400 turn out for First Annual Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering


On August 14 Healthy Nations Canoe Society hosted the first annual Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering at Lake Calhoun. The event, celebrating the resurgence of indigenous canoe culture in Minnesota, drew approximately 400 participants from throughout the region who played, painted, and competed in 90-degree heat. Activities included sprint and endurance canoe races, design and paint your own paddle, canoe rides, fishing games, and a sunset dinner.

The gathering was dedicated to Waste’win Gonzalez, an early visionary of a resurgent canoe culture in Minnesota, who passed away on August 16, 2008, at the age of 22. Before her thirteenth birthday Waste’win had been a member of a canoe journey from the Mississippi Headwaters to Minneapolis.

All five of the canoes originally used on Waste’win’s Mississippi trip were used at the Mde Maka Ska event. Waste’win had paddled several times on Mde Maka Ska with Healthy Nations Canoe Society, and at the time of her passing was working on details of a plan to take her infant daughter, Juanita, on a river journey. Juanita, 3, was present at the gathering and marked the occasion by taking her first canoe ride on her grandmother’s (Jaunita Espinosa) lap.

Mde Maka Ska is Dakota for White Earth Lake, the ancient name of Lake Calhoun, where for generations Dakota people lived, hunted, gathered, and fished, using birch and dugout canoes to move between the inland village and Haha Wakpa (Mississippi River).

Healthy Nations Canoe Society operates out of the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The organization has been leading indigenous people on culturally specific canoe trips along Minnesota’s waterways for the past three years.

To get involved or to learn more call 612-879-1744 or 651-230-4161; or email llapointe@maicnet.org.

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