Minnesota American Indian Itinerary
A Cultural Journey
Indigenous peoples have lived in what is now Minnesota for thousands of years. At the time of the arrival of Europeans in the "New World" the predominant American Indian tribe was the Dakota. As explorers and settlers moved west the Ojibwe, who lived in the central Great Lakes region, were forced into Dakota territory. The resulting migration and conflict ultimately resulted in the Dakota residing primarily in the prairies of the Minnesota River Valley and points south and west while the Ojibwe inhabited the lakes and forests of north and central Minnesota.
Day One — Urban Art & Culture
Experience the American Indian Cultural Corridor, Minneapolis' new destination for food, art and culture. This is the only urban American Indian corridor in the country. The Cultural Corridor along East Franklin Avenue is home to many of the city's finest Indian arts & crafts including Ancient Traders Market, Woodland Indian Crafts, All My Relations Gallery, Northland Visions, and public art including numerous murals! The nearby Minneapolis American Indian Center is the heart of the Indian community of Minneapolis featuring the Wolves Den Café. It is one of the oldest Indian centers in the country, founded in 1975. Visit the Native American galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts featuring rich examples of the highest quality indigenous art of North and South America.
Visit Saint Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Park and Coldwater Spring Park on or overlooking the Mississippi River. Before European exploration, Saint Anthony Falls held cultural, political and spiritual significance for native tribes who frequented the area. The falls was an important and sacred site to the Dakota and Ojibwe who referred to it by numerous names. The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, a self-guided 1.8 mile walking tour encompasses numerous parks and historic sites with informative kiosks which include information about the Native Americans. A mask of Chief Little Crow is positioned in Minnehaha Park near Minnehaha Falls. The mask commemorates the chief, who was killed in the year following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 (see below), and is in an area considered to be sacred to American Indians. Coldwater was a traditional gathering place for Native American tribes of the upper Mississippi that used spring water for specific ceremonies requiring sacred water in a sacred landscape. The powerful Dakota god of waters and the underworld is said to dwell at Coldwater Spring.
Overnight in Minneapolis/Saint Paul/Bloomington metro.
Day Two — Metro Casinos and More
7 Country Metro Region (80 miles - 130 km)
Take a day trip to one of the Mdewakanton Sioux Community casinos – Mystic Lake or Treasure Island. Mystic Lake Casino Hotel of The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community southwest of Minneapolis features five restaurants, a 600-room hotel, convention center, 2,100 seat showroom, 8,350 seat outdoor amphitheater, golf course, and RV Park. Treasure Island Resort & Casino of the Prairie Island Indian Community, situated on the Mississippi River 40 miles southeast of Saint Paul, has a 480 room hotel, 3000 seat event center, a marina, golf course, Buffalo heard and 120-passenger cruise ship. Both offer free shuttle bus service from locations throughout the metro. Pow Wows are held at each community.
Overnight in Minneapolis/Saint Paul metro.
Day Three Plains Indians of the Minnesota River Valley and the Southwest
Pipestone (200 miles - 324 km)
Before departing be sure to visit the Minnesota History Center's exhibit, "The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862" in Saint Paul. There are many, often conflicting, interpretations of events relating to the war. The exhibit includes multiple viewpoints as well as historical and contemporary voices. En route to Pipestone explore sites along the Minnesota River related to settler/Indian relations, specifically those of The US-Dakota Conflict of 1862 in Mankato, New Ulm, Fort Ridgley (between New Ulm & Redwood) and the Lower Sioux Agency (Redwood Falls). When Minnesota became a state in 1858 representatives of several Dakota (Sioux) bands traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate enforcement of existing treaties. Negotiation did not go well for the Dakota. The northern half of their reservation along the Minnesota River was lost, and rights to the quarry at Pipestone, Minnesota, were also taken from the Dakota. For six weeks in 1862, war raged throughout southwestern Minnesota. The war and its aftermath changed the course of the state's history.
Take in Blue Mounds State Park where Plains Indians depended on the bison to survive. It is believed the park's quartzite cliffs were used by the Indians to stampede bison to their demise. Today, a herd of bison resides in the park. Be sure to inspect the nearby Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site where Minnesota's recorded history begins as American Indians for thousands of years have traced life stories in rock carvings.
