To dominate the conflux of the rivers,
the Minnesota with the Mississipi,
a place inhabited for ten thousand years,
Bdote in the local language,
Fort Snelling was built on the bluff above.
The confluence of the rivers was sacred
to the Dakota Sioux, who believed
that their first ancestors had come as spirits
from the stars, and had been made human
from the clay along the riverbanks,
with life breathed into them like a newborn’s cry.
As the West became more settled slaves
were brought to the fort to be bought and sold.
While the Civil War moved from battlefield
to battlefield in the East and the South,
the Dakota, literally starved
of what was theirs by treaty, rose.
On the day after Christmas, and seven days
before Lincoln issued the final
thirty eight Dakota men were hanged
simultaneously, their execution
having been approved by the President –
presumably pour encourager
the remaining two hundred and sixty two
and the families still incarcerated
in the concentration camp at Fort Snelling,
now a National Historic Landmark
in the city of Minneapolis.
A regiment of ‘Buffalo’ soldiers
was stationed at the fort. It comprised
white officers, black troopers and NCOs,
and thus nicknamed by First Nation people
either because the soldiers resisted
bravely like the buffalo or they too
were being used. They saw no action.
The Dakota Sioux had been subdued.
The ‘Indian Wars’, that centuries old
genocide, were continued elsewhere –
and Minneapolis grew brick buildings,
straight paved roads, gas light and water mains.
John Berryman, poet, impassioned teacher,
university professor, a troubled
and a troubling soul, jumped to his death
from the Washington Avenue Bridge,
Minneapolis, onto the west bank
of the Mississipi. In some poems
he has a black-face minstrel persona:
‘I don know, Mr Bones. You asks too much…’
Outside Cup Foods Hot & Cold Deli,
on the roadway, at the intersection of
East 38th and Chicago Avenue,
in the early evening of May 30th,
2020, George Floyd stopped breathing, murdered
by a white man dressed up in a uniform.