Fort Snelling Conversations: Bdote Memory Map

Tomorrow, Thursday night, Mona Smith will discuss the Bdote Memory Map as part of the Fort Snelling Community Conversations. Smith (Dakota) created the Memory Map, an online effort to share Dakota expressions of relationship to place, in the area called the Twin Cities.

  • The event is Thursday, May 19, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Visitors Center at Fort Snelling State Park, 101 Fort Snelling Road (enter off of Post Road exit on Highway 5). The event is free, but click here to get tickets. Light refreshments provided.

This is part of larger informal lecture series and public engagement effort. The Minnesota Historical Society is preparing for a major overhaul of Fort Snelling in anticipation of the Forts’ 200th Anniversary in 2019. MHS has announced its intentions to do more truth telling about the Fort’s painful past and to engage the community in the process.

Dialogues are facilitated by Historic Fort Snelling staff members trained by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

For more information, see our earlier blog: Fort Snelling Community Conversations to Tell Painful History.

MPR: Poor American Indian graduation rates may have deep roots

MPR just published a story saying:”Minnesota ranks 45th in the nation in on time graduation rates for American Indian students.”

If you’re an American Indian student in Minnesota, your chances of graduating from high school in four years are lower than any other racial and ethnic group.

You’re also less likely to graduate on time than Indian students in nearly every other state in the country.

For the full story, see: Poor American Indian graduation rates may have deep roots.


Fort Snelling Community Conversations To Tell Painful History

The Minnesota Historical Society is preparing for a major overhaul of Fort Snelling in anticipation of the Forts’ 200th Anniversary in 2019. MHS has announced its intentions to do more truth telling about the Fort’s painful past and to engage the community in the process.

MHS has announced a series of monthly community conversations about Fort Snelling, May through October, on the third Thursday of each month. Guest speakers will give informal lectures on various topics about Fort Snelling’s history, and participants will engage in facilitated conversation about what that history means for us today. Dialogues will be facilitated by Minnesota Historical Society staff trained by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

The sessions will be held at different sites around the Twin Cities and run from from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Reservations are recommended. (Go to to learn more.)

Here are the four meetings announced so far in the community conversation series. More will be announced soon:

Continue reading

A Food Drive; An Indigenous Food Forest; A New Restaurant; and a Fort Snelling Redesign Update

Food Drive for St. Paul’s Native American Communities: Please Help

The Department of Indian Work of the Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul will be conducting an annual food drive during the month of March as part of Minnesota FoodShare. It is called: Generous Spirit Food Drive – if you and/or your group can contribute food or money it will be much appreciated. Click on the link for more details.

The Department of Indian Works addresses needs and issues in the American Indian community, respecting the cultural and spiritual diversity of the people it serves. It provides emergency services, diabetes education, and youth enrichment programs. Last year, its food shelf served more than 3,000 people.

Indigenous Food Forest Proposed for Hiawatha Area

Passing along what looks like an interesting proposal to create an Indigenous Food Forest on what is now the Hiawatha Golf Course in Minneapolis. Organizers will hold a workshop February 27th at Nokomis Community Center from 12-4 p.m. The organizers also have a website with more information as well as a petition.

Gatherings Cafe Adds Breakfast!

We reported recently on the opening of the Gatherings Cafe, offering lunch at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Ave. Another announcement just came in that it is now open for breakfast, too. The menu includes the blue corn wild rice waffle ($5), roasted sweet potato hash ($7) and various egg options. Breakfast runs 7-11 a.m. and lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fort Snelling Redesign Listening Sessions

Community meetings are scheduled for people to learn more about the Minnesota Historical Society’s plans to revitalize Historic Fort Snelling through upgraded facilities and interpretation. MHS is billing these events as a space for open community dialogue and collaboration. Representatives from MNHS will be in attendance to listen. Come and make your voice heard! The next sessions are:

  • Saturday, Feb. 20, 2-4 p.m. at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 E Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
  • Thursday, Feb. 25, 6-8 p.m. at Sabathani Community Center, 310 E 38th St., #200, Minneapolis
  • Friday, March 4, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 E Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

For more background, here is a post we wrote on an earlier listening session, or contact Rachel Abbott at the Historical Society,, or 651-259-3484.


The Fort Snelling Redesign: Will the Project Live Up to Promise?; Vizenor Speaks Out

(We are trying to increase the blog’s reach. Please share this those who care about these issues …. Thanks!)

The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) is seeking $34 million in state bonding money during the upcoming legislative session for what is expected to be its largest building project in the past quarter century: The Fort Snelling Redesign.

Fort Snelling 1844 (Photo from Wikipedia)
Fort Snelling 1844 (From Wikipedia)

It’s still early in the porcess. If MHS gets state funding, and if it raises another $12 million privately, the revamped Fort Snelling experience will be done by 2020, the Fort’s bicentennial.

The Historical Society is taking its design plans on the road to get public input. It wants to tear down the current visitors center, add an outdoor amphitheater, and rehab one of the old cavalry barracks to make an expanded visitor center and event space. Continue reading

A New Vision for Fort Snelling; Paiute Perspective on the Oregon Standoff; This Day in History: Indian Water Rights Protected

Fort Snelling will be undergoing a redesign and renovation in the next few years. SPIN and Healing Minnesota Stories believe the dialogue about the Fort’s past and future is relevant to interfaith dialogue in that the history of colonization and current/future healing of generational trauma in the indigenous communities are critical moral and religious matters.

The Minnesota Historical Society has three open houses scheduled in January where you can share your ideas, stories, and hopes for Fort Snelling. All events run 5:30-7:30 p.m.

More information is available online at Community Open Houses.

