As Dakota people, we consider Minisota Makoce (Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies) to be our ancient homeland and we were the first human beings to call this place home. Yet, in the last two centuries, Dakota people were systematically dispossessed of our homeland and we currently reside on about .01 % (about one-hundredth of one percent) of our original land base within the borders of what is now the State of Minnesota. As a consequence, the vast majority of our people still live in exile.
The Makoce Ikikcupi project seeks to bring some of our relatives home, re-establish our spiritual and physical relationship with our homeland, and ensure the ongoing existence of our People. Our cultural survival depends on it.
We live in an age when our language sits on the brink of extinction. Our last fluent speakers of Dakota language in Minnesota number less than ten and are now all over the age of 70. The link to our knowledge about our cultural traditions is quickly fading. If we do not implement a way of living in which our language is tied to our daily activities, our language will die and we will lose valuable survival knowledge.
Further, in the coming months and years, as the globe continues to warm, the environment continues to be desecrated by industrial civilization, and cheap oil becomes more and more scarce, all populations must consider their future food security. Our physical survival depends on it.
Our dream is to acquire lands within our ancestral territory where Dakota people may establish new communities based on sustainability and adherence to our ancient ways of being. We hope to resume traditional practices of wild-ricing, sugar-bushing, hunting, and foraging in some places, while also growing our traditional gardens, reconstituting our traditional forms of governance, practicing our spirituality, educating our children, and throughout all these activities, speaking our language.
Through settler donations to this project, we have now purchased our first parcel of land in pursuit of this dream. We have 21 acres in Granite Falls, Minnesota where we are currently constructing three Dakota earthlodges. We hope this will be the first village site of many within our Minisota homeland.
We appreciate your interest in Dakota land recovery. Wopida unkenic’iyapi! We give you thanks!
Check out the progress under the Our First Village tab!
We Need Your Support
We are appealing to you to request your help passing legislation that would exempt Indigenous building practices from the State of Minnesota’s building codes.
The Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery) project was launched in 2009 with contributions from settlers in Minnesota as a way to address the monumental crimes of land theft, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and colonialism perpetrated against Dakota people in our Minisota homeland. As current beneficiaries of those crimes, settlers have contributed personal funds to a land buy-back project. It was perceived as a way to right some historical wrongs. Thus, it is a project of reparative justice.
After a decade of fundraising, in summer 2019 we purchased our first small land parcel in Granite Falls, Minnesota with the intent of establishing a small community for landless Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) people to return to this part of our homeland. Our vision is one of a culturally-grounded, sustainable community, one that is off-grid with no electricity or running water. That is, we hope to walk the path back to the ways of our ancestors, through language, through ceremony, and through simple ways of living. Part of this is the recovery of one of our traditional housing structures, the Dakota earthlodge.
Today, the city of Granite Falls has stated their support for our right to practice this aspect of our culture, but they are bound by state law to enforce adherence to the MN building codes. On September 16, 2019 we were issued a stop work order by the local building inspector and have been threatened with fines and legal charges if we continue building.
The codes were not written for structures of this kind and they clearly are at odds with our inherent right to practice our culture according to international law. Minnesota building codes were written to support western building practices rooted in industrial civilization. Adherence to those codes would require us to actually change the architecture and design of our earthlodges, thereby undermining our capacity to build according to our traditional concepts of planning, architecture, and engineering. We believe it is our inherent right as the Indigenous people of the land to practice our culture and not just build but also inhabit our traditional houses.
After a January 7, 2020 meeting with the Granite Falls city council, they agreed that the best long-term solution to this conflict is to seek a legislative exemption from the building codes for Indigenous building practices. The city council paid their attorneys to draft a legislative bill that may be introduced in the current legislative session. Thus, this is an urgent issue for which we need your help.
While our people lived sustainably on the same land base for thousands of years without destroying it, in a few short centuries, Americans have plowed, mined, deforested, drain-tiled, exploited and poisoned our homeland. Today, 90 percent of our wetlands are gone and 98 percent of our prairies are gone. The waters that flowed through our rivers and streams are undrinkable, even unswimmable. These kinds of destructive practices are the same ones contributing to the planetary crisis we all face today. Now more than ever we need to strive toward a fossil-fuel free and sustainable future. Makoce Ikikcupi’s efforts to recover traditional ways of being rooted in natural law and sustainability should be supported in this context, as should all efforts by Indigenous Peoples to practice the ways of our ancestors.
According to MN Statutes (326B.082), violation of the building codes is a misdemeanor. Each violation can result in a $10,000 fine. Furthermore, the process grants unlimited access to the property to the commissioner who may: “with or without notice, enter without delay upon any property, public or private, for the purpose of taking any action authorized under this subdivision or the applicable law, including obtaining information, remedying violations, or conducting surveys, inspections, or investigations.” If violations are not remedied, or access to the property is not granted, or if we violate a stop order, we could be charged, additionally with contempt of court. If we persist, this could eventually result in arrest and jail time. A legislative exemption would prevent us from being criminalized for practicing our culture. Building Dakota earthlodges should not be illegal in Dakota homeland. We hope you will help us.
Please write your MN legislators today to express support of the bill exempting Indigenous building practices from the MN building codes!