Today the Minnesota Historical Society’s department of Native American Initiatives
announced a new permanent exhibit that will focus on Native Americans in
Minnesota slated to open in fall 2019 at the Minnesota History Center. The
exhibit will feature the history of the Ojibwe and Dakota, from ancient to
contemporary works, and recognize the Ho-Chunk legacy in Minnesota. Using
Western research methodologies and Native cultural stories, the depth and
breadth of the MNHS collection and archives, this new gallery will guide
visitors through the stories of Minnesota’s first inhabitants, their history,
cultural traditions and what it means to live here.
The exhibit is just one of many projects being undertaken by
the new Native American Initiatives department. Created in December 2016, the
department is charged with developing and implementing a strategy for Native
American programs and services in collaboration with Native American
communities throughout the state and beyond. MNHS hopes this collaboration will
result in programs that better represent and honor Native American peoples,
stories and experiences at MNHS historic sites and museums.
MNHS hired Joe Horse Capture to serve as director of the new
department. Horse Capture is a member of the A’aninin tribe of Montana and has
worked as a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in
Washington, D.C., and at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
“Cultural institutions are in a unique position to
collaborate with Native communities to better share their rich stories,
especially since many institutions have the objects their Ancestors created,”
he said. “As stewards of this cultural material, it is our obligation to work
with Native communities as partners to share these stories and history with a
diverse audience. This type of partnership can be very profound.”
Horse Capture is joined by two outreach and program
managers. Kate Beane is a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South
Dakota and works primarily with Dakota communities. She holds a Ph.D. in
American studies from the University of Minnesota. Mattie Harper is a member of
the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and works primarily with Ojibwe communities. She
holds a Ph.D. in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley and
was a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
The Native American Initiatives department works closely
with the Indian Advisory Committee (IAC), which has provided input and guidance
on MNHS activities and initiatives related to Minnesota and Native American
history for more than 25 years. The IAC is made up of tribally appointed
representatives from each of Minnesota's 11 federally recognized tribes and
at-large members. With input from a variety of sources including the IAC and
MNHS staff, the Native American Initiatives department will focus on how to
further develop relationships with Native American communities.
The department is also charged with managing historic sites
and museums with Native American interpretive content at three sites: Mille
Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, Jeffers
Petroglyphs and Lower
Dakota Community Council
One of the department’s first initiatives has been the creation of a Dakota
Community Council (DCC), known as a wi’wahokichiyapi or partnership, made up of
Dakota members from Minnesota and surrounding states. The DCC’s objective is to
ensure that Dakota people, history, perspectives and homelands are honored and
sustained at MNHS properties within an area defined by the first treaty between
the United States and the Dakota people in 1805.
The DCC and other stakeholder groups are collaborating with
MNHS on the revitalization
of Historic Fort Snelling, which includes a restoration of the landscape to
include indigenous plants and medicines, renovating two historic buildings into
a visitor center and orientation space, and presenting a new interpretive plan
that tells the many complex histories of the area. Historic Fort Snelling is
located at Bdote near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers
which is sacred homeland to the Dakota.
“This is an important milestone for MNHS,” said D. Stephen
Elliott, director and CEO of MNHS. “The DCC partnership will support lasting educational
opportunities for Dakota people and MNHS to create ecological landscapes,
define land accessibility, incorporate Dakota language and increase
understanding that the site is Dakota homeland by Dakota sharing their own
Regular meetings between the DCC and MNHS will be scheduled
through the end of the Historic Fort Snelling revitalization project in June
2020, at which time the partnership will be updated and renewed to continue
The Native American Initiatives team is looking into
forming an Ojibwe community council.
Grand Mound Historic Site
Another major focus of the Native American Initiatives department is to gather
community feedback about how to preserve for the future the Grand
Mound historic site located near International Falls. MNHS closed the site
in 2002 following a steep reduction in state funding.
For more than 2,000 years, Grand Mound has been a regional
monument, sacred place and burial site. Many indigenous peoples have had
cultural relationships with this place, including the A’aninin, Assiniboine,
Blackfeet, Cree, Dakota, Ojibwe and others. Today the descendants of these
people live across Minnesota and outside the state.
To honor the history of the site and its relevance to many
people, MNHS is expanding community outreach—building on work already done
within Koochiching County and with the Rainy River First Nations in Canada.
MNHS is seeking input from additional Native nations and communities, including
those whom researchers believe are the direct descendants of the people who
built the mounds. Outreach will continue through spring 2018 with a preliminary
report expected by summer.
About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural
institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story
of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections,
historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of
history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories
and connects people with history.
The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its
Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.