The Mdewakanton Dakota sent me the following statement. "The name, 'mdoteminiwakan', is the name of the area surrounding the river and not the name of the river it-self...(and the portion of this word you have spelled 'M-i-n-i' is not correct, the correct spelling is MNI and should roll off the tongue." Misinformation in a book lead me and others to believe that the Mdewakanton Dakota name for the "Rum" River was Mdo-te-mini-wakan, translated as Mouth (of river)+ Water + Sacred. But I later learned that its Mdewakanton Dakota "name" is Wakan, translated as Spirit or Great Spirit.
Changing A River’s Offensive Name
by Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer - Wahkon, MN
I am spearheading an international movement to revert the profane and derogatory name of Minnesota’s “Rum” River back to its sacred Mdewakanton Dakota name name Wakan, which is translated as Spirit or Great Spirit.
One of the reasons why I believe that the “Rum” River’s name is derogatory and should therefore be changed is because, as stated in a book published by the Minnesota Historical Society, "rum brought misery and ruin, as Duluth observed of whisky, to many of the Indians". And the other reason why, is because...according to documents found in "Minnesota Geographic Names", a book written by Upham in 1920 and published by the Minnesota Historical Society, the "Rum" River received its current name by way of a "punning translation" that "perverted the ancient Sioux (Dakota) name Wakan".
The following Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community letter of support was written by Jim Anderson, the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community’s Cultural Chairman and Historian.
August 12, 2004
To Whom It Should Concern:
I believe that renaming the river "Wakpa Wakan" or "Spirit River" is a great stride in mending the circle that we share with all four colors of man. We, as Dakotas, are very happy that there are people out there that are trying to understand that by using names like "rum" and "devil" to label sacred sites and places is degrading to our children, our elders and also to our ancestors. These places were already named in our language by our people because of their special meaning. When we have to tell our children why these places have been named after a poison or the worst words in their language. It is demoralizing to us to have to explain why a place is named after the same things that helped to steal our land and language. To have to be reminded of the cultural genocide that has been perpetrated on all Indian people. So, in changing the name back to the Dakota language, it will help in the healing process that our people continue to deal with.
Many schools and teams have already changed their names in respect to our children and adults. It promotes us to be proud of our heritage, language and culture, to respect themselves and being Indian in our own homeland. I am writing in support of the name change of the Rum River.
We, as the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota, request the County Commissioners in the affected counties to support our hope of righting this wrong. Please do the respectful and moral thing and change this disrespectful and culturally damaging name. Respectfully yours,
Jim Anderson Cultural Chairman
Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community