By Guest Columnist Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer
Larry Spotted Crow Mann (Nipmuc), an internationally acclaimed writer and motivational speaker involving youth sobriety, cultural and environmental awareness, recently wrote an article that was published in Indian Country Today Media Network, the world’s largest Indian news source. The article is entitled, Booze, Drugs and the Brutal Efficiency of Unnatural Selection. It has two selective comments on it. My comment reads:
I am leading a movement to change the Rum River’s derogatory name. The so-called “Rum River” is a sacred Dakota river located in Minnesota and it has a sacred Dakota/Native name (Wakan Wakpa).
Because this good article by Larry Spotted Crow Mann refers to rum as a “poison” that has, along with other alcohol beverages, harmed a lot of Indian people, I added a link to it in an on-line open letter of mine entitled, Open Letter To Country Commissioners Pondering Rum River Name-Change Effort…A few excerpts from this open letter read: In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, 1750s, he wrote: “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.” Renaming the Dakota people’s sacred river with the name of a chemical weapon of genocidal warfare, or, the poison rum, is, in my opinion, a grave injustice. I believe that this is another good reason why the river’s name, Rum, should be changed…Rum and other spirituous liquors were used to help “steal the Dakota people’s land and language,” as well as ruin their traditional spirituality-associated with their sacred river.
I believe that this is another good reason why the river’s disrespectful English name, Rum, should be changed…And LeMoine LaPointe, Director of Healthy Nations at Minneapolis American Indian Center, said in an article entitled, A scouting party for the future: canoeing the Wakan Wakpa, “Rum is a pollutant, but the river is not a poison,” he said. “It is a holy river that contributed to generations of successful tribal communities.”…Jim Anderson (Mdewakanton Dakota) wrote: ….using names like “rum” and “devil” to label sacred sites and places is degrading to our children, our elders and also to our ancestors.
These places were already named in our language by our people because of their special meaning.
When we have to tell our children why these places have been named after a poison or the worst words in their language. It is demoralizing to us to have to explain why a place is named after the same things that helped to steal our land and language.
To have to be reminded of the cultural genocide that has been perpetrated on all Indian people. So, in changing the name back to the Dakota language, it will help in the healing process that our people continue to deal with… My open letter to the county commissioners is located at: http://www.towahkon.org/LetterToCountyCommissioners.html
Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer is a resident of Wahkon in Mille Lacs County.