Changing Offensive Names

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Last Updated: 6 years

My international movement to rename Minnesota’s Rum River is steadily gaining more and more support. Recently, several Minnesota legislators sent me letters wherein they thanked me for the work that I am doing to change this river’s derogatory name.

 

One of these legislators has given his support and some of the other legislators who I have received letters from are interested in possibly sponsoring a purposed Minnesota bill that I wrote and have displayed on my website (www.towahkon.org/StateBill.html ). If a legislator or legislators would decide to sponsor this purposed bill and Minnesota’s legislators passed this bill several of Minnesota’s geographic place names that are offensive and derogatory to Native Americans would be replaced. Including, the Rum River, West Branch Rum River, Redskin Lake, Cut foot Sioux Lake, Sioux River, Sioux Lake, Little Sioux Lake, Savage Lake, Devil Track Lake and Devil Track River. 
 
According to information found on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website: “The name of Rum River, which Carver in 1766 and Pike in 1805 found in use by English-speaking fur traders, was indirectly derived from the Dakota. Their name of Mille Lacs, Mde Wakan, translated Spirit Lake, was given to its river but was changed by the white men to the most common spirituous liquor brought into the Northwest, rum, which brought misery and ruin, as Du Luth observed of brandy, to many of the Indians. The map of Maj. Stephen H. Long’s expedition in 1823 has these names, Spirit Lake and Rum River. Nicollet’s map, published in 1843, has “Iskode Wabo or Rum R.,” this name given by the Ojibwe but derived by them from the white men’s perversion of the ancient Dakota name Wakan, being in more exact translation “Spirit Water.”
 
Because rum “brought misery and ruin to many of the Indians” as well as the fact that the common belief is that the name “Rum” is a mistranslation of the sacred root word name for this river’s Mdewakanton Dakota name Mdo-te-mini-wakan, translated as mouth (of river) + water + sacred, I therefore believe that this river’s name (Rum) is offensive and derogatory to Native Americans and should therefore be changed back to its sacred Dakota name, as do also a growing number of both Dakota Indians as well as Indians of many other tribes.
 
Now-a-days, all across our county, Redskin, and Savage are considered offensive and derogatory names for Native Americans. And the name Sioux for the Dakota people is an offensive and derogatory name. On the Minnesota Historical Society’s website there are the words: “The Little and Big Sioux Rivers, the latter forming the northwest boundary of Iowa, were named for the Dakota or Sioux, who inhabited this region. The name Sioux is the terminal part of Nadouesioux, a term of hatred, meaning ‘snakes, enemies,’ which was applied by the Ojibwe and other Algonquians to this people.”
 
And on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website there are also the words: “Devil Track River, wrote Gilfillan, ‘is Manido bimadagakowini zibi, meaning the spirits (or God) walking-place-on-the-ice river.’ The Ojibwe applied this name primarily to Devil Track Lake, and thence, according to their custom, to the out-flowing river. The name implies mystery or something supernatural about the lake and its winter covering of ice, but without the supremely evil idea that is given in the white men’s translation.” 
 
In respect to my effort to change the Rum River’s name, I have received two letters from U.S. Senator Mark Dayton. Senator Dayton has been giving and offering me assistance. 
 
On September 27, I met with Christopher Leifeld, the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The MCC is the public policy voice of Minnesota’s Catholic bishops. The MCC sometimes helps legislators author bills, plus it also gives its support for some bills. I recently had received a letter from Archbishop Harry Flynn wherein he thanked me for my update letter on my “Catholic social activist ministry to rename the Rum River and related visionary ministry”. Therefore , during our meeting, we talked about my “related visionary ministry” for about a half hour. At the time, I mentioned that a secretary Bishop of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice had sent me a letter wherein he let me know that the council had take “note” of my letter about my “campaign” to rename the Rum River and “related material”. The “related material” was about my “related visionary ministry”. 
 
And after South Dakota’s 2003 Hall of Fame winner (Rev. Stanislaus Maudlin) read my – published in the Mille Lacs Messenger – letter about my Catholic social activist ministry to rename the Rum River and related visionary ministry, he sent me an e-mail asking that I add his name to my list of people who support the effort to change the Rum River’s name. Rev. Maudlin is the abbot of Blue Cloud Abbey and founder and executive director of Blue Cloud Abbey’s American Indian Research Center. And Rev. Maudlin is also a prominent leader of the Tekakwitha Conference, an international Catholic American Indian organization representing hundreds of tribes. And he is in constant correspondence with the Vatican Commission on Traditional Religions. During the 1983 Tekakwitha Conference, Rev. Maudlin addressed a large group of conference participants and said “there is a whole world view behind the word wakan”. 
 
The Dakota are used to portray all American Indian tribes in Hollywood, anyone wanting to see a “real Indian” wants to see a war bonnet and a tipi. Therefore, I believe that the world psychic views all American Indians as Dakota; and that when people watch the traditional Hollywood movies about American Indians they often hear the Dakota using the word wakan (sacred), or the combined words Wakan-Tonka (Spirit-Great). Hence, a lot of people around the world believe that the word wakan and the name Wakan-Tonka are used by all American Indians. Stephen Gaskin, an internationally renowned youth of the 1960s countercultural leader and Green Party candidate for President in the year 2000 once wrote: “The word wakan has a strong and universal concept and people all around the world know something about it.”
 
And after two nationally renowned American Indian activists, Christine Rose and Mike Graham, read my – published in the Mille Lacs Messenger – letter about my Catholic social activist ministry to rename the Rum River and related visionary ministry, they sent me e-mails wherein they both thanked me for sending them the “press release” as well as asked me to “keep up the good work”. This letter can be found at:
http://www.towahkon.org/artvisionary.html

And the National Catholic Reported published a peace of mine about my effort to rename the Rum River. NCR is a news weekly that reports news about global peace and justice issues. It has over 120,000 loyal readers in 96 countries. The NCR describes me as a “Catholic social activist”. And I am also being described as a Catholic visionary prophet with a world view behind the word “wahkon”. The word wahkon translates as sacred and it is sometimes spelled wakan. And in some circles that promote a single global culture, a culture made up of the best of the past of all the different people’s cultures and traditions, a culture wherein humanity will hopefully be united, it represents the culture(s) of the aboriginal people of the Americas. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer
PO Box 24
Wahkon, Minnesota U.S.A. 56386

Website: www.towahkon.org
E-mail address: Wahkon@scicable.com
Telephone number: 320-495-3874