Remember the Paiute: A Different Perspective on the Malheur Refuge Takeover

By now, you probably have read several article about how Ammon Bundy and other domestic terrorists have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, protesting federal land ownership in the region. For a different take, check out the blog The Stranger, and its recent post: Required Reading: The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Was Taken Over Once Before, Back in the 19th Century. It gives the background on how settlers and ranchers — with the help of the federal government — forced the Paiute Indians off their traditional homelands more than a century ago.

But long before Ammon Bundy and his friends arrived, the Paiute people had lived in the Malheur Basin for thousands of years. The process by which natives were dispossessed of their homeland follows a pattern that took place all across the West: dehumanization, pillaging, war, murder, theft, and rip-offs.

The article includes a link to the Burns Paiute Tribe’s account how the tribe lost its land:

Settlers first moved into what is now Harney County as late as 1862, years after settlers poured into western Oregon. Cattlemen then quickly began to take land or buy up homesteads to run their huge herds of livestock over the land. The limits of the native ecology were severely stressed due to the grazing of livestock by the expanding foreign population and the increase in hunting and fishing by those same people. Resources depended upon by the Paiute people were depleted or destroyed. …

During these years the fighting between the Indians and the encroaching Whites became bitter, with the raids on wagon trains and army surveyors increasing. Punishing parties were sent out by the Whites to kill any Indian seen, whether man, woman or child. The Indians were fighting for their land, culture and their very lives.

This Day in History: Indian Water Rights Protected

On this day in history, Jan. 6, 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Winters v. United States established that water rights were necessary to the survival and self sufficiency of Native American tribes and their people.

According to Wikipedia’s summery, the case centered on Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, created in 1888. The language creating the reservation was silent about water rights to the Milk River. As more and more settlers moved to the area, they claimed water rights. The Court decision said since the reservations needed water to be self-sufficient, and the water rights were implied by the treaties that created reservations.

Memorial Set for Medicine Bottle’s 1865 Hanging on Nov. 11; This Day in History: Native American Languages Act of 1990

Many people know about the 38 Dakota men hung at Mankato, Dec. 26, 1862, following the Dakota-U.S. War, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Less well known are the two Dakota men — Medicine Bottle and Shakopee (aka Little Six) — who were hung at Fort Snelling nearly three years later for their participation in the war. They had fled to Canada but were kidnapped and handed over to U.S. authorities.

Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild, Medicine Bottle’s grandson, plans to hold a memorial for Medicine Bottle on the 150th anniversary of the hanging on Wednesday, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be held at Fort Snelling, near the car turnaround (where the hanging took place). (Note: Go to the Fort itself, not the visitor’s center area where the concentration camp remembrances are held.)

Also that week, Wolfchild will hold film screenings and lecture at the Fort Snelling Theater from Sunday to Tuesday (Nov. 8-10), noon – 4 p.m. He will show both his recently released documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code and a shorter documentary on the Mdewakanton Dakota creation story. Wolfchild will lecture on “Where did the bodies go?” reflections on his efforts to find Medicine Bottles remains. Research shows that the bodies of both Medicine Bottle and Shakopee were quickly unearthed and removed for medical research.

This Day in History: Native American Languages Act of 1990

On this day in history, October 30, 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act. According to Wikipedia: the act repudiated past policies of eradicating Indian Languages. The Act said that the United States “declares to preserve, protect and promote the rights and freedoms of Native Americans to use practice and develop Native American Languages”. Wikipedia goes on:

Congress found convincing evidence that student achievement and performance, community and school pride, and educational opportunity are clearly and directly tied to respect for, and support of, the first language of the child.

The Native American Language Act of 1990 has been a counterbalance to the English only movement and has been the catalyst for bilingual education on the reservations.


On-Line Petition Launched to Make MN Capitol Art More Welcoming; News Wrap

Healing Minnesota Stories has launched an on-line petition to state leaders with the self-explanatory title: Make the Minnesota State Capitol More Welcoming: Remove Offensive Art, Add Inspiring Art.

Please read the petition and, as you are moved, sign it and circulate it to your friends and networks.

The issue is coming to a head. As many of you know, the Minnesota State Capitol is undergoing a major renovation and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change. The Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission, a major decision-maker in this process, appointed an Art Subcommittee, charging it with making recommendations about current and future art. The issue has pretty much flown under the radar, but the Art Subcommittee’s Monday hearing drew a few reporters, including Channel 11, which filed this account: Panel Ponders Depictions of Dakota People at Capitol.

The Art Subcommittee will soon announce a series of statewide public hearings. These hearings will be the best opportunity for Native voices and other members of the public to be heard. Hearings are expected in Duluth, Bemidji, Mankato, Rochester and several in the metro areas. At the request of Rep. Dean Urdahl, another hearing could be added to west central Minnesota. These hearings could start as early as late October. We will publicize the details when they are made available.

The Art Subcommittee is expected to make preliminary recommendations in January. It’s final report will go to the full Capitol Preservation Commission.

For more information:

Fort Snelling Revamp: How Will the Impact on Native American History Be Told?

In a parallel story, Minnesota Public Radio reported this week that Fort Snelling will get a makeover in anticipation of its 200-year anniversary. (The project depends on state bonding support that will be sought during the upcoming legislative session.) Similar to the capitol renovation, the Fort Snelling project creates an opportunity to expand the traditional narrative.

MPR notes that Fort Snelling’s 1820 opening “marks the acceleration of Native American displacement and is known among the Dakota as the place where many Native Americans were imprisoned and later removed from their homes following the US-Dakota War of 1862.” It also the place where Dred Scott lived his case for freedom from slavery went to the Supreme Court in 1857.

The Fort Snelling renovation is another project to watch to see how some of the most troubling chapters of Minnesota history will be told.