First off, if you haven't ever been to the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, well, get thee over there! It's a mighty fine piece of history and architecture.
(Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)
Plus, the guided tours are filled with interesting and fun tidbits, and the house is just plain gorgeous.
And why just take one tour when you can take more? During the summer, along with the regular house tour, the Nooks & Crannies tour is offered, which takes visitors into places that aren't on the normal tour. So get going!
I love the above photo, of the home during its construction.
Also! Now through Oct. 13, there's an art exhibition worthy of a visit. Yes, you can attend the exhibit without touring the house, but really, that's inefficient and silly. Make time for both.
Minnesota artist Paul S. Kramer, who died last year at the age of 93, was a conservator and gallery owner as well as a painter. He was also the director of the fine arts department at the Minnesota State Fair and a teacher at what eventually became the Minnesota Museum of American Art. This exhibit showcases 30 of his paintings.
The exhibit coincides with the publication of a book titled "Other Realities: The Art of Paul S. Kramer," which is also the exhibit's title.
Apparently Mr. Kramer did much of his work in his St. Paul studio while listening to classical music. How lovely is that?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for WCCO about the treasure troves at the University of Minnesota libraries. It's quite amazing what they have on hand over there--huge collections of children's materials, GLBTQ publications, Minnesota literary artifacts, immigrant history, arts and theater documents, some pretty funny wartime era publications warning young men about the risks of consorting with loose women, all kinds of things you wouldn't necessarily think of.
Opening this Thursday, July 11 at the Elmer L. Andersen Library Gallery on the West Bank of the U is a really fun exhibit: Sherlock Holmes: Through Time and Place.
I bet you didn't know the U of M has the world's largest holdings of all things Sherlock Holmes, with more than 60,000 items in the collection, including this handwritten manuscript piece. Handwritten! By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
The exhibit is free and open to the public through Sept. 27. If you really want to get deeper into the Sherlockiana, sign up to attend the triennial Sherlock Holmes conference, taking place Aug. 9-11. Oddly, the conference is co-sponsored by the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota--not quite sure what the connection between Sherlock Holmes and Norwegian explorers is, but why quibble?
From the TC Daily Planet:
(Photos by Jack Steinmann)
On an unseasonably warm November Saturday, participants in the 2012 Dakota Commemorative Walk traveled from their lunch stop at the Treaty Site History Center, just north of St. Peter, toward Henderson. The grass at the side of Highway 169 was drained of color, dry and crunchy underfoot. A steady hum of traffic shot by the procession of marchers and slow moving cars on one side while the Minnesota River was visible on the other. On the horizon, bare branches of oak and cottonwood trees stood out against blue sky.
The Dakota Commemorative Walk remembers and honors the 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders who were forcibly marched 150 miles by U.S. military troops from the site of the present-day town of Morton to Fort Snelling. Following the battles of the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War, 303 Dakota men were arrested and awaited trial. Meanwhile, an indiscriminate sweep of Dakota communities resulted in another approximately 1,700 Dakota people, who had not participated in the fighting and had surrendered at the end of the war, being removed from their homeland.
The destination for the 1,700 was a concentration camp located at Pike Island, part of Fort Snelling. Along the way, the captive women, children and elders were assaulted by angry townspeople and soldiers; an unknown number of them died. That winter, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato. Approximately 300 people died from brutal conditions in the concentration camp. [For a more detailed look at this topic, read Sheila Regan’s 2010 article, Trail of treaties: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.]
A relative speaks about her ancestors
The 2012 walk started November 7 at the Lower Sioux Agency Historical Site on Highway 2 near Morton. Every mile, the walkers come to a stop and gather to plant a prayer flag, a dogwood stake tied with red cloth and a leather ribbons bearing the names of two Dakota families who made this march 150 years ago. One of the group’s leaders holding a leather bag of tobacco sang a prayer song while participants filed by, taking a pinch to offer along with prayer. Organizers describe the walk as spiritual, sharing values with the Wokiksuye 38+2 Horse Ride, portrayed in the film Dakota 38, a healing journey that begins in South Dakota and arrives in Mankato on December 26, the anniversary of the execution by hanging of 38 Dakota men.
