Dakota and Ojibwe cultures arise from an intimate knowledge of place, from personal, local connections among people and the rest of the natural world. Ojibwe and Dakota languages, family and political structures, traditional economies, and spirituality arose from and were shaped by the landscape through which people walk.



Prayer Ties at Coldwater Springs

In Ojibwe and Dakota traditions, people are participants in - rather than masters of - the natural world. This distinction is not poetic, but practical. The way people relate to the natural world makes a profound impact on how their cultures are constructed. Dakota and Ojibwe people traditionally relate to people, animals, minerals and other elements of the landscape as family members: family is the foundation of Dakota and Ojibwe cultures.

  • Political structures are traditionally based on family and clan relationships.
  • Trade and other economic activity traditionally followed family lines.
  • Even international relations among the Dakota, Ojibwe and other American Indian nations have included relationmaking ceremonies that create family obligations across national lines.

Intimate, familial ties to specific places in natural world create a spiritual relationship to the land for Dakota and Ojibwe people. One result is a value placed on sustainability; these cultures are built for the long haul, and have endured for centuries. By contrast, the American economic and political system values material progress over sustainability, and the foundation of this system is land as real estate.

The U.S.-Indian treaties were a clash between different ways of relating to the natural world: participation versus mastery; spiritual connections to the land versus ownership; family obligations versus business interests.