h1

MINNESOTA: CROSSROADS OF THE CONTINENT

August 16, 2012

Yesterday, I attended a program entitled “Native American Settlements in the Minneapolis Area” at Mill City Museum.

As we gathered before the session, I chatted with the facilitator of our “Telling Native River Stories” group and was glad to hear that he, too, felt our efforts beginning in 2008 planted a seed that helped move us all to this wonderful week of coming together and re-telling of the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.   

As we took our seats, the photos and sites included were familiar ones…St. Anthony Falls, Cold Spring, Pilot Knob, the strawberry fields and burial grounds of Lake Calhoun, Nicollet Island, Spirit Island, Loring Park and the gathering spot of the gods on the river bluff-today known as Fort Snelling. 

But two concepts introduced by the speaker, Richard La Fortune, definitely gave me food for thought.

His over-arching theme of the Crossroads of the Continent expanded my viewpoint significantly.  Of course, I know the role of the river for both native peoples and white immigrants, but La Fortune compared the north-south and east-west routes traveled for thousands of years by native peoples to today’s I-35 and I-94 intersecting right here in the city, and it all clicked together in my brain. 

I certainly know that the very first bridge ever built across the Mississippi River was “First Bridge” the original precursor to our Hennepin Avenue Bridge; but that was built here has always been marvel to me.  Yesterday, as I heard Lake Street described as a street built over part of the trail from the Mississippi River to the Tetons combined with legends of the falls known to native peoples from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, it brought it all into perspective.   Major North American migration routes have criss-crossed our state and city for thousands of years; and indeed, looking at North America in its totality from northern Canada to southern Mexico/Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, we are located right there in the middle!

But more intriguing than that, was the current activity and findings reported at the archeological site currently under study at Prairie Island near Red Wing.  This large village, existing in 900-1250 AD, consists of square “apartments” positioned around a central plaza.  Each corner of the plaza- aligned north, east, south, and west- contains cultural artifacts from each corner of North America – dating back 10,000 years!  It was interesting to hear that the presumption is that apartments near each corner of the plaza were inhabited by immigrants from that same area of North America-each clustered around artifacts of their past.  

Rather than an outpost of Cahokia as once thought, La Fortune speculated that the Red Wing site was an outgrowth of sites here in Minneapolis, with 10,000 year old artifacts supporting the theory that indeed, this was the gathering place for all native nations on the continent to come together to trade and to forge peace agreements among the nations of the native world we know so little about.

Think about it.  A 10,000 year history of native “United Nations of America”; a 400 year history of immigrant whites that formed the 200+ year-old “United States of America”…it’s hard to understand the  justification of cries to “build a wall and shoot” in reference to keeping out the Mexican immigrants, isn’t it?  Many of them may likely have ancient ties to this land stronger than ours.  More food for thought!

I walked back from the museum thinking that the nickname “North Star State” does us a disservice in today’s world.  Becoming once again the “Crossroads of North America” has more world-class appeal!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: