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Trent Opstedahl, Forum News Service, Published July 13 2013

Bemidji exhibit examines relationship between Indians, governments

BEMIDJI, Minn. – The American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University unveiled an exhibit Thursday that explores the relationship between American Indians and the governments of the United States and Minnesota.

“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” is available for public viewing until Aug. 22, and it will then continue on its statewide tour.

Video presentations and 20 displays featuring text and images delve into the history between the U.S and American Indian nations and how treaties forged throughout the years have affected the lands and way of life for the state’s indigenous people. The exhibit also creates a connection from the past and present by explaining how these documents still play a role today.

“If you’re connected in any way to this part of past or just curious about it, there’s a lot of information available here to explain it,” said AIRC building manager and events coordinator Stephanie Hendricks.

Open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the featured exhibit is a way for people from all cultural backgrounds to learn more about the state’s indigenous people and how they came to be what they are today, said Anton Treuer, the AIRC executive director.

“They are a means to building a better future,” he said. “These learning opportunities rarely come along, so it a very exciting thing to go check out.”

This will be the exhibit’s second time touring here, as it made a stop in Bemidji last summer, as well.

Treuer said he and the Minnesota Humanities Center have been working to create a teaching module centered around the idea of “Why Treaties Matter.”

“The ‘Why Treaties Matter’ exhibit is a greater project than just the display,” Treuer said. “We wanted to develop them (teaching modules) so that they would be freely available to the public.”

A collaboration between the state of Minnesota’s Indian Affairs Council, the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Minnesota Humanities Center, the project is funded in part by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and The Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation.

The eighth stop of its tour this year, the work to bring the exhibit to the AIRC has been a three-year process, with more than a year spent on shooting and compiling a local video of tribal leaders and citizens that provides further information on treaties, as well as other topics such as cultural importance and the various treaty’s impacts in and around Bemidji.

“It’s a good way to build perspective, especially in an area like ours, where these two worlds rarely seem to interact with each other,” Treuer said.

The exhibit is free to the public, and visitors are encouraged to call (218) 755-2032 and schedule a touring appointment.

If you go

What: “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations”

When: Now through Aug. 22

Where: American Indian Resource Center, Bemidji State University

Cost: Free