An Afternoon at Bdote | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

An Afternoon at Bdote

October 01, 2021
Students listening to speakers during Bdote

Learning from Place: Bdote is an immersive experience organized by the Minnesota Humanities Center which brings participants to sites of great significance to Dakota people in the Twin Cities. Participants learn from Dakota community members through stories and histories that have often been left out of our state’s history.

On September 9, 2021, MCAD students from the master of fine arts course Community and Context and the undergraduate course Art and Social Change visited Fort Snelling State Park and Pike Island—the site of the Bdote where Ȟaȟáwakpa (Mississippi River) and the Mnísota Wakpá (Minnesota River) come together, as well as the site of the concentration camp for 1,600 Dakota women, children, and elders in 1862-1863—for a private tour. This particular Bdote is central to Dakota spirituality and history.

The goal of this experience is for participants to leave with a deeper understanding about the Dakota people’s relationship to Minnesota, knowledge of the negative impact exclusion from the state’s history and narrative have on Dakota individuals and communities, and an increased awareness of their own conscious and unconscious biases.

Take a look at photos from the day and hear from participants about the experience.

Experience Leaders

Ramona Kitto Stately is an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Nation. Her educational background includes a BA in Dakota Art and Culture, and a MAE-Teacher Leadership. She worked in Indian Education for the Osseo Area School District 2005-2020 and has been the Chairperson of the Minnesota Indian Education Association since 2018. Currently she serves as the Project Director of We Are Still Here MN.

Ethan Neerdaels, Bdewakantunwan Dakota, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota – American Indian Studies/Dakota Language programs. He currently teaches the Dakota language at Augsburg University, and co-directs the Indian Education program at Osseo Area Schools. He also serves as the Executive Director of Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye, a 501c3 dedicated to reversing the trend of language loss and raising future generations of Dakota speakers

A river surrounded by trees

"Ramona and Ethan are poignant educators. Their words were incredibly touching and let me not only learn about this place and who they are, but also gave me a way in which I can learn about myself as a relative and not just the other." —Eric Butler, current MFA candidate

"The push to educate and learn to respect and persevere native culture has greatly impacted me coming from the lack of teaching and history provided through public education and schooling.  This experience ignites the flame for social activism and protection towards these people, much like the gray grass burns to cure and cleanse. These moments keep the culture and history alive. Let’s stand together with the indigenous communities to stop the current disruption of treaties formed only to be broken when it suits the needs of big companies and resources." —Dain Thompson, current student

"Before I experienced the tour of Bdote at Fort Snelling State Park, I had only a white-washed understanding of the oppression that the Indigenous people of Minnesota endured by settlers. Bdote is a specific location that represents both honor and trauma for the Dakota people. I now understand the importance of replacing cover-up wording such as "internment camp" to more truthful language, specifically acknowledging that Fort Snelling was the location of concentration camps for Dakota People as a consequence of the US-Dakota War of 1862." —Angela St. Vrain, current MFA candidate

Students walking on a path surrounded by trees

Students listening to a speaker at Bdote

"I found the trip to the Bdote to be both informative and moving. Being not from Minnesota, this experience was something that will forever change my thinking about the way the government still to this day mistreats and dehumanizes the Native people. From the mistreatment of the women and children to the unjust murder of an entire nation's male patriarchy. The people of this land have been and forever will be more connected to it than any other people will be or could be. This is their land." —Kay Heino, current MFA candidate

"I really enjoyed the experience. It definitely led me to start conversations with the people around me and share what I learned with them. I think the tour should be mandatory for everyone living in Minnesota, as most people living here know about Fort Snelling, but know nothing of the Dakota people that lived here first. Learning about the history of the area and the Dakota people really helped to open up a conversation about where we are and about our presence here and how we should be acting as guests and taking care of the land we live on." —May Thoma, current student

"The reflections and depth of understanding that I was gifted by speakers and from the important work of the Minnesota Humanities center have inspired me to dig up the history of this Land that I have returned to as an adult, where I own property and where my own family is six generations deep." —Ali Yager, current MFA candidate

Students walking over a bridge


The MFA program, Academic Affairs, and Liberal Arts each contributed financial support for this experience.

It is important to honor the previous work that laid the groundwork. There had been plans for two previous initiatives that had to be postponed, one connected to the MFA MCAD Teaching Place Conference, and a Faculty Senate initiative supported by Academic Affairs as part of Faculty Development Day, both canceled due to COVID-19. These institutional initiatives were a result of the legacies of student activism at MCAD who advocated for curricular and institutional change.