Native American History in the Minneapolis Area: An Update

An upcoming survey on Native American history in Minneapolis will include everything from precolonial history to the birth of the American Indian Movement here.
An upcoming survey on Native American history in Minneapolis will include everything from precolonial history to the birth of the American Indian Movement here.

Efforts to tell the 13,000 year history of Native Americans in what is now Minneapolis took another step forward, with researchers releasing a draft chapter.

Researchers from Two Pines Resource Group are still doing interviews and collecting information, but the project is on a short timeline. They are looking for information on the places, spaces, people and history important to Native peoples in the area. This includes sacred places, information on culture and arts, language revitalization, politics and activism, religious organizations, and Native American “firsts,” such as the first elected officials. All that and more will be included in their study.

The city held a public meeting Tuesday, April 12, at the Minneapolis American Indian Center to continue getting community feedback. (We wrote about this research effort in an earlier blog.)

The crowd was small, perhaps a dozen to 15 people, but participants gave important feedback, even on the small but important word choices. For instance, the researchers were asked to change the title for Chapter 6, “Broken Treaties, Conflict and Eviction (1852-1862)” to “Broken Treaties, Conflict and Exile (1852-1862).” They were asked to change Chapter 7: “From Reservation to Assimilation (1863-1933)” to “From Reservation to Forced Assimilation (1863-1933).

Some people asked that the researches use the place names commonly used in the Native American community. For instance, people would refer to East Phillips Park as “Cockroach Park,” to Franklin as “The Avenue,” and to Little Earth as “The Projects.”

People discussed including the history of particularly traumatic events, such as the serial killing of Native American women in the 1980s,  or a 1993 incident in which two intoxicated Native American men were handcuffed, thrown into the trunk of a squad car, and driven to a hospital. People also asked for a timeline of the positive changes that had come to “The Avenue” in response to such troubling events.

The sample chapter the researchers released is not that revealing. It is the draft of Chapter 3: “First People in the Minneapolis Area.” They chose this as the first chapter since most of the research was done and it was the easiest to write. It puts the earliest occupation in what is now Minneapolis in the Paleoindian era, starting around 11,200 BCE. The chapter notes the following:

To date, less than 15 Native American heritage archaeological sites have been recorded within the city and an additional seven site leads reported. While
development has destroyed or obscured many features associated with the initial Native American occupants of Minneapolis such as mounds, earthworks, habitation sites, and traditional cultural properties, archaeological and cultural resource investigations have demonstrated the continued preservation of heritage sites particularly near the Mississippi River, its tributary streams, and the chain of lakes

The researchers have added an additional chapter to their draft titled “Minneapolis Indigenous Cultural Landscape.” They are developing a map of Minneapolis with a number of the original Dakota place names. (The map is not ready for release yet.)

If you have something you would like the researchers to know about Native American history in the Minneapolis area, including contemporary issues, call or email city staff soon:

Smoley said the complete report would be ready by late May. A public meeting to comment on a final draft is tentatively scheduled for May 21.

The Two Pines Resource Group researchers are Eva B. Terrell and Michelle M. Terrell. One of both of them have been involved in previous Traditional Cultural Property studies on Wakan Tipi (Carver’s Cave), Oheyawahe (Pilot Knob Hill) and Mni Owe Sni (Coldwater Spring).

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