Investing in our Future By Protecting our Past
Preserving our culture and historical treasures is a top priority for the Prairie Island Indian Community. The Tribe is a leader across Indian Country in repatriating cultural assets -- investing in the future by preserving the past.
A primary focus continues to be respecting our ancestors who have walked on by protecting and preserving burial mounds. Goodhue County is home to the largest concentration of untouched burial mounds in the state. The Tribe in partnership with Minnesota State University, Mankato developed and is implementing a burial mound protection plan to preserve these sacred sites. That plan is guiding our efforts as we work together with the University to excavate newly acquired Tribal land, which includes remnants of a Tribal village and burial sites. This largely undisturbed archeological site gives us an excellent opportunity to learn from our past, while protecting a cultural treasure for all Dakota people.
Protecting, preserving, and repatriating cultural artifacts for future generations is among the most important work being done by the Prairie Island Indian Community. One example is the repatriation of Chief Red Wing’s medal, which was taken from Chief Red Wing’s burial site. We worked with the Minnesota Historical Society to return this important piece of history to the Dakota people. Similarly, we were able to repatriate a catlinite pipe belonging to Dakota Chief Ṡuŋka Ska (White Dog).
The restoration project of He Mni Can (Barn Bluff) in partnership with the City of Red Wing was a multi-year effort completed in summer 2021. He Mni Can was a gathering and worship site for the Dakota, its protection and restoration allow us to continue using this sacred place the same way our ancestors did, while also sharing the significance with others. Similarly, we are partners with the Mower County Historical Society and the Archeological Conservancy to protect and preserve the Grand Meadow Chert Quarry. Our ancestors mined stone for tools from this quarry for thousands of years. Evidence of tools that can be traced to this quarry has been found in every studied Dakota historical site. Through our partnership, we are protecting and preserving the site so others can learn from the past, developing a walking tour and educational curriculum that will teach others about our Dakota connection to the site.
THPO’s mission is to develop and maintain the Dakota peoples’ unique history, culture, objects and places, so that rich heritage can be passed to future generations.