Re-enactment leads to protest, arrests
UPPER SIOUX AGENCY STATE PARK -- A mother and daughter were taken into custody when they protested a historical re-enactment at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park on Saturday.
Dr. Angela Wilson of Granite Falls, who has a doctorate in Dakota history and studies and goes by her Dakota name Waziyata Win, and her daughter, Autumn Wilson who also goes by her Dakota name Winuna, were part of a counter event to protest the historical re-enactment of life at the Upper Sioux Agency in 1858. They were taken into custody by law enforcement officers after they used a microphone and speaker to voice their objections to the re-enactment.
Both had been previously told that using the address system would disrupt the re-enactment activities and that they would be subject to arrest, according to law enforcement officers at the scene.
The mother and daughter were taken to the Yellow Medicine County Jail in Granite Falls. Winuna was released to the custody of her father Scott Wilson immediately after, he reported at the site. Waziyata Win was subsequently released as well, according to information posted on the Internet by her father, Chris Mato Nunpa.
The Upper Sioux Agency State Park hosted a re-enactment of life at the agency in 1858 as part of the sesquicentennial observances taking part at many state parks this year, according to Courtland Nelson, director of state parks, who was present at the event. The event included local volunteers who re-enacted the role of whites living at the agency.
The event also featured members of the 1st Minnesota Regiment re-enactors, a volunteer group which portrays the life of Union soldiers both before and during the Civil War.
The event was held to show what life was like at the agency site and Minnesota frontier in 1858, or prior to the violent Conflict of 1862. The U.S. government had established agencies at both the Upper and Lower Sioux as part of its treaty obligations. It was a time when there were friendships between many of the Dakota and the whites at the Upper Sioux Agency, and also a period of major transition for the Dakota, according to information the state park provided on the event.
The state park had invited the Upper Sioux Community to participate in the event, but it declined to do so, according to Nelson. He said the tribal board of trustees asked that the event be canceled or it would not continue discussions with the parks division on matters involving the community.
A group of Dakota men and women maintained what they called a counter event at the park to "tell the truth" about what life was like in 1858, according to Mato Nunpa. He said it was not accurate to describe relations as friendly between the two cultures at the time. If the relationship was one of friendship, he asked rhetorically: "Why did we declare war on them?"
He said the arrival of European settlers led to a massive land theft from the Dakota, and the repeated breaking of treaties. He and other protesters pointed to the expulsion of the Dakota from Minnesota, the mass execution of 38 Dakota warriors in Mankato, and the imprisonment and forced marches of the remaining Dakota as representative of how the native people were treated.
Mato Nunpa charged that the government had a policy of genocide against the Dakota, a point that he and protesters also made with banners at the site.
Nelson said that other than the incident with the microphone, the presence of the Dakota group was very much in keeping with the state park's hope of opening a discussion at the site. He said the park was committed to protecting free speech rights, but that it also had to protect against interference with the right of others to participate in and see the historical re-enactment.