"Our Home: Native Minnesota,” a new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, highlights the indigenous people of Minnesota. It is an idea that is long overdue, according to Franky Jackson, compliance officer at the Prairie Island Historic Preservation Office.

“One of my biggest impressions is that it really takes into consideration the contemporary artistry of Minnesota Native Americans, because they are focusing on living artists during a segment of this,” said Jackson, who has previewed the exhibit which opens on Dec. 7. "This allows us to get away from that breechcloth imagery of who Indian people are, and it puts us more in a contemporary time which will allow us to value not only the artistry behind some of these artworks, but hopefully appreciate the artists themselves.”

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul will present an exhibit called “Our Home: Native Minnesota” opening on Dec. 7.  Photo courtesy of the Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul will present an exhibit called “Our Home: Native Minnesota” opening on Dec. 7. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota History Center

Helping foster a change in the perception and presentation of native peoples is important to Jackson.

One thing that is helping support that change is that “Within the Minnesota Historical Society, we have some very talented native and non-native people who have contributed to this exhibit,” he said. “There was a great planning team put together with several Native Americans who work within the institute who are professionals in their fields, and this exhibit allowed them to highlight their skills and talents. This will be an accurate and inclusive exhibit, because you have tribal stakeholders who are consulting with tribal employees within the Minnesota Historical Society.”

Representatives from the museum, including Dr. Mattie Harper, whom Jackson called “a strong native woman who works at the Minnesota Historical Society as a historian,” worked closely with both Dakota and Ojibwe tribal members to make sure the exhibit is accurate and matches tribal storylines.

Jackson has been a member of the Indian Advisory Council for the Minnesota Historical Society for 10 years and has seen a change in opportunities for Native Americans to work for the center.

“This speaks well to the direction that the institution is taking in regards to diversifying,” he said. “This allows for a broader tribal representation when it comes to not only exhibit designs and interpretation, but employment opportunities, as well.”

One local man is featured in the exhibit. Joe Campbell, a Native American activist in the 1990s, donated some clothing including a denim shirt with a beaded collar which will be on display.

This uniform was worn by Shirley Quentin Red Boy who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940. He served in the all-Native Company B of the 163rd Infantry, 41st Division where he and his friend Herman Red Elk were recruited to send official messages in Dakota language. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota History Center
This uniform was worn by Shirley Quentin Red Boy who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940. He served in the all-Native Company B of the 163rd Infantry, 41st Division where he and his friend Herman Red Elk were recruited to send official messages in Dakota language. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota History Center

“He wore that shirt at every protest,” Jackson said. “Even though he is no longer with us, it still helps us connect that story of activism and some of the issues that are facing tribal communities today.”

The Native Minnesota exhibit is an important step, according to Jackson.

“For us, as native people, having an exhibit that is dedicated to us in our aboriginal homeland is very impactful,” he said. “The way that they have collaborated and worked with both Dakota and Ojibwe stakeholders really makes me excited about this exhibit.”

If you go …

What: "Our Home: Native Minnesota" exhibit

Where: Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul

Phone: 651-259-3015

Website: www.mnhs.org/historycenter/activities/museum/our-home

Email: infodesk@mnhs.org

When: The exhibit opens on Dec. 7. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; closed on Monday

How much: Adult $12; seniors, veterans, college students $10; children 5-17 $6