Mdewakanton Sioux cultural center reopens in Shakopee

All month long, the history and culture of Native Americans across the country will be celebrated. And for one local indigenous community, Native American Heritage Month is also an opportunity to learn.

Within the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community sits a cultural center and gathering space, which opened two years ago.

"The name of the building is Hoċokata Ti, which means ‘lodge at the center of the camp,’ and it’s our community center, cultural center and public exhibit," said Andy Vig, building director.

The permanent display functions as a history lesson highlighting dark times, while also paying tribute to the culture and language of the Dakota people.

"It’s a timeline the way we designed it. We start with our creation stories, and then you go until pre-contact era, you start going into the fur trade that happened in Minnesota and then you enter into the treaty times," Vig explained. "We felt that it was important to tell our story from our eyes, our point of view. A lot of times, a lot of museums will be telling the story about a certain tribe, but having the voices come from our people is really impactful."

With an emphasis on unity, in 2019, they launched community day - a free event focused on sharing and learning. Now, after a one-year hiatus, the event is back.

"It's very educational. Throughout the building, we'll have different sessions - arts and crafts, Dakota language, the history of gaming of the state, and sovereignty and what that is," Vig said. "We’re really close to the city, but I don’t know if a lot of people even know that we’re here. I hope they walk away with a better understanding of who we are."

The cultural event, initially scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled due to safety concerns. The community said one of its members was involved in a racist video under investigation at Prior Lake High School and some community members are receiving threats. 

"In light of recent events, we believe canceling this event is the best way to ensure the safety and well-being of our tribe and broader community," the Facebook post states. "The goal of CommUNITY Day – to share information about our tribe and our culture with neighbors – remains a worthy goal, and we hope to be able to reschedule the event in the near future."

The Mdewakanton Sioux community is one of 11 federally recognized sovereign Native American tribes in Minnesota.