Tribal College Celebrates Dakota Place Names Book | News, Sports, Jobs

FORT TOTTEN – Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC) announces the release of its new publication, “Mniwakan: Place Names and History of Spirit Lake Dakota,” a tribute to the traditional language and oral history of the Spirit Lake Tribe. To celebrate the book’s release, the Tribal College will be offering signed copies at the annual alumni gathering on July 21, which is open to the public.

According to the college, Mniwakan — which means Spirit Lake — complements oral tradition with the contemporary version of American history to tell a full and honest perspective of the Dakota experience. The book includes 25 chapters in a collection of stories, which includes nearly a hundred significant places and landmarks based on decades of research by co-authors, Louis Garcia and Mark Dietrich.

“The Dakota language is declining very rapidly” said Garcia, 82, who is the college’s Dakota Studies teacher and tribal historian. “We only have a few language speakers, most of whom are elders. We must preserve the language and knowledge of places the tribe considers important, not only for our future generations, but also to educate non-Dakota people about the history of the land.

Garcia has been collecting Dakota language place names for 30 years. Garcia selected all the sites around Spirit Lake, inside and outside the reserve, and Dietrick assisted with editing and research. Since 1978, Garcia has documented the oral history and traditional knowledge of the tribe primarily by listening to and interviewing tribal elders.

Dietrich has written several books on Dakota history and chiefs and has written “Spirit Lake Dakota Grass Dance” with Garcia in 2014.

“Louis had spent a lot of time gathering information to the extent that no one else had, but it was skeletal,” explains Dietrich. “I filled in the gaps about what had happened in those places. I found myself wanting to know the history of Fort Totten, how the soldiers used it, how the reservation grew around it, how the Dakota related to the soldiers there and the whole situation .

Although Dietrich is not a member of any Indigenous group, his research has contributed immensely to the historical relevance of the Dakota people. He said the history of Spirit Lake is generally misinterpreted and distorted by the anti-Indian sentiments of early American newspapers, settlers and historians.

“I’ve done quite a bit of research on the Spirit Lake Tribe, especially with newspapers, even though historians say it’s unreliable, biased and racist in tone,” he added. Dietrich said. “But I find the logs provide a lot of detailed information that you can’t get anywhere else. One of the book’s chapters deals with the body of water that the white people called “Devil’s Lake”, but the Dakotas always called it “Spirit Water” or Spirit Lake.”

Like 35 other tribal colleges and universities across the country, CCCC strives to maintain and revitalize Indigenous culture and language. Training Dakota instructors is a top priority for the college.

“Without skilled Indigenous instructors, we cannot develop relevant academic programs or venues for community education,” said college president Cynthia Lindquist “That’s why we seek to integrate Dakota culture and language into all academic areas, such as advanced manufacturing, business management, social work, carpentry, and early childhood education. CCCC truly believes and tries to practice its theme, Think Dakota, Live Dakota.

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