Riverland hosts traveling exhibit focusing on Minnesota’s Native nations and the history of treaty making at Austin Campus starting Oct. 24

Release Date: October 14, 2011

Riverland Community College will be one of the sites for a new statewide traveling exhibition that explores Minnesota’s native nations and the history of treaty making with the United States.

“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” opens Oct. 24 at the Riverland Library in the Austin East Building, where it will be on view through Nov. 23. Library hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibition will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library and exhibition will be closed on Nov. 11 for Veteran’s Day. Minnesota Humanities Center and its partner, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, sponsor the exhibition. Local sponsors include Riverland Community College, Austin Public Library, KSMQ Public Television and Mower County Historical Society.

"The exhibit provides a unique opportunity to engage our communities in dialogue and expand cultural awareness," said Danielle Heiny, director of retention and student success who also serves as Riverland chief diversity officer for students. "Riverland will host several free events and presentations related to American Indian history and culture during the exhibit's stay.  These activities are part of Riverland's commitment to diversity and multiculturalism."

In August 2010, a resolution creating a unique partnership of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. was approved unanimously by the tribes residing in Minnesota and made it possible for the exhibition to be developed as an educational tool for Minnesota audiences.

The exhibition will include 20 freestanding banners with historical text and contemporary photographs and maps, and a 10-minute video titled, “A Day in the Life of the Minnesota Tribal Nations.”

This exhibit reveals how Dakota and Ojibwe treaties with the U.S. government affected the lands and life ways of the Indigenous peoples of the place we now call Minnesota, and explains why these binding agreements between nations still matter today. It is meant to share important cultural information with all Minnesotans, that they may better understand the true circumstances surrounding Minnesota land, its use, and even the treatment of the land’s Indigenous peoples today.

"Treaties are agreements between self-governing, or sovereign, nations," says Kevin Leecy, chair of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and chair of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. “Native Nations existed long before the formation of the United States. European powers recognized the sovereign status of Native Nations when they made treaties with us, as did the United States. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution recognizes Indian Tribes as distinct sovereign entities on par with foreign nations."

“In order to create the vibrant Minnesota of the future we need to understand the importance of the agreements—the treaties—between the sovereign Indian nations and the United States,” says Minnesota Humanities Center President David O’Fallon. “Understanding these treaties is important now—it affects how we live—and will shape the future. The Minnesota Humanities Center is honored and excited to be a partner in this important program.”

"The history of Indian treaties is the history of all Minnesotans and all Americans," says Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. "Even now, states, Native nations, and the federal government continue to engage on a government-to-government basis every day, making in effect new treaties, building upon those made many years ago. We cannot have a complete understanding of what it means to be Americans without knowing about these relationships, whether we are Native Americans or not."

“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” is a collaboration of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. The project is funded in part with money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created with a vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008, and The Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation. For more information, visit www.riverland.edu/treaty and for statewide itinerary updates visit www.mnhum.org/treaties.