Review – MHS/NCHS/GAC – LQP Exhibit

Minnesota Historical Society/Nicollet County Historical Society /Gustavus Adolphus College
Lac qui Parle Mission Exhibit and Trail Signs
Reviewed on September 30, 2016

Items of Interest

The Lac qui Parle Mission was in service from 1835 to 1854. The site is owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and managed by the Chippewa County Historical Society.

In 2016, the old panels inside the church were replaced with five new interpretative panels. Six new panels were added to the outside of the church. The church is open daily only part of the year. Check the Minnesota Historical Society and Chippewa County Historical Society websites for hours of operation.

“This exhibit was begun in 2013-14 by students in a public history course at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, in collaboration with the Nicollet County Historical Society. It was finished by Carrie Reber Zeman in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society.”

General Comments

    • An advisory group also contributed much time and feed-back to this exhibit. Some of the advisors were Grace Goldtooth-Campos, Franky Jackson, Richard Josey, June Lynne, Dave Craigmile, Jeff Williamson, Jon Willand, John LaBatte, Curtis Dahlin, Mary Bakeman and Lois Grewe. I think it disingenuous to not credit them and their contributions. I do not know if any of these people were given the opportunity to review the final panels before they were installed.
    • As with Historic Fort Ridgely, the Lac qui Parle site needs a clean-up. The Huggins cabin site sign has been torn down. All that remains is a sign post and a wood-framed outline of the cabin site. The sign should be replaced or the post and framed outline removed. The staircase to the spring is covered with weeds. A sign should be placed here saying the trail is closed. The sign on the Riggs and Pettijohn cabins site is separating from its post. These older signs should have been replaced.
    • It appears that bushes were removed on the south side of the church. The job was never finished. The removal area needs to be cleared and restored. The bushes that were removed have been lying in a nearby pile for at least 2 months.
    • The spelling of the word “Mdewakanton” is not consistent in the signage. It appears as “Bdewankantunwan,” “Mdewankanton” and “Mdewakantonwan.” See my essay, “Bdewakanton, Bdote and Mnisota.”
    • Traditional Dakota religion is not discussed at all. It should be discussed and compared to Christianity. More information needs to be provided on why Dakota people converted to Christianity. There is much duplication on the signs. This wasted space could have been used for these topics.



Most Objectionable Statements

Outside Panel – Lac qui Parle Mission & Fort Renville

You can visit a replica of the chapel built with the help of Dakota people in 1841, and you can see the foundations of other buildings.

  • Incorrect – I would not call the present building a replica of the original church.
  • Incorrect – I know of no foundations that can be seen here.

Outside Panel – Lac qui Parle Mission

The station closed in 1854, the year after the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was ratified…

  • Incorrect – The 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was ratified by the Senate on June 22, 1852. (Lass, The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, page 61)

We encourage you to visit other places like the Lac qui Parle Historical Society, the Chippewa County Historical Society, the Upper and Lower Sioux Agency Historic Sites, Historic Fort Snelling, Traverse des Sioux, the Renville County History Society, and the Pond-Dakota Mission Park.

  • Disrespectful – To advertise only these sites is disingenuous to other historic sites that also interpret this history.

Outside Panel – The Dakota

Dakota people were created in Mni Sota Makoce. Minnesota has always been their home

  • Absolutely Incorrect – Neither statement can be proven.

The seven divisions of the Oyate, or Dakota people, are historically allied as the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires.

  • Incorrect – Oyate is the Dakota word for “people” not “Dakota people.” (Riggs, A Dakota English Dictionary)

All the Oyate are related, but each has a unique history and culture.

  • Incorrect – This should state that all the Dakota Oyate are related…

They speak three dialects of the same language. The four Santee, or Eastern bands featured in this exhibit speak Dakota: the Bdewankantunwan (Mdewankanton), Wahpekute, Wahpetunwan (Wahpeton) and Sisitunwan (Sisseton).

  • Incorrect and Disrespectful – Bdewankantunwan and Mdewankanton are the wrong spellings. Mdewakanton or Mdewakantunwan is correct. The Mdewakanton people should be called what they call themselves. See my essay, “Bdewakanton, Bdote and Mnisota.”
  • Incorrect – The Wahpekute are not “featured” in this exhibit.

…a French explorer, Joseph Nicolet, was the first person to try to write down its Dakota name. Today Nicollet’s place name is spelled “Bde Iyedan.”

  • Incorrect – “Nicolet” should be spelled “Nicollet”
  • Incorrect – Nicollet recorded place names phonetically. Nicollet recorded the name of Lac qui Parle as “Mde iedan, or better Mde iendan – lake talks.” See page 106. (Bray and Bray, Joseph N. Nicollet…, pages 251 and 106)

Wanbdiokiya, a Dakota man who lived here, told Stephen Riggs that Nicollet misunderstood “Bde Iyahde,” a Dakota reference to the Minnesota River connecting to the lake.