There is no record of the route the captives marched, but it has been reconstructed by piecing together fragments of historical record, personal memory and guesswork. According to Mary Beth Faimon, who worked with others to devise the first walking route in 2002, railroad tracks were most likely followed because they connected towns. "They made a point to bring the prisoners through the towns so they could have a spectacle," she explained. Today's route has changed somewhat to ensure safe roads for the walkers. "The point is that it's all Dakota land — wherever they walk, it's in the footsteps of their ancestors!" said Faimon.
The lunch stop at the treaty site had particular significance for the walkers. It is the place where the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux was signed in 1851. According to materials at the Treaty Site History Center, the Dakota ceded “24 million acres...nearly forty percent of what we know today as Minnesota” to the U.S. government. Treaty negotiations were fraught with deceit and the Dakota people were pressured to radically change their way of life as European settlers flowed into the region.
One of the walkers, Chris Mato Nunpa, greeted the lunch crowd and offered a comment on the history of the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux, ”It’s personal," he said. "I’m bragging about one of my relatives. His name was Een-yang-ma-nee, Running Walker, and his son Running Walker Boy...was the one who gave me my Dakota name...That’s why I like this place here; I hope his name is mentioned here. I hope they know that Een-yang-ma-nee was the first signature on that treaty that involved 24 million acres here in southern Minnesota. It’s one of those examples of legalized land theft that the United States did with many of our peoples and certainly they did with the Dakota people." His comments brought chuckles but also many heads nodded soberly when he added, "I want to brag about my relative Een-yang-ma-nee, Running Walker — that, too, is rather a dubious honor. All it means is, when he signed first, he was the first guy to get screwed by the United States government.”
Food was donated by the St. Peter Food Co-op & Deli and was served by students and Kyle Momsen, a staff member, from Gustavus Adolphus College. Momsen explained that some of the students had participated in a January Interim Experience course about the war. The class produced an exhibit, Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota – U.S. War of 1862. It's a collection of 12 panels that explores the war’s history, events, and consequences. It has been on display at Winona State University, in Washington D.C. at President Lincoln's Cottage and is currently on exhibit in the Twin Cities at the student union at Augsburg College.
One of the students at lunch who joined the walkers afterwards was Alex Christensen. He describes the J-term class at Gustavus as "the best academic decision I have made in my life, easily." Christensen shared that it had motivated him to dig into his family history where he learned about his own family's involvement, "I had a great-great grandfather who was involved in the punitive expeditions after the war and so — it's been a journey, certainly. It's motivated me to get involved in these types of things."
Casting long shadows on the walk to Henderson
The walk is organized by Cansa yapi Otunwe (Lower Sioux Indian community) women. They walk in front of the procession carrying a Chanunpa (a ceremonial pipe) and direct the planting of the stakes and the ceremonies. Faimon described how, years ago, in planning events for the sesquicentennial of the Dakota-U.S. War, women took on the charge of doing something to remember the 1700 women children and elders, who seemed to have been forgotten. She observed, " They suffered three separate genocidal events: the forced march, the cold winter and then deported on cattle boats to who knows where? These women endured and sacrificed so that these people walking could be here today and start a cultural revival — in language and cultural activity and values."
Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan, one of the leaders of this walk, said that this history of persecution has thrown up barriers for Dakota people. The walk is a reminder that those events and those times are "not so far away and we are still dealing with a lot of social justice issues that are the legacy of the internments." She points to high suicide rates for young Dakota and low rates of graduation from high school. She said, "The irony is that we need them [Dakota youth] as social capital." Despite a lot of loss and hardship, Tateyuskanskan describes the Dakota Commemorative Walk as a way to take possession of Dakota spiritual life, "The only sacred land we have is the one we create."
The walk has found support from other faith organizations. Tom Duke from the Saint Paul Interfaith Network was part of the walk on Saturday. His organization has joined in discussion of future actions. They have created Healing Minnesota Stories, a resource for congregations and other communities to "to participate in this healing work, through tours, dialogue events and a speaker’s bureau."
As the events of the sesquicentennial draw to a close, Tateyuskanskan said there is a big question. Now that so many of the exhibits and events have raised awareness for Minnesotans, "What are you going to do about this history?"
Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan and Diane Wilson
Read about the walk in the words and pictures of Dakota people in The Footsteps of our Ancestors, edited by Waziyatawin Angela Cavender Wilson. Diane Wilson's Spirit Car, a One Minneapolis, One Read selection this year, tells about the first-ever 2002 Dakota Commemorative Walk.
