The Scott County Historical Society plans to use a $50,000 grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to renovate the Stans Museum and open a gallery dedicated to the history of American Indians.

“It’s amazing,” Kathleen Klehr, executive director of the society, said of the $50,000 grant.

Charlie Vig, chairman of the tribe in Prior Lake, said the grant is part of the “good neighbor” philosophy the group has followed for years.

“It is our hope that the Scott County Historical Society will be able to further develop their offerings so that the larger community can learn more about life in the county in the past,” he said.

Vig said there was no requirement attached to how the grant would be spent, and that they are “surprised and pleased” with the society’s plans.

Klehr said the decision to dedicate the space came from a yearlong analysis of what their stakeholders wanted to see at the museum.

Teachers, in particular, expressed a need for an exhibit that would help enhance part of Minnesota’s curriculum dealing with American Indians. “It’s a part of Minnesota history,” she said.

For Vig, Native American culture is also part of Minnesota’s future.

“People often think of Indians as historical figures, but while we were the original residents of this area, here long before there was a county, this is our home and it always will be. We will continue to play an important role in the area for generations to come.”

The historical society will begin construction on the project this summer and plans to work closely with the tribe on the gallery’s development, which will feature interactive components. In addition to the grant, the community will make available articles from its collection of approximately 25,000 items.

The gallery will be a constant at the museum, but the content will change periodically, Klehr said.

The grant was one of a series of gifts the tribe gave to local entities that also included Scott County and the cities of Shakopee, Prior Lake, Jordan, Savage and Belle Plaine for capital projects.

Klehr said the society is thrilled and extremely grateful with the $50,000 grant. She said the entire budget for the society last year was $160,000.

Last year, the Stans museum welcomed a little more than 7,000 visitors. Klehr predicted the new exhibit, slated to open in late 2013 or early 2014, will boost the number of guests coming to the museum.

“I have a feeling, with this change, it will get even bigger,” she said.


Lannie Walker is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.