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Man rides 2,000 miles for Dakota land recovery

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Nov 1st, 2013
Posted in All Features

John Stoesz, originally from Mountain Lake, Minn., ventured a 40 country-wide bike ride through southern Minnesota to raise awareness for Oyate Nipi Kte’s Dakota land recovery project. Photo by Mitchell Walbridge

Since September 3 John Stoesz, orignially from Mountain Lake, Minn. located in Cottonwood County, has been riding miles on his bicycle all to support a cause that he’s very passionate about. Hoping to hit 40 Minnesota counties by the end of October, Fillmore County was county number 35.

Stoesz is traveling mile after mile to “recover the land” or “makoce ikikcupi” as it would be stated in the Dakota language. Stoesz is an avid supporter of the 501(c)(3) organization Oyate Nipi Kte’s mission to recover the traditional knowledge of the Dakota – including language, spirituality, ecology, and other ways of life. However, he is truly dedicated to the land recovery mission. A dedication so deep that he was willing to pedal more than 2,000 miles for the cause.

Today, according to Dr. Waziyatawin, Founder and Council Member of Oyate Nipi Kte, the Dakota people reside only on 0.01 percent of their original land base in Minnesota. This is why Oyate Nipi Kte is dedicated to the restoration and re-establishment of the spiritual and physical connections of their homeland.

Dr. Waziyatawin notes that in Minnesota, the number of fluent speakers of the Dakota language has now dwindled to less than 10, and they are all over the age of 70. In order to preserve the Dakota culture, Oyate Nipi Kte has the overall goal of establishing new communities on their homeland in order to resume their traditional ways of life.

Stoesz has a deep commitment to social justice, which led him to his 40 county ride. From September of 2005 to June of this year, Stoesz was the executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee Central States, a relief development and peace organization that raises upwards of $5 million per year. The organization encompasses 16 states including Minnesota.

In a press release Stoesz stated, “I love the Mennonite Central Committee organization, but I had contributed my gifts there and the time was right for me to return to Minnesota for this virtually important task of Dakota land recovery.”

Oyate Nipi Kte, which translates to “The People Shall Live”, continues to work towards its mission thanks to people like Stoesz who planned to visit the county seats of all 40 counties in order to bring awareness to recovery of Dakota lands and traditions. To learn more about Oyate Nipi Kte, visit www.OyateNipiKte.org. Tax deductable donations may also be sent to Oyate Nipi Kte at 4052 Highway 212 SE, Granite Falls, Minn. 56241.

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