The sound of drums and flutes can be heard upon entering the new Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair.
Located at the east end of the Education Building, the new exhibit this year showcases the history and culture of Minnesota’s tribes.
“The exhibit provides a wonderful opportunity for people to experience the many ways Native American culture is woven into the fabric of Minnesota,” said Jerry Hammer, Minnesota State Fair General Manager.
The 12-foot teepee exhibit will be available for the duration of this year’s Fair. And while there have been Native American exhibits at the Fair as far back as the 1890s, Hammer said, this is the first time Minnesota’s 11 tribes will be displayed together.
The idea came to life when Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Secretary and Treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton and her colleagues strolled around the fair in 2019. Something was missing, she said.
“There was no tribal representation,” Crooks-Stratton said. “This topic was completely missing at the Fair.”
Conversations around an interactive exhibit quickly took place and an unveiling was planned for the 2020 Fair, which was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, visitors can walk through the exhibit and learn about the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux and Minnesota’s 10 other tribal nations. Information about the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux campaign to improve education and representation of Native Americans in Minnesota schools will also be featured.
“It’s really important that the tribes are represented,” Crooks-Stratton said. “Invisibility leads to 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 doesn’t know if it will become an annual event.
“We’ll see how it goes this year and decide from there,” Crooks-Stratton said.