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Closing the Circle: MniSotaMakoce (Land where the water reflects the sky) ”“ Dakota Land

Doctrine of Discovery Task Force proposes symbolic compensation for land loss


The Doctrine of Discovery Task Force is the result of a number of factors ”“ including conversations with Native leaders and a number of people with an intense interest in justice for the Native people of Minnesota.  

In addition, some members have involvements with Native organizations going back 45 years, and one taught Native American Studies at South High School.  

All of this led to the decision to form a task force that would focus on educating the public on the history and current effects of the Doctrine of Discovery and on advocacy for measures that might make a difference in the lives of Native people. This has resulted in the Closing the Circle proposal and the effort to get it enacted into state law.

The purpose of the proposal is to provide a measure of compensation for the land that was taken from the Dakota, Ojibwe and other Native groups in Minnesota. It is referred to as symbolic as there is nothing that could fully compensate for what was lost.

Under everything is the land. The land on which we live, walk, breathe, and worship is land that belonged to the Native people who had been here for millennia prior to the arriving of European colonizers and settlers.  

All the wealth that has been accumulated over time has been generated on and by the land. That same land was taken/stolen from its original owners with little or no compensation. 

Native people remain under the shadow of policies such as the Doctrine of Discovery, promulgated in the 15th century by the Vatican, which justified the taking of land and the genocide of Native people. This has contributed to the “historic trauma” that haunts Native peoples to this day. 

The goal of the proposal is to provide symbolic compensation for the land that was lost. The Task Force would like to support accompaniment by actions as well as words. 

It is proposed that every time a piece of land is sold in Minnesota a fee be attached to the sale, the proceeds of which would go to the support of Native programs. 

In 2018, the total value of all real estate transactions in Minnesota was $75.8 billion. Even a modest fee from each sale would generate significant funds. It is also proposed that the funds raised by this fee be administered by a representative group of reservation and urban Native leaders of Minnesota.

The proposal has been developed and presented to state legislators.

Members of the Task Force also testified at a “People”™s Hearing” on reparations hosted by Rep. Karen Clark held in early January 2019.  The proposal has been drafted into a bill with the intent to have it introduced in the 2020 session of the State Legislature. 

Task Force members have also been working with staff of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council to introduce the proposal to the tribal leaders of Minnesota. To date, contact has also been made, and commitments of support obtained, from a variety of church bodies. Finally, a number of Native leaders and individuals are working or have committed to work with the Task Force on the legislation.

Efforts between now the 2020 legislative session will focus on generating support from Native and non-Native organizations and individuals.

Task Force members include:  Mike Miller, Chair, Ron Duty, Randy Nelson, David Berg, Carol Berg, Chuck Jordan, Dennis Ormseth, John Buzza, Cori Gershon.  Staff:  Pr. Ingrid Rasmussen

For additional information, contact: Michael Miller,, Chairperson, Doctrine of Discovery Task Force, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2730 East 31st St., Minneapolis, MN 55406

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