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Artist Marlena Myles' "We are on Dakota Land" bus tours stirring interest, emotions

"We are on Dakota Land" bus tours drawing sold-out crowds
"We are on Dakota Land" bus tours drawing sold-out crowds 03:22

MINNEAPOLIS — Celebrating history, and culture, has a way of igniting both pride and curiosity.

A moving mural has been sharing the history of a people whose voices were silenced for generations.

WCCO first introduced you to Spirit Lake Dakota artist Marlena Myles and the pastel-colored Metro Transit "We Are on Dakota Land" bus her design adorned last month. 

"We never really saw anything that showed that this was Dakota homelands when I was a child," Myles said.

It stirred both emotions and interest.

"I want to learn more about the origins of Minnesota history, and in a real up-close and very personal way," said Minneapolis resident Kathryn Ringham.

RELATED: The story behind the Metro Transit bus that honors Indigenous culture, and its first driver

As stories like this often do, its winding route led to a pleasant, and welcome increase in attention. 

"We're achieving the foundation of our culture. Today people are acting it out by becoming good relatives," Myles said.

Metro Transit driver Kevin Montry is Lakota and Anishinaabe. He was one of the first to drive the bus.

"Living and sharing. That's what we do as an Indian person," Montry said.

"It was this art and it was Native and I, it just, it made me smile and touched me," Montry said. "I just felt like, of course, it's me."

Following their chance meeting, Montry and Myles have developed a bond.  

Marlena Myles WCCO

The two partnered with others in the Native community to bring the public on this bus tour of Dakota art, history, culture, and sacred sites in the Twin Cities.

Stops included Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul, the overlook of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, where many women and children were force-marched after the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War, and Pow Wow Grounds Coffee in Minneapolis. 

"I have been to some of these sites, but now I have a better explanation and understanding of what happened there and what it means," said Rosemount resident Charlene Kaletka Delaney.

RELATED: Marlena Myles' new augmented reality exhibit Dakota Sacred Hoop Walk opens

"Every Native person, we have a different way of telling our story, and all of those stories are important to tell," Myles said.

As this tour ends, and passengers disembark, a high school teacher who had just finished her day was waiting for Myles.

"Marlena came to our attention through your original story. And our students, we showed them the story on the first day of class and they said that is something they wanted to learn more about," said Dawn Johnson, a Wayzata High School English teacher.

Myles didn't learn that "We are on Dakota Land" as a child, but because of her, future generations will.

"I'm just really appreciative that people are listening. I don't think my grandmother's era, I don't think anybody would have listened to her. Like a thing like this wouldn't have happened during her time," Myles said.

The "We Are on Dakota Land" Bus Tour sold out in less than two hours. Myles hopes additional tours will be offered. She also hopes in the future, local Native artists can provide bus designs for Ojibwe, Somali, Hmong, Latino and Scandinavian communities.

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