A new exhibit takes a fresh look at the history of Native people in Minnesota

44th annual celebration at White Earth Reservation
Members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Dakota) and White Earth (Ojibwe) reservations have been gathering together in celebration since 1867, the year both reservations were established.
Randolph R. Johnson | Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Minnesota has long been home to many Native American tribes — Dakota, Ojibwe and other tribal nations. Making up less than 1 percent of the state population, however, Native Americans are often considered as the “most invisible” people in the land they’ve lived for thousands of years.

A new exhibit that opens at the Minnesota History Center this weekend showcases Minnesota’s Native American history from a slightly different angle — The focus is not on the conflicts and hardships that indigenous people have faced over the years. The exhibit, “Our Home: Native Minnesota,” highlights how Native people in Minnesota lived and continue to live their traditions, their resiliency and their connection to the land.

Kate Beane, director of Native American Initiatives at the Minnesota Historical Society and citizen of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe, said while talking about difficult topics is essential to putting things into context, she also wants the exhibit to focus on the beauty and power of what it means to be an indigenous person in Minnesota.

“When we talked to community members, one thing in particular that really spoke to us that we really heard was people wanted the general public to know that we're still here and that we not only survived, but that we're thriving,” she told MPR News host Angela Davis.

Beane and Mattie Harper DeCarlo, a senior historian at the Historical Society who is a citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, took the leading role in developing this exhibit with help from other Native colleagues at the Historical Society. DeCarlo said by creating this exhibit on the Native American culture, “we want Native people to feel like the Minnesota History Center is a space for us and it's a space for us to tell our history and our stories as well.”

“Native history is central to Minnesota history, and that's something Native people have understood for a long time,” DeCarlo said.

“Our Home: Native Minnesota” will feature historic photographs, videos of Native Americans telling their stories, maps and other artifacts highlighting the culture and history of Dakota, Ojibwe and other tribal nations in Minnesota.

It opens this Saturday at 10 a.m. and admission will be free on the opening day and $12 for adults and $6 for children age 5 and older after Saturday. Special events including Native music performances and traditional Native culture demonstrations will be also held on the opening day.

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