The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 13, 2013

Cyclist promotes land recovery for Dakota

Mountain Lake native donates part of land sales to nonprofit

Thirteen acres near Butterfield is John Stoesz's portion of inheritance from his grandparents' farm. For decades his family profited from land taken from the ancestors of Dakota now living in Minnesota and out of state.

About a year ago, when his family sold the farm they had been renting out, Stoesz, a 1973 graduate of Mountain Lake High School, and his wife, Marsha, made the decision to give half of the money they made to Makoce Ikikcupi, a project committed to restoring a land base for Dakota people. "It seemed reasonable to us that a portion of the profits would be donated to be used to purchase land," he said.

Making a physical effort to right a wrong also seemed reasonable to the man who had, until June, served as executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee Central States — a $5-million-a-year relief, development and peace organization that encompasses 16 states.

This fall, he is taking time away from work to ride his bike back and forth throughout the state promoting a recovery project for people indigenous to land that is now called Minnesota. Stoesz, who now lives in Newton, Kan., thought the time was right to return to Minnesota for the vitally important task of Dakota land recovery, he said.

His goal is to pedal to 40 county seats by the end of this month, and he made his stop in Mankato last week. Along the way, Stoesz has been describing an opportunity for individuals to restore some of the land to its original inhabitants through contributions to Makoce Ikikcupi, a project of the nonprofit Oyate Nipi Kte (The People Shall Live).

"I get to combine my love of biking with my wanting to build awareness of land justice," he said.

Stoesz doesn't have a website nor is he keeping a blog. The bike tour is all about meeting people face to face.

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