Note: The Upper Sioux Agency State Park is located in western Minnesota’s Yellow Medicine County. For years, leaders of the Upper Sioux Community have asked to have the park land, which is sacred to them, returned to the community. The park is adjacent to the Upper Sioux Community and holds several burial sites and other sites of deep cultural significance. Currently, legislation is moving through the Minnesota House and Senate that could lead to the transfer of the park to the Upper Sioux Community. As the West Central Tribune recently reported, there is growing community support for this transference. The Land Stewardship Project’s State Policy Committee and our Land Access and Land Legacy Steering Committees both support Indigenous land return, and LSP’s Land Legacy Policy prioritizes such transferences. As a result, LSP has recently written a statement in support of transferring the park over to the Upper Sioux Community. Here is that statement:
Since its founding, the Land Stewardship Project has worked on behalf of family farms, sustainable agriculture, and rural communities. Additionally, the Land Stewardship Project is committed to advancing racial justice, food security for all people, and Indigenous land return. To that end, LSP is building relationships with tribal nations that have plans to address land access, food sovereignty, and restoration of ecological function.
Our vision is for revitalized rural communities, thriving family farms, a healthy environment, and an equitable, just society. This vision will be strengthened with the return of the whole 1,400 acres of Upper Sioux State Park to the Upper Sioux Community. This is why the Land Stewardship Project fully supports the current bill introduced by the Minnesota Legislature to return the land known as the Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community.
We celebrate the Upper Sioux Community’s process of restoring its original lands and protecting the integrity of burial sites, as well as exploring food sovereignty for its members. We know that the Dakota people stewarded this land for thousands of years, and that land return is in the best interest of this culturally, historically, and socially important site. This land rightfully belongs to the Upper Sioux Community according to the terms of the 1851 Traverse des Sioux Treaty. The return of this land to the Upper Sioux Community offers an opportunity to support Dakota sovereignty, serve justice, and create pathways to heal and steward relationships in western Minnesota, with each other and with the land.
We also recognize that accessible green spaces and wild spaces are rare and precious in this region of Minnesota, and that this park has been a beloved space by many of the local residents. That is why LSP is committed to advocating and organizing for additional green space development in this region, to increase habitat for native species of animals and plants, and increase access for residents to enjoy those public spaces. We see this as an opportunity to develop new public access acres in partnership with the Upper Sioux Community, and increase protected land and habitat in the Minnesota River Valley. The return of the Upper Sioux State Park to the Upper Sioux Community will ultimately benefit the entire region as we direct the Department of Natural Resources and community resources to steward and protect more green spaces in the western Minnesota region.
We look forward to supporting the Upper Sioux Community and the surrounding communities moving forward.