The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community welcomed all of us to CommUNITY Day on Nov. 16. Their magnificent cultural center, Hocokata Ti, was the scene for this special event. The focus of the day was on celebrating community connections and strengthening ties and relationships.

My wife and I arrived early and were warmly greeted. We talked to other guests, drank our beverage of choice and enjoyed the beauty and design of the community center. My wife is into arts and crafts, so she headed to the room for that activity. I walked around looking at the different colors of stone in the walls, at the design on the stairs and the floors and at the height of the building. The center is so elegant in design and decoration that it takes time to absorb its beauty.

I talked with several of the presenters, then entered the Place of Gathering, the large area where SMSC members come together to make decisions for the community.

There were many tribal members and staff setting up for demonstrations, children’s and adult games, music, a dance circle and a presentation on culture and language.

Andy Vig asked me if I wanted to learn about a game of hands. He laid shapes on the floor and then hid a small rock under one of them. He explained the strategies of the game, and I began to understand the challenges and why children spend hours playing it.

The day was designed so each person could choose from a variety of demonstrations, experiences and presentations. Rebecca Crooks-Stratton presented Understand Native Minnesota, an initiative to share knowledge about Minnesota tribes with school children through K-12 school curriculum.

The aim is to improve younger generations’ understanding of the state’s tribes and native peoples. This is a three year initiative supported by a $5 million dollar contribution.

Sonya Seaboy and others taught us simple Dakota greetings, colors and numbers. I was surprised at the many cities, rivers and other landmarks in the current state of Minnesota with Dakota names.

An old map with the trails and community names was helpful to better understand how the Dakota people moved around for planting, hunting, harvesting and the flow of the seasons.

A presentation on federal policy by Ada Deer, Todd Johnson and Bill Rudnicki was an in-depth sharing of history and personal experiences regarding the interactions between federal government agencies and individual tribes, creating both positive and negative outcomes.

Ada’s experience restoring the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin and her many contributions at the Department of the Interior working with elected officials in the House and Senate to make changes in policy were stunning. She is a focused and effective leader and organizer.

This day was a special occasion for all who attended. It was a chance to begin the journey of better appreciating Indian perspectives on life, community and environment.

It was also such a gift to visit the community center and to see and feel how SMSC members and staff greeted us. They are experienced at welcoming people into their community, sharing their personal and community experiences and having conversations at different levels to accommodate the willingness of each guest to engage and learn.

Thank you for this special community celebration. We are so fortunate to have this amazing resource of people, traditions and culture in our midst.

Please consider their invitation to their next event — the Hocokata Ti Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14 and 15.

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

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