Church of Gichitwaa Kateri
Roman Catholic Church
Joins us for worship at 10am on Sunday



February 21, 2017


Minnesota has two primary tribal groups: Ojibwa being the largest, some 33,422 as of the 2008/10 census. The Ojibwa living outside the urban areas live in Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Bois Fort, White Earth and Red Lake Reservations. The Dakota population is about 5,369 as of 2008/10 census. The Dakota live in lower Minnesota at Prairie Island, Morton, Granite Falls, Shakopee and Mendota. In the 2010 census the Indian population of Minnesota was 1.2 % of the population. There are 52,422 American Indians in Minnesota as of 2010 census and including mixed race: 86,076 of which 35,282 live on reservations. (Cities with populations over 1,000 Indians)
Minneapolis 12,683
Saint Paul 5,991
Duluth 2,984
Bemidji 1,549
Cloquet 1,200


  • The federal government gave the official titles to many tribes including those in Minnesota. It is the government that began using the term: AMERICAN INDIAN to describe the indigenous people. Canada uses the term: FIRST NATIONS
  • CHIPPEWA is commonly used to speak of the woodlands Indians in Minnesota. That is the government designation. It comes from French Canadian understanding of OJIBWA, also OJIBWAY or OJIBWE. The people know themselves as ANISHINAABEG (First people, the ones lowered down). Ojibwa has several meanings from “the spiritual ones” to “those who cook meat until it puckers.”
  • SIOUX is the government title for the DAKOTA, LAKOTA and NAKOTA peoples. The difference of titles refers to language differences, specifically the pronunciation of D,L,N. There is an old understanding that the term “Sioux” was used as a pejorative by the Ojibwa, meaning “a small rattle snake.” But it probably comes from the Canadian French “Nadouessioux” who took it from an Odawa word “naadowisiwag” meaning “one who speaks a foreign language.” The Prairie Island Dakota prefer their title as the Mdewakantan Dakota, meaning “holy water allies.” Dakota is the common designation today, although Lakota and Nakota are still used
  • The WINNEBEGO is a title given by the Ojibwa meaning “dirty water people.” They changed their tribal name to Hochunk. They live in Wisconsin although there are some Hochunk in Minnesota, but no reservations.
  • “Native American” is often used but means anyone born in USA. But many people understand it as referring to “Indians.” The Indians accept the title but think of it as something a “white person” might use.
  • The Indian people refer to themselves first by their reservation and then by clan, e.g. “I am a Red Lake Ojibwa, from the crane clan.” Clan is a system of relationships used historically to identify village/ marital alliances. Identifying oneself by reservation is very important.


1819 The Civilization Fund Act was created for the purposes of education. But it had a side effect of removing Indians from their cultural roots. This developed with the beginning of boarding schools.
1825 Prairie du Chien treaty divided MN, Wisc., Mich. in half, with Ojibwa north and Sioux south. From then on up to 1851 the Dakota seceded land until they only had 13 mile strip by Saint Peter, Minnesota. This is one of the causes of the Dakota/US conflict. The Ojibwa land treaties seceded land from 1826-1863 with progressively less land, while Red Lake seceded land they did it to preserve sovereignty.
1830 Indian Resettlement Act under President Jackson called for removal of all Indians living East of the Mississippi: Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, Cherokee. They were force marched to Oklahoma. Called the Trail of Tears.
1862 Lincoln orders the execution of 38 Dakota in Mankato after Dakota/ US conflict
1867 White Earth Reservation was established as an Indian Homeland in MN with the intent of moving all Indians there similar to the Indian Resettlement Act.
1886 John Riley: Indian School Superintendent said: “Only by complete isolation of the Indian child from his savage antecedents can he be satisfactorily educated.” This is the beginning of the boarding school disruption of the Indian culture that lasted until the 1940’s and in some places until the 1950’s.
1887 Dawes Act offering 350 acres to Indians if they would become farmers, give up hunting and fishing rights and become “civilized.”
1889 Nelson Act allows all reservation land allotted to Indians in MN to be seceded to White people except White Earth, breaking up reservations. Red Lake was exempt.
1890 Wounded Knee, between 150-350 Indian people were killed; 51 Indians were wounded (4 men, 47 women and children), 25 US troops were killed.
1890 Federal Government passes a law forbidding practice of Indian Religion. They couldn’t visit their sacred sites, engage in any ritual activities, possess sacred objects, engage ritual leaders for ceremonies.
1892 2 million acres were open for non-Indians to purchase from Indians through the US appointed Indian agents
1924 Indian Citizenship act recognizing all Indians as citizens although some tribes gained citizenship as early as 1817 (Cherokee)
1947 By this time all Indians had the right to vote except Indians in Arizona and New Mexico
1948 Federal Government withdrew its prohibition of Indian voting
1952 Urban Indian Relocation Program, moving people to 7 major cities to mainstream Indians and give them particular skills such as welding, steel construction.
1968 Indian Civil Rights Act right to free speech, press, assembly; protection from unreasonable search, and double jeopardy; given due process
1973 Wounded Knee stand-off between FBI and American Indian Movement
1978 Indian Religious Freedom Act Passed reverses the 1890 prohibition of religious practice.


It was the Federal government that assigned religious denominations to evangelize the Indian people in Minnesota. They assigned the Roman Catholic Church to the Ojibwa because of their alliances with the French and the Episcopal Church to the Dakota because the first Episcopal Bishop, Bishop Whipple had married a Dakota woman. Denominations spread accordingly.


