Glossary of Terms, Historical Biographies

Lily Denehy, Izzy Gravano, and Margaret Moran


This glossary is a reference for terms used throughout this issue; it is not, however, a perfect dictionary. Many of the following terms are colonial English terms assigned to indigenous concepts, groups and structures. Some have disputed meanings and are defined differently by different sources.

Anishinaabe: A group of linguistically and culturally related indigenous peoples in North America. The Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree and Algonquin peoples are all Anishinaabe.

Band: Often used to describe a group of indigenous people that has land, receives funding from the government and has the authority to self-government.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): The BIA, responsible for management and administration of indigenous lands, is today located within the U.S. Department of the Interior. It includes justice services, Indian services, trust services and 12 regional offices. The Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs is appointed by the President.

Cultural Genocide: In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission defined the term as “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group.”

Dakota/Nakota/Lakota: A family of related languages. Dakota/Nakota/Lakota are often used to identify The Očhéthi Šakówiņ Oyáte, or People of the Seven Council Fires — a confederacy of allied bands of Dakota/Lakota/Nakota people. The confederacy consists of four Dakota-speaking bands, the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton and Wahpekute, two Nakota-speaking bands, the Yankton and Yanktonai, and one Lakota-speaking band, the Teton. The four Dakota bands historically lived in central and southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Macalester College is located on the historic homelands of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands.

Forced Displacement: According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, forced displacement refers to “the forced movement of people from their locality or environment and occupational activities… caused by a number of factors.”

Genocide: The United Nations defines genocide as “killing members of a group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Ho-Chunk Nation: A group of indigenous people whose historic territory includes parts of what are now Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. Often referred to as Winnebago, a misnomer derived from the Algonquian language family that refers to the marsh lands of the region.

Indian Agent: Liaisons between the U.S. federal government and groups of indigenous people. A range of local government officials replaced these agents at the beginning of the 20th century.

Mni Sóta Makoce: The Dakota phrase from which “Minnesota” is derived.

Mni Wiconi: The Dakota phrase meaning “water is life,” or “water is alive,” which was popularized across the modern U.S. during the #NoDAPL protests in 2016 and 2017.

Ojibwe: An indigenous language of the Algonquian language family in North America, used among the Anishinaabe peoples. The term “Ojibwe” is often used interchangeably with the term “Anishinaabe” to describe the bands of indigenous peoples who have historically resided in territory in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as southern Manitoba and Ontario.

Sioux: A pejorative name often used to refer to Dakota people. The name “Sioux” comes from the neighboring Ojibwe, historically a military rival, who called the Dakota nadoueissiw (snakes). French traders shortened the word to Sioux.

Sovereign Indigenous Nation: Ideas of nation and nationhood are a European, colonial construct forced upon indigenous peoples across the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. The U.S. government treated tribes of indigenous peoples as sovereign nations, and negotiated treaties with them accordingly. The U.S. government has long viewed indigenous nations as “domestic dependent nations” that are not actually fully independent. For many indigenous people, sovereignty means the ability to manage their own affairs. The Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians defines it as “the right for tribes to make their own laws and be governed by them.” Many sovereign indigenous nations have governmental structures resembling state or county bureaucracies, with their own elected government, civil service and law enforcement. There are 573 federally-recognized sovereign indigenous nations. According to the National Congress of American Indians, they are “variously called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities and native villages.”

Superintendent of Indian Affairs: A role first created by Congress in 1786. Within each regional office of the BIA, there are agencies that consolidate services for groups of indigenous people. Each agency is overseen by a superintendent who is charged with distributing services within the specific agency.

Treaties: The U.S. negotiated and ratified approximately 368 treaties with indigenous nations between 1777 and 1868. Those treaties are legally binding and still in effect. Treaties are essential to understanding how the modern U.S. was created and how its land and natural resources were obtained.

Tribe: A tribe is comprised of a number of bands that are politically integrated and may share a language, religious beliefs and other aspects of culture. The phrase Tribal Nation is used interchangeably with the phrase sovereign indigenous nation. Similarly, many use the phrase “tribal sovereignty” to denote that, according to the National Congress of American Indians, tribes have “the ability to govern and to protect and enhance the health, safety and welfare of tribal citizens within tribal territory.


Taoyateduta (Little Crow) was born in 1810 in Kaposia — now known as Saint Paul. A member of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota People, he was the chief of the town of Kaposia. His Dakota name translates roughly to “His Red Nation.” Taoyateduta was a negotiator and signed the Treaty of Mendota in 1851, under which the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute people ceded all of their remaining land in Minnesota. In 1857, when the U.S. government motioned to take half of the land the Dakota had been forcibly relocated to, Taoyateduta traveled to Washington D.C. to negotiate a new treaty. Under overwhelming pressure from the government, he eventually —  and reluctantly — signed the treaty. Taoyateduta served as a leader of the Dakota people during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, and he was killed by a settler on July 3, 1863. His scalp was displayed at the Minnesota Historical Society before his remains were finally put to rest in 1971.

