Rethinking History: Golden Valley Establishes Territorial Recognition

10:03 | Sunday, June 12, 2022

Golden Valley Land Recognition Helps Rethink History

The City of Golden Valley established a land acknowledgment in May to honor the Indigenous peoples who lived on the lands where the city now stands.

“When I read the Golden Valley history book, it starts when a white person comes here,” council member Gillian Rosenquist said, a council member discussing recognition at a May meeting. . “It literally erases the history of the area.”

In 2019, the council directed the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to seek and submit a recommendation regarding land recognition. The HRC worked with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission to develop the statement. To read the documents and the statement, click here.

Council voted to accept recognition of the land and read part of it at future municipal meetings and events. Valley Community Presbyterian Church hosted an event to learn more about Native Americans.

“We need action”

By definition, “history” is the official record of a significant event, and according to Golden Valley records, the first pioneers settled here in 1852.

But what’s not surprising is that Native Americans lived in this area long before the mid-1800s.

Educating people about this largely undocumented story prompted an event at Valley Community Presbyterian Church on June 4.

“What we do is we learn,” said Pastor Richard Buller of the Valley Community Presbyterian Church. “We are learning all about how to be better neighbors in this community.”

In April 2021, the church began the work of researching and creating a land acknowledgment statement to learn more about the lands in Dakota occupied by the church.

“This project is important because it helps us fill gaps in knowledge and understanding of our Indigenous neighbors and learn more about their stories,” said Crystal Boyd of Valley Community Presbyterian Church.

But church leaders wanted to go beyond the words on a piece of paper.

“To properly make a land acknowledgment statement in a responsible and respectful way, we need action,” said Dr. Kasey Keeler, assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Over the past year, Keeler has partnered with the church on an oral history project to learn more about the native people who lived or currently live in the Bassett Creek watershed area, also known as name of Haha Wakpadan.

“A big part of this work is to really recognize not just the aboriginal history in the suburbs,” Dr. Keeler said. “It’s thinking about this land recognition. This forced withdrawal. this exile. But recognize that the natives are here today. That the suburbs really are historically Indian places when you think of the metro west.

Dr. Keeler took advantage of this event to teach others what is not mentioned in the historical records of Golden Valley.

It’s a difficult but important conversation, and she hopes others will follow suit.

“We know that the people who are alive today were not direct participants in the events that took place in the mid-19th century,” Dr Keeler said. “But we are the benefactors of these events.”

Native American drummers participate in a land recognition event at the Valley Community Presbyterian Church.

What happens next?

Randy Gresczyk, director of American Indian education at Anoka-Hennepin schools and an Ojibwe language teacher, says there are steps to take after developing land recognition. The first is to ensure that a native does not read the declaration during the events. Then do some real work with an Indigenous elder.

“Let’s do real work and work with people. Let’s work with indigenous people who know the areas, who know some of these stories that are not written per se,” Gresczyk said.

Earlier this spring, the Golden Valley Historical Society began work on a project to inventory and catalog Native American resources in their collection. The project was funded by a grant. You can read more about their efforts here.


Want to learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion issues like this?

Check out Dr Rassheedah Watts’ Diversity Minute series,

Shannon Slatton also contributed to this report.


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