ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Historical Society’s department of Native American Initiatives announced a new permanent exhibit that will focus on Native Americans in Minnesota slated to open in fall 2019 at the Minnesota History Center. The exhibit will feature the history of the Ojibwe and Dakota, from ancient to contemporary works, and recognize the Ho-Chunk legacy in Minnesota. Using Western research methodologies and Native cultural stories, the depth and breadth of the MNHS collection and archives, this new gallery will guide visitors through the stories of Minnesota’s first inhabitants, their history, cultural traditions and what it means to live here.
The exhibit is just one of many projects being undertaken by the new Native American Initiatives department. Created in December 2016, the department is charged with developing and implementing a strategy for Native American programs and services in collaboration with Native American communities throughout the state and beyond. MNHS hopes this collaboration will result in programs that better represent and honor Native American peoples, stories and experiences at MNHS historic sites and museums.
MNHS hired Joe Horse Capture to serve as director of the new department. Horse Capture is a member of the A’aninin tribe of Montana and has worked as a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
“Cultural institutions are in a unique position to collaborate with Native communities to better share their rich stories, especially since many institutions have the objects their Ancestors created,” he said. “As stewards of this cultural material, it is our obligation to work with Native communities as partners to share these stories and history with a diverse audience. This type of partnership can be very profound.”
Horse Capture is joined by two outreach and program managers. Kate Beane is a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota and works primarily with Dakota communities. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Mattie Harper is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and works primarily with Ojibwe communities. She holds a Ph.D. in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley and was a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
The Native American Initiatives department works closely with the Indian Advisory Committee (IAC), which has provided input and guidance on MNHS activities and initiatives related to Minnesota and Native American history for more than 25 years. The IAC is made up of tribally appointed representatives from each of Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribes and at-large members. With input from a variety of sources including the IAC and MNHS staff, the Native American Initiatives department will focus on how to further develop relationships with Native American communities.
The department is also charged with managing historic sites and museums with Native American interpretive content at three sites: Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post, Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site and Lower Sioux Agency.