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Fort Snelling Renovations Honor The Land's 10,000-Year History

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- The iconic items remain and new elements have appeared.

Fort Snelling unveiled it's $34.5 million renovations on it's opening day Saturday.

"Creates a lot of opportunities for people to engage with all of the stories here at Fort Snelling," said Ben Leonard, the Minnesota Historical Society senior director of historic sights and facilities operations.

Many of the changes celebrate the 10,000-year history of this historic land well before Fort Snelling was even here.

"This is Dakota homeland," Leonard said. "And so to integrate those stories and to start with that is really important to put Fort Snelling and this area and Minnesota and the nation in context."

In place of the old visitor center and parking lot is a view of the river and a freshly planted prairie. Plus a new structure: the Treaty of 1805, revealing itself as you walk.

"The whole military presence here at Fort Snelling was made possible by that treaty, so we really wanted to highlight that. We wanted to connect that to 10,000 years of history, to Dakota sovereignty," Leonard said.

Inside the new visitor center and museum are examples of Fort Snelling's contribution in many eras.

"I think what's really important, and why people should come here and why Fort Snelling matters, is you can't really tell the history of America without telling the history of Fort Snelling," Leonard said.

Old stories, new to some.

The renovations cost $34.5 million. Nearly $20 million came from the state. The rest was privately funded.

The Minnesota Historical Society will have concerts and other events at Fort Snelling's new facilities throughout the summer.

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