In the land where the “waters reflect the sky,” citizens of Winona, Minnesota welcome back every year the indigenous Dakota Oyate who once inhabited this lush green island city situated along the banks of the Mississippi River.
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The festival is known as “Otakuye Hdihunipi” meaning All relatives have come home, and takes place every year in the city of Winona Minnesota. It is an experience like no other where Wasicun (Caucasian) and Dakota worship, dance, feast, share stories, and play together along the shores of beautiful Lake Winona. 2010 was the 7th annual inviting of the descendents of the original people who once called the Winona area their ancestrial home before the 1851 treaties.
Winona, which means first born daughter in Dakota, is located in Southeastern Minnesota on land once occupied by Chief Wabasha the III and his band of Mdewakanton Dakota Oyate. Their encampment once sat along this stretch of the Mississippi River under the rock formation now called Sugar Loaf.
The Wabasha Oyate lived, hunted and fished these areas up until 1851 when treaties were signed and then ratified in 1853, forcing Chief Wabasha III to a remote reservation in western Minnesota, now called the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation.
The Otakuye Hdihunipi emerged in 2004 as a result of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Grand Excursion.
Williamson and Wabasha families
The Wabasha family honors the Williamson Family at the Dakota Homecoming and Reconciliation, June 25 and 26, 2004, in Winona.
Rev. Williamson is credited by many Dakota historians with saving countless Native lives at Crow Creek, after the 1862 Dakota Exile from Minnesota.
For the Dakota who travel from as far away as Canada, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota, it is a bittersweet homecoming, marred by the ancestral memory of the days when this land was taken from their people and they were shuttled off to remote reservations in desolate places. But each year since the Dakota Homecoming’s inception, these Native Americans have returned to Winona with their hands extended in a gesture of peace. With them they bring a culture steeped in tradition and deeply spiritual beliefs, and they invite non-Indian inhabitants to know them better, to understand who they are, to join them in a celebration of forgiveness and solidarity.
The Dakota Homecoming Originated in 2004 as the brainchild of Diversity Foundation's Ed Lohnes and Lyle Rustad along with city of Winona (MN) officials, Mayor Jerry Miller, City Manager Eric Sorensen, and Councilman Tim Breza. Several years later this group gave rise to the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance as a third sponsor. These three organization together have begun to forge a bond and begin Reconciliation between Winona and the Dakota Nation that onced lived and called this place (SE Minnesota) their Homeland.