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Not for sale

Brandon Sazue’s camper sitting in the middle of the prairie presented a lonely but inspiring image. Despite the bitter cold and wind, the young Crow Creek tribal chairman was taking a stand against the United States theft of any more Dakota lands, telling us “Crow Creek land is not for sale, and it never will be.”

Symbolically placing his camper under a wind data tower, Sazue has committed to remain on this parcel of land as long as it takes to achieve justice. The land is part of the 7,112 acres recently stolen by the United States government in what amounts to a 21st century land grab. Because the land is not currently held in trust, on Dec. 4, the Internal Revenue Service used that as an opportunity to claim it and auction it off as a means to settle what they assert is a delinquent $3,123,790 tax bill.

Though most of the Crow Creek Reservation is situated within the poorest county in the United States, the land under dispute happens to contain world-class sites for the harnessing of wind power. As the world’s fossil fuels dwindle and alternative energy sources are increasingly sought after, Crow Creek lands also become increasingly more attractive to outside interests. Whoever develops the site for wind energy stands to make a fortune. This connection is not lost on Sazue.

Anyone who understands the history of the Dakota people since invasion and conquest cannot help but be stunned by this attack on the tribal lands of people who have already suffered so much. After the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the federal government and the State of Minnesota initiated polices of genocide and ethnic cleansing against Dakota people in our beloved homeland.

White Minnesotans hanged 38 Dakota warriors, rounded-up and force-marched our populations to concentration camps in Mankato and Fort Snelling, then forcibly removed us from Minnesota to fulfill Gov. Alexander Ramsey’s genocidal call for extermination or forced removal.

Dakota people were loaded onto boats that went down the Mississippi River and then up the Missouri River on a journey that was so horrendous, a missionary at the time compared it to the Middle Passage of the slaves. Under gun and bayonet, our ancestors were brought to Crow Creek in 1863. Thus, Crow Creek began as a concentration camp.

The trauma to Dakota people only continued there. Within the first few months of arrival at Crow Creek, hundreds of Dakota people died from the dreadful conditions. In fact, the missionary John P. Williamson wrote, “Nearly all the small children died in 1863.” The heartbreak from those events are still felt today. The people of Crow Creek live with that legacy, as do the rest of us with ancestors who were subjugated on these lands. After 1862, the United States government left our people with so little. Now, even what little we have is under attack again.

Sazue’s stand in defense of the land is a rallying cry to the rest of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) of the Dakota Oyate (Nation). Though fierce winter weather has so far kept supporters from camping out next to Sazue, a steady stream of allies offering prayers, songs, food, supplies and encouragement continues throughout each day and even more people show their solidarity through phone calls and e-mails. We know more of our people will be coming. Like Chairman Brandon Sazue, we will not allow these lands to be taken. We will stand with him.

– Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

Granite Falls, Minn.