Syd Bean at Bde Maka Ska

Land Acknowledgement

Oak Grove Presbyterian Church Land Acknowledgement (revised March 24, 2023)

“Land Acknowledgements are a stepping stone to honouring broken treaty relationships.”  (source: Victory Public School 2021)

A Land Acknowledgement is more than a small gesture, it is a start to repair what was broken. We must act in order to make the statement meaningful. This statement is living and is not stagnant – it will change as we all continue to grow.


We collectively acknowledge that Oak Grove Presbyterian Church is located on the traditional and ancestral lands of Indigenous people. We reside on land that holds great historical, spiritual, and personal significance for the Dakota, Native Nations and Indigenous people of the region. The land was ceded by the Dakota to the U.S. Government through treaties created and upheld with racist underpinnings.

By offering this land acknowledgment, we affirm tribal sovereignty and will work to hold Oak Grove Presbyterian Church accountable to Indigenous people and Nations. We recognize, and continually seek to support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native Nations in this territory and beyond. 


Oak Grove Presbyterian Church will work to repair the broken trust and fractured relations with our Indigenous siblings. Our actions will include, but are not limited to:

  • Sharing knowledge learned from our Indigenous neighbors with the congregation in faith formation classes, and outings. We will use this knowledge to:
    • Assess our own history and how we portray it
    • Share learning resources on our website. Oak Grove Antiracism Resources
  • We will return wealth that shouldn’t have been ours with our pledge to Restorative Actions ( and continue to share what extra we have
  • We will work to restore the Earth and keep the water, earth and air clean of pollutants
  • We will add Indigenous artists’ work to Oak Grove premises as a way of honoring and reminding Oak Grove members of our commitments and relationship

Beyond Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, we will:

  • Support local Indigenous communities & culture:
    • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
      • Visit the Hoċokata Ti Cultural Center
      • Share in the annual Wacipi (Powwow)
    • Lower Sioux Community
      • Visit the Caŋsayapi Community Center and Historical Sites
      • Share in the annual Wacipi (Powwow)
    • Upper Sioux Community
    • Prairie Island Indian Community
      • Share in the annual Wacipi (Powwow)
    • Dakota Spirit Walk – Augmented Reality Public Art
    • Makoce Ikikcupi – a project of reparative justice
  • Support Indigenous-lead projects:
    • Lower Phalen Creek Project
      • Wakáŋ Tipi Center
    • Native Governance Center
  • Support Indigenous-lead language revitalization:
    • Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye
    • Daḳota Wicoḣaŋ
    • Minneapolis American Indian Center 

Context Overview*

Archeologists and oral traditions of the people indicate the Dakota have called this land home for at least 1,000 years. The Anishinaabe were their neighbors to the North. Tribes were always moving within territories and followed food sources for each season. They took great care of the land, making sure not to over-hunt or destroy anything as they traveled.

The first Europeans to step foot on this land were the French Fur Traders who came down from Canada. These traders’ main interest in the Indigenous people was for the trading of furs. British and U.S. Colonists also began trading furs, guns, and other wares, which greatly influenced change in the way the Indigenous people had lived for centuries. Over time this led to some people becoming dependent on the new wares that were being traded to them.

Indigenous People had been gathering at Bdote, the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, for centuries. In 1820, Fort Snelling was established there. Though the land was ceded to the U.S. government through the 1805 Treaty of St. Peter’s, the validity of this treaty, like many others, is greatly disputed. The St. Peter’s Indian Agency was also established at the site, part of the U.S. Government’s plan to regulate the fur trade, institute treaties, and protect colonists.

Brothers Samuel and Gideon Pond had heard about the “wild country” in the Midwest and felt called to be missionaries to the Indigenous People.  They arrived at Fort Snelling in 1835 and began working with Chief Mahpiya Wicasta of the Ḣeyate Otuŋwe tribe at Bde Maka Ska (called Lake Calhoun 1817-2017). Chief Mahpiya Wicasta knew the colonists were here to stay, and so desired to learn their ways of agriculture, but the tribe did not have the equipment or teachers. The brothers decided to teach the tribe to farm and eventually built a home at Bde Maka Ska. The brothers developed a Dakota alphabet so they could learn the Dakota language, as they felt they could not properly evangelize without knowing how to speak directly to the people.

The US Indian Agent at Fort Snelling was responsible for dispersing treaty payouts to both the Dakota and Anishinaabe tribes. Since Fort Snelling was located within Dakota Territory, this caused great tension between the Nations and in 1839 war broke out. As a result, U.S. Officials decided that a tribe at Bde Maka Ska was too dangerous for the White colonists. The people of Ḣeyate Otuŋwe were directed to relocate to the mouth of the Credit River, today’s Burnsville/Savage. The Pond Brothers relocated to the Minnesota River Valley where they established a new home and the tribe soon left the Credit River and joined them there.

Eight years later, in 1851, the Treaty of Mendota and the Treaty of Traverse De Sioux were signed and most of the Dakota tribes, including Ḣeyate Otuŋwe, were relocated to the Upper and Lower Sioux Agencies, today’s Granite Falls and Redwood Falls. Ḣeyate Otuŋwe joined the Hazelwood Republic at the Upper Sioux Agency.

These treaties were made so the US Government could immediately take more land, and in return, the Indigenous people would be paid incrementally. Indigenous people throughout the country had become increasingly dependent on the U.S. Government due to colonization. Land was privatized and traditional Indigenous ways were interrupted. Liquor sellers started arriving in 1841 and targeted the Indigenous people by making sure to market their sales when treaties were paid out. Hunger was rampant among the Dakota at this time, and though there was government food available, the Indian Agent refused to distribute it. Delayed treaty payments caused traders to refuse credit. A poor harvest the previous year and increased competition for game exacerbated the situation.

“We have waited a long time. The money is ours, but we cannot get it. We have no food but here these stores are filled with food. We ask that you, the agent, make some arrangement so we can get food from the stores, or else we may take our own way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry, they help themselves.”

– Little Crow (Taoyateduta), Mdewakanton Dakota, to Indian Agent Thomas Galbraith in 1862

On August 18, 1862, a Dakota faction decided to retaliate against the US Government by attacking the local colonies. The U.S. military response was delayed due to the Civil War taking place in the South. Hundreds of White Colonizers, Indigenous people, and Black Enslaved Persons died during the 6-week war. Afterwards, Indigenous people were killed or captured across Minnesota, whether they participated in the attacks or not. The men were kept in Minnesota and Iowa prisons, while the women, children, and elderly were kept at a concentration camp in Fort Snelling. Hundreds died in the prisons and concentration camps due to unlivable conditions. On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota prisoners were hanged in what is still today the largest mass execution in American history.

On March 3, 1863, the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota through the Dakota Expulsion Act. The Dakota were forced to Lakota reservations in South Dakota. Some Dakota were enslaved by Minnesota Government officials or worked as military soldiers at Fort Snelling. The U.S. Government continued to attack Indigenous people throughout Minnesota and South Dakota, leading to the massacre at Wounded Knee. 

Beginning in 1886, some Dakota tribes were allowed to return to the area and established the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the Upper and Lower Agencies again became marked as reservations for Indigenous people. 

*Although History doesn’t change, our knowledge of it does. This is not a complete History of the Dakota, US, or Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, rather a sampling to provide historical context to the Land on which we reside.


Minnesota Historical Society. The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Pond, S. W. Jr. Two Volunteer Missionaries Among The Dakotas. (1893)

DeCarlo, P. Fort Snelling at Bdote: A Brief History. (2020)