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August 24, 2005
The museum is located directly across from the casino. Again, you can debate what Indian gaming has done to the state, but on a positive note, it gave this poor tribe the revenue to build a world-class museum to preserve their heritage. When I grew up in Minnesota, the Ojbwe were dirt poor, and their main source of income was harvesting wild rice. However, with the boom of Indian gaming, the tribe can actually do things like build a first-class museum on their reservation.
This was truly a world-class museum. The building is a low-rise of local wood and glass that seems to become part of the environment around the building.
The admission was $7, and we soon realized that we were the only guests in the museum. The kids quickly became interested in an elder who was stringing beads and a woman next to him cutting out buckskin moccasins. The man making the beads invited the kids to join him and taught them how to string and make patterns with beads. The kids become engaged in the activity, and they could have spent all day beading. However, being on a time crunch, I had to be the bad guy and move them along.
The exhibits were all well-done. The museum is very high-tech and was full of interactive computers to tell the story of these people and culture. We finally had come to the end of the museum, describing the present day, when a young man approached us. He asked us if we were ready to see the Four Season's room. He explained that this is a room that you are only allowed to enter with a tribal guide. We accepted his offer and followed him to the room.
It was a circular room in the middle of the museum. The guide opened the room with his key, and it was magical inside. Four Ojbwe camps are set up for each season. The camps show the life in an Ojbwe camp and how the camps moved for each season. Our guide was great. His grandfather had been a chief, and he told us many interesting facts about the way of life on Lake Mille Lacs.
I wish we could have spent more time here. The thunderstorm had passed, and it was time to hit the road to Minneapolis. This is a museum worth giving some serious time. The displays are top-notch, and we all left feeling we knew a lot more about the Indians who had lived here for centuries.
From journal Fishing Lake Mille Lacs
July 25, 2005
One of the positive features of Indian gaming in Minnesota is that a lot of the revenue is pumped back into preserving the Native-American culture in Minnesota. The reservation this culture icon sits on belongs to the Ojibwe. The old filling station and Trading Post have been lovingly restored by the tribe. A filling station from 1930 may not seem like a piece of history, but it is, and my kids were struck at how simple and plain the gas stations of yesteryear were.
Inside, little has changed. The first room you enter is a small museum of the Trading Post with photos and stories. The next room is the long store - the trading post! The Indian Trading Post sells the wide range of products. They have all the novelty items like plastic bow and arrows, tomahawks, and cheesy headdresses for the kids. The quality moves up from there to dream catchers and crafts made out of birch bark to the real thing. They have lovely museum-quality handiwork of beads, porcupine quills, and deerskin. Even if you can't afford these treasures, they are interesting to look at. The folks working at the desk, all members of the tribe, are eager and happy to show you and discuss the items. They can give you details of the artist and the heritage behind each item.
Besides the handwork, the post sells a wide range of books on the Indian culture. They also sell wild rice and Minnetonka moccasins. The wild rice here in Minnesota is harvested by the Ojibwe and sold all over the world. The Trading Post has some of the best prices in Minnesota. Our family loves moccasins, and Minnetonka is the best commercial brand. The Indian Trading Post has the largest selection in Minnesota, and again, the staff is more than happy to help you find the right pair.
This is a bit of Minnesota's past that lives on. My kids had just as much fun shopping the treasures in here as I did when I was a child. This is one stop you can't miss. It's a piece of living history.
ashbourne, United Kingdom
January 15, 2013
From journal Exploring Minnesota