Minnesota returns sacred land to Upper Sioux Community

Land that was part of a southwestern Minnesota state park was returned to the Upper Sioux Community on Friday. 

State and community leaders attended the ceremonial deeds signing on Friday morning. The land that makes up the Upper Sioux Agency State Park in Granite Falls is now in the hands of the Upper Sioux Community.

"We're in this sacred whirlwind, 161 years since this land was stolen by the United States of America. It wasn't lost in a war, like a lot of people want to say but this land was stolen through legal mechanisms... but today is a return to the caretakers, the responsible people that we are," said tribal chairman Kevin Jensvold. 

According to the DNR, the U.S. government did not fulfill its treaty obligations to provide food, resulting in starvation and death among the Dakota people on that land in the summer of 1862. The Upper Sioux Community has long requested that the state park land be returned to the community. 

The 1,280-acre state park was permanently closed by the DNR in February following a directive from the Minnesota Legislative during the 2023 session to return the land given the location's historical significance to the Upper Sioux Community.

"This land transfer is an important moment in our state’s history. Given its significance to Dakota people and the tragic events that took place there, it was inappropriate to continue to operate a park at that site," DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement. "Minnesota DNR has been honored and humbled to have worked with the Upper Sioux Community on the return this land to the Community. We now look forward to continuing to explore new recreation opportunities in the Minnesota River Valley."

Since the park's closure, the DNR said it’s been evaluating proposals and ideas for outdoor recreation opportunities in the area. 

This is said to be the first time the state of Minnesota has returned a state park to a Native American community.