Winona Daily News


Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008
Page: 1
Byline: Thomas Dahlheimer, Wahkon, Minn.

The Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission has acknowledged that Minnesota committed ethnocide and genocide against American Indians during its early history.

"Minnesotans pride themselves today on living in a state that is forward-thinking and compassionate. We have become a haven for refugees from countries where genocide still occurs. We recoil at the holocausts of World War I and II, and the more recent acts of savagery in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

"Yet we remain either unaware of or unable to look at our own history and acknowledge the painful wounds of ethnocide and genocide right here in Minnesota. We have a very hard time acknowledging that the pain remains and that it has affected much of our history through to the present day.

"Minnesota is home to 11 tribal nations. Tribes from Canada, the Dakotas, and Nebraska and elsewhere, and tribal members here in Minnesota and others are coming together to participate in ceremonies of reconciliation, such as that in Winona in May during Statehood Week, thanks to the efforts of native peoples and non-native peoples working together for many years hosting such gatherings to bring about education and awareness."

When Minnesotans become aware of or able to look at their own history and acknowledge the painful wounds of ethnocide and genocide right in their own state, they will be inspired to go through a radical social, political and religious transformation.

A peaceful cultural revolution will occur, and Minnesotans will be changed for the better. And this will help to heal the Dakota Oyate's painful wounds caused by ethnocide and genocide.

Leonard Wabasha, a hereditary chief of the Dakota and director of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community Cultural Resource Department, invited me to address the Dakota tribal leaders and government officials during the May 16 reconciliatory ceremony in Winona.

During the reconciliatory ceremony, I spoke about the 15th century papal bull ("Inter Caetera"). A papal bull that was primarily responsible for Minnesota's ethnocide and genocide against the Dakota Oyate.

A movement to revoke the papal bull has been ongoing for a number of years. It was initiated by the Indigenous Law Institute in 1992. At the Parliament of World Religions in 1994 over 60 indigenous delegates drafted a Declaration of Vision.

It reads, in part: "We call upon the people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to persuade Pope John II to formally revoke the Inter Caetera Bull of May 4, 1493, which will restore our fundamental human rights. That papal document called for our Nations and Peoples to be subjugated so the Christian Empire and its doctrines would be propagated. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson vs. McIntosh (in 1823) adopted the same principle of subjugation expressed in the Inter Caetera Bull. This papal bull has been, and continues to be, devastating to our religions, our cultures, and the survival of our populations."

I am on a mission to restore the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples.

Colorado is the first state to admit genocide against our nation's indigenous peoples. The Colorado Legislature passed a resolution April 30, 2008, comparing the deaths of millions of American Indians to the Holocaust and other acts of genocide around the world.

The resolution says Europeans intentionally caused many American Indian deaths and that early American settlers often treated Indians with "cruelty and inhumanity."

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, a Comanche Indian, said: "Colleagues, this resolution is a recognition that up to 120 million indigenous people have died as a result of European migration to what is now the United States of America."

Dahlheimer is the director of Rum River Name Change Organization Inc. and lives in Wahkon, Minn. His Web site is

related letter