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Author seeks to dispel stereotypes about American Indians

November 6, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - A University of North Dakota faculty member and author injected humor and satire in an attempt to dispel negative stereotypes about American Indians on Monday at Martin Luther College.

Dr. Greg Gagnon's presentation "From Despair to Self-Determination: The Dakota Sioux from 1862 to the 21st Century," shed light on American Indian culture.

Gagnon, whose parents were Indian and white, said he was a bit mystified with the State of Minnesota's new wolf hunt because it goes against American Indian ways.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
­University of North Dakota faculty member and author Dr. Greg Gagnon talks about the past and present situation of American Indians in Minnesota on Monday at Martin Luther College.

"We believe the world should live in harmony. All living creatures deserve respect or there will be consequences," Gagnon said. "Why shoot wolves for sport? Some Indian tribes consider wolves closely related to humans."

During a question-and-answer session, Gagnon said that while some Indian casinos make large amounts of money, most of them don't and that other people stand to profit from most casinos with jobs and "spinoff" money.

Gagnon said many American Indian college students receive educational grants because they are poor, not because they of their racial back ground.

He said many negative stereotypes about American Indians persist, and it should be the responsibility of Indian Studies college and university faculty, in particular, to help dispel the stereotypes because they damage Indian communities and often warp the way Indians are treated by the general public and governmental units.

Gagnon said the Dakota Indians were banished from Minnesota after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 even though one-half to three-fourths of them didn't take part in the war. Many of them helped protect the settlers or even fought against other Dakota.

"A number of church leaders in the Twin Cities had enough sense to stick to their religious values and realize how badly the state and federal government was treating Indians. Despite the fact there was a law against it, they gave Indians refuge in the Twin Cities after the war," Gagnon said. "Many Indians were homeless and doing odd jobs, but some were lucky enough to survive."

By the 1880s, the Indian Allotment Act gave Dakota land for which the Bureau of Indian Affairs was responsible for, he said.

"They tried to make all Indians into farmers," Gagnon said.

He said the Winnebago Indians who lived near Blue Earth had nothing to do with the 1862 conflict, but they were deported to Nebraska. He talked about the negative results of boarding schools for American Indian children.

"Only English was spoken. Indians were made fun of. They weren't allowed to govern themselves until the 1930s," Gagnon said. "Most white people don't realize some Indians live traditionally like the Amish. Many people think we all live the same way. Rage compounded by racism is an historical reality we have to live with."

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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