An attempt to stop dancing at Red Lake Reservation in 1916
On March 6, 1916, the Assistant Superintendent of the Minnesota Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a letter to the Superintendent of Red Lake Agency regarding a push to stop traditional dancing at the community of Ponemah (Obaashing). This passage is a stark example of how the government sought to limit the indigenous people of America from exercising their culture and to perpetrate cultural genocide against them…
Mr. Walter F. Dickens,
Supt. Red Lake School.
My dear Mr. Dickens:
Your letter dated February 8 reporting on the dance situation at the "Point" and in the vicinity of Mequom Bay has been received and contents carefully considered.
It is noted that at the Point the Indians danced for sixteen successive nights, after which they visited Mequom Bay where they danced for a few more nights, since which time there has been no dancing.
No doubt during the long winter months at Red Lake the Indians should be allowed to indulge in dancing to some extent providing that they limit this sort of amusement to a reasonable number of times during a month and indulge in only moral dances under the supervision of yourself or some official from your office. Sixteen dances in as many nights is overdoing this amusement, and you are requested to advise Be-oonce and Ah-zhe-day-ke-shig, who appear to be the leaders in this pastime, that hereafter the dance situation on your reservation will be regulated by permits issued from your office. Whenever the Indians desire to dance, they should obtain your permission to hold such a dance and you should be able to exercise discretion as to the number of dances you think would be advisable to allow hold on your reservation.
It is suggested that you go over this matter thoroughly with the Indians and explain the views of the Office, showing them that it is for their own good that such instructions are issued and that form of amusement are a benefit to persons only when they are indulged in to a limited extent.
A report on the action taken by you is desired.
Very truly yours,
Indian Office Files, 1916, US Department of Interior
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities