Editor’s Note: This blog was writtten and submitted by Vision 2020 Minnesota Delegate Roxanne Gould. She salutes the strength of the Dakota women for keeping alive the Dakota people. The Bdote Learning Center, which is expected to open next year, is her Vision 2020 project that reflects our national goal of teaching future generations to respect gender differences.
The place where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet or Bdote is the birth place of the Dakota people. Scientific evidence indicates the Dakota people have been in Minnesota for over 13,000 years, while their origin story places them here since the beginning of their existence. This was the Dakota Garden of Eden. The forests, plains and waterways of Minnesota sustained the Indigenous peoples who in return were the first stewards of this place.
In 1862, tensions exploded in Minnesota when the starving Dakota decided to go to war after being pushed onto marginal lands by white settlers. Broken promises and abuse led to the killing of hundreds of Dakota and white settlers. As a result, 38 Dakota warriors were hung at Mankato, MN in the largest mass hanging in American history. More than 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders were forced marched 150 miles to Bdote and the site of Fort Snelling, where they were housed in army tents through the winter. For those who survived, life was harsh. Women were especially vulnerable to the sexual assaults by the soldiers. In 1863, Minnesota Governor Ramsey ordered the Dakota people be expelled from the state.
The American Indian community believes it is time to reclaim our legacy as stewards of Bdote. We believe it was the strength of the Dakota women who survived this terrible ordeal that make it possible for the Dakota people to be here today. Our women have always been the backbone of our nations. Through the Bdote Learning Center we will work to reverse the negative impact of colonization, reclaim our languages, culture and work to heal our women and families by providing rigorous, quality Indigenous education to Native children and their adult family members and surround them with community resources to minimize distractions to learning.
One of Bdote’s primary goals is to address the achievement gap left by mainstream public schools. The first American Indian school in the United States opened in 1611 and yet in 2010, Minneapolis Public Schools’ 4 year graduation rate for American Indian students was 17.2% while Minnesota remains dead last in the nation for its 4 year graduation rate of American Indian students. There has been little success in 400 years.
At Bdote PK-12 students will not only learn in the classroom but also in the community, natural spaces, historic and sacred sites. Lessons will be interdisciplinary connecting all subjects to Indigenous culture and languages. Students will do project based learning, giving them the opportunity to choose topics that are relevant to their lives, defending their research to a school committee and community. Students will be shown how learning contributes to the life and vitality of community and it is a life long process that enriches the world in which we live. Peace Circles will be implemented as a way to resolve conflict and give voice to students. The school will rebuild trust and engagement with Indian families who have opted out of the public schools and offer learning opportunities that are culturally responsive.
The college program will offer undergraduate opportunities for community members, with the signature program being teacher education. Student teachers will practice at Bdote and students at Bdote will see college as a natural progression after high school. Rather than continuing the cycle of educational failure, poverty, and unemployment, the Bdote Learning Center will offer comprehensive learning and support for Native women and their families that will provide them the opportunity and skills to earn a livable wage and be contributing members of community
The Bdote Learning Center is scheduled to open in fall of 2014.