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Fort Snelling's "Many Voices, Many Stories, One Place" exhibit showcases Minnesota's diverse history

New Fort Snelling exhibit showcases Minnesota's diverse history
New Fort Snelling exhibit showcases Minnesota's diverse history 04:06

FORT SNELLING, Minn. — Minnesota's diverse history is on display at Fort Snelling — the state's first national historic landmark.

A two-year rehabilitation and improvement project features a final piece — a new exhibit called "Many Voices, Many Stories, One Place."

"This site has such a really profound presence. A lot of people can feel that. They can feel that energy. They can feel the history," said Amber Annis, Director of Native American Initiatives for Minnesota Historical Society.

Fort Snelling has a long, complex history. One that is still difficult for many Native communities, including within the Dakota, whose ancestors were held in concentration camps before being exiled from Minnesota in 1863.

"We needed to approach this history around frameworks of healing, frameworks of connection," explained Annis.

"Many Voices, Many Stories, One Place" does that by sharing a longer more complete history of the site from more than 12,000 years up until now. A map near the entrance shows where the waters gather and rivers meet.

"Long before Euro-Americans were here, this was a Native American homeland, and it remains so today. For Dakota and Ojibwe people, these are the names that they still use for these places," said Dr. Bill Convery, Director of Research for Minnesota Historical Society.

Historic Fort Snelling sits on the bluff at a place known to Dakota people as Bdote.

"It's a place where two rivers meet. That always is going to be a sacred, important site. Where rivers are meeting, are important to native people. There's also something happening within in water in terms of ceremony, and in terms of prayers. In terms of what that water is able to do for native people," said Annis.

The exhibit also shares the story of Fort Snelling's best known African American residents, Harriet & Dred Scott.

"They ultimately moved with their enslavers to St. Louis and when John Emerson died, they sued for their freedom in Missouri courts. Their case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where Chief Justice Roger Taney rather notoriously ruled, and this is his quote, 'a Black man had no rights that a white man is bound to respect.' He declared that they remain enslaved and not only that the Supreme Court declared the Missouri Compromise and the other laws that made northern territories like Minnesota free states free soil slave soil instead," said Convery.

For Japanese Americans, Fort Snelling served as one of the military installations for the training of Japanese language interpreters in World War II.

"They were very much aware of serving a country that turned its back on Japanese Americans at this time, but because of their loyalty, because of their identity as American citizens, they served with patriotism and honor to help end the war and to defend the United States," explained Convery.

These stories of real Minnesotans are shared through text, images, artifacts, and interactive "Living Legacies" displays featuring descendants of the history makers. All of it reminding us that these communities make us, as a whole, who we are.

"If we can learn more about each other and connect more, the healing really happens and that's really important," said Annis.

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