We were driving back to the Twin Cities in a typical Minnesota summer thunderstorm. I pulled into the Ojbwe trading post to kill a little time with the kids and wait out the storm. Next door to the trading post was a new museum (as in 1995) celebrating the culture of the Ojbwe tribe. I am always game for a museum, so we took the time to pay a visit and learn about this sturdy tribe.
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.