The following letter to the editor was published in the Aitkin Independent Age, Aitkin County's newspaper, on August 7, 2007.
Supports name change for river
Representative Mike Jaros introduced a bill to change 14 derogatory geographic place names that are offensive to Native Americans. The
Rum River name is one of the derogatory names.
We are trying to change it back to its sacred Dakota name "Wakan." It is translated as (Great) Spirit. I recently addressed the Minnesota
Indian Affairs Council (MIAC). The MIAC asked me to write a draft endorsement letter for the council. I wrote the draft endorsement letter
and with the approval of Leonard Wabasha, a leading activist for the Dakota people, I sent it to the MIAC. I also sent the endorsement
letter to the Dakota/ Lakota/Nakota Human Rights Advocacy Coalition. The coalition published the letter.
I also wrote a Minnesota draft resolution apologizing for the exploitation of natives. I contacted the Minnesota Council of Churches as
well as several other Christian organizations and asked for apology letters for their ties to the exploitation of natives. I have received
positive e-mails and phone calls from most of the leaders of the organizations.
Ward Churchill, an internationally renowned Indian rights activist, recently gave his support for the effort to change the name of the
"Rum River," as did also two nationally and internationally renowned multicultural educators and social activists.
I recently contacted the city of Anoka and Anoka County Historical Society officials and received permission for Jim Anderson, a
leading Dakota activist, to set up a tepee at the Anoka County Historical Society Center in Anoka and teach Dakota history and
culture. Anderson set up his tepee and brought awareness to the movement to change the name of the Rum River. He also told people
that we are planning on establishing an Anoka Dakota Unity Alliance that would be similar to the successful Winona Dakota Unity
Alliance. The alliance would promote unity and reconciliation between Anoka residents and the Dakota people, by providing unity
and reconciliation ceremonies as well as cross-cultural and educational programs, for the purpose of bringing the two communities
together to enhance their appreciation of their shared heritage in Anoka.
Anderson and I will soon be meeting with the mayor of Anoka to establish the Anoka Dakota Unity Alliance. Anderson and I are also
planning on helping to establish similar alliances in all of the cities located on the Rum River corridor. We are also planning on
establishing a Mille Lacs Dakota Unity Alliance.