It is exciting to visit the new cultural center, Hocokata Ti, developed and presented by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. We have all watched the construction of this magnificent building with its imposing size, shape, and beauty — and with the glorious white tepees near by.

Now the community is inviting all of us to be their guests as we learn about their history and cultural beliefs. It was fun to see how welcoming the staff was as they introduced us to their new building — a gathering place for visitors as well as for tribal members. Our cultural interpreter, Michael Kurtz, explained the overall purpose of the building and how the design and architecture expressed the values and heritage of the Mdewakanton.

Inside the exhibition, we are invited to learn about the stories and rich traditions of the Dakota people — how the earth was created by Wakan Tanka and the role of the Star People as they follow the directions of their spiritual leader.

The artifacts on display and the commentaries by tribal members and leaders demonstrate their understanding and appreciation for the many gifts provided by the earth, the waters and the sky. We learn about the many cycles in life and community — the awakening of the soils and planting in the spring, hunting for food, harvesting of plants in the fall and the preparation for the cold of winter.

As a white man living near the cultural center, I will never fully grasp how a Dakota Indian or any Indian individual from another tribe views the world. I did not grow up in their culture and have different stories and experiences of white privilege that limit how I see the world. This cultural center can help me begin to appreciate Dakota stories, history and traditions, and the values that they share: prayer, respect, caring, humility, honesty, wisdom and generosity. I have a lot to learn.

The new cultural center is another step by the Mdewakanton community to share their knowledge and gifts with the larger community. They’re always thoughtful and generous as they grow and manage their many business interests. They combine traditional values with the latest thinking on environmental issues, clean energy, food production and other cutting-edge initiatives.

They are the largest employer in our community and donate to many Indian communities throughout the nation and to many social, cultural, and scientific organizations in our region. They work in partnership with governmental entities and other organizations in Scott County, Minnesota and beyond. The elected tribal leaders, Business Council and all of the staff work together for the benefit of their neighbors, guests and all their members.

The Mdewakanton are world-class at attracting people from all over the world to our community. They provide social, cultural and business activities to many visitors. For those of us who attended Wacipi this last weekend with the dancers, drummers, singers, food and vendors, it was another opportunity to experience the excitement and contributions of many tribal communities from throughout North America.

It will be exciting to see how the new cultural center grows and the programming develops. It is a handsome facility and is available to us all. Community organizations, private and public school students and staff and residents of Minnesota and the world have the opportunity to accept the warm welcome of the community to visit and attend their many events and celebrations. We are all better off when we walk in the shoes of others and work together to create a more generous and respectful world.

Lloyd Erbaugh lives in Prior Lake with his wife. He focuses on diversity, training, recruiting and team performance.

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