SKOL! It’s Columbus Day in Minnesota.
My Minnesota ancestors (pictured below) arrived in Minnesota in the mid to late 19th century, hailing from Scotland, Norway and the Austr0-Hungarian Empire. OK we were probably Bohemians but no one likes to admit that.
Others that stayed mostly in the east came from the Netherlands and England—well before the colonies were established. There is even a little Italian in the mix.
My Great+ Grandfather McKay who was born in Scotland fought with the British Army during the American Revolution. Family lore has it that he “thought the Americans had it right.” Damn straight. So somehow, he arranged to stay. The McKays, originally settled in New York, made their way west, stopping in Wisconsin before thriving as merchants in Redwood Falls near and amongst the Lower Sioux Lakota people.
I still don’t know what Lars and Karen Knutson Heiam from Norway did in Duluth, except have a bunch of sons and daughters, because being Norwegian, they didn’t like to talk about it.
My Bohemian relatives, the Zrusts, were lace makers in Waconia. One of their sons married a McKay; then their daughter married a son of Norway after he returned from fighting in WWI.
And I am grateful that they all came, and stayed in Minnesota.
When I visited Redwood Falls a few years ago, I heard stories about the terrible clashes between farmers, townspeople and the Lakota Sioux. There is a reservation, a separate nation, there (Lower Sioux) to this day.
I guess we have not fully worked all this out, hence the troubling reservation system and the condescending “Indigenous People’s Day’ declared by our state’s liberal ruling elite.
We live in the “I am bending over so far that I have fallen and can’t get up politically correct Minnesota.” It is one thing to critically examine our unvarnished history. It is another thing to white-wash the history of the very indigenous people we seek to respect. Or to teach children at school that white people are bad because Columbus sailed the ocean blue with his 15th century attitude.
I make no apologies for being here, and feel no need whatsoever to defend or critique Christopher Columbus, or to figure out whether my ancestors were more or less cruel or terrifying warriors, historically speaking, than the Lakota and Ojibwe they came to live amongst in Minnesota.
I happily celebrate the discovery of the Americas (Columbus never set foot in North America) and the great experiment in self-government that has thrived in North America these several centuries.
By the way, everybody who knows anything knows that the Norwegians discovered North America 500 years before Columbus.
We just don’t like to talk about it.