John Stoesz admits he has met some people who think he is a little bit crazy.
The former Mountain Lake resident (high school class of 1973) now lives in Kansas. But he is back in southern Minnesota to promote a special cause.
His goal is to promote sharing Minnesota land with the Dakota people, Stoesz says. He adds this land was illegally taken from the Dakota, almost all of whom were killed or forcibly removed from the state.
Southern Minnesota was the site of the Dakota/Sioux War which ended with the Dakota losing their land. Stoesz says the Dakota regard the land as something special, as a brother, a member of the family.
To get the word out about the land recovery project, Stoesz is spending the months of September and October riding his bicycle across southern Minnesota, visiting the county seats of 40 counties. He started Sept. 3 in his hometown of Mountain Lake, in Cottonwood County.
Faribault County is number 38 on his list. He stopped at the Faribault County Register office last Wednesday afternoon. Stoesz has just Martin and Watonwan counties left on his itinerary, which he will finish up by the time this issue of the Register comes out.
Stoesz has a special reason for choosing Watonwan County as his final destination. He will end his 1,900 mile ride at his grandfather's farm.
"The farm was recently sold, after being in my family since 1874," Stoesz says. "It was settled by my great-grandfather who bought the land from the railroad."
Stoesz is giving his share of the sale of the farm to a non-profit organization called Oyate Nipi Kte (The People Shall Live). Their goal is to restore a land base for Dakota people near the Upper Sioux Agency by Granite Falls, Stoesz explains.
Since any kind of action by the state to restore land is probably not going to happen, Stoesz says this land recovery project is the next best option. Basically the plan is to raise money to purchase the land to have a site for those Dakota people who are 'in exile,' in places such as Minneapolis and Sioux Falls and farther out of state.
And, Stoesz adds, this project is going to happen. It is not just just a dream.
He says he has given 34 interviews on his trip and hopes that has translated into at least 30 stories appearing in print.
I guess you can count this one as No. 31.
So, for our readers who want to learn more about this land recovery project, visit the www.oyatenipikte.org website.