  • Why is this necessary? It adds confusion.
  • Incorrect – Stephen R. Riggs wrote, “Lac-qui-parle is the “Lake that speaks,” but who could be found around it? And no one had any knowledge of any great Indian talk held there that might have justified the name. But the romance was all taken out of the French name by the criticism of Eagle Help, that the Dakota name “Mdaeyaydan,” did not mean “Lake that talks,” but “Lake that connects.” (Riggs, Mary and I, page 58.)

When missionaries arrived at Lac qui Parle in 1835, they settled among the western bands of the Wahpetunwan, a nation 1,500 strong, with summer villages stretching downriver to present day Belle Plaine.

  • Incorrect – These were villages not bands.
  • Incorrect – As stated on another panel, the Wahpeton were a band not a nation.
  • What does this mean? – “summer villages” If this implies these villages were occupied only in the summer, this is incorrect.
  • Incorrect – There was a Wahpeton village at the “Little Rapids” just north of present day Jordan, Minnesota.

Dakota people did not leave this place until they were exiled from Minnesota in 1863.

  • Incorrect – Not all Dakota people were exiled from Minnesota.
  • Incorrect – Small groups of Dakota people continued to live here. Another panel states that there was a Dakota scout camp church here.

In 1938 the Upper Sioux Indian Community was established about 30 miles away, re-affirming Dakota sovereignty in the area.

  • What does this mean? – “re-affirming Dakota sovereignty”

Outside Panel – Dakotas at Lac qui Parle

  • Here and elsewhere, the word “Dakotas” is used as the plural form. However, within this exhibit the word “Dakota” is also used as the plural form. What is correct?

Tokanne (Mary Little Crow Renville) (1789-1840) was born a Kaposia Bdewakantunwan…

  • See my comments above on use of the word Bdewakantunwan.
  • What does this mean? – “Kaposia Bdewakantunwan”

Mary Tokanne was the first Dakota Christian.

  • Incorrect – Joseph Renville was a Christian before she became a Christian.

Otherday led Roseanne and 60 other settler refugees to safety in the 1862 War…

  • Incorrect – He led 62 refugees to safety.

Lorenzo…became the first Dakota citizen of the State of Minnesota.

  • Incorrect – He became the first full-blooded Dakota U.S. citizen.

Anawangmani…was the first Dakota man to become a Christian…

  • Incorrect – He was the first full-blooded Dakota man to become a Christian.

He died in 1891 and is buried at Goodwill.

  • What does this mean? – “Goodwill”

Outside Panel – Missionaries at Lac qui Parle

  • If Jeff Williamson authored this panel, he should be given credit for it.
  • No other comments

Outside Panel – Acculturation & Autonomy

[Letter] – “In this letter dated February 16, 1837, Joseph Plympton (commandant of Fort Snelling) informs missionary Samuel Pond that Pond’s contract with Lawrence Taliaferro to provide farming instruction to the Dakota under the Sioux Treaty of 1837 has been approved.”

  • What does this mean? How is this letter related to this mission site?

“What is old is not good. What is new is good. In that way, by degrees you will be able to attain something. That is the way. Among other peoples beyond ours, men consider that alone… The Dakotas are getting where they have nothing to depend upon. Therefore apply yourselves to the one thing you can depend upon…Bestir yourselves. Apply yourselves. Look both ways!”

–Joseph Renville, exhortation to Dakotas, winter 1838

  • What does this mean?

The Federal government was not yet coercing cultural change as it would on reservation in years to come.

  • Incorrect – “reservation” should be “reservations”

So why did any Dakota people choose to change aspects of their traditional life ways?

  • Is this question ever answered in this exhibit? The next paragraph states that Simon took up farming to supplement his family’s food sources. But, what about the spiritual aspects. Why did Dakota people convert to Christianity?

Outside Panel – The ABCFM

At that time, this place was still Mni Sota Makoce, unceded Dakota land. The few non-Native people who were here, like fur traders and the missionaries, remained only at the good will of the Dakota, and with the permission of the U.S. government.

  • This is duplication of information on another panel.
  • Another panel implies Mni Sota Makoce means “Minnesota.” Here it implies that Mni Sota Makoce means “unceded Dakota land.” Which is correct?

When the Dakota Mission’s Lac qui Parle station shut in 1854…

  • “shut” should be replaced with “closed.”

Inside Panel – The Dakota Language at Lac qui Parle

Missionaries shared the goal of spreading Christianity but were not always unified in their work. The Pond brothers began assembling a Dakota Dictionary upon their arrival in 1834. Compiling words soon became the work of the whole mission. In 1852, Riggs went east, tasked with publishing the book. Samuel Pond’s manuscript was lost in the mail so the publisher worked with Riggs on his copy, putting Riggs’s name on the cover as editor. Pond always believed Riggs received too much credit for the work.

  • Incorrect – We cannot say what Pond always believed.
  • Disrespectful – This apparent slam on Riggs has no place here. What is the take-away: Riggs took sole credit for the work of others or the publisher made a mistake or Pond was too sensitive?

For thousands of years the Dakota had an oral culture and no written language.

  • They did have pictographs.

The wasicus (white men) who came to live among them were different.

  • Disrespectful – Use of the word wasicus has become derogatory. Some Dakota activists claim it means “takes the fat” and they use it in a disrespectful manner.

