Honor Native American Heritage Month in Shakopee

November is Native American Heritage Month, providing an opportunity to learn about and honor Native peoples.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is a federally recognized sovereign tribe whose tribal lands are located adjacent to Shakopee.  The community’s ancestors lived in the area for centuries—in fact, the City of Shakopee is named after the Dakota leader whose band was living in the area along the Minnesota River when city founder Thomas A. Holmes established a trading post in 1851.  Shakopee means “six” in the Dakota language and was a hereditary name passed on to successive leaders.

Historically, the Dakota people hunted, fished, and gathered wild rice, with a focus on living in harmony with their surroundings and sharing their resources with others.  Today, the SMSC continues those traditions and values.  The community has donated more than $350 million to a variety of organizations and causes, collaborates with local governments on infrastructure projects, and invests in conservation and green initiatives.  The SMSC also owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino, which are regional destinations for gaming, entertainment, and dining.

The best place to learn more about the SMSC is at Hoċokata Ti, the SMSC cultural center.  Hoċokata Ti features a public exhibit called Mdewakanton: Dwellers of the Spirit Lake which focuses on the Mdewakanton Dakota people’s culture and history.  There are artifacts including arrowheads, tools, traditional clothes, and a dugout canoe, as well as engaging interactive exhibits—you can sit inside a traditional Dakota tipi, touch animal hides, hear the Dakota language, and more.  

For a more in-depth experience, sign up in advance for a guided tour, offered Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m.  If you’d like to explore on your own, the exhibit is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  General admission is $13, with a reduced rate of $10 for students, veterans, seniors, and enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

Hoċokata Ti also offers a gift shop stocked with Native-made art, books, jewelry, craft supplies, bath and beauty products, home goods, and food.  No admission fee is required to visit the gift shop, and the selection of products is ever-changing—it’s a great opportunity to support Native American makers by purchasing one-of-a-kind products.

Beyond November, save the date for these upcoming opportunities to experience Native American culture firsthand.

Waniyetu Art Market 

December 7-9, 2023

This annual event held at Hoċokata Ti will feature art and handmade goods from Native American and local artisans, plus food available for purchase.

SMSC Wacipi 

August 16-18, 2024

The annual traditional Native American gathering (“wacipi” means “they dance” in the Dakota language) is a weekend filled with dancing, drumming, and singing, as well as craft and food vendors.  Wacipi is a contest powwow, with dancers representing dozens of tribes competing in a variety of dance style and age group categories.  The public is invited to attend free of charge.