The sound of drums and flutes can be heard as you enter Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s new exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair.
Located at the east end of the Education Building, this year’s new exhibit showcases the history and culture of the Minnesota tribes.
“The exhibit offers people a wonderful opportunity to learn about the many ways that Native American culture is woven into the fabric of Minnesota,” said Jerry Hammer, general manager of the Minnesota State Fair.
The 12 foot tipi exhibit will be available for the duration of this year’s Fair. And although there have been Native American exhibits at the Fair as early as the 1890s, Hammer said, this is the first time that the 11 tribes of Minnesota will be shown together.
The idea came to life when Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Secretary and Treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton and her colleagues walked the fair in 2019. Something was missing, she said.
“There was no tribal representation,” said Crooks-Stratton. “This subject was completely lacking at the Fair.”
Conversations around an interactive exhibit soon took place and an unveiling was planned for the 2020 Fair, which was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, visitors can browse the exhibit and learn about the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux and the 10 other tribal nations of Minnesota. Information on Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux’s campaign to improve Native American education and representation in Minnesota schools will also be presented.
“It’s really important that the tribes are represented,” said Crooks-Stratton. “Invisibility causes problems in society as a whole.”
This is the first time the community has organized an exhibition like this at the Fair. Crooks-Stratton said it can be difficult for tribes to muster enough manpower and resources to put on an exhibition like this and is unsure if it will become an annual event.
“We’ll see how it goes this year and decide from there,” said Crooks-Stratton.