“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations”

Saint Paul, Minnesota  (ICC) July 2011

“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” is a new traveling exhibition that will explore the Native nations in Minnesota and their history of treaty making with the United States. The grand opening will be Aug. 3 at the White Earth Tribal Headquarters on the White Earth Reservation (35500 Eagle View Road, Ogema), where it will be on view through Aug. 31.

Following its close at the White Earth Tribal Headquarters, the exhibition will begin a statewide tour through 2012 to reservations and other venues under the auspices of the Minnesota Humanities Center and its partner, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.

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 free standing banners with evocative text, historical 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 lifeways 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, chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and chairman 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 and itinerary updates visit:

On The Net: www.mnhum.org/treaties

About the Minnesota Humanities Center
Founded in 1971, the Minnesota Humanities Center is a nonprofit organization. The Humanities Center is a resource of the state of Minnesota and affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Minnesota Humanities Center works to build a thoughtful, literate, and engaged society through education, partnership, and public programs.

About the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council
The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council was established in 1963  Statutes Chapter 888, Sec. 2 (3:922). The Council is a liaison between the State of Minnesota and the 11 tribal governments in the state.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Established in 1989, through an Act of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.




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