctrine of Discovery."

"I am hoping that this resolution will cause the Vatican to break its cover-up silence associated with the Doctrine of Discovery injustice issue, so that the Minnesota Catholic Conference can give its support for the passage of this resolution, which would be a big step in the right direction toward setting indigenous people free.

related article

Apology needed - September 9, 200... Published in Indian Country Today newspaper

During a meeting with Rep. Urdahl and Dakota tribal representatives, "I also spoke about the Doctrine of Discovery, which was based on a series of 15th century Papal bulls/decrees, as being the source of the past and present-day racism against our state's indigenous people. I also mentioned that the national Episcopal Church recently adopted a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. In addition, I said that if our state is going to adopt an apology resolution it should repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Leonard Wabasha agreed and expressed his support for my initiative to pursue an apology resolution which would repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

"Steve Newcomb is 'going through' my draft apology resolution. I am expecting to receive suggestions from him that will help me to improve the resolution. Urdahl knows of Newcomb's involvement and is looking forward to receiving my revised resolution. Newcomb is an internationally renowned indigenous law scholar who is on the forefront of the world-wide movement to influence Pope Benedict XVI to publicly revoke the 15th century Papal bull [Inter Caetera]. It's the Doctrine of Discovery Papal bull most responsible for the subjugation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas

No more bull Messenger letter - December 06, 2008

"After Tony Castanha, an internationally renowned leader of the movement to influence the Roman Catholic hierarchy to revoke the 15th century Papal Bull [Inter Caetera] read my article "Changing The Racist Name of the Knights of Columbus" and watched my video "Protesting The Racist Name Of the Knights of Columbus" he contacted me and gave his support for the work I am doing to change our state's derogatory names, influence the Roman Catholic hierarchy to revoke Inter Caetera, and put an end to the glorification of Christopher Columbus and his knights, who, according to a U.N. World Conference Against Racism document, committed a genocide against the native people they came in contact with, and did so, by following the edicts of 15th century popes, as put forth in their Papal Bulls, including the Papal Bull, Inter Caetera."

Alcohol in the fur trade - March 17, 2010

"The colonists' "Doctrine of Discovery" mandate, which was based on a series of 15th century papal degrees and 16th century European charters, was to "subjugate" the natives, by taking away their lands, resources and full sovereignty rights."

Evil doctrine Messenger letter - July 2, 2008

"On June 17, Indigenous Peoples Literature (IPL) posted an (online) article of mine titled 'Proposals to heal the genocidal wounds of indigenous peoples." In the article, I quoted a statement made by Louis Stanley Schoen in a Star Tribune article." "'What if a public commission were to begin to examine the American (and European) history of white supremacy... and, hear, how that doctrine shaped the formation of Minnesota and its public and private institutions?" "What if such a commission learned how to offer leadership and resources to dismantle this evil doctrine?" "After this quote, I wrote that the 'evil doctrine' that needs to be dismantled is the 15th century Papal Bull Inter Caetera. After reading my IPL article, Steve Newcomb, a writer for Indian Country Today and an internationally renowned leader of the movement to dismantle the Inter Caetera Bull, contacted me and said, 'Thanks Thomas, Good Work!'"

Eradicate poverty Messenger letter - December 13, 200... News for Natives post... Published in Indian Country Today newspaper

"...Columbus sailed the ocean.. not blue, but red, with blood spilled by the Christian empire-building mission of Pope Nicholas V. According to a United Nations World Conference Against Racism document, his Papal Bull [Romanus Pontifex] 'declared war against all non-Christians throughout the world, and specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian nations and their territories.'

We need a new culture... News for Natives post

One of my indigenous peoples' rights activist initiatives, an initiative that is related to my initiatives that support Minnesota's indigenous peoples' rights, has gained support and correspondence from the two internationally renowned Indigenous activists who are on the forefront of the movement that is trying to influence Pope Benedict XVI to publicly revoke, or apologize for, a fifteenth century papal bull [Inter Caetera], which is the source of the racism being committed against, both, Minnesota's and our nation's, as well as many other nations', indigenous peoples.

Inter Caetera denies indigenous peoples some of their basic fundamental human rights. If Pope Benedict XVI would be so kind to publicly revoke this papal bull, or apologize for it, and then write and publish a document that states that indigenous peoples have the same fundamental human rights as all other peoples, this would go a long ways toward helping to create a new U.S.A. culture based on traditional tribal cultural valves.

Opposed to Jesus (editor's misleading title) Messenger letter - May 9, 2012

"Our founding fathers' act of establishing this nation of ours was fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus."

"This land's indigenous peoples are still being held hostage in their own homelands; it's time to set them free from our nation's Christian bigoted laws and oppression."

Christian Doctrine Messenger letter Jan, 21, 2015

"The World Council of Churches, the U.S. Episcopal Church and the U.S. Methodist Church have repudiated the Doctrine [the Doctrine of Discovery]. However, the Pope’s representatives at the United Nations have been trying to cover up this horrendous sin. In the wake of the attacks in France, Pope Francis said: “Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext.” Really, fundamentalists claim they are obeying “God” when they commit horrible atrocities, and they quote scriptures to prove their case. Historically, this is a common occurrence amongst the people of the three Abrahamic religions."

"My ICTMN comment reads: “In piqua’s post he (Newcomb) mentions that he believes that the Bible’s Old Testament scripture [Psalms 2:8] provides the way of thinking (for the Christian Doctrine of Discovery): “Ask of me [‘the deity of the Old Testament’] and I shall give to you the heathen for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.” If the source of this scripture is the supernatural entity whom this nation’s Euro-American Christians believe in and serve (and I believe that it is), then separating these Euro-Americans from their evil supernatural “God” is the solution to the problem."

Based of the Bible Messenger letter - March, 22, 2017

"In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court used a 15th century Roman Catholic Church colonial doctrine, a doctrine that European Catholic monarchs and other Catholic influenced monarchs used to formulate their colonization policies, to assert that the United States, as the successor of Great Britain, had inherited possession of all Indigenous Peoples' lands within the newly claimed boundaries of the U.S.. The doctrine that I am referring to is called the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. It is based on an Old Testament scripture."

"Indigenous Peoples' cultural rights, including their fundamental human right to be free and independent sovereign nations on their own lands, were violated by the colonial Christians obeying their Old Testament God's evil directive. Psalm 2 KJV. says: 'I [Jehovah] shall give thee [Christians] the heathen [Indigenous Peoples] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.'"


Mille Lacs Messenger letters and article about the Rum River name-change movement

River by any other name - first article about river name change

Name change petition going forward - second article about river name change

Gaining ground

Change supported - October 5, 200

Still Unaddressed

Taking issue

Man's vision draws statewide interest - article

To much to ask

Call it Spirit

Spirit Drive

Political involvement

Wakan River


other topics

Creating a new culture based on tribal values

Still rationalizing