Mde Maka Ska

May 25, 2012
Lake Calhoun aka Mde Maka Ska (near Thomas Beach)

The Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering event is an genuine opportunity for Native American youth, parents, and community to re-engage the sacredness of water or mni wakan. Today, the Mde Maka Ska is called Lake Calhoun. Its Dakota name means White Earth Lake. For the Minneapolis-St. Paul Native American community, its proximity inspires an indigenous means to return to cultural, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. As water does for the finned nation, the Mde Maka Ska provides an appropriate environment in which to implement visions of healthier indigenous nations.”

Mde Maka Ska: An Overview
In 2008, Nawayee Center School in Minneapolis, MN mobilized area schools and organizations to launch the first annual Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering, an indigenous and water-based education and recreation event that promotes and demonstrates a healthy life for Native youth and the broader community.

Nawayee Center School provides transformative education, grounded in indigenous life-ways and love of learning to American Indian youth in grades 7-12. Cultural values, core academics and experiential education are integrated throughout its curriculum.

Many educational, recreational, environmental, business and other public/private partners include the Phillips Indian Educators, Minneapolis Public Schools, Outward Bound Twin Cities, DNR’s MinnAqua Program, Minneapolis Police Dept, Philadelphia Community Farms, REI, Public Allies, Migizi Communications, and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

The Mde Maka Ska gathering is a linguistically, culturally and historically infused initiative generated by indigenous Dakota precepts regarding water and the sacred architecture it inspired, the canoe. Anishinabe views are also included. The annual gathering is held upon the south shore of Mde Maka Ska, the centuries-old Dakota Nation name for today’s Lake Calhoun. In 2011, the gathering engaged 500 middle and high school students from 5 Minneapolis schools, as well as elders, teachers, environmentalists and school administrators. The event includes Dakota language development and water activities — canoeing, canoe and water safety instruction; fishing fundamentals, species identification and which fish can be safely eaten; aquatic/shoreline plant identification; environmental conservation/stewardship; songs about paddling and Mde Maka Ska; birch bark canoe construction, and paddle design, construction and painting.

The first values occupants learn in a canoe is that, no matter what your skin color, cooperation, teamwork and trust are necessary to achieve a healthy and well-balanced craft.

Planning Committee meetings:

  • February 3 (Friday) and February 17 (Friday) 10:00 a.m. * March 2 (Friday) and March 16 (Friday) 10:00 a.m.
  • April 6 (Friday) and April 20 (Friday) 10:00 a.m. * May 4 (Friday) and May 18 (Friday) 10:00 a.m.