Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

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Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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“We Are All Related”: The Honoring Dakota Project Meal and Conversation

Alayna Majkrzak
Nicky Buck (center) and fellow Honoring Dakota Project at the Winona County History Center on February 24, 2024 to talk about their project and how they help the communities. At this event, the Honoring Dakota Project discussed the fact that We Are Relatives. This notion can be extended beyond Red Wing, Minnesota, where the Honoring Dakota Project is based, and can be applied to Winona, Minnesota.

Smiles are on the faces of all eight women at the front of the room. On Feb. 24, in the upper part of the Winona County History Center, people from Winona and from other places nearby came to the Honoring Dakota Project conversation and meal. The take home message of this event was a notion that may seem simple, but it is very interconnected, “We Are All Related.”

All the land that is occupied now, belongs to Indigenous people, and much of it belongs to the Dakota people. The Dakota Project is a Dakota led non-profit whose mission is to connect people by using community events and sparking conversations. The Dakota Project started in Red Wing, Minnesota because in their first phase, the Honoring Dakota Project was pushing to get something in the city of Red Wing to show they had a thriving Tribal Nation attached to it.

Nicky Buck, one of the main conversation guides at this event has been helping to educate and build bridges between communities for years.

“That’s how we came up with the mural project. With the mural project, we did it in the way that Dakota people do it. So, we didn’t just hire an artist and tell them what we want, and they put it on there,” Buck said. “We community engaged and through that community engagement process is how we built the idea of the mural.”

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However, the mural had more than one aim. It was meant to not only show a thriving Dakota population, but also to respond to the community’s needs. One of the main parts of this project is the aspect of “building bridges” by connecting communities and making sure everyone has a safe place.

“How honoring Dakota project has been able to do that through our culture, our values, our traditions and our language, is that we’re able to make it a safe space for everybody,” Buck said. “To be able to come together with a general acknowledgement that we all come from somewhere that has an authentic culture that is not tainted by the colonization of it.”

A large part of the conversation at the Honoring Dakota event in Winona was the fact that the Honoring Dakota project is Dakota-led. This was an often-emphasized aspect of the project that was equally unique and crucial. With the project being Dakota-led, it does not mean that there are only Dakota people involved, but it does mean that the voices of Dakota people are heard and that everyone is included in conversations. This comes back to the element of the take home message that we are all related.

“To be Dakota, it literally means “I am your friend.” That’s what Dakota means. It means that we take care of all our people. It doesn’t matter where you come from. So, when it’s Dakota-led, that means everybody is included at that table. It flips from a patriarchal lens to a matriarchal lens,” said Buck.

This inner connection extends far beyond just the people. “We are all related” is extended to a relationship with plants, animals, and all of nature, as well as all other humans. The connection that the Honoring Dakota project emphasizes between people and the Earth is an important part of the message in the Honoring Dakota project. The unity of nature and its people. Not only that but it is something that people naturally crave.


Like the whole of the United States, Winona is situated on Indigenous land and there are many people who want to make motions to help the Indigenous people of Winona. However, a lot of people in positions of power may not be ready to take these strides. This is similar to Winona State University where many students want the Somsen Mural painted over, but the University isn’t quite ready to do that. This push from those who want to support Indigenous people is one of the things that will provide a change not just to Winona State, but to Winona as a county.

“I think in Winona, it’s very special. Because in Red Wing we’re still demonstrating from a patriarchal lens, the government down to the people. Whereas in Winona we’re demonstrating from a matriarchal lens. It’s the people that are going to come together,” said Buck.

The Honoring Dakota Conversation and Meal event was eye opening for many of the people who attended. The conversation was an important one to have considering Winona State is on stolen land. A student who attended this event, first-year Psychology student Marissa Meyer, was glad to have attended the conversation because of how important the Honoring Dakota Project is, as is what they are doing.

“Hearing more about the project and what they’re doing made me feel happy and connected,” Meyer said.  “Because we’re on their land, I think it’s important to have more indigenous representation here than we currently have.”

The Honoring Dakota Project has even more events planned to help communities stay connected through sharing culture and connection. Whether it is collaborating with a community to create a mural to encompass a thriving Indigenous community, or beadwork craft circles, this connection is extremely important to Dakota people and to many others. A connection between local communities and Indigenous people along with their Tribes is important and this extends to places like Winona State, just as much as it does to Winona County.

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About the Contributor
Alayna Majkrzak
Alayna Majkrzak, News Reporter
Alayna Majkrzak (she/they) is a first-year at Winona State University and is a news reporter here at The Winonan. Majkrzak is a CALT (Communication, Arts, and Literature Teaching) major and is minoring in theatre.   In their spare time, they enjoy crocheting, reading and writing. Though, all these activities are preferably done in a comfortable sweater while listening to their favorite playlist or watching Ghost Adventures. Back at home, Majkrzak was involved in their school newspaper for four years, and they are incredibly excited to continue their passion for honesty through journalism in college.  

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