The changing cultural base in Urban Minnesota has changed agency sensitivity to people from other cultures, including Indians. Twenty years ago hospitals did not have policies in place for Indian religious practices such as a pipe ceremony or purification through saging, the presence of prayer ties or allowing Indians to bring totemic objects into the operating room. The normal practice in intensive care limited people whereas today there is accommodation for families to gather providing the staff have access to medical needs. In short there has been a proactive interest in patient needs that have been incorporated into hospital policies throughout the cities. Signage in many state and government buildings is in multiple languages. Interpreters are available in court systems, hospitals etc. Some corporations have started multi-cultural groups and accommodated to religious practices like the Muslim daily prayer.


  1. Reverence the earth
  2. Reality, if you can define it, is harmony, balance between all things. In Dakota it is wokia.
  3. You access reality through visions, dreams, direct experiences, interpretations, and divinations
  4. There is an anthropology of the human body which is understood as a composition:
    • Body (Like the Hebrew Basar) which is physical, made of animate parts like bones and nails, and inanimate parts like hair, blood and spittle (Ojibwa).
    • Soul (Like the Hebrew Nephesh) is the animator, life source which leaves at death.
    • Spirit (like the Hebrew Ruah) is the traveler, the dream self, the shadow. This is not contained by material.


The Ojibwa and Dakota are oral people who rely on narrative. Their learning domains are visual, kinesthetic and oral. They also keep tribal memories, some for many generations. They do this by ceremonies such as the December 26 th run from Fort Snelling to Mankato in memory of the 38 hanged by Lincoln.

The Ojibwa mark the changes of nature differently than many. While we have our four seasons, they mark the subtler changes: When bears stop fasting, when frogs come out of the water, the first thunder storm, when little birds fly separately from their parents, when the birds leave. They also mark the “moonths.” These are tied to the rhythms of nature, some of which we mark but others we don’t. This should help us understand that the Ojibwa cosmology is different from our own.


  1. Belief in God is an intuited understanding.
  2. God is considered a “spirit” not just one of the spirits but the Great Spirit. Like the Hebrew “Adonoi” replacing the Name of God, the Ojibwa name for God is a descriptor: Gishe Manidoo: Great Spirit.
  3. The Dakota name is also a descriptor: Wakan Tanka: Great Holy
  4. Religion and culture are intensely interwoven. This includes social structures and roles within society, everything from hunting, planting, eating and welcoming visitors. Many Indians will say that Anthropologist labelled what they did as a religion but for them it is merely a way of life.
  5. The ancient world was inclusive and absorbing of a diversity of practices and beliefs. Unlike the creedal religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam Indian religious practice is porous allowing a great deal of theological diversity.
  6. The role of religious leaders, ceremonial people is very strong. They act as intermediaries between this world and the unseen, between the living and the dead.
  7. There is a realm of the unseen which must be recognized and acknowledged. The unseen may be spirits, guardians, demons, angels. Their role is to be mediators, guardians, tricksters, tempters. They enter human commerce to influence outcomes.
  8. There is a sense of the unified, coherent and interactive world under the Creator
  9. No secular/ sacred dichotomy


  1. The ritual practice is woven through the cycle of the day, beginning at dawn before the sunrise as the world becomes animate. Asema (red willow) is offered and placed on a rock or by a tree or in a clean place. God is recognized for making the earth animate, alive. At Ojibwa ceremonies in Canada people pray until the sun is above the tree line.
  2. The traditional practice recognized the true noon when the shadow of two sticks crossed each other. This is the time to remember the ancestors or totems.
  3. The end of the day is also acknowledged, often with purification practices like the sweat lodge.
  4. Seasonal ceremonies follow the natural rhythms such as marking the end of the bear’s fasting, when little birds fly separately from their parents etc.
  5. Indian prayer is Eucharistic in the most ancient sense, that is, it begins with thanksgiving and recognition of what God has done before making petition. Even in the most traumatic situation God is always praised.
  6. There is an authentic spirituality that is part of daily living therefore it is difficult to distinguish between culture and spirituality.
  7. Preserving and using the languages in prayer, incorporating ceremonies and songs, using the drum in its “sacramental” sense are all important not only for preserving the culture but affirming the Indian identity.
  8. Ritual also follows major transitions of a person’s life:
    • Naming day
    • Becoming an adult
    • Rites of adoption
    • Sickness
    • Death
  9. A spirit plate is made for each meal remembering the dead. It consists of small pieces of food from what others are eating.
  10. The practice of a “giveaway” is deeply part of both Ojibwa and Dakota traditions. It is an act of gratitude and may be as simple as offering a feast or as elaborate as giving away Harleys, horses or buffalo robes.
  11. The Ojibwa have ceremonies that are exclusive to the Ojibwa as well as those that have been absorbed from the Plains Indians:
    • The pipe ceremony (Opwaagan) (also Dakota)
    • The Sweat lodge (Madoodoo) (also Dakota)
    • The Sun Dance (also Dakota)
    • The Long House teachings (exclusively Ojibwa)
    • The Big drum ceremonies (exclusively Ojibwa)
    • The Shake Tent ceremony (exclusively Ojibwa)
  12. The Dakota have Seven Major ceremonies
    • The pipe ceremony (Çannupa)
    • The Vision Quest (Hamblechayapi)
    • Tossing the ball (Tapa Wanka Yap)
    • Becoming an adult (Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan)
    • Adoption (Hunkapi)
    • The sweat lodge (Inipi)
    • The sun dance (Wiwangyag wacipi)


It is the respect for all living things that frame the Ojibwa law: honesty, kindness, sharing and strength. These four laws are at the heart of the long house teachings and the very physical structure of the sweat lodge and the long house with four horizontal staves holding the lodges together.