Upon their arrival in Minnesota in 1834, Samuel and Gideon Pond, missionary brothers from Connecticut, began developing an alphabet for writing the Dakota language.

  • This is duplication of information on another panel.

[Example] – Dakota Tawaxitku Kin or the Dakota Friend

  • Note the use of the word Mdewakantonwan. This is a correct form of Mdewakanton. See my comments above.

Inside panel – Learning and Teaching at Lac qui Parle

Taoyateduta (Little Crow) led the Dakota War of 1862 against the United States. (Paul) Mazakutemani was Speaker for the Peace Party, the Dakota resistance who opposed the war. Anpetutokeca (John Other Day) led his white wife and dozens of settlers from the Upper Sioux Agency out of the war zone to safety. Wanbdiokiya and his relatives went to Canada rather than take sides.

  • This is all duplication of information on other panels.

But the family boarding experiment foreshadowed the more classic and tragic – educational experience for Dakota children.

  • What does this mean? – “classic and tragic”

Huggins was living at Lac qui Parle…

  • Incorrect – He was living near Lac qui Parle.

He was killed at his home early in the Dakota War by Dakota men who didn’t know him.

  • Is this correct that they did not know him? Why does this matter?

Lac qui Parle chief Wakanmani cared for Sophia and the children in captivity until the end of the war.

  • Incorrect – They were not captives of Wakanmani.

[Photo] – Below: Catherine Tatidutawin and her son Lorenzo Lawrence. Catherine became a Christian and learned how to read when she was in her 40s. She brought her children to school at Lac qui Parle where they all became literate in Dakota and English. In 1861, Lorenzo became the first Dakota citizen of Minnesota.

  • This is duplication of information on other panels.
  • Incorrect – He became the first full-blooded Dakota U.S. citizen.

Inside Panel – The Holy House at Lac qui Parle

The congregation worshiped here until 1853-54, when many members moved downriver to the newly established Upper Sioux Reservation. The ABCFM went with them, closing the station at Lac qui Parle and establishing new stations alongside the Dakota congregations at Hazlewood and Pejutazizi.

  • Incorrect – The Lac qui Parle station was already on the Upper Sioux Reservation.
  • Incorrect – In March 1854 the Riggs’s cabin at Lac qui Parle burned down. Rather than rebuild, the decision was made to move their station to the vicinity of the Upper Sioux Agency. Riggs wrote, “It was found that we could take with us almost all the Christian part of our community. The idea was to commence a settlement of the civilized and Christianized Dakotas, as some point within convenient distance from the Agency, to receive the help which the government had by treaty pledged itself to give.” (Riggs, Mary and I, page 130)

In 1942, the Works Progress Administration surveyed the site of mission at Lac qui Parle and reconstructed the chapel on top of the original foundation.

  • Incorrect – “site of mission” should read “site of the mission.”
  • Incorrect – They constructed a building somewhat similar to the original church building.

Inside Panel – Dakota Clergy: A Legacy at Lac qui Parle

[Photo] – Carved pipestone Latin cross with stepped base

  • What does this have to do with this site?

He and Mary became historians of the Peace Party…

  • What does this mean? – “historians of the Peace Party?”

[Photo] – Lariat-style necklace, glass beads and leather, styled in the logo of the Dakota Presbytery

  • What does this have to do with this site?

The American Board of Commisioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)…

  • Incorrect – “Commisioners” should be “Commissioners”.

Robert Hopkins Chaska…moved from Lac qui Parle to the Upper Sioux Reservation to farm.

  • Incorrect – At Lac qui Parle, he was already on the Upper Sioux Reservation.

Inside Panel – Kinship at Lac qui Parle

Joseph Renville

  • This information on Joseph Renville is duplicated on another panel.

Born in 1779 to a Kaposia Mdewankanton Dakota woman…

  • Incorrect – Mdewankanton should be Mdewakanton. See my comments above.

The missionaries were raised with a different world view. They valued private ownership, not communal property, and relied on their own thrift to provide for the future. The mission was chronically underfunded and located hundreds of miles from sources of re-supply. To them, Dakota’s extensive gift giving seemed reckless and wasteful. It took some missionaries decades to trust and to honor Dakota kinship expectations. Some never learned. The second generation, the missionary children born and raised among the Dakota, grew up exposed to kinship and were more successful inter-culturally than their parents.

  • Incorrect – One of the reasons the early Dakota people were attracted to the church was the generosity and willingness of the missionaries to share.

[Drawing] – Evening Meal, Frank B. Mayer, July 1851

  • What does this have to do with this site?

Fort Renville, Lac qui Parle, c. 1835

  • This is duplication of information at the Fort Renville site just down the road.


Bray, Edmund C. and Bray, Martha Coleman. Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies: The Expeditions of 1838-39 with Journals, Letters, and Note on the Dakota Indians. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1993.

Lass, William E. The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. St. Peter, MN: Nicollet County Historical Society Press, 2011.

Riggs, Stephen R. A Dakota-English Dictionary. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1890. Reprint, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, 1992.

Riggs, Stephen R., Mary and I, Forty Years with the Sioux, Chicago: W.G. Holmes, 1880.


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