Wakan Ozanzan shared the English name Medicine Bottle with his uncle Chief Waukan Ojanjan (Medicine Bottle). Wakan Ozanzan was born in Minnesota in 1831. He was a member of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota and was a leader of his people through the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. After the U.S.-Dakota War, he avoided capture — and, in April of 1863, escaped to Canada with fellow Dakota leader Sakpedan. In 1864, the men were drugged, kidnapped and forced back to Minnesota where they faced trial at Fort Snelling. Former Territorial Governor Willis A. Gorman defended Wakan Ozanzan, but he was ultimately found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged publicly at Fort Snelling alongside Sakpedan at noon on Nov. 11, 1865.

Alexander Ramsey, born in Pennsylvania in 1815, came to Minnesota in 1849 to serve as superintendent of Indian affairs. He was the first territorial governor of Minnesota, and negotiated the 1851 Treaties of Mendota and Traverse des Sioux. He was later elected the second governor of Minnesota in 1860. The Mdewakanton and Wahpekute Bands ceded 14 million acres of land in the Treaty of Mendota, while the Sissteon and Wahpeton Bands ceded 21 million acres in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.  Macalester College occupies land ceded in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.  The U.S. Congress investigated Ramsey on allegations of fraud connected to these treaties, but he was ultimately acquitted. He was a friend of Neill and served as one of the first trustees for the Baldwin School. Ramsey advocated the genocide of the Dakota people, speaking to the Minnesota legislature in a special session during the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862, “Our course, then, is plain. The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State.” Ramsey presided over the execution of 39 Dakota prisoners who were never tried and sentenced in a sham military tribunal. Macalester is located in Ramsey County, named in his honor, as is Ramsey Middle School on Grand Ave.

Josiah Snelling, born in Boston in 1783, made his name constructing and commanding a military outpost at the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The finished building was built in 1819. Initially named Fort St. Anthony, it was renamed in Snelling’s honor in 1825. Fort Snelling is the first permanent U.S. government outpost in what is now Minnesota. While he was stationed at Fort St. Anthony, according to the Minnesota Historical Society, Snelling was “tasked with keeping unauthorized people off Dakota and Ojibwe land so the fur trade could continue — until the land could be acquired through treaties.” Keeping the peace between the clashing Dakota and Ojibwe peoples allowed the fur trade along the rivers to prosper without interference. Between 15 and 30 slaves were stationed at Fort Snelling at any given time to work for the army officers, fur traders and government officials at the fort. Snelling personally rented slaves and purchased two female slaves, Louisa and Mary, in 1827. Snelling returned to Washington D.C. in failing health later that year and died the following summer.

The Baldwin School, located in St. Paul, was established by Edward Neill with money from Philadelphia aristocrat Matthias W. Baldwin in 1853. The Baldwin School is the precursor to Macalester College. When it opened, the school enrolled 125 students, including both men and women, educated separately. In 1864, the Baldwin School was renamed Baldwin University. Baldwin University adopted the assets, rights and privileges originally granted to the College of St. Paul, another school established by Neill. After the charter of Macalester College in 1874, the Baldwin School operated as its preparatory department. Professors from Macalester taught classes at the Baldwin School, and many of its students went on to study at the College. In 1885, the Baldwin School co-educated, eight years before Macalester College did, and was renamed Macalester Academy.

William R. Marshall, born in 1825 in Missouri, served as governor of Minnesota from 1866–1870. Prior to his tenure as governor, Marshall was a member of the first Wisconsin and the first Minnesota state legislatures. He was also a founding trustee of the Baldwin School, the precursor to Macalester College, founded by Edward Neill. Marshall was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. On Nov. 7, 1862, Marshall led 1,658 Dakota women and children prisoners on a death march to Fort Snelling, where they spent the winter in a concentration camp. They were viciously attacked by settlers on the march. More than 300 died in the camp. Later, Marshall founded the newspaper now known as the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He died in 1896 in Pasadena, Calif.

Charles Lindbergh, born in Michigan in 1902, grew up in Minnesota and fought in World War I. In 1927, Lindbergh rose to international fame when he made the first non-stop solo flight between New York City and Paris. Lindbergh was a virulent anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer. During the period before and during World War II, he served as a spokesperson for the America First Committee — an anti-Semitic organization dedicated to keeping America out of World War II. In an infamous speech at an America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Lindbergh told his audience that a massive Jewish conspiracy was threatening the U.S. and its allies. Lindberg’s contemporaries said he was pro-Nazi and was working to create a Nazi party in the United States. Politicians such as Rep. Luther Patrick (D-Ala.) drew comparisons between Lindbergh and Adolf Hitler. Lindbergh died in 1974.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born in New Jersey in 1906. She married Charles Lindbergh in 1929. After the high-profile kidnapping and murder of her newborn son in 1932, Lindbergh became a renowned writer. Her 1940 book, “The Wave of the Future,” ignited controversy and backlash: in it, she asserts that fascism and totalitarianism are inalterable facts of the future and urges the United States to avoid involvement in World War II. Walter Ross said in his biography of Charles Lindbergh that the book “made the crimes of the Nazis seem to bulk no larger than the inadequacies of the democracies.” Reviewer Robert Woolbert called the book “even more destructive than the mechanistic approach to life expounded by her husband.” In a letter to her mother written while attending the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Lindbergh also wrote that Hitler was “a very great man, like an inspired religious leader — and as such rather fanatical — but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power.’’ Lindbergh died in 2001.

This glossary is part of the Mac Weekly’s special reporting project, Colonial Macalester. Read the entire issue here.