Cyclist on trek to help Dakota

FAIRMONT – Today, John Stoesz will be making his final trek on a two-month, 40-county journey through southern Minnesota on his recumbent three-wheel bicycle to raise awareness for Dakota land recovery.

The non-profit group Oyate Nipi Kte, which Stoesz represents, hopes to recover and purchase land in Minnesota. Stoesz began his ride on Sept. 3, and plans to finish today in St. James.

“Martin County is County No. 39,” he said. “When I started in September, in the evenings, I’d camp out. But October has been too cold, so I’ve been staying in motels.”

Stoesz’s first actions to help with Dakota land recovery was when his grandparent’s farmland was sold.

“They had 13 acres in Watonwan County,” he said. “We realize that before it was our farm, it was originally Dakota land. So my wife and I donated our part of the sale to native groups that are working on land justice.”

Originally from Mountain Lake, Stoesz now lives with his family in Kansas, but his extended family remains in Minnesota. He became interested in the Dakota land recovery movement when he was the executive director of the central states region for the Mennonite Central Committee and was also involved with the Indigenous Vision Center.

“Like most indigenous people, the Dakota people perished due to disease and starvation, because they were cut off from their way of life. Or they were killed by war.” Stoesz said. “Any that survived were forcefully removed from their lands and pushed onto the reservations.”

The Oyate Nipi Kte (translated as “The People Shall Live”) is dedicated to supporting the recovery of Dakota traditional knowledge, including Dakota language, spirituality, ecology, oral tradition and life ways, along with developing initiatives for sustainable living. It also hopes to facilitate an understanding of the harmful effects of colonization, and ultimately strengthen the Dakota nationhood. More information can be found at oyatenipikte.org