We are grateful to be a contributor to this groundbreaking project and even more so to these communities. A couple of years back we were contacted by colleagues from both Red Wing and Prairie Island Indian Community regarding a large scale mural project to be completed in Red Wing, MN. This mural was to be a gift to honor the Prairie Island Indian Community and commemorate a commitment to mend the the relationships between both communities.
Having a tumultuous past is unfortunately often synonymous with Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations due to government policies of “Indian removal & relocation” as the United States expanded westward. Even in 2022 the effects continue to be felt but in different ways.
Over the years our relationship with these communities has been surrounding the conversation of trauma healing. We’ve facilitated educational sessions in both communities to raise awareness, seed understanding and begin the healing process. In addition to being wellness educators and facilitators we are also artists. So when our colleagues had extended the invitation for this project, we accepted without hesitation.
What initially began as a mural project quickly developed into something much more organic and ubiquitous as we wanted to incorporate the thoughts and experiences of individuals of all ages representing both communities. Throughout the planning process, we’ve watched the project transform in the most beautiful way, as the mural now became an element of the project and made way for the relationship and healing intent to take center stage.
Yesterday we arrived to Red Wing after making the long haul from our home in northern Colorado, checking into a historic home which would be our residence for the duration of our stay. The drive across Nebraska and Iowa had been one of deep contemplation as these were the traditional homelands of tribes of which both my wife and myself are descendants, the Paari (Pawnee) & Umonhon (Omaha). Our families have been long removed from these lands and the lives our ancestors knew as they were firmly situated in their cosmology. They had lived fully grounded in holistic cosmological stability, while we had grown up with displacement, uncertainty and trauma. Again, a common and unfortunate truth for so many Indigenous peoples. As we arrived at the home where we would be staying, I contemplated how welcome, if at all, our Dakota relatives had been in times past, in this neighborhood and this community. Had their humanity been acknowledged or overlooked? How are they viewed today? This is why we came, to reconnect.
The project’s title, “Mitakuye Owasin” a Dakota phrase roughly translating to “we are all related”, sets a clear intention. The more literal translation meaning “there is something here that I do not understand, but I want to be a part of it”, speaks to the vulnerability of relationship and the simplicity of connection and love, which is understanding.
Today we begin the heart work of engaging community as we make our way to spend our morning with elders from the Prairie Island Indian Community. Our goal is to increase understanding of what trauma is and how it operates in our lives, while gaining understanding through shared experience. Throughout the coming week we will engage with youth, adults, and elders from both communities, returning throughout the spring and summer for additional sessions, culminating in the creation and completion of the proposed mural in fall.
We are beyond grateful to the partners and organizers who have contributed tirelessly to bring everything to fruition and for their willingness to be an active part in the conversation and healing element of this project.
For more information regarding this project, please visit WWW.HONORINGDAKOTA.ORG