Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announces grant to Three Rivers Park District for Native American education programming

Prior Lake, Minn. — The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), through its Understand Native Minnesota campaign, today announced it is providing an $80,000 grant to the Three Rivers Park District to develop new Native American education programming at Lowry Nature Center. Located in the 3,719-acre Carver Park Reserve in Victoria, Minnesota, Lowry Nature Center hosts over 500 school groups and field trips annually. It is a prairie-style building where visitors can experience seasonal interpretive displays, observe birds and other wildlife, and explore connecting trails for free any day of the week.

With this grant funding, Three Rivers Park District will develop an interpretive trail highlighting Dakota perspectives on various natural resources found in Carver Park Reserve, including plant names and uses. This trail will enhance current Native American education materials for preK-12 school groups and general park visitors, serve as a destination and resource for park educators to improve Native education offerings and training, and bring awareness to and celebrate Native people who live in Minnesota.

Understand Native Minnesota is the SMSC’s philanthropic campaign to improve the narrative about Native Americans in Minnesota’s K-12 education system.

“We are excited to support the Three Rivers Park District’s efforts to incorporate Native American perspectives into its mainstream interpretative work,” said SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, chair of Understand Native Minnesota. “As part of our tribe’s efforts to enhance the Native narrative in Minnesota school systems, this interpretive trail will bring greater awareness of the Dakota people who occupied the lands in what is today Minnesota.”

Through consultation with the SMSC, the Three Rivers Park District project team will engage with a Dakota Advisory Group comprised of elders, cultural advisors and other knowledge-keepers, who can provide guidance on Dakota language and cultural perspectives on relationships with specific plants found along the trail. Three Rivers Park District interpretive staff and the Dakota Advisory Group will identify up to seven locations for interpretive signs along an existing trail. The locations will be selected to highlight certain plant species or landscape features to be interpreted through a traditional Dakota perspective.

Lowry Nature Center was the first public nature center to open in Minnesota and has been serving the community since 1969. One of four nature centers in Three Rivers Park District, Lowry hosted more than 43,000 visitors in 2022, and its staff taught 280 public programs and hosted 575 school field trips.

“Schools have come to Lowry for many years for field trips that enhance classroom learning about Dakota traditions,” said Allison Neaton, education supervisor at Lowry Nature Center. “We are excited to collaborate with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and other Dakota people to accurately and authentically interpret Dakota perspectives on natural resources in Carver Park.”

The project will begin this month and is scheduled to open to the public in summer 2024.

To download a photo of the Lowry Nature Center, click here.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is a federally recognized, sovereign Dakota tribal government located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to other tribal governments and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County and attract millions of visitors to the region.

About Understand Native Minnesota
Understand Native Minnesota is a philanthropic campaign launched by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) in October 2019 to improve the Native American narrative in Minnesota’s K-12 public schools. The SMSC has committed $5 million for grantmaking to support research, teaching resources, professional development and educational programming. The campaign engages stakeholders and the interested public through convenings, listening sessions, a podcast, social media channels, and other activities. For more information, visit

About Three Rivers Park District
Three Rivers Park District is a natural resources-based park system that manages park reserves, regional parks, regional trails and special-use facilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Park District offers facilities for every season, including picnicking, swimming, creative play, boating, fishing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, golf, camping and sledding; extensive trails for hiking, biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as program sites for nature, recreation, historic and farm education. Three Rivers Park District’s mission is to promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system. The Park District owns and operates more than 27,000 acres and serves more than 12.5 million visitors a year. For more information, visit

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