History of Native Americans in Minneapolis: Draft Now Available, Public Meeting Set

The City of Minneapolis has released the first part of a new report on Native American history in the Minneapolis area. It focuses on Native American history here prior to the arrival of Europeans and the conflicts that arose immediately after.

  • The city is hosting a public hearing to take comments on Part I of the research, Tuesday, June 28, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, 2300 15th Ave. S.

The second part of the report is scheduled for release July 1. It will focus on the history of Native American in Minneapolis in the 20th Century. A second public hearing will be scheduled to get comments on that draft. Watch the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation website for details.

Work on this report started only a few months ago and it has been on the fast track. We wrote about this research in a March 9 post titled: Telling Minneapolis’ Hidden Native American History: A Difficult Road Ahead. It reported on an initial public meeting at All My Relations Gallery in which the city announced the project. At the time, Native American audience members seemed both encouraged that the research was getting done, and skeptical, since no Native Americans were involved in doing the research.

Members of more than 36 Native nations live in Minneapolis today. The report’s stated goals is to “provide a preservation context for the Native American experience in Minneapolis.” It was developed to evaluate historic resources, with an emphasis on “the identification of places, buildings, structures, people, and events that illustrate Native American life within Minneapolis.”

Part I of the report includes a lot of non-Minneapolis specific stuff to set the context. For instance, it rehashes the scientific classifications  archeologists use to discuss the state’s first peoples. The report talks about Paleoindians (c. 11,200 -7,500 B.C.), Archaic (c. 7500 – 500 B.C.) and Woodlands (1000 B.C. – 1750 A.D.) As I understand it, the Dakota have one word for them: Ancestors.

The report has a moving passage about how local Native Americans were affected by European settlement before settlers even started arriving.

Long before direct contact with EuroAmerican explorers occurred in the late 1600s, the Native people of the Minneapolis region had already begun to experience profound changes in their way of life. Many tribes suffered significant mortality as foreign disease spread across the continent well in advance of direct contact. Increased inter-tribal territorial disputes and warfare also resulted in loss of life as a wave of displaced populations that had begun on the east coast pushed westward forcing relocated Native groups to in turn dislocate other Native American tribes from their traditional lands.

Of particular interest, the report includes a map of Minneapolis with an overlay showing Dakota and Ojibwe place names. Based on original General Land Office (GLO) survey maps from the 1840s and 1850s, the map also shows the principal trails and portage sites in Minneapolis at the time. (See page 11 of the report or page 15 of the PDF.)

The city received federal funding to do the research and hired Two Pines Research to do it. Questions about the project should be directed to city staff: Christine McDonald Native American Community Specialist, at 612-849-2386, or John Smoley, City Planner, at 612-673-2830.

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