The councils of Dakota Plains First Nation and the City of Portage la Prairie will convene for a historic Reconciliation Ceremony and Special Council Meeting this week. The event will be held at the Arbor in Dakota Plains on Wednesday, June 26th at 4:00 pm. 

The gathering marks an important milestone in acknowledging and addressing the historical injustices faced by the Dakota people, specifically those enacted by Portage City Council.

Councillor Ryan Espey explains that in 1911, the council passed a resolution that led to the removal of Dakota people from city limits. The decision, driven by racial prejudice, was designed to exclude members of the first nation community. 

Espey says truth and reconciliation is a priority for council, and for that reason they have sought out the opportunity to acknowledge and formally apologize for past council actions. "This is maybe the first truly meaningful step that a city council has taken toward reconciliation or to build relationships with our neighbors and the Indigenous community. Some of this history is going to be hard to hear, but it did happen, it's a blemish on the history of the city of Portage la Prairie and this is an effort to try to make things right."

Espey says the decision to hold the ceremony and meeting at Dakota Plains was an intentional one, made after collaborating with members of the first nation.

"You can't just say someone is welcome to come and then wait for them to come. Sometimes you have to meet people where they are, and I think it means a lot more to other people when you show up to do things so far outside of what is normal for you. I think it's an important gesture that we as a council go there."

Part of the event will include a resolution to rename a green space on Island Park, "Dakota Oyate Park," which translates to Dakota People. The park will feature a commemorative plaque intended to educate present and future generations. 

After 14 years as a city councillor, Espey highlights the significance of this event. "There are certain moments in time that you go through during this process that really define you as a council and maybe define a career as a city councillor." He says re-visiting this moment in history is difficult, but important, "It's going to be hard, there's going to be a lot of language in there that just doesn't get used anymore because that's the way it was done. We're going to visit that motion of council and that decision that was made and we're going to talk about it." 

Espey encourages community members to attend the ceremony and learn more about the Dakota People. "I just want people to know that they're welcome to come out there. If you've never visited a first nations community, which is probably something that not many people in the city have done, this is an opportunity for you to come out and sit with some great people and learn about their history."

Those wishing to attend the ceremony can find directions to Dakota Plains here, the event will also be recorded and shared on the City of Portage la Prairie's Youtube channel