Native American speaker highlights tribal challenges

Julia DeCook


“Han mitakuyepi cante wasteya nap ciyusupiya.”

These were the opening words of educator, visual artist and poet Gabrielle Wynde Tateyuskanskan, who was the opening speaker at the American Indian History and Culture Conference in the Volstorf Ballroom April 4. Her greeting meant, “With a good heart, I shake your hand.”

Tateyuskanskan spoke of the challenges faced by the Dakota Indian tribe. She also talked about the Dakota Commemorative Walk originated by members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. The walk happens every year to honor the 38 men who were hung in the biggest mass execution in U.S. history.

Tateyuskanskan and the other participants of the walk hope that it will bring light to what Tateyuskanskan described as social injustices committed in the 1800s by early settlers.

“Knowledge of history is necessary for the future,” Tateyuskanskan said.

Tateyuskanskan aims to educate mainstream America about the hardships of the American Indian.

These issues are what Tateyuskanskan hopes to expose through her activism and her art. Her speech not only included the history of the execution, but it also shed some light on aspects of Dakota culture. Through this, she said it needs to be preserved.

“The suffering of any human being affects all of us,” Tateyuskanskan said.

People of the Oyate tribe were held in prison camps in the late 1800s in Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

“Past colonization had a devastating effect on Native culture,” Tateyuskanskan said.

Tateyuskanskan said social injustices have not ceased. According to an Amnesty International report, one in three American Indian women will be raped, and 86 percent of those are not committed by other American Indians.

After 150 years, Tateyuskanskan said the Dakota Oyate people still suffer from not only the social injustices committed toward their ancestors but also the lack of acknowledgement and commemoration from the Minnesota government.

“Apologies are gestures only,” Tateyuskanskan said.