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Students Hope Documentary Prompts Apology in Minnesota

University of Minnesota students hope a documentary produced in an introductory American Indians in Minnesota class will spark more debate for the state apologizing to Native Americans.
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A video project from 60 students in an introductory American Indians in Minnesota class at the University of Minnesota is being shown May 1 on campus and has already sparked discussion among students about the history of Native Americans in the state.

According to a story posted this morning on, those discussions involve anything from the treatment of Native Americans after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 to boarding schools where Indian children were forbidden to speak their Native language.

The documentary explores a possible apology for what lecturer Carter Meland calls “colonialist policy and practices” as well as reparations to the state of Minnesota’s Dakota and Ojibwe people, Meland told

But he and his students may be hoping for too much if the state takes a page from the United State’s book and buries an apology in a defense appropriations bill. Or, the state could take a page from Canada’s book—its public apology in 2008 drew national attention. (Read more about both apologies in “A Tree Fell in the Forest: The U.S. Apologized to Native Americans and No One Heard a Sound” by Lise Balk King.)

“I found out through this class how little I knew about what transpired and all those crazy things that happened as part of Minnesota history,’’ Jennifer Hall, an Ojibwe member of the class producing the video, told

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After the U.S.-Dakota War, 38 Dakota warriors were hung at Mankato, Minnesota and 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders were forced to march to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling near St. Paul, Minnesota. “As they passed through towns on their way to their first destination, Fort Snelling, crowds pelted them with stones, cans and rotten food and scalded them with boiling water,” wrote Stephanie Woodard in a story about author Diane Wilson’s book Beloved Child. “Wilson recounts eyewitness reports that, among other incidents, a settler grabbed a baby boy and smashed his skull, and a soldier ran a grandmother through with a saber. Many died during this phase of the journey.”

Meland feels historic events affect current ways of life. He pointed to the high levels of poverty among Native Americans in Minnesota as an example.

According to numbers from the 2010 American Community Survey, American Indians are the most impoverished group in the state, making up 35.6 percent of families living in poverty. The statistics also say that 51.8 percent of American Indian children aged 0 to 5 years old are poor.

The documentary will be shown tomorrow, May 1 at 12:45 p.m. in room 231 of Smith Hall on the East Bank at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. The viewing is free and open to the public.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler were both invited to attend the event, though according to, both are unable to attend. According to Meland, Kaler did request a copy of the video and promised to comment on it though.