between sites at Oheyawahi/Pilot Knob.
The lessons we teach, much like the places we inhabit, are multivalent
and layered in the stories they tell. At the Minnesota Humanities
Center, we have long sought to empower educators to create lessons
that recognize and amplify absent narratives, the stories that have
been systematically marginalized or left out in classrooms and curricula
for generations. By interrogating their own worldviews and personal
experiences, educators recognize absent narratives in their work
and develop strategies to surface these stories in a respectful
way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, engaging with questions of equity requires
a deep knowledge of oneself and a firm commitment to ones
community and relationships. In essence, it is grounded in placenot
place in the fickle, cartographic sense, but place as the sum of
relationships and physical geography, self and the messy complexity
of a shared humanity. A deep knowledge of self is always at once
a deep knowledge of place.
That said, if place is the organizing principle through which
we can effect the kind of searching personal awareness that, in
coalescing among teams of educators, begins to countervail centuries
of marginalization and absenting, then there is perhaps no more
important place than the one on which we stand. As Dakota artist
and scholar Mona Smith enjoins educators involved in Humanities
Center programming, "To know who you are, you have to know where
you are." This, at its core, is the purpose of the professional
development offering Bdote Field Trip: Dakota in the Twin Cities.*
Developed out of the multimedia art and deep mapping project Bdote
Memory Map, a partnership between Allies: media/art and
the Humanities Center, the trip provides an experiential introduction
to absent narratives and the human cost of erasure as Dakota scholars
and educators tell stories of this land and its first people.
circle of stones recognizes the seven council fires of Dakota
While the confluence, or bdote, of two rivers at the heart of
the Minneapolis/St. Paul area might lend itself easily to metaphors
of communities coming together, hearing the lived histories of communities
and their relationship to this place surfaces more complex truths.
Throughout the Bdote Field Trip, Mona and
colleagues Ethan Neerdaels and Ramona Kitto Stately guide participants
on walks at sites of significance to Dakota people and share 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 a region they call home and
open their minds to honor Indigenous ways of knowing and being in
relationship to place.
the day, participants listen to stories of bdote told by Dakota
The trips crescendo comes at midday when sage is burned
and participants gather in circle at the site of Historic Fort Snelling.
Situated atop the river bluff surrounded by both a thicket of trees
and the incessant din of traffic, the site speaks its rawness. In
this circle, Ramona shares of the sacred importance of bdote to
Dakota people; of how Wita Tanka (Pike Island) is the site of genesis;
of how treaties signed here took hundreds of thousands of acres
of Dakota land; of how 1,600 Dakota women, children, and elders
were force marched here from Lower Sioux Agency and held in concentration
camps after 38 Dakota men were executed by the United States government;
of how a military fort, an airport, and multiple freeways were built
over these sites of sacredness and wounding; of how this duality
of trauma and birth figures in the story of her own family; of how
erasure forecloses efforts to engage one another in reciprocal learning
to this day.
between sites at Oheyawahi/Pilot Knob.
In this moment, something changes for participants on the trip.
The place speaks to them, calls them to action and understanding
in a way no training seminar could ever hope to do. Listening to
the incontrovertible, human truths of Ramonas story and grounding
in the stirring tranquility of the bdote site, the dangers of absence
and erasure are palpable. Planes roar overhead and the forts
outline looms atop the river bluff, offering constant reminders
of how a dominant narrative has marginalized and ignored the humanity
of this lands first people. Participants leave feeling an
overwhelming desire to share what they have learned and do what
they can to promote healing for this place. This is a powerful seed
of change that, if nourished through practice and collaboration,
can create real and meaningful engagement for students of all backgrounds.
*Bdote Field Trips are open to educators and members of the
general public. Visit mnhum.org/bdotefieldtrip
to learn more and sign up for upcoming trips.
MacKinnon Morrow, Kirk. 2016. "Toward a Pedagogy of Place: the
Bdote Field Trip and Absent Narratives in the Classroom" Open
Rivers: Rethinking The Mississippi, no. 2. http://editions.lib.umn.edu/openrivers/article/toward-a-pedagogy-of-place-the-bdote-field-trip-and-absent-narratives-in-the-classroom/.
Download PDF of Toward
a Pedagogy of Place: the Bdote Field Trip and Absent Narratives
in the Classroom by Kirk MacKinnon Morrow.