Historical Society seeks public input to rename Historic Fort Snelling

A sign at Fort Snelling on May 3, 2019.
A sign at Fort Snelling on May 3, 2019, using the Dakota word bdote, meaning the place where two waters meet.
Cody Nelson | MPR News file

The Minnesota Historical Society is looking for public input on the name of Historic Fort Snelling.

The area is Minnesota’s first National Historic Landmark and undergoing major renovations until 2022. It includes 23 acres of land adjacent to the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers — or Bdote in the Dakota language, which means the place where two waters meet.

The Historical Society’s executive director Kent Whitworth said the move to change the name is meant to help include history from various cultures that make up the state.

"When you do step back and say, ‘Wow, there's arguably 10,000 years of history here and how do we represent those stories in a name?'" said Whitworth. "As you look at this and other projects you realize every person's history matters and it's incumbent upon us to give those different perspectives voice.”

The Historical Society's efforts have included adding temporary signage at the site in 2017, reading "Fort Snelling at Bdote.” Some state lawmakers threatened to slash the organization’s funding because of the signs.

The Minnesota Historical Society governing board will select a name by early next year and hold public meetings and track online submissions until Nov. 15. The board’s recommendation still would have to be approved by the state Legislature.

The Historical Society said the area near the Minneapolis St. Paul airport should note the histories of “veterans and their families; enslaved and free African-Americans; Japanese-Americans; and Native Americans who have lived in the area for 10,000 years.”

The name of the restored 1820s fort structure will continue to be called Fort Snelling in state and federal records.

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