MSU instructor discusses Dakota people then and now

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Minnesota State University, Mankato, Dakota language instructor Glenn M. Wasicuna talks about the Dakota people then and now at the New Ulm Public Library Thursday.

NEW ULM — A Minnesota State University, Mankato, Dakota language instructor called for an open dialogue for all people and for Dakota people to return to traditional values at the New Ulm Public Library Thursday.

“People from Washington were sent here to talk about treaties (more than 150 years ago). When the agents came, Dakota values went away,” Glenn M. Wasicuna said. “We are all in this together. Take the walls down. Talk to each other. It’s so simple, but we can’t do it.”

Wasicuna said he was thankful for the invitation to come and speak.

“You’re good people. You understand. There are things in the way. You know what they are,” Wasicuna said. “Everybody knows right from wrong. What’s good and bad, so let’s do it.”

He invited people to come to nearby Good Thunder, where he lives, and look at the caricature of Good Thunder, after whom the town is named, on the side of an elevator. He said the caricature is lit up at night.

Wasicuna talked more about returning to traditional Dakota values.

“Take care of the water, in creeks, lakes and rivers. There are professionals who can take care of it.” Wasicuna said. “Why isn’t it being done?”

“Because it’s the job of everyone,” a woman said.

Wasicuna talked about his family upbringing.

“My dad told me to take care of myself. To speak from the heart, so you speak well,” Wasicuna said.

A woman asked him to speak Dakota.

He did so and asked how it sounded.

“Absolutely beautiful,” the woman said. “It flows like opera music. Why is your language sacred?”

“Because the one who made it, God, made me and the language to go with it.” Wasicuna said.

Growing up and living in Canada where he worked as a journalist, Wasicuna later became an educator, focusing on Dakota history and culture. He moved to Minnesota and said it felt like coming home.

A man asked him if he would rather be a Canadian or American citizen.

“When I passed Alexandria (Minnesota), it felt like home. The trees, the water, the land,” Wasicuna said. “I worked in many parts of Canada looking for home but I couldn’t find it.”

Sent to a boarding school by his parents to be educated, Wasicuna said being an educator and the feeling he gets when “a light comes on in student’s mind” is what keeps him going.

He fondly recalled his boarding school days.

“I had a wonderful time at boarding school,” Wasicuna said. “I’d listen and surround myself with good people that were very positive.”

He called for the Dakota to return to their traditional values of silence, strength, bravery, dependability, taking care of themselves and others, creating a feeling of well-being that can be seen by others, self-compassion, and love.

“Love yourself and others,” Wasicuna said. “It takes strength to be silent. That’s how we were before we were contacted by the outside world in the 1600s and 1700s. In 1800s, we were told not to be Dakota.”

The 2017 U.S.-Dakota War Commemoration continues Friday with Corinne Marz talking at noon at the Brown County Historical Society Annex. She will present Three Vignettes: Remembering Clara Wilson, Susan White and Otis White/President Lincoln’s 1861 Special Order and the 1862 Executions/Indian Agent Charles E. Flandrau’s Census and Accounting Records.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at