The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 24, 2013

'Dakota 38' poses difficult questions

MANKATO — Before starting the film “Dakota 38,” Jim Bear Jacobs tells the 30 or so in the audience that he wants the post-film discussion to be honest, even if those questions risk giving offense.

But it’s one of the young men in the documentary, BillyRay DuMarce, who was 19 at the time of filming, who shows  why hard truths need to be aired if reconciliation will take hold.

He acknowledges that he “doesn’t really associate with Caucasian people,” but that he used to as a child.

And it makes him uncomfortable for the riders in this horseback journey from South Dakota to Mankato to receive help along the way from white families.

“In the back of my head I always thought, ‘You’re probably uncomfortable with all of us in here, don’t trust us too much, or something.’ That’s just how I grew up.”

Even so, he appreciated their help.

“I mean, it’s so cool that they did that, man. I like that a lot,” he said.

Jacobs, of Coon Rapids, said after the film that homecomings like this — the Dakota were exiled from their Minnesota land — are common themes for Native Americans.

As a Mohican, his people’s journeys back to the Hudson River Valley in New York from their Wisconsin reservation can be tinged with resentment. The whites are helpful, sure, but some of that bounty is coming from his people’s  homeland.

“Those conversations happen with a gracious heart, but still you know there is perhaps that gnawing sense that we were pulled from this Earth,” he said.

And reconciliation efforts that shy away from tough questions are merely a facade, he said.

“Unless you’re willing to have those difficult conversations, where people show their biases and their hurts and their pains and all of that, then we’re not really doing reconciliation,” Jacobs said.

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