The legislation providing a waiver to Minnesota State Building and Fire Codes for Indigenous building practices was just signed into law by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on June 30, 2021. We have already received the waiver we need for earthlodge building from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal and are just waiting now on the waiver from the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. This is the last hurdle before we are free to build earthlodges in our homeland without being criminalized!
Wopida tanka to everyone who wrote letters, made phone calls and lobbied for our bill.
We are delighted to introduce Zani Otuwe‘s 2021 Apprentices. Realizing it is essential to begin to train the next generation of leaders, Makoce Ikikcupi solicited applications to a four-month apprenticeship centered around earthlodge building and community development. We were looking for young adults interested in all aspects of cultural revitalization, including traditional housing and teachings, language, ceremony, food-sovereignty, and simple-living. In addition to earthlodge building, during their time with us, these apprentices will be learning about permaculture design and implementation, how to make garden sunlodges, about traditional plants, foods, and medicines, history, language, land justice, and traditional governance practices in today’s world. In June 2021, we selected four outstanding young people who are now living on-site at Zani Otunwe. After completing the apprenticeship, it is our hope that these young people will be the earthlodge builders and sustainable living advocates of the future.
Haŋ mitákuyepi, čhaŋté waštéya napé chiyúzapi!
My name is Jodi Gregerson and I’m from Standing Rock, though I currently live on Anishinaabe land near Detroit, Michigan.
In addition to language reclamation and traditional ethnobotany, I love taking pictures, reading, traveling, movie and game nights with friends, and hanging out with my siblings.
I’m so grateful for this apprenticeship opportunity, and I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing everything that I can and helping to provide more opportunities to future generations of Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people.
Hello, I’m James Allen Jones. I’m 19 years old. I am both Hunkpapa Lakota and Santee Dakota. I’m proud to say I’m a part of Makoce Ikikcupi or Land Recovery. The reason I’m here at Zani Otunwe is to try and reconnect in a way to those who came before, reconnect to my ancestors. Coming from Standing Rock, I was always taught two things: how to identify and use plants because of my mom, and how my people lived. This opportunity to be at Zani Otunwe is to reconnect to my people in a way. Some of my interests are art (all kinds), traveling, napping, and having all the fun I can.
Hau. I am Justin Barse, currently enrolled on the Lake Traverse Reservation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. I was born in Wheaton, Minnesota and am of Wahpekute descent. I was raised in large families and through the years have done a lot of moving around. I am 25 years old and I know I have so much more yet to learn. I hope to learn, understand, and pass on the ways and culture as they were passed on the countless years before me. Tunkasina k’a Wakantanka, wopida!
Hau mitakuyapi, Mikey emakiyapi! The biggest gain I have from the first couple weeks at Zani Otunwe is realizing how artificial life is. People live so close to nature everyday but never walk in the grass barefoot. Standing on mother earth is different than standing with Unci Maka. Walking down a sidewalk feels foreign to me now. Houses with electricity and air conditioning makes me feel very disconnected from my ancestors. I feel like I don’t belong in the towns. Too many conflicting emotions are present in daily lives when we should all just breathe and listen to the zintkada oyate.
Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery) is looking for four (4) hard-working Oceti Sakowin young adults for a four-month summer apprenticeship centered around earthlodge building and community development. We are looking for people interested in all aspects of cultural revitalization, including traditional housing and teachings, language, ceremony, food-sovereignty, and simple-living. If you are interested in helping to revive being Dakota/Lakota/Nakota as a way of life, this apprenticeship is for you.
Zani Otunwe (Village of Wellness) is located in Granite Falls, Minnesota in the Minnesota River Valley. We have three earthlodges under construction with plans for four more at this site. It would be a summer of rustic living, in tipis and tents, with a compost outhouse, and solar shower. The village site is drug and alcohol-free. We would provide meals and a monthly stipend.
In addition to earthlodge building, you would learn about permaculture design and implementation, how to make garden sunlodges, about traditional plants, foods, and medicines, history, language, land justice, and traditional governance practices in today’s world. After completing the apprenticeship, it is our hope that with your newly acquired skills you might eventually be interested in living in one of our villages, and that you would commit to helping build future earthlodges for our land recovery project.
To find out more and request to be considered for this apprenticeship, let us know of your interest at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Makoce Ikikcupi is a land recovery project. As beneficiaries of Minnesota’s policies of land theft, genocide, and ethnic cleansing, settlers occupying our traditional territory have contributed to a land buy-back project as personal acts of reparative justice. Our nonprofit uses those donations to buy back parts of our homeland where we can revive our relationship with our ancestral territory and recover Oceti Sakowin ways of being.
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 was initially introduced in last year’s legislative session. That bill stalled with the onset of the COVID-pandemic. Thus we are trying again this current legislative session and 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!