Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bdote Field Trip: Dakota in the Twin Cities

The Minnesota Humanities Center is once again offering its Bdote Field Trip: Dakota in the Twin Cities on May 18 and September 25, 2016. The Bdote Field Trip is a daylong trip that visits sites in St. Paul and Minneapolis that are of significance to Dakota people and learning about them from a Dakota perspective.

The Bdote Field Trip developed out of a partnership between the Humanities Center and Allies: media/art and built upon the digital deep mapping project Bdote Memory Map. This trip provides an experiential introduction to absent narratives — stories that have been systematically marginalized or left out in classrooms and curricula — and challenges assumptions made about Dakota history and identity. The field trip is led by Dakota scholars and educators who share their stories of this land and its first people.

Throughout the trip, Mona Smith, Ethan Neerdaels, and Ramona Kitto Stately guide participants on walks at sites of significance to Dakota people, sharing personal stories that shape an understanding of Minnesota as a Dakota place despite centuries of oppression. Throughout the journey, participants come to see different dimensions of this place and gain a deeper understanding of the region they call home.

For more information about the Bdote Field Trip experience see “Toward a Pedagogy of Place: The Bdote Field Trip and Absent Narratives in the Classroom” by Kirk MacKinnon Morrow.

*Bdote Field Trips are open to educators and members of the general public. Visit to learn more and sign up for upcoming trips.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Shanai Matteson - Water Bar: Tapping Into Our Collective Future

Shanai Matteson is an artist and co-director of Works Progress Studio, a public art and design studio whose collaborative projects catalyze relationships between people, place, and environment to enable new possibilities for artistic expression, civic imagination, and participation in public life.

I grew-up in a rural community drinking water from a private well. While there was nothing remarkable about the taste, when I moved to Minneapolis it still took me a while to get used to city water. Though I’ve now lived in the city for as many years as I spent in the country, some experiences take me right back. Drinking well water is one of those experiences; another one is bellying up to almost any dive bar.

In the small town where I grew up, the municipal bar and liquor store was an important center of community life. For one thing, it was owned and operated by the city, so profits went back into local projects. It was also the kind of place where people went to tell stories and make meaning from the stuff of everyday life. As kids, we spent more time at that bar than one might imagine, whether stopping in with our parents to pick-up beer from the off-sale counter or begging for quarters to plug the jukebox while they chatted with friends.

While it wasn’t a community center in an official sense, the Muni—as we called it—was and still is a place to build and sustain the community. It’s also a place through which news travels, conflicts are sparked, and long-held assumptions are sometimes challenged.

This was the case recently in another rural Minnesota community, when a municipal liquor store voted not to sell beer made by a local company because the brewer was advocating against proposed copper mining projects. Tensions continue to bubble in rural communities over the importance of both clean water and economic opportunity, and the assumption by some that the two are mutually exclusive. Bars and taverns are one place these arguments are made public. As individuals and communities, how will we negotiate these kinds of decisions about the future—decisions that are at once personal and political? One way is through common place, and also, through our common stories.

"Water is all we have."
That’s the motto of Water Bar & Public Studio, an artist project and social space that Works Progress and collaborators will be opening this spring in our northeast Minneapolis neighborhood. While the only beverage that our bar will serve is free tap water, we’ll be gathering that water—along with stories about life, place, and environment—from communities across Minnesota.

By creating a common place that is welcoming and social, where people can taste and drink the commonplace water that sustains other lives and communities, we hope to inspire self-reflection and storytelling across different experiences and realities. Water is central to the project, not only because water sustains our lives, but also because water is a mirror, a conduit, and a point of reference and tension. In short, it is a means to talk about life itself, and the many systems—ecological, social, and political—on which our lives depend.

Once we start talking about where we come from and the things that sustain us—including our water—we can begin to see how our subjective experiences shape the ways we see and interact with the world. In what important ways do our experiences differ? What stories about the world do (or don’t) we hold in common? While the experiences and stories of others may be markedly different, they're no less important to our collective future. Through this knowledge of one another and the stories we tell, we might begin to form relationships across difference, rather than with the assumption that difference always divides.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Eddie Frizell - Taking Care Of Veterans: Keeping America’s Promise

Eddie Frizell is a Veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard who earned the Bronze Star during his service as commander of a Red Bull Cavalry Squadron. He currently serves as commander of the Domestic Violence Unit with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Eddie was awarded the Medal of Valor for his heroic efforts during the Minneapolis I-35W bridge collapse along with several citations for heroism and outstanding leadership during his years with the MPD. He is a 2015 Veterans’ Voices Awardee.

