On Monday evening, the Land Stewardship Project and the First Congrega­tional United Church of Christ in Montevideo hosted a meeting to discuss ways of building bridges between the Dakota people of the Upper Sioux Community and local and area residents. The meeting was held at the United Church of Christ.

The topic of the meeting was “In the land of the Dakota: Embracing the Tragic Past and Imagining a Just and Sustainable Future.” Three special guest presenters with connections to the Upper Sioux were on hand to speak to a group of 35 people.

Samantha Odegard, Tribal Historic Preser­vation Officer at the Upper Sioux Community spoke about what efforts are under way to reconnect Dakota people with their sacred land and sites. Odegard has been working hard to find and preserve Dakota historical sites.

Fern Cloud, member of the Sisseton Whapeton Oyate and minister at United Dakota Presbyterian Church in Granite Falls, talked about the history of the laws and treaties that caused the removal of native people from their land and how that legal framework is till at work today.

Scott DeMuth, Land Stewardship Project staff member, discussed food sovereignty efforts in Minnesota and the hope that this work carries. By increasing land access for native people, they can have greater food security, increased stewardship of the land, and take more steps toward restoring a regenerative economy and culture.

After the presentations concluded, the group split into small groups to discuss the ways in which non-native communities are resistant to learning about and accepting Dakota history, as well as recognizing current day injustices. Also discussed were ways to encourage greater acceptance and understanding between the cultures.

All present felt that there is a need for more education of the public about the issues Native Americans have faced in the past, but continue to face today. It is hoped that by having these meetings, a better understanding between our cultures can be achieved.

After the meeting ended, some in attendance invited Odegard to come and look at their land to see if there were any Dakota historical sites present. All agreed that there is interest in continuing the conversation.

To learn more about this topic, call the Land Stewardship Project at 320-269-2105, or go online at <www.landstewardshipproject.org>