Recognizing Minnesota’s connection to the Indigenous people who lived here well before settlers came is key to understanding our heritage more completely. Recent efforts to educate about Native Americans’ ties to the land are another step in the right direction to accomplishing that feat.

A group of young Lakota from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota recently traveled to western Minnesota to take part in harvesting a buffalo. The event’s goal, with an animal provided by Sleepy Bison Acres of Sleepy Eye, was to further a youth organization’s mission to restore the American buffalo’s sacred role in Lakota history.

The Lakota reverence for the buffalo, with prayers and ceremony as an integral part of the harvest, and their resolve to eat or use the whole animal was part of the educational process used during the Dec. 5 event. Teaching youth about the hows and whys of their cultural traditions was made richer by having them take part in the experience.

And just north of south-central Minnesota in Shakopee, a new trail is being developed as a collaborative effort among the city, Scott County, the Scott County Historical Society, Three Rivers Park District and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community — a partnership known as the Shakopee Cultural Consortium.

Their goal is to make the Shakopee Riverfront Cultural Trail not only a draw to anyone visiting the area, but an educational opportunity to build understanding of Dakota culture and the land. The downtown segment is to connect to the existing Minnesota Valley State Trail.

Details of the 2½-mile trail plan aren’t finalized yet, but it is to highlight a Dakota village and early European settlement with the theme: “Many people, many paths, one river.” Kiosks along the way will feature artwork and written information, with the text to be provided in Dakota, English, Spanish and Somali.

Much of the emphasis of the new trail will be on the Dakota people who inhabited the region, often living along the banks of the Minnesota River. The group will be looking for about $7.3 million in state funding to help shore up the banks of the river to be able to complete the trail and make it accessible.

The project is one that will serve the state well, just as other efforts have, such as funding of the permanent Dakota exhibit at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter.

During the last couple of decades or so, great strides have been made to recognize the overall history of the state and the different voices that must be heard to make the story complete. Listening to those voices now and widely educating all Minnesotans about where we’ve come from enriches all who live here today.

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