BEMIDJI - In October 1850, the United States government failed to supply promised provisions to the Ojibwe Anishinaabe settled on Madeline Island in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands.
U.S. government officials told the approximately 3,000 band members that they had to trek to Sandy Lake, Minn., to receive their allotments. But on arrival, they again found few supplies to sustain them. During the long walk, according to Wisconsin history.com, an estimated 400 Ojibwe died of malnutrition and exposure.
"Like our own Trail of Tears in Minnesota," said Rev. Darrell Auginash, a Red Lake Nation member and nondenominational minister now residing in rural Bemidji.
In response to what he calls "unresolved grief" relating to the Sandy Lake Tragedy and other inherited injustices, Auginash will lead walkers from Sandy Lake to the Duluth area, retracing the trail in a Walk of Forgiveness: Breaking the Cycle of Historical Trauma.
"I had, like, a dream, a vision of finding a different way to start healing our nation, our people," Auginash said. "I couldn't find any other way but offering forgiveness. When we offer forgiveness, we're breaking curses off."
The walk will begin at 9 a.m. Friday at the Sandy Lake Campground with a dedication ceremony and signing of "The Covenant of Forgiveness of The First Nations People, The Anishinaabe Ojibwe." Auginash and his wife, Corinne, developed the covenant from biblical principles taken from the Old Testament and New Testament scriptures.
Auginash said everyone is welcome to join the ceremony and walk, which will overnight Friday at Sawyer, Minn., Saturday at Jay Cooke State and Sunday at Redcliff, Wis., Youth Center. For more information, contact Auginash at 586-3334 or AuginashMinistries@gmail.com.
"There have been a lot of walks, but most of them have been protests," Auginash said. "This is not a protest. You're setting yourself free - you're offering forgiveness to those who have wronged you, and that sets them free. Regardless of how they treated us, we're going to forgive them."
Auginash said part of his inspiration for the walk to forgive those who caused generations of unresolved grief among his people came from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In 2008, Harper publicly apologized to First Nations people for requiring them in past generations to leave their families and move to boarding schools far from home. In several languages during his speech, Harper said, "We are sorry."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in 2010, "Apology to Native Peoples of the United States," offering a similar statement, but, Auginash said, President Barack Obama has yet to endorse the measure. Auginash said he planned in the next year or two to take the Covenant of Forgiveness to Washington, D.C., to see if the president would sign on.
Auginash said his Christian faith also is an inspiration: God forgives people and people forgive each other, even if the forgiven ones fail to accept their fault. "If you don't acknowledge it, that's your problem," he said.
"May the First Nations people take the lead in offering forgiveness," Auginash said of the theme of the walk.
When forgiveness succeeds, Auginash concluded, the earth will be healed and return to prosperity, families will become whole and people will live harmoniously.