[Photo by Gary Pettis – Dakota 38+2 Memorial riders arrive in Mankato on December 26th, 2017]

I don’t know about all of you, but this holiday season has me feeling run down! I was feeling particularly off kilter this week and I couldn’t figure out what my soul needed.

It turned out I needed to watch Dakota 38, which outlines a journey of recovery, healing and remembrance.

As this blog is published, riders make their way to Mankato to commemorate the execution of 38 Dakota warriors, with 2 more being executed later — the largest execution in United States history.

These riders start in South Dakota and make their way to Reconciliation Park on the edge of Old Town, Mankato, the site of the hanging. They brave extreme weather to remember, to heal, to inspire, and to lead future generations. I am inspired by the riders’ sacrifice and humbled by the their dedication to ensure we do not forget the history of our community.

At 10 am on December 26th, consider coming to Reconciliation Park in Old Town to show your support as the riders arrive.

I grew up in Mankato, and didn’t learn about this history until well after I left for college. It feels very personal to me because I live, work and own a building and business blocks away from the site of the execution. I feel personally responsible for making sure we talk about our entire community history, even the parts that make white people like me really uncomfortable: the slaughter, the forced removal, the broken treaties, the exile – all of it.

Watching the story of the riders grounded me in my own recovery, and inspired me to write out some things I am trying to do to honor this history and make a living amend for history that I was not personally part of but still benefited from. This list is for me and people like me who struggle with how to acknowledge the real history of our community.

I would love to hear from others about what they are doing, and keep this conversation going! You can interact with this story on the MankatoLIFE Facebook Page. There is a post about the story that starts, “At its heart, The Local Stir is a column about food culture and life in the kitchen.” Feel free to leave a comment there!

Below are five things, not an exhaustive list of course, just the things that have really helped me.

1. Buy from Indigenous businesses

During this holiday season, buy Indigenous. I get it – you many not even know who these amazing folks are. It can be confusing. I mean, I used to think buying American Spirits cigarettes supported Tribes —embarrassing but true. You can stop by the River Valley Makers pop-up at Wooden Spoon on Saturday to find a few: Prairie Willow, Lakota Made, or Crystal Candles.

2. Check your language

Ask any of the staff at Wooden Spoon – they can’t use the word pow wow when talking about a meeting. I call them out. A pow wow is a sacred Indigenous event. When we meet in the kitchen to talk about a week full of caterings, we have a “huddle” or a “meeting.” There are other words I am working out of my vocabulary to avoid Native appropriated phrases – like “circle the wagons.” As a Harry Potter fan, I really, really love the move from “spirit animal” to “Patronus.” There are lots of ways we need to work out cultural appropriation. I could have written the entire blog just on that. Google has been my friend on this one. If it “feels” wrong, then check. Or, if someone calls you out, just work to shift your language.

3. Check your actions

There are a lot of opportunities to avoid using offensive tropes and images, like dressing up as a “Native” for Halloween or playing “cowboys & Indians.” I am still learning and sometimes it is about the humility to recognize when you have crossed the line. I work hard to be open to feedback, even when it is hard. For example, this Thanksgiving, I put out cookies with pilgrim designs, which builds off the lies I was taught about that holiday. I made excuses on how it could be okay – for example the hats look like snowman hats…. I had a Facebook post and everything. Someone called me on it, and I pulled the cookies. It was a nice slice of humble pie for the holiday.

4. Land acknowledgement

The more I learn about the history of the government-sponsored land theft, the broken treaties, genocide of Indigenous people, the more I feel powerless about what I can do. I own a building on the land that was part of a broken treaty. I am not financially able to give the land back. So, I am making sure that I have signage about the history of the land and  land acknowledgment signage. At first, I wanted it to be flashy and pretty and amazing. And a year later, I went on-line to a trusted site, printed off information and put it on our wall. Progress, not perfection.

5. Find, Follow, and Support Indigenous Efforts

I have really tried to expand where I get my information. I follow Native News on Facebook. I share Indigenous issues on-line. Locally, the Mahkato Revitalization Project is a great non-profit that is working with leaders to elevate Native issues in our community. What I love about it is that it is run by a woman, that it is specific to our community’s needs and history, and that it takes a holistic approach to education.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for learning about our collective history and making sure we make it our history. We can stay in shame, indifference or confusion. Or we can take concrete actions that help us all follow the wonderful example of the riders: Sacrifice for Remembrance.

At 10 am on December 26th, consider coming to Reconciliation Park in Old Town to show your support as the riders arrive. I realize many folks may not be able to do that but would you consider sacrificing a moment for quiet reflection and remembrance? I will be doing that, and if we all do it, it will be powerful for the future healing of our community.

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The Local Stir is the regular column of Natasha Frost, Brigitte Rasmussen, and Nicole Lange who all happen to have Wooden Spoon in common. At its heart, The Local Stir is about food culture and life in the kitchen but along the way you’ll be touched by the personal lives of all three contributors as well as being stirred by some of their other passions.

Natasha Frost
Natasha is the owner of Wooden Spoon, a restaurant in the heart of Old Town Mankato. She is also a public health lawyer at a national non-profit. Natasha identifies as a cisgender, able-bodied white woman and an alcoholic in active recovery.