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Minneapolis dedicates Dakota artwork at Bde Maka Ska

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A decorative railing symbolizing generosity and farming
A decorative railing symbolizing generosity and farming is part of a public installation of Dakota artwork at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It was dedicated on Saturday. The railing is located on the southeast shore of the lake.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Dakota artwork is part of a public gathering space dedicated Saturday in Minneapolis along Bde Maka Ska.

The art honors a Dakota village from the 1830s that was next to the lake, also known as Lake Calhoun. Minneapolis city officials said the idea was to acknowledge the first people to call the area home.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board held Saturday's official dedication ceremony along the southeast shore of the lake. Artists and descendants of the Dakota who lived along Bde Maka Ska stood before dozens of people to pray in the gathering space where the artwork is featured.

Sidewalk stamps of animals with their Dakota names
Sidewalk stamps of animals with their Dakota names are part of Dakota artwork at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, as seen on Saturday.
Nina Moini | MPR News

"My work has always been focused on lessening the invisibilty of Dakota people in Dakota homeland," said media artist Mona Smith, who oversaw a website to accompany the artwork along the lake. "This does that."

The park board said the idea to recognize the Dakota village that existed next to Bde Maka Ska was discussed for years before recent controversy and debate over the name of the lake. 

The artwork dedicated Saturday is a collaboration involving three Twin Cities-based artists — Smith, Sandy Spieler and Angela Two Stars. Their work honors Mahpíya Wičhášta (Cloud Man) and Heyáta Otúŋwe (Village to the Side), the Dakota leader and community that inhabited the area in the 1830s.

Two Stars created pavement stamps depicting plants and animals significant to the Dakota, along with Dakota words and phrases. She said her medium is printmaking, so it was a natural process for her.

Filmmaker and activist Syd Beane (left)
Filmmaker and activist Syd Beane (left) led a ceremony on Saturday at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, to dedicate works of Dakota art. Speakers at the ceremony spoke about the need to preserve and recognize Dakota culture.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Two Stars' work focuses on Dakota language revitalization.

"The sidewalk stamps are visual image of animals and plants and then the Dakota word," she said, "so non-speakers can still connect the language to what it is they are seeing."

Spieler created the overall railing design highlighting crops grown and harvested at the village. Spieler said she wanted to show the generosity of the Dakota.

"This is still Dakota homeland," Spieler said.

Smith's accompanying website — BdeMakaSka.net — provides more information on people, places and projects related to Dakota culture.