Spring 2021 Study Groups: Carleton, the Dakota, and the Dakota Homelands

Carleton College occupies Wahpekute and Mdewakanton Dakota homelands. Our presence here is possible due to the violent removal of Dakota people from this area after decades of coercive and deceitful treaty-making, as well as the exile of Dakota people from Minnesota after the US-Dakota War of 1862. As part of Carleton’s commitment to interrupting the long-standing, ongoing injustices against Dakota people, and to engaging in acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place, we are offering three study sessions this Spring Term. These sessions aim to help the Carleton community learn about: 

  • The history of the Dakota people in this area;
  • The laws and treaties that affect the Dakota relationship to the land; and;
  • How higher education institutions can work to build and sustain relationships with Indigenous communities.  

These study sessions are designed to build our capacity as a campus community to engage with three exciting opportunities on campus in Fall 2021 and Winter 2022: 

  • The Why Treaties Matter Exhibit, 
  • A Master Naturalist Class that includes arts and humanities programming and engagement with our local lands, and 
  • The first Elder-in-Residence program Carleton has hosted.

We hope these study sessions will be a first step toward realizing the promise implied in Carleton’s Land Acknowledgement:

“We stand on the homelands of the Wahpekute and Mdewakanton bands of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who’ve stewarded the land through the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed to the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.”

The sessions are open to faculty, staff, students, and administrators. While we encourage participants to come to all three sessions, it is not required. Relevant readings will be provided in advance. Sessions will be interactive and discussion-based.


Mni Sota Makoce 

This group will explore the place of Dakota people and their relationships to Mni Sota homelands before, during, and after the Treaty of 1851.  Special attention will be paid to the contemporary Dakota presence in Minnesota, and to the implications and possibilities for us at Carleton.

  • Discussion Leader: Michael McNally, John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies
  • Reading: selections from Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman & Bruce White.
    To help focus our discussion, please read as follows. What is bold is crucial. 3-13; 52-3; skim 81-131; 133-40, skim 141-181,-182-95, 197-22
  • Date: March 30th, 4:00-5:30 pm

Treaty Rights in American Law

What is the legal effect of treaties between the United States and Native American tribes? This session will explore some key Supreme Court decisions that define–or adumbrate–the strange status of Native American treaty rights in American law. 

  • Discussion Leader: Kim Smith, Professor of Environmental Studies and Political Science
  • Readings: Readings from judicial opinions (to be provided to participants)
  • Date: April 6th, 6:30-8:00 pm

Relationships and Responsibilities: Lessons for Enacting Carleton’s Land Acknowledgement 

This final session will explore what it means to move a land acknowledgement from words into actions. After examining common pitfalls and best practices for land acknowledgements at other institutions, we will discuss how the Carleton land acknowledgement can offer a meaningful foundation for building relationships, telling honest histories, and creating space for healing. 

  • Discussion Leader: Meredith McCoy, Assistant Professor and Andersen Fellow of American Studies and History
  • Readings: selections from We All Go Back to the Land by Suzanne Keeptwo. Focus your reading on pages 74-109 and 112-138.
  • Date: April 13th, 12:30-1:30 pm


Participants can register for one, two or all three sessions. Zoom link(s) will be sent to registered participants.

Registration for this event is closed.

Sponsored by EthIC, CCCE, LTC, the Humanities Center, and Public Works.