With its new exhibit, “Our Home: Native Minnesota,” the Minnesota History Center reflects on history before Minnesota was a state, or even a territory. Indigenous Minnesotans created their own compelling stories, and their history is well-examined in an exhibit with 60 items, including one that dates back 7,000 years.
The exhibit also gives context to the present, especially by including content that reflects current debates — like the one over oil pipelines.
And crucially, “Our Home: Native Minnesota” is presented in voices spanning the state’s rich American Indian diversity.
“We had native people in mind constantly as we developed the exhibit,” Mattie Harper DeCarlo, a senior historian at the History Center, told an editorial writer.
DeCarlo, a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, added that “the gallery tells history and tells stories from a native perspective, which is something we were trying to get at. And when that happens, when you have a native perspective, it can challenge a lot of assumptions.”
This includes the fact that “there is no static, authentic image of what a Native American is or should be,” DeCarlo said, adding “that there is so much variation and continuity, and that we have always been changing through time.”
The new exhibit adds to this rich texture. Minnesotans should see it, and perhaps in the process see their neighbors in a new way.
Minnesotans with indigenous ancestry should certainly experience it, too. Indeed, those that do will ideally see their own history — and the History Center — in a new light.
“At the forefront of our mind, we wanted native people to feel comfortable, to feel at home here,” DeCarlo said. “This is our institution as well.”
Indeed, the Minnesota History Center is everyone’s institution, and the stories it brings to life reflect everyone’s history and the place we all call home.