People stood in a circle near Thomas Beach early Monday morning, each taking a sprig of sage and a pinch of tobacco to burn before walking around Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun).
“Sometimes we get caught up in the city, but we have to remember how to step back into the circle of community,” said Thorne LaPointe, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe.
The Four Sacred Directions Water Walk kicked off Mni Ki Wakan Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit Aug. 1-2, hosted at First Universalist Church in the CARAG neighborhood. The inaugural summit, dedicated to the protection of water and human rights, drew participants from as far as southern Alberta, Canada.
This is the second year that indigenous people have gathered for a walk around the lake. (Last year, they walked in the rain.) At points on the north, south, east and west ends of the lake, walkers stopped to listen to Native American songs and calls to clean and restore the water.
“How society views land reveals its innermost character,” LaPointe said.
His father LeMoine LaPointe said people from all walks of life visit the lake to find peace and “good positive medicine.” He talked about the movement to rename the lake Bde Maka Ska, and the current namesake John C. Cahoun’s role in the Indian Removal Act.
“The person this lake is named after is responsible for the Trail of Tears,” he said.
Bde Maka Ska, an early Dakota name for the lake, translates White Earth Lake.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is currently circulating a petition on the name change for submittal to the Hennepin County Auditor.
Members of First Universalist Church, host of the August summit, have spent years building relationships in the Native American community. The church rented space to The Sioux Chef, sent members to work camps at reservations and created a Native American connections group years ago.
LeMoine said the summit will give indigenous people a moment to reconnect. He said his grandfather remembered horseback travel and the remnants of the buffalo population.
“It was like being from a different dimension,” he said. “The patience, the wisdom was so obvious. It’s something I miss because we don’t see much of that these days. People don’t want to take the time to sit down and visit with each other. We as a people started coming apart when we forgot how to visit. How do we restore relationships that we lost?”
Participants in the summit will discuss those questions, he said, and will develop a vision for the next decade.
“Maybe one day we could encircle this lake with people,” LeMoine said.