AS AN AGENCY, THE DNR, IT SEEMS, SHOULD’VE LEARNED LONG AGO that pleasing everyone is an impossible proposition. Kind of a nature-of-the-beast thing. Because we have different opinions doesn’t mean we can’t still get along. At least that’s how it should be.
About a week ago, a longtime conservation leader in this state and I talked about a number of issues outdoor- and DNR-related. We both admitted to being impatient people when it comes to agency initiatives and, well, getting things done.
Some things take time. I get that.
“We’re gonna do it right,” is a common refrain. But it also occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, the department that’s directed to care for our land and our water and our wildlife and fish, is too often
distracted from that mission. I offer this example, courtesy of another longtime conservationist who brought it to my attention.
There is a newsletter, produced by the DNR, to promote state parks and
trails. It’s called the Trailblazer. A recent Trailblazer story spoke of
gratitude. I’m all for gratitude. It’s sorely missing these days. The
headline stated “thank you” in a variety of languages. A follow-up
email, however, offered this: “Apologies are as important as gratitude.”
What could this be? Here’s what it said, in part.
“Yesterday we sent out the latest issue of the Trailblazer newsletter with a theme of gratitude. Today I’m sharing with you our deep regret for
unintentionally omitting wópida, which is the Dakota word for ‘thank
you,’ from what we had intended to be an inclusive message of thanks.
With that omission, we failed to represent the Dakota people. It is
commonly stated that the Dakota people are invisible in their own
homeland. This incident demonstrates the truth in that statement.
“Mni Sota is the birthplace of the Dakota people, who have been here for
many centuries and continue to play a significant role. It was brought
to our attention that the omission of Dakota language in our newsletter
felt like a form of erasure, which is something the Dakota people have
experienced in multiple ways. With this email, we want to acknowledge
this truly regrettable omission and apologize to all Dakota people and
all readers of the Trailblazer.”
The email continued for another two paragraphs and was signed by Ann Pierce, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.
Thoughts run through my head. One, how much time was spent crafting this apology/response while other responsibilities were put on hold? Two, who took the time to notice that the Dakota word for “thank you” wasn’t
And further, when might an agency, or whomever, realize that full “inclusion” is an impossibility? Wouldn’t it be easier and more efficient to simply view outdoor consumers, the DNR’s constituents, as one?
Meanwhile, DNR field workers – those who truly put a face on the agency for the general public – wonder for months who their new bosses might be
(regional managers recently hired). Deer hunters (and some agency folks)
express concerns about wolf management (still in federal hands).
Finding ways to pay for the outdoors in the future has become a six-year
But there’s time for an apology email of this sort. Distracted? Maybe just a bit.