This was the experience of two Sacred Sites tours led by Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Director of Racial Justice for the MN Council of Churches, for Unity congregants this autumn. We visited three local sites sacred to Dakota people and listened to the stories embedded there. Rev. Jacobs explained that Dakota stories are not linked to a distant time, but to a place. Dakota stories are alive in the present moment, because they live in the physical spaces around us.
As groups stood on a bluff above Bdote, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, we heard a genesis story about the origin of the Dakota people. When we visited Fort Snelling State Park at Bdote, the site of the first sacred land stolen from the Dakota and of an internment camp following the Dakota-U.S. War, we heard the voices of the more than 1600 men, women and children who were imprisoned there, sick and starving. At Pilot Knob Hill, once a traditional burial ground before its desecration, we felt the sacred power of land imbued with the essence of honored human spirits. The storytelling experience at each site also included time for silence and contemplation; in these moments, the listener was granted the opportunity to integrate the story into their own freshened understanding of the land on which we live.
Rev. Jacobs tells us that despite—and because of—the trauma experienced by Native people, stories have the power to heal both teller and listener because they “make invisible pain visible,” and because with the “sharing and retelling of old traumatic stories, we can create new positive ones.”
The stories of the Dakota may sometimes hold terrible pain, but the telling of them may lead to repair, as well. As our congregation works for racial healing and liberation within, among and beyond our walls, these are stories we must hear.
To participate in considering Unity’s next steps in beginning this journey, you are invited to join us online, Tuesday, November 17, 7:00-8:30 p.m., for “Indigenous Justice and Reparations Conversation”
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs created Healing Minnesota Stories in 2011. Learn more about Healing Minnesota Stories on the MN Council of Churches website here: https://www.mnchurches.org/what-we-do/healing-minnesota-stories
The worship service on October 18, 2020, Moving at the Speed of Trust, explores the broken trust between indigenous peoples and white settlers who claimed the land, and includes reflections from Rev. Jacobs shared during the tour. View the service on the Unity Church-Unitarian You Tube Channel here: https://youtu.be/vCzs9T0zUV0
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