Coldwater comment threads

A lot of the interesting discussions going on these days about what should happen to the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines property are taking place in widely-distributed, semi-public emails. To insure that the discussion gets wider airing and to make sure that it gets into the record, we are going to be putting some of these discussion threads online. The following discussion took place about the online petition asking that the property be returned to the Dakota people:

We the undersigned demand the transfer of the former Bureau of Mines properties, including the historic Coldwater Spring, to Dakota communities.

We also demand an environmental restoration of the site by the Federal government before the transfer to Dakota communities. As the Federal government via the Bureau of Mines is responsible for the current state of the land surrounding the spring, it is their responsibility to restore the site to its original, pristine condition at Federal expense. 

A clean-up and restoration of the site is needed. However, a full restoration of the site means the restoration of Dakota rights and title to the land. Coldwater Spring must be returned to the people of the Dakota Nation, who are the rightful care takers and protectors of that land.

What follows is a discussion of the advisability of signing the petition. It is not clear if the first and second writers intended the emails to be public, so we are not including those people’s real names.

Email from Jane Doe to David Jones, prior to March 12, 2009

Others may want to read the history of the preservation efforts of Coldwater Springs  on-line before they sign on to the petition [supporting transfer of the Bureau of Mines property to the Dakota]. This spring is sacred to many more tribes than the Dakota Bands. It was  a place, very similar to the early history of the Pipestone Quarry, where all nations held it sacred. The earliest artifacts from Coldwater are from almost 9,000 years ago. If anyone wants to read about other preservation efforts go to, and then they can decide whether they want to sign the petition. Thanks for the opportunity for growth in our understanding. Jane Doe

Email from David Jones to Waziyatawin and Chris Mato Nunpa, March 12, 2009

Greetings, I’m passing along another viewpoint of  [organization] member Jane Doe re: the sacred site of Coldwater Springs. . . . The arena of Peace and Justice lives with many diverging viewpoints nonetheless, it’s intertwined roots that share deep connections.  Thank you both Chris and Jane for raising this issue.  David Jones [member of the organization]

Email of Chris Mato Nunpa to David Jones, March 13, 2009

Hi David,

Two things that I think everybody, including Jane Doe, should know about the stuggle for Coldwater Spring:

1.)  The Bdewakantunwan (“Dwellers By Mystic Lake”) origin story places the site of Dakota genesis at Bdote, confluence, junction, mouth, etc. or “Where One Stream Joins Another.”  In this case, it refers to where the Minnesota River meets the Mississippi River.  This is regarded as Maka Cokaya Kin, “the Center of the Earth.”  This site marks the origin of the Dakota People, from the very beginning, whenever that might be. 

Our origin story, for those of us who subscribe to the genesis story, is similar to those who (most of the Christians who are U.S. Euro-Americans) say they believe the Jewish origin story involving Adam & Eve, and the Garden of Eden, wherever that may be located.  In other words, it just as SACRED to us as their Adam & Eve story is to them.

2.)  The Treaty of 1805 was the first treaty (of several) made between the Dakota Oyate (People or Nation) and the U.S.  This involved and involves 155,000+ acres on which most of St. Paul and much of Minneapolis set.  For whatever reason, the U.S. recognized the Dakota as the carekeepers/protectors (or owners) of this land, which includes many sacred sites, including Coldwater Spring, and thus, made a treaty with the Dakota People.  So, by the U.S.’s own law, a treaty which is the “Supreme Law of the Land,” according to article 6 of their sacred document (the U.S. Constitution), the land, including Coldwater Spring, belongs to the Dakota Nation.Another fact, we, the Dakota People, have not been paid for this land.

One more thing I wish to say –  I am somewhat tired of those U.S. Euro-Americans, who read books written by white men, who listen to white men, who received their education from white men, etc. making pronouncements about not only Dakota matters but also about Indigenous Peoples, in general, and then make these pronouncements and assertions about Dakota and/or Indigenous matters without consulting or talking/meeting with Dakota/Indigenous Peoples.  Jane Doe is an example, in my perspective, of a U.S. Euro-American exercising  her “white privilege”, which I call “white supremacy”.  She makes statements/assertions which demean, disparage, and diminish Dakota/Indigenous concerns and struggles.  Jane Doe, a colonizer representative, like most of the wasicu whom I have encountered, in my 68 “winters’ on Ina Maka, or “Mother Earth,” and in my 35 years in white academia, think they know better about Dakota/Indigenous subjects than do the Dakota.  It is arrogance!

David, I am forwarding what I am writing to others (e.g. Jim Anderson, who is our leader, to Dr. Waziyata Win, another activist in the struggle, et. al.) who are involved in the struggle to get Coldwater Spring returned to the Dakota People so that they can identify those U.S. Euro-Americans who are allies and those who are enemies. Thank you, Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D. Dakota, Wahpetunwan (“Dwellers In the Leaves”), Pezihuta Zizi Otunwe, “Yellow Medicine Community” (In BIA terms, the Upper Sioux Community) near Granite Falls, MN

Email of Waziyatawin to David Jones and others, March 13, 2009

[Note: although the email is addressed to David Jones it addresses comments not by David Jones, but by Jane Doe.]

Dear David, 

Coldwater Spring was successfully protected and cared for by Dakota people for thousands of years (we certainly don’t need you to tell us about “artifacts” from 9,000 years ago. While a variety of Indigenous Peoples may hold the site as sacred (both in historic and contemporary times), Dakota people are the only people who can claim the site, along with the entire Bdote area, as our place of genesis.  This is a profound relationship that is deeper, apparently, than you are capable of imagining.

If you deny Dakota primacy to the site, under the guise of equal rights or equal access, you have declared yourself just another colonizer.  Indigenous Peoples have seen the likes of you many times before.  In fact, the equal rights/equal access argument is the same one that has been used in previous eras in struggles over fishing rights.  When our Anishinaabe relatives were asserting their fishing rights in Wisconsin and Minnesota in recent decades, for example, the same white racists calling for equality and protection of the lands, waters, and fish, were also espousing hate speech such as “Save a walleye, kill an Indian.”  Your rhetoric is nothing new and we recognize it for what it is.  It is another colonizer attempt to maintain colonial control over an Indigenous sacred site.

Colonizers should not have equal claim or equal access to that site.  It is a characteristic of white privilege (and an American colonizer identity) to believe that you are entitled to anything you want.  It is settler society (of which you are part) that has already devastated that land base.  You have no moral positioning to lay claim to a Dakota sacred spring.  Indigenous Peoples possess the only moral claims to Indigenous sites, and among Indigenous Peoples at this particular site, there is no question that Dakota people should be given primacy to care for our ancient spring once again.

Please pass this message along to other colonialist thinkers belonging to your organization.


Email of Chris Mato Nunpa to Waziyatawin and others, March 13, 2009

Micunksi (My Daughter),

Wicoie waste ehe, ake.  “You have spoken good words, again.”

Way to go, Daughter!

Niyate (“Your Father”)

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