Second Annual Great Dakota Gathering and Homecoming
By William Flesch Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance
The second annual Great Dakota Gathering will happen at East Lake Park, Winona, the weekend of June 4-5. Both days are filled with events designed to promote understanding of the people who formerly occupied the Winona area and their rich cultural heritage.
At 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Ambrose Little Ghost, a Dakota spiritual leader from Spirit Lake, N.D., will preside at the traditional Pipe Ceremony. Those attending will be invited to join in the smoking of the peace pipe as it is passed around the circle.
Last year's Truth Telling session was meaningful to those who attended. The genuine heartfelt exchanges echoed across the Dakota reservations to the extent that a followup Truth and Understanding event will be offered Saturday morning to provide truth-telling opportunities for other Dakota elders and leaders. The event is a time for the Dakota people to share with European Americans their stories and in the telling allow for the healing of generations to begin. Rather than the formal acknowledgements and apologies from federal, state and local political and church leaders as occurred last year, responses will be invited from those who gather to listen.
A living history encampment of eight to 12 teepees will be the setting for authentic Dakota demonstrations of daily activities, crafts, foods, and storytelling. At 10 a.m. Sunday, the Christian and Dakota Spiritual Service for Healing and Reconciliation will feature a liturgy rich with both traditions: the smoke of sage; drumming and spiritual songs by Maze Kute from Santee, Neb.; proclamations by the Rev. John Robertson, an Episcopal priest from Lower Sioux Reservation, and Ambrose Little Ghost, a Dakota spiritual leader; hoop dancer Jackie Bird; and hymns, litany and prayers that invite participation; and healing stations for personal ministry time.
Presentations and recognitions will be made after the service. Bill Multhaup, Rollingstone, Minn., will present a pipe he carved to Chief Ernie Wabasha and his son, Leonard. The pipe will be used in future pipe ceremonies at the annual Dakota gatherings in Winona. The Diversity Foundation will recognize several people with the Bridging the Gap Award for their help in understanding and reconciliation.
Both afternoons will feature drumming and dancing with other native entertainment. The Native American Veteran Honor Guard from Flandreau, S.D., will lead the grand entry, together with Unity Riders from Dakota and Manitoba on horseback. A Canadian-American moccasin tournament will have Native American teams competing for a purse. Saturday night will feature Bird and other native American talent yet to be announced. Vendors will sell traditional art, craft items and books related to the Dakota people, as well as food and beverages. A unity feast for the public will be served both days. Buttons can be purchased to defray the meal cost.
Winona and most other communities share a need to embrace diversity and seek understanding between neighbors. The efforts exemplified by the Diversity Foundation of Minnesota, the Winona-Dakota Unity Alliance and the city of Winona for reconciliation and understanding with the Dakota Nations is unique. Our efforts can serve as a model to other communities.
Otakuye Hdihunipi, which means "All the relatives shall return home," and Mitakuye Owasin, which means "We are all related," are two Dakota expressions that exemplify the heart of this event. Join us and add to the joy of the celebration and the enrichment of your person and our Winona and Dakota communities.