1. I am an Ojibwe Indian, age 60, who was born and grew up in the Leech Lake and Red Lake area. The Dakota were in Minnesota in prehistoric times, well in advance of the Ojibwe. My knowledge of the Dakota Nation comes from the more recent historical connections between the Ojibwe and Dakota people in Minnesota. We had frequent contacts: we intermarried, we came together for ceremonies such as baby naming, and we traded birch bark, dried fish, rice, and farm products.
My grandparents and other elders told me about the history of Fort Snelling and the Dakota people who lived and died in the surrounding area. My grandparents traveled to various Dakota Indian locations around Minnesota, including the area near Fort Snelling, for tribal celebrations. Significantly, they attended ceremonies at the time 6f Little Crow near the present Mdewakanton encampment. Through my grandparents, (I was 20 years old when they died) I am privy to the oral tradition regarding sacred sites in the areas slated for destruction if the highway is rerouted. My grandparents were highly respected -- my grandfather traveled to visit President Abraham Lincoln and asked him for blankets and black smith tools.
2. I am a person who is recognized for the Native American ceremonial work I perform, including death ceremonies and baby naming. I received a "Peace and Justice" award from the McKnight Foundation last year for work in the community. My grandfather used to tell me that "YOU ARE AS OLD AS THE WIND AND THE RAIN". He instilled in me the wisdom which comes from knowledge of our traditional spiritual values. The present seventh generation will make the difference as to whether the planet will survive.
3. I have recently visited the present-day Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community encampment. I saw and performed ceremonies near the sacred fire, the four sacred trees, Camp Coldwater Spring, the oak savannah, and the Hiawatha corridor.
4. The everlasting, sacred fire is a ceremonial fire. It cannot be extinguished because it is symbolic of our creation legend. It is the gift of the Gods to take care of us and keep us warm. Fire is as necessary to life as water is. Our elders tell us that each generation is given a fire to take care of (we are the seventh generation). Taking care of the fire symbolizes taking care of the land. Although we may not own the land, the creator gave us a very important task: we are required to be stewards of the land.
DO NOT EXTINGUISH OUR FIRE. It is equivalent to an altar in a church which holds sacred objects. If the fire is extinguished, our sacred ceremonial place will have been desecrated and destroyed, which would show a total disregard for our religious life.
There are four sacred trees near Deer River, Minnesota (near Hinckley) which are historically preserved and protected by a fence. Like those trees, the four trees in the oak savannah which are in a diamond pattern are sacred to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community. They, too, should be preserved. Historically the trees supported burial platforms, or scaffolds, which held the dead. If many years ago the trees were insufficient in size to hold the platforms, the Indians would then bring in dead trees and underbrush to support the scaffolds.
The trees need to be left intact as a legacy to the next generation. When I visited the four sacred trees, I noted that they are located in a hollow part of the oak savannah. No other trees in the vicinity are exactly like them. In historic times there was an altar for prayer, meditation and "vision questing" in the center area of the trees. The trees are uncommonly close together, indicating that their spacing was deliberate. These trees are our relatives -- food should be put out for them and they should be cared for, not destroyed.
FURTHER AFFIANT SAYETH NOT
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 8th day of December,1998Emily C. Fruchtman, Notary Public