The final day of the walk will be November 13. Participants will travel from Bloomington to Fort Snelling State Park. A ceremony to honor the ancestors will begin around 12:30. A closing feast will be held at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Bloomington. For details: http://2012dakotamarch.eventbrite.com/
For more background on the Dakota-U.S. War, read:
Forest City to Fort Snelling: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862
Trail of treaties: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862
Telling the story today: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862
150 years ago this month, the Civil War was in full swing, but that wasn't the only war being fought. For six weeks, the native Dakota people, starving and cheated by the U.S. government, fought back against the settlers who ignored the signed treaties and encroached on Dakota land. In the scheme of things, it was a short war--only six weeks. But during those six weeks, at least 600 whites were killed, and there's no record of how many Dakota, but it could be in hundreds as well.
This is a conflict that's had considerable impact on Minnesota through to this day, and yet, shockingly, it was not commonly taught at Minnesota schools up until the 1990s. I know when I was studying American history in high school, we talked only about the national Civil War, not the one that took place in our backyard.
It's time this difficult period of history was explored, and so it is. The Minnesota History Center has an exhibit called "The US-Dakota War of 1862" that will run through June 2013. I haven't seen it yet, but plan to and will report on it when I do. Given my experience with the MN Historical Society, I'm expecting it to be thoughtful and not shy away from hard questions. The Historical Society has also added extensive internet information at the US-Dakota War page.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is exploring the topic with a six-piece series called "In the Footsteps of Little Crow", focusing on Chief Little Crow. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here; the remaining 4 sections will appear throughout this week. For those with e-readers, you can purchase the entire series for $2.99 here.
Finally, there are several sites you can visit, some within a day trip of the Twin Cities:
That's my topic over at WCCO.com today--and you should go read it. Really. That was one of my favorite things about my recent trip to the Iron Range. I find these pieces of history to be so fascinating, and to see them so well cared for is a treat.
The tour guide not only talked about how the Finnish built their homesteads, she talked about why they came to Minnesota: overcrowded land at home, lack of opportunity, fear of being conscripted into the Russian army, a difficult economy. Then she shared this poem, written by a Finnish man as explanation for his departing Finland. I found it very moving.
I left because I felt
The home clearings too confining.
I left because the home threshold
Rises too high.
I left because bread
Always scarce, was now no more.
I expected good fortune out in the world
Since it did not roost under my home roof.
I left to assure
A more secure old age
To provide a loving mother
With a happier twilight.
I left, nay, not a traitor
To my land and people many.
I left, for kinsfolk drew me
Necessity compelled me, need commanded.
Artturi Leinonen 1912
Recently I visited the town of Waconia, west of the Cities, and couldn't resist the pull of the Carver County Historical Museum. I'm a sucker for these county museums; you never know what you might find. Some are wonderfully curated and artfully presented, others are more like flea markets. CCHS, I'm happy to say, falls in the former category. It's not a large museum, but it has a number of interesting exhibits, one focused on generations of veterans (fitting, since it's in the same building as the Carver County VA), another on tools, another on the growing immigrant population in the county:
There's even a small but interesting exhibit about the difficulties faced by what were previously small towns in rural areas, but are now increasingly growing and becoming more suburban-like, which can generate some contentious feelings. Surprisingly, according to the exhibit, it's the newcomers who complain most about the growth.
Growth issues aside, I like to look at the stuff. Look at this hand-carved secretary! How gorgeous is that? And how much time must it have taken?
This, my friends, is a hair wreath. Yes--made of human hair. Apparently that was a craft that was all the rage back in the day.
The CCHS also has visiting exhibitions, and the one on display when I was there (I think it's there until early February) was--be still, my craft-loving heart--a display of Russian artworks and handmade lace.
The exhibit was called "Beauty Will Save the World: From the Russian North to the North Star." It includes this painting by Sergeiy Telenkov, titled The Young Lace Maker.
Fittingly, it's surrounded by plenty of lace, including this lovely and intricate piece:
There are other Russian art forms, too, including hand-painted matroshka dolls and the beautiful little boxes.
I'm a sucker for those little boxes, like the one in the center. Years ago, DH and I visited Russia (it was still the USSR then) and bought some and had dreams of collecting many more. They're tiny marvels of detail.
As are the birch bark carvings.
It makes me sort of stupidly happy to wander into a place like the CCHS, not sure what I'll find, and see such a well-done collection, obviously carefully curated and cared for. History is alive and well, and in my mind, that's a good thing.
