Memo to all the colonizers out there: The land you’re standing on was not instantaneously summoned into being in 1776.
In Minnesota, a group of Republicans are having such a difficult time registering this fact that they’re now threatening the Minnesota Historical Society for reminding them. The issue stems from a recent change the group of historians instituted at a place referred to by non-Indigenous people as Fort Snelling, in which the organization updated the signs to read “Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote.” It formerly read “Historic Fort Snelling.” Bdote is a term used by the Dakota people to refer to the place that two rivers meet—in this case, the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers.
This somehow offended members of the state GOP, to the point that they’re threatening major cuts to the Historical Society. Sen. Scott Newman, in one of the most brazen attempts of white-washed gaslighting maybe ever, told the local CBS affiliate that he didn’t condone the actions of the Historical Society because he believed them to be a form of, “revisionist history.”
Now, it would be one, potentially hilarious thing if Newman was just some old cook yelling at clouds into a mic at a public hearing. But the reality is that this is an elected politician who just so happens to also be a member of the state Senate Finance Committee. And in that role, Newman is currently proposing a budget cut of $4 million to the Historical Society—about 18 percent of their budget—solely on the grounds of said sign. If the cuts were enacted, CBS4 reported, the MHS could be forced to layoff up to 80 people.
The sign change, which came in 2016, was part of a wider effort by the Historical Society to actually do its job and take the histories and cultures of the local Indigenous nations and communities into account. The same year, Bdote Fort Snelling was named a national treasure. Additionally, the society added a pair of Dakota-focused tours to their available options at Bdote in 2018—one that highlighted the pre-invader time period, and another that centered the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. That war, in which the colonizing U.S. military attempted to clear Native peoples from the region, included both a concentration camp at the military base at Bdote as well as the mass hanging of 38 Dakota citizens at Mankato, about 100 miles west of Bdote, an event that only started being taught in Minnesota public schools a decade ago.
While the GOP controls the Minnesota state Senate, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party controls the state House of Representatives, and Gov. Tim Walz is a DFLer. KSTP reports that neither the House Democrats nor Walz have proposed cuts to the MHS budget, meaning that Newman’s proposal thankfully faces an uphill battle.
It’s worth noting that the official name of the site and state park have not been updated to include the Dakota language, just the sign itself. One would think that half-measure of a half-measure—giving the land back being the optimal outcome—would be palatable even for the most nationalistic of elected officials. Then again, the pettiness of colonizers knows no bounds.