Makoce Ikikcupi is a Land Recovery project in Granite Falls. The project is the dream of Dakota descendants and allies. They want to repair what they call the most basic harm of colonialism – the removal of indigenous people from their land and culture. Waziyatawin is Makoce Ikikcupi’s executive director.
“The land project originally started in 2009. And it was started actually by a group of settlers solidarity activists in the Twin Cities metro area, who were thought it would be useful for them to help raise funds or raise awareness among the federal population so that they could contribute in a very tangible way to land justice for people,” said Waziyatawin.
In 2019, Makoce Ikikcupi was able to use what they call Settler Funding to begin construction of a traditional site in a valley along the Minnesota River.
“So we set to work immediately building three Earth lodges that were under construction. But by fall of 2019, we were issued a stop work order by the city of Granite Falls for being out of compliance with Minnesota State Fire and building codes,” said Waziyatawin.
Granite Falls officials had to order construction stopped. They said their hands were tied because of issues raised by the city’s building inspector.This is city manager Crystal Johnson.
“We identified a number of things that, unfortunately, are not permitted per that uniform building code rules,” said Johnson.
Rather than hire a lawyer, the team at Makoce Ikikcupi decided to speak with Granite Falls City Officials directly.
“After having conversations with Makoce Ikikcupi, It was felt that that was the best path to moving forward was to pause that construction while pursuing a legislative change and the result of that legislative change would allow an exemption of course for this project,” said Johnson.
Makoce Ikikcupi worked quickly to draft bills for both the MN House & Senate. These bills are currently making their way through MN Legislative Committee Sessions. Makoce Ikikcupi’s Executive Directly Waziyatawin explains the legislation would grant a waiver to Indigenous people building Indigenous structures.
“The waiver would be to the Minnesota State Fire and building codes. And so the idea is that if, as, as indigenous people, as native people, we want to practice this aspect of our culture that we can there’s a mechanism for us to receive an exemption,” said Waziyatawin.
As far as the relations between the city of Granite Falls and Macoke Ikikcupi, both sides say that they have a good relationship.
“We have excellent communication with them. We meet on a regular basis, we hear project updates, we communicate with each other. So overall, it’s been a really great process,” said Johnson.
“I personally have a lot more knowledge about traditional Dakota Earth homes and previously, including, for example, how they’re constructed and how they’re occupied. I definitely have a stronger appreciation for Dakota customs and their historical tradition.” said Johnson.
What’s next for Makoce Ikikcupi?
If the legislative change is successful, they can expect to start construction again. Executive Director Wazyatawin is hopeful.
“Eventually, we hope to have land recovery projects throughout our traditional territory within what is now the state of Minnesota,” said Waziyatawin.
The proposed legislation has sailed through the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate. The legislation is now waiting for a Senate hearing in the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.
If the bills pass, Makoce Ikikcupi’s land recovery project will continue construction and the Dakota People will be a little closer to their ancestral home.
Emma Needham reporting For Minnesota Native News