On August 30th, the Charities Review Council’s staff, board, and committee members gathered to take in and reflect on “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations”, a traveling exhibition at the Ramsey County Historical Society. This exhibit explores the Native nations in Minnesota and the history of treaty-making with the United States. Board member, LaVon Lee, and her husband, John Poupart, guided a discussion on the exhibit and its meaning for the nonprofit sector. Then staff members took a moment to reflect:
I love how the exhibition reminded me of the Native philosophy about how we’re all related to the earth—how our innate being impacts the land, the plants, animals, and each other. We are all inter-related. Land isn’t about ownership but it’s about our relationship to other living things. Humans can be so full of hubris to think we are “in charge”, as my 6 year old would say. But we share this world with all living things. At its essence, the “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit was another opportunity for me to continue my learning and cultural understanding. It re-iterated the importance of relationships and the value of conversations in any culture and in the American Indian culture.
The “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit provided a unique perspective of our State’s history, and of the American Indian experience, both then and now. The exhibit reinforced the importance of taking the time to learn about the backgrounds of others and to recognize how those experiences impact who we are and how we relate to the world. This holds particular importance for our work at the Council, as we strive to reach out to a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations, be mindful of where people are coming from, and remain nimble in how we provide our services to meet all needs.
The exhibit is a great reminder of how the history that continues to be taught in our classrooms does not present a full picture of what transpired nor why it matters today. Seeing “Why Treaties Matter” not only taught me historical facts I didn’t know, but made them real and relevant. We cannot begin to meet the needs of the changing demographic in Minnesota without first acknowledging and understanding where we’ve been.
This exhibit is full of pictures, history, and the present. What I found most powerful was the video of current members of the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations sharing their stories and knowledge. Both elders and young people shared their vision, knowledge, concerns, and, most importantly, solutions for the future. It is amazing what people are capable of; to thrive in the face of tremendous adversity is spirit filling. I walked away with some sadness, a lot of hope, and gratefulness. I want to learn more about what it means to work across sovereign nations.
According to MN Compass, 67,325 American Indians reside in Minnesota, many of whom face disparities in health, income, education, and employment. This population is growing and some outcomes are improving, thanks to many area nonprofits. Seeking knowledge, increasing multicultural participation, and creating reciprocal intercultural relationships are keys to building culturally affirming and relevant nonprofits best positioned for the future of Minnesota.
“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. You can find a listing of exhibit dates and locations here: http://www.minnesotahumanities.org/treaties.
Other great exhibits to consider visiting:
Dakota Family Day - Minnesota History Center, St. Paul MN, Sept. 29, Noon to 4 p.m., Free
U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Exhibit - Minnesota History Center, $6
DED UŋK’UŋPI—WE ARE HERE Exhibit - All My Relations Gallery, Sept. 28, Free