A much-beloved state landmark is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark:
Split Rock Lighthouse, part of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, was awarded the historic designation last week. It's only the 12th lighthouse across the U.S. to be so designated, and only the second on the shores of a Great Lake. Split Rock was nominated both because of its history in terms of the importance of shipping in the earlier 20th century, and because of its pristine condition (it opened in 1910, having been built after horrendous storms in 1905 damaged and/or destroyed 30 ships).
Besides visiting the Lighthouse itself, you can also walk down the Tramway to the beach, and see why this particular piece of shoreline was so treacherous without light.
The Lighthouse is open mid-May through mid-October, and then again each year on the anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy, in November, when the beacon is lit in remembrance.
I am so going to see that someday.
It's a beautiful place to visit, and well worth the extra time to clamber down to the beach and do a little hiking. Also? Great gift shop. Not, of course, that that plays into the national significance.
ETA: a complete list of author events for this book can be found here.
For part 2 of Book Week, I bring you this: The Opposite of Cold by Michael Nordskog, with photographs by Aaron W. Hautala.
This is a coffee table book in terms of size and lushness of photography, but it's also surprisingly filled with lively text that does more than just act as captions for the photos. Saunas were introduced to the Midwest by immigrant Finns. Yes, along, with Swedes and Norskes, Minnesota also has a sizable Finnish heritage, especially around the Iron Range and in towns like Embarrass and Finland (the latter of which also has an annual festival celebrating St. Urho, a mythical saint conjured up to compete with Ireland's St. Patrick).
Today there are many historical saunas dotting the countryside of Finnish-rooted communities in Minnesota, as well as Michigan and Wisconsin. Some are preserved and available for visitors, such as those included in the Sisu Heritage Tours around Embarrass.
The Opposite of Cold looks at the roots of the sauna, both originally in Finland and how it translated to the U.S. The accompanying photography is gorgeous, and illustrates the creativity of sauna builders over the years, from a sauna perched on the edge of a dock to wooden and stone saunas to barrel-shaped saunas to portable saunas built on skids. Since so many of these saunas are hidden away in the woods or near lakes, the photographer had some excellent natural beauty to work with.
So, whether you're looking for a beautiful coffee table book, or an interesting, well-researched study of this part of Minnesota history, check out The Opposite of Cold.
Note: the author and photographer are giving a talk and slide show this Thursday, Sept. 30, at the American Swedish Institute. A reception begins at 6, with the talk starting at 7. I suspect it'll be well worth a stop. More details here.
My thanks to the University of Minnesota Press for sending me a review copy of this lovely book.
Remember last week, when we had that gloriously warm and sunny day, before the cold and wind and rain and sleet and even--gasp--snow returned? I spent that day exploring various places in the Twin Cities, armed with my trusty camera.
FYI, at the moment I'm wrapping up work on an iPhone app called Twin Cities Essentials. I put out a query via Twitter and Facebook, asking people what they thought should be included in an app like that. The overwhelming winner was this place:
That's an understandable response. A nearly 200-acre natural oasis in Minneapolis, Minnehaha has it all: trails, off-leash dog park, huge picnic areas (some of which are reservable):
Live music during the summer, historic sites, numerous picturesque stops, and, of course, the waterfall.
You can explore the Park by foot, as I did, or you can rent some wheels.
Wheel Fun Rentals provides a notable variety of wheel options. They're open daily Memorial Day-Labor Day; Sat-Sun in May, Sept (after Labor Day) and Oct.
You won't necessarily want to take a bike here.
Nor will you want to take these stairs, especially up, right after eating a hefty lunch. I'm not going to go into details on why I know that. Perhaps by Friday I'll tell you.
But after you've seen the falls, you can wander off to find the popular event site of the park:
This long pergola makes a beautiful backdrop, along with the flowers planted all around, for weddings.
The park has some history as well.
The John H. Stevens House was built in 1849 and was the first wood frame home west of the Mississippi. It's the gathering spot where community leaders came up with the city's name, and where the governmental structure for Hennepin County was created. Guided tours are offered on Sundays and holidays during the summer.
The Longfellow House, built in 1906 as a 2/3 replica of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home in MA. Currently it's used by the Minneapolis Park Board as an interpretive and information center.
Given that the forecast for today looks a bit gloomy, I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of Minnehaha Park, and I hope that the weather improves quickly so y'all can go there and enjoy it yourself. So--besides Minnehaha, what should be on my Twin Cities Essentials iPhone app?