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Column: An Indian 'Columbus' changing his name

"Meet Delano Columbus. He's a 25-year-old member of a proud family of Mdewakanton Dakota Indians who were saddled with the name of the Italian most people think "discovered" America, even though millions of people, including Delano's ancestors, already lived here.

The Columbus family was given its name by government agents in the punitive aftermath of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. For the Dakota, the post-war period was even harsher than the conditions that led up to the war: The state offered bounties on Indian scalps and thousands of Dakota were held in harshly run prisons, including a Dakota imprisoned at Camp McClellan at Dubuque, Iowa.

In the Dakota tongue, his name was He Who Walks On Sacred Ground. But government agents did not want to hear Dakota anymore. The government wanted the Dakota to become white people.

So when He Who Walks On Sacred Ground demanded the return of Dakota lands, the government agents laughed. This isn't your land, they scoffed. This land was discovered by Christopher Columbus. In fact, they said, laughing at their cleverness, from now on, that's your name: Columbus."

Get the Story:
Nick Coleman: Seeking a new name against an old legacy (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/9)