To honor our ancestors and preserve our past, the Community engages in a variety of cultural activities which range from events to philosophies and programs. Cultural sites, values, and traditions are practiced and influence all aspects of tribal life and government. Below some of these are highlighted.
To foster community and continue important cultural traditions, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community holds both annual and special events throughout the year. On November 14, 2009, the SMSC held a celebration of 40 years as a Community (federally recognized tribe) with a gathering of Community members, staff, and invited guests. Similarly, a large crowd gathered as a new statue was dedicated to honor the first SMSC Tribal Chairman Norman Crooks on October 16, 2011.
The Kinship Dinner held each November honors families of Playworks Pod 5 preschool children by bringing them together for a meal and a performance by the young children. A prayer in the Dakota Language opens the event, as is customary, and then the children sing songs in the Dakota Language. Youth learning to be singers sit at the drum and participate as well.
Each year the SMSC Education Department works with Community youth to celebrate their Dakota heritage through events and activities. The Wacipi Club provides opportunities to participate in cultural activities like learning about “Sugarbush,” the process by which sap from maple trees is converted into maple syrup. Children learn to drill holes in the maple trees on the reservation, harvest sap, and observe the boiling and finishing processes.
Youth go for nature walks and learn about traditional prairie plants used by the Dakota for generations. They pick wild berries and harvest sage. They learn to make traditional crafts and learn ancient teachings through the annual Culture Camp hosted at the Pow Wow Grounds.
Through the Wacipi Club, youth prepare for an annual event called Young Native Pride. A free event open to the public, Young Native Pride celebrates Native culture, traditions, and spirituality through song and dance. Students and their family members and staff work toward the performance for months making regalia, doing beadwork, sewing designs, cutting ribbon, making moccasins, and practicing dance styles.
The third weekend of August the Annual Contest Wacipi (Pow Wow) brings together hundreds of dancers, a dozen invited drum groups, friends, relatives, guests, and the general public to celebrate American Indian culture. The day before the Wacipi, the SMSC holds a dance exhibition in the Rotunda at the Mall of America with dancers, drum groups, and a Master of Ceremony who educates the crowd about the dance styles. In conjunction with the dance exhibition, a special Veterans Program honors and thanks veterans of all races for their military service. Thousands of visitors are introduced to the Dakota culture at these events each year.
The Community works to preserve and protect tribal cultural sites, including Shakopee Memorial Park and The Landing (formerly Murphy’s Landing), both of which contain ancestral Mdewakanton burial mounds located in Shakopee, Minnesota. The SMSC continues to participate with state and local agencies in the protection of the Maka Yusota Traditional Cultural Property on Eagle Creek in Savage, Minnesota. Staff and members attend meetings, offer advice and feedback on cultural sites in the region and state, and work with other tribes and organizations such as the National Eagle Center, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Minnesota Humanities Commission to protect and educate Minnesota’s cultural heritage to the general public.
SMSC Cultural Resources staff consult with state, federal, and local agencies on matters of tribal historic properties. They work to determine whether or not a property is of historic significance to the SMSC or other American Indian people. They offer consultation using a host of federal guidelines such as the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to insure that governments and developers follow appropriate procedures in consultation with tribes. On the reservation, they conduct tribal cultural land management activities.
The Dakota way is to plan for the Seventh Generation, to make sure that resources will be available in the future to sustain life for seven generations to come. Conserving and protecting the earth today ensures that there will be food, trees, natural areas, traditional wild foods and medicines, cultural resources, and open spaces for future generations to not only survive but also to thrive. Ina Maka is the Dakota expression for "Mother Earth." This indicates a kinship relationship between the Dakota and the earth; Dakota people are morally obligated to take care of the earth, just as they would an elder. As a steward of the earth, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is dedicated to protecting and preserving the earth’s environment.
The SMSC government is responsible for the care of its people, land, and resources. Conservation efforts are a response to subsistence needs, cultural imperatives, and a desire for self-sufficiency. Because of the leadership and guidance of the SMSC Business Council, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has emerged as a leader in water, energy, and land conservation. Consciously choosing sustainable options for resource needs is an exercise of sovereignty. Sustainable options not only ensure future resources but also fuel self-sufficiency. The success of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community efforts has been evident in the restoration of prairies and wetlands, improved water quality, increasing faunal diversity, increased availability of culturally important plants, and sovereignty associated with wastewater treatment and energy production.
Mdewakanton Wozupi translates as “Dwellers of Spirit Lake Garden.” Organic produce is grown without the use of artificial or manmade fertilizer and pesticides. Organic gardening maintains and builds the natural fertility of the soil and relies on crop diversity to reduce damage from pests. Unlike a conventional farm which uses chemicals, pesticides, and other environmental toxins which can be poisonous and unsafe for wildlife, the Community Garden provides a safe habitat for wildlife to flourish.
Mdewakanton Wozupi, a certified organic garden and orchard, was planted in the spring of 2010 as a project of the SMSC Health and Wellness Department and the SMSC Department of Land and Natural Resources. It is planted and maintained by staff, Community members, and volunteers. Its bounty is offered for sale during Farmer’s Markets and at Mazopiya, the SMSC’s natural food market. Tribal members and employees have the opportunity to participate in a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program by purchasing a share in the garden in exchange for 18 weeks of produce, classes, and special events.
Heirloom seeds gifted from Dream of Wild Health in Hugo, Minnesota, were planted in a part of the Wozupi called the Three Sisters Garden. These old varieties of corn, squash, and beans were grown historically by Native communities and were traditionally planted together to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Traditional medicines such as sweetgrass and sage were also planted along with native prairie plants, bushes, and trees, whose fruits were part of the traditional Dakota diet in the pre-reservation era. Foods such as chokecherries, plums, and juneberries are among those growing in the orchard.
Children from Playworks Pod 5, School Age, and PreKindergarten program have small gardens at Mdewakanton Wozupi where they plant, weed, and harvest as well as sample the fruits of their labor. They use garden produce in their classrooms as snacks and learn to cook as well. Children from the SMSC Education Department also participate in garden activities on a regular basis.
In late 2011 a new tribal department was formed consolidating food production projects by combining the Wozupi along with the tribe’s honey and maple syrup production activities. SMSC honey and maple syrup are produced naturally on the reservation, minimally processed, and packaged for sale at Mazopiya and other locations.
The Plains Indian Warrior Tradition goes back to time immemorial. Traditionally, akicita (warriors) fought to protect the people and their way of life. They were willing to give their lives to keep their people safe. They were more than just protectors; they were hunters, gatherers, and providers. They were sons, fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, and grandfathers. The akicita took care of their families first, and then took care of all the people. They had a strict moral code which they lived by which mandated their behavior and their place in society.
As the history of this nation unfolded and the United States was created, warriors continued that fight which today has evolved into serving in the United States Armed Services. Indian people traditionally serve in the Armed Forces at the highest rates of any ethnic group in this country. Their willingness to serve to protect the people of this continent is held in high regard by all Indian people. It is that unselfishness, that nobleness of character, which the Dakota continue to honor and respect today.
Veterans are honored at the Annual SMSC Wacipi (Pow Wow), on Memorial Day, on Veterans' Day, and on other occasions. The SMSC also built a monument on the grounds of Tiowakan Spiritual Center, which was dedicated May 30, 2005, to honor Community members who have served in the Armed Forces.