Had a great time yesterday at Healing Place Festival ~ much love to Mona M Smith & Siouxpa Fly (Denise Nelson) & Ethan Neerdaels & other Healing Place partners for putting it all together. (NOTE FROM MONA: HUGE gratitude to St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board and to Mill City Museum, especially L. Laura Salveson and Miracle Dave Stevens. They were more than the glue, they were the foundation and the miracle workers. And thanks to Shanai, too)
Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye / Dakota Language Society and Healing Place have partnered with Water Bar and reimagined it as space for sharing indigenous relationships to land, water, place, language and story. I believe honoring and learning from indigenous people and ways is key to all of our survival, and to our healing, which is so so important right now. We’ve done Water Bar like this before, but yesterday was the first day Water Bar was presented as Mniówe, a Dakota word that means a place to gather water and gather with other people – like a spring or a well (Mni meaning water & ówe meaning something close to blood or life-blood of a place.)
Water Tenders served water from Standing Rock Reservation, Minneapolis / Mississippi River, and spring water from out in Eden Prairie. We taught (or in my case, learned) some new Dakota words. People who visited the bar were compelled to recognize that all of us in Mnisota are already somewhat familiar with the sound and feeling of speaking Dakota. It is infused into so many of our place names, shared in the document here.
I was also reminded, as I always am at Healing Place gatherings, that language matters so much more than most people realize. Language is more than the words *for* things, it is vital to how we see ourselves, and imagine our relationships. Languages tell us a lot about what a culture values, and it helps to shape and give voice to those values in our daily lives.
In the culture I grew up in – and the one I work in most of the time – we have lots of words for talking about water that reveal the way we see it: As a thing to be controlled or exploited, or on better days, to be understood and appreciated; But rarely as a relative whose fate is one and the same as our own. That’s one shift I believe we need to make collectively if we are going to live and live well as a whole – to live with water, as part of culture, place, family – into the future. It’s always amazing to see realizations like this come to people in the midst of conversation. Who knows what difference these interactions will make in the long run, but I know that being in these conversations through Healing Place has made a real difference for me and the work I do in so many ways big and small. That gives me hope that others can and will also be moved to think, act, relate differently.
The other picture here is of Čhokáta Nážiŋ, Dakota language table, a new project developed by Healing Place partners, and another space for these conversations to take place. The entire table is made of and held together without petroleum products. The woods used represent the four directions, four seasons, four activities essential to traditional Dakota life, and many other layers, and HPC and DIO are developing activities to use the space to remember and grow these traditions and connections. Incredible project, so happy to witness it in action, good work, all!
(Another note: Stories and anecdotes are more than welcome from other partners!!!)