They are our history.
They tell things about us a nation, a state and a community. They shaped our growth and development. The treaties of the 1800s, for instance, represent the hard, some say impossible, choices that the federal government forced Dakota and Ojibwe to make as their traditional way of life ended.
Treaties also are our future.
They go beyond history because they are living documents. They govern what we do here and now. Look no further than the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which comes out of those treaties and confirms tribal rights to conduct gaming. The Prairie Island Indian Community’s Treasure Island Resort & Casino — Goodhue County’s largest employer — is a direct result.
The exhibit “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” helps explain these documents and their impact. The 20 banners on display at the Goodhue County History Center through July 6 feature text, images, maps and photos. There also is a short video.
Most Red Wing-area residents know that the community gets its name from former Dakota chiefs. But residents may not realize how those and other chiefs’ decisions to cede vast tracts of land shape our relationship with this land today.
“Why Treaties Matter” comes courtesy of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, Minnesota Humanities Center and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Those three entities agreed in August 2010 to develop this exhibit as an educational tool for our state.
This particular stop on the tour makes especially good use of the community-based concept behind exhibit. Local organizers and sponsors have personalized and broadened it in several ways:
• The exhibit and Red Wing Arts Association’s “Visions and Viewpoints: Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe People” coincide. That display continues through June 24 at the Depot Gallery.
• At 7 p.m. today, Clifford Canku will present “Letters from the Fort Snelling Internment Camp” at the history center. The college professor and researcher has translated letters from warriors of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
• Ron Schirmer will present “How Treaties Changed Traditional Lifeways” at 7 p.m. Tuesday June 19 the history center. The archeologist is known for his work here each summer.
By knowing where we’ve been, we gain a better understanding of where we’re going. By learning about the documents that continue to shape us we can build a more vibrant Minnesota.