“Why Treaties Matter” exhibit opens July 11 at AIRC

Beginning July 11, the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University will host “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations,” a traveling exhibition exploring relationships between the Dakota and Ojibwe Indian nations and the United States government in Minnesota.

The exhibit, which will be open through Aug. 22, illustrates how treaties have affected the lands and life ways of Minnesota’s indigenous people, and why these binding agreements between sovereign nations still matter today, through a video presentation and 20 banners featuring text and images.

“The history of Indian treaty is the history of Minnesotans and all Americans,” said Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “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.”

About the exhibit
A resolution creating a unique partnership between 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 by the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council in Aug. 2010. That resolution made possible the development of this exhibition as an educational tool for Minnesota audiences.

The exhibit was developed using the knowledge, insight and perspective of tribal members, who have come together to create a vehicle for unfiltered, authentic voices of the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples to tell their stories of sovereignty and adaptability.

Ojibwe and Dakota people in what is now Minnesota signed dozens of treaties with the United States. Among these treaties are famous land cession agreements in which sovereign American Indian groups retained ownership or use of natural resources such as land, water, timber or minerals, or transferred these rights to the U.S. government.

“Why Treaties Matter” takes the story of these agreements beyond their basic explanation of “who owns what” and explores how these treaties steel the story of how people relate to one another and to the land. It examines frequently misunderstood events to find contrasts between different ways of looking at the world: material progress versus sustainability; business relationships versus family relationships; and land as privately owned real estate versus land as our connection to something bigger than an individual.

The American Indian Resource Center is the eighth installation location for the exhibit so far this year. It was open at the Minnesota Department of Transportation office in St. Paul in January, and has been on display at the Xcel Energy Center, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the Eden Prairie High School Performing Arts Center, at the Neighborhoods USA Conference in Minneapolis and at the Duluth Convention Center.

“Why Treaties Matter” is a collaboration between the state of Minnesota’s Indian Affairs Council, the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Minnesota Humanities Center. The project is funded in part by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and The Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation.

The exhibit will be open during the AIRC’s normal business hours, from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Persons interested in viewing the exhibit are encouraged to call the center in advance and schedule a time for viewing the exhibit.

Special Exhibit Days
Friday, July 12 – Senior Day
Friday, July 19 – Local Business Day
Aug. 5-9 – Youth Week

Contact the center for more information about the special exhibit schedule.

• American Indian Resource Center; (218) 755-2032.

• Video feature [YouTube]
“Why Treaties Matter”
• “Why Treaties Matter” at the Minnesota Humanities Center
• “Why Treaties Matter” on Facebook