Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza officially opens The Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza at the new University of Minnesota football stadium was dedicated on August 17. The million plaza represents the 11 federally recognized tribes in Minnesota. It features a veteran’ memorial and glass markers for each tribe.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) donated $12.5 million to the university for the plaza and other projects at the stadium. It was the single largest donation for the school’s athletics program.
SMSC Vice Chairman Glynn A. Crooks delivered a speech to about 100 people during the dedication ceremony of the Plaza, which is located at the entrance of TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
As football fans flock to the new stadium this fall to watch football, the first things they will notice are native prairie landscaping, a veterans’ memorial and 11 glass sky markers that stand 18 feet high and 6 feet wide, incorporating information and images about the 11 tribal nations located in Minnesota.
Dignitaries from the University of Minnesota and the tribe dedicated and formally blessed the plaza – with traditional American Indian blessings and songs by the Mazukute drum group of Nebraska and the Red Lake Singers of Minneapolis .Keith B. Anderson, tribal secretary and treasurer said the idea of the plaza is to give people the chance to recognize there are Indian tribes and reservations right here in the metro area and across the state.
During the dedication ceremony, university President Robert Bruininks thanked the tribe for a “gracious donation,” the largest single private gift ever made to Golden Gopher athletics.
“The Dakota people, the SMSC, and all of the tribes in Minnesota have traditions that extend back thousands of years – traditions that deserve our recognition and our very deep respect,” Bruininks said.
The tribal plaza was an opportunity to partner with the university and educate the many people who will pass through the stadium about the Minnesota tribes and the fact that the area is historic Dakota Territory, said tribal Chairman Stanley R. Crooks.
“We feel it is very important to tell the story of American Indians in Minnesota through this plaza,” Crooks continued. “We all know that the history books haven’t always told our true story, so we commend the university for their efforts to include us. We hope that the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza will help others better appreciate the unique historic and ongoing contributions made to the state of Minnesota by the sovereign tribal nations who call Minnesota home.”
The 11 tribal nations in Minnesota that are recognized with the sky markers are: the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa; the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians; the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians; the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians; the Lower Sioux Indian Community; the Prairie Island Dakota Community; the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; and the Upper Sioux Community.
In addition to the donation to help build the tribal plaza, the tribe also gifted $2.5 million that will be part of a fund the university will match, creating $5 million in endowment scholarships to American Indian students seeking college educations.
During the dedication ceremony, the tribal leaders announced the 13 recipients of the first endowed scholarships. The primary goal of the scholarship program is to support incoming University of Minnesota freshmen and transfer students with demonstrated financial need, according to the tribe. A smaller number of scholarships also may be awarded to newly admit graduate and professional students in specific disciplines. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years or until graduation (whichever comes first) for undergraduates, contingent upon academic performance.
For graduate and professional students, the length of funding is contingent upon academic performance, the school of enrollment and the degree program. The graduate and professional student scholarships will be determined on a case-by-case basis.