Visit The Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers and Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone. Keepers is a non-profit entity designed to introduce visitors to local Native American customs, culture and art. Keepers also put on immersion culture camps, pow wows, and dancing, storytelling, and heritage demonstrations. The retail operation has a huge inventory of Native Americans crafts and is home of the world's largest smokeable peace pipe. The Monument is under the auspices of the National Park System. Only Native Americans are allowed to extract the pipestone rock from the quarries. Native American craftsmen are on site demonstrating, creating and selling their wares. The quarries are a significant site for many American Indian cultures. Even today, the site is considered a sacred place by many who come to quarry or visit. Today, as in the past, it is a place treated with reverence and respect. The Monument has large collections of cultural and natural history items.
Overnight in Pipestone.
Day Four — Mille Lacs Indian Reservation
Onamia (230 miles - 370 km)
The Mille Lacs Indian Museum houses exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (Chippewa) American Indians. Trace their journey to settle in Northern Minnesota, learn about their fate during a period of treaties made and broken, and follow their story up to the present sovereignty issues. Adjacent to the museum, a restored trading post retains its 1930s appearance. Here you will find American Indian gifts from Mille Lacs artisans. Dine and be entertained at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs. It and its nearby sister property Grand Casino Hinckley have enabled the Band to build and improve schools, health care facilities, community centers, water treatment facility, roads, ceremonial buildings and more.
Overnight at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs Hotel.
Day Five — Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Reservation
Tower (170 miles - 275 km)
Visit the Bois Forte Heritage Center & Cultural Museum dedicated to telling the Bois Forte Ojibwe story as the name-Atisokanigamig or Legend House implies. Under the management of the Bois Forte Development Corporation, the Band now owns and operates Fortune Bay Resort Casino, The Wilderness Golf Course, WELY- End of the Road Radio, Bois Forte Wild Rice and more. Fortune Bay Resort Casino currently employs over 500 people, annually injecting more than $30 million into the economy of northern Minnesota.
Overnight at the Bois Forte Resort Casino Hotel.
Day Six — Grand Portage Ojibwe Indian Reservation
Grand Portage (175 miles - 285 km)
Grand Portage is on the site of one of the earliest Ojibwe settlements in Minnesota. The Grand Portage Band's Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center honors the area's history, people and culture. Kitchi Onigaming, "the Great Carrying Place" or Grand Portage, became the main entry point of European trade with Native peoples. The portage trail has also been separately designated a Minnesota State Historic Site. The Grand Portage National Monument lies entirely within the boundaries of the reservation. The large complex of buildings built by the British Northwest Company in the late 1700s was reconstructed to allow celebration of the fur trade and Ojibwe way of life.
Overnight at the Grand Portage Lodge & Casino.
Day Seven — North Shore of Kitchi-gummi (Lake Superior)
Minneapolis/Saint Paul (300 miles - 485 km)
The first French explorers approached this great inland sea by way of Lake Huron and referred to their 'discovery' as le lac superieur, that is, the lake above Lake Huron. Properly translated, the expression means "Upper Lake." Kitchi-gummi, an Ojibwe Indian translation, signifies Great-water or Great-lake.
Manidoo-giizhikens (Little Cedar Spirit Tree or the Witch Tree as it is commonly known), is held sacred by the Ojibwe, who traditionally leave offerings of tobacco to ensure a safe journey on Kitchi-gummi. It is located near Grand Marais. The earliest written records of the tree by Europeans in the Americas are by French explorer Sieur de la Verendrye in 1731, who commented on the tree as a mature tree at that time, making it at least 300 years old today. Due to its sacred nature and vandalism problems in the past, the tree is considered off limits to visitors unless accompanied by a local Ojibwe band member.
John Beargrease, born 1858 as the son of a minor Ojibwe chief by the name of Makwabimidem (Beargrease), is best remembered as the winter mail carrier between Two Harbors and Grand Marais during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. John used a row boat in summer and a dog sled in winter. His legendary dog sled runs are remembered and celebrated in the annual 411-mile (roundtrip) John Beargrease Dog Sled Race (2nd only to the Iditarod in length) between Duluth and Grand Portage (March 10th this year). The route closely follows the shoreline of Lake Superior and the North Shore Scenic Byway, an All-American Road, and parallels much of the Lake Superior Hiking Trail.
Overnight in Minneapolis/Saint Paul/Bloomington metro.