by Otto Ringle
This may be my last column of “The old and the new!” If the following words are printed in The “Pilot-Independent I may be tarred, feathered and run out of town!
Tarring and feathering was a form of public humiliation used in early America. In 1833 John Malcolm, a sea captain was the victim of the most publicized tarring and feathering incident during the American Revolution. However, psychologically, the custom is live and well today!
I hated Erling Wallin’s history class in the old Walker High School! Later on in my spare time from reading tons of dental journals and text books pertaining to dentistry, I was introduced to historian, William Fowell’s book, “A History of Minnesota,” and history became a little more appealing. According to Fowell, our very first Governor of Minnesota, Henry Sibley, entered into a relationship with a Dakota woman, “Red Blanket,” and together they had a daughter they named Helen. It must have been very difficult for Sibley, as this was the same time as the Great Sioux Uprising, and because of his lovely “Red Blanket” and their beautiful little girl, he was certainly no Indian hater!
Nevertheless, the following year when Alexander Ramsey was Governor of our State, Ramsey appointed Sibley to assume command of the Minnesota Militia for the purpose of suppressing the uprising of Dakota violence, and during his command Sibley made many, very eloquent appeals to Minnesota Congress for better treatment of Native Americans!
One hundred and sixty years later, history repeated itself! Last April, our present Minnesota State Governor Tim Walz made the following statement: “It is time for policy being done to Indian people to stop, and for policy to be done in partnership with Native Nations to begin and continue!”
With these words in mind, members of our Leech Lake Culture Alliance met with Faron Jackson, chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and discussed ways whereby we could abide by our governor’s advice. One of the suggestions was to erect a statue of an Ojibwe Hoop Dancer, working with four hoops.
According to Ojibwe tradition, the four hoops signifies our four races, enjoying our four seasons, from the four points on the compass, all working toward the four colors of unity. The LLBO pledged a very generous donation if such a statue was accepted by the Walker City Council.
Another suggestion made by the two organizations was the establishment of a Unity Day, which would be held annually on Autumnal Equinox, where day and night are the same length of time — a day of unity!
With extreme excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation, members of the LLCA returned home with visions of, not only a beautiful, bronze statue similar to the unbelievable realism of the statue of Chief Bemidji that adorns the lakeshore of our neighbor up north, but also plans for a day of unity between our little town and the community across the bay!
Their dreams, however, were quickly shattered. At the last city council meeting, the council voted to erect a statue of a hoop dancer in the City Rock Garden. The names of the donors who made the statue possible, however, would not be recognized. This includes the very generous donation of the LLBO.
Even more disappointing — it will be very difficult to obtain donations for the remaining cost from donors knowing their names will not appear in the statue.
This was only one discouraging and disappointing result of the council meeting. A much more disheartening and depressing outcome of the meeting reared its ugly head. Four years ago, 15 people gave memorials of their loved ones toward the construction of the Garden Pavilion that stands in the City Rock Garden. They have never been recognized and never will!
It is difficult to believe our city council would be so unsympathetic and uncaring. Nevertheless, we sincerely thank the LLBO for their generous intentions and also our city fathers for giving us permission to erect the Garden Pavilion. We sincerely apologize to the donors who made the pavilion possible, but will not be recognized. Hopefully someday we will be able to find donors who could care less if their name is on a statue or not. Perhaps they will find it in their hearts to donate the necessary funds to have a beautiful bronze statue of an Ojibwe Hoop Dancer symbolizing unity between our two communities.