Nearly three decades ago, I recited an oath that many before me had also taken. While raising my right hand, I stated proudly, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of United States and orders of the officers appointed over me; so help me God.”

At the time, I had no idea that the path I had started upon would force me to mature and face the tremendous responsibility of leading and protecting the freedoms we all hold dear. As a young person, considerations of benefits, long-term sustainability, and financial stability, were just fleeting thoughts. I was going to be a soldier and preparing myself to defend my country was at the top of my list.

In these early years, it was hard to imagine that our country would be attacked on 9/11 and embroiled in persistent conflict for the 13+ years since. In 2011, I was the Commander of a Cavalry Squadron preparing to go to war in the Middle East. In this position, I was responsible for everything we did and or failed to do--the most important of which was the training and health/welfare of the men and women who made up the organization. This weighed heavily on me, as I knew that if I did not get this right, it could cost lives on the battlefield.

This became ever more apparent when, at a pre-deployment event, an elderly woman, a quarter of my size, grabbed my collar and pulled me down towards her. I saw her piercing blue eyes stare deeply into mine as she stated, “you’re taking my grandson over there, and you better bring him back or you will answer to me!” Needless to say, I took her very seriously. She certainly outranked me that day! My mission was simple: take care of those that were ready, willing, and able to put their lives on the line for their families, country, and each other. The squadron covered over 1 million miles on hundreds of convoy escort missions throughout Iraq, but all of my Cavalry troopers returned home.

According to 2014 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ estimates, there were 22 million military Veterans in the U.S. population and 7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. These figures give you an idea of how many others among us swore to support and defend our way of life.

Upon the successful conclusion of their service obligations, these men and women earned the esteemed title of “Veteran,” and deserve the rights and benefits promised to them for that service. With age, family, and health considerations, some older Vets view these promised benefits as not just “nice to have,” but necessities. The delivery of these entitlements should be non-negotiable. It is every American’s obligation to make sure that these warriors are taken care of, now and in the future.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mica Lee Anders - Walking Through Time on the State Capitol Mall: Memorializing Minnesota Veterans and Their Families

Photo credit: Stephanie Morris
Mica Lee Anders is a COMPAS teaching artist. She creates and teaches in a variety of visual arts media--from photography to textiles--to young people across the metro. Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, Mica received her BA in both studio arts and Spanish from The University of Iowa. In 2009, Mica received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota.

On a warm fall day, I visited the war memorials on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. It was a calm and peaceful area, and I couldn’t believe it was surrounded by busy highways and a constant flow of traffic. As a Minnesota military spouse, I’d often been to the neighboring Veterans’ Service Building but I, like many, had never visited these wonderful monuments.

As I began my tour, I felt honored to walk among all these memorials--to feel part of the lives of so many Minnesota Veterans, both living and deceased. Their choices and sacrifices have helped keep our state and our nation safe.

To begin my tour, I spent time in the Court of Honor, reading the names of the numerous conflicts and the specific groups of Minnesota soldiers who fought in them. Although certain wars have a dedicated memorial, this ode to the larger Veteran experience truly summed up the huge impact the military has had on Minnesota soldiers and their families.

Photo credit: Michael Murray Photography

As I continued my walk, I felt surprised and proud to enter into the Minnesota Military Family Tribute. So often in times of war, the focus is solely on the soldiers and the impact the conflicts have on them, and yet the effect that wars and numerous deployments have on parents, spouses, children, and a soldier’s entire support system is profound.

While walking between the stones etched with letters to and from Minnesota family members and their soldiers, I felt a wave of emotion overtake me. The words in the letters were so personal yet I was able to relate to so many of them. It didn’t matter if they were written last year or 50 years ago; the sense of longing, love, and the desire for normalcy in the midst of difficult times rang true.

I could have spent an entire afternoon wandering through theses stones, reading the letters. But instead, I decided to continue my walk through the State Capitol Mall and relish in the pride and honor I felt being a military spouse in a state with such a strong and rich military history.