Native Americans

  • Black Hawk on the Apple River

    Just 15 minutes from the tourist playground of Galena, a young woman scrubs a cast-iron pot with a corncob. Another woman sews the ticking for a straw mattress. Over an open fire, a man carefully pours molten lead into a mold, which he opens to reveal a shiny new musket ball.

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  • Road trip: Black Hawk's trail

    In 1804, the clock began to tick for the Sauk and Fox tribes of southern Wisconsin and western Illinois. Tribal councils had not authorized the sale, and the chiefs soon regretted it, but they kept the bargain.

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  • Heritage travel: Dakota and Ojibwe

    In the 17th century, when Europeans began to flee religious and economic oppression, the New World was not an untouched wilderness. Many of them cultivated crops and lived in villages, like the Europeans. They were careful stewards of the land, reseeding rice beds and maintaining healthy soil through controlled burns, just as state agencies do today.

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  • Written in stone

    In the middle of farm fields, on a slab of the same Sioux quartzite that pops out of the sod farther west at Pipestone and Blue Mound, the story of an ancient people is written with nearly 2,000 characters. They’re dramatic characters — serpents of the underworld, and thunderbirds who shoot lightening bolts from their eyes. There are buffalos and stick figures and atlatls, a spear-throwing device, but no bow and arrows, which began to replace the atlatl 1,000 years ago.

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  • Ojibwe or Chippewa, Dakota or Sioux?

    The Dakota are thought to be descendants of the Woodland Indians who built effigy mounds in the Upper Midwest. Today, they live in small communities along the Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys and in South Dakota.

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  • Carrying the torch

    In a quiet corner of Wisconsin lake country, Ojibwe culture lives and breathes. Violent protests shattered its north-woods serenity in the 1980s, when the courts upheld spear-fishing treaty rights. The backlash traumatized the community, but also strengthened its commitment to tradition.

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  • On the Rock River in Illinois

    In the northwest Illinois town of Oregon, a 48-foot concrete figure gazes over a river valley, arms folded. Over the years, it's been home to many ambitious men. Abraham Lincoln joined the militia here. John Deere forged the first steel plow. Ronald Reagan got his first lifeguard job. The man who inspired the gigantic blufftop statue also had an ambition: to keep this beautiful valley for his own people.

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  • Place of the Long Rapids

    Along an international border, it's surprising how much difference a few yards can make.

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  • Pipestone pilgrimage

    It's easy to see why the Plains Indians saw the Great Spirit at work in a far corner of Minnesota. Amid an ocean of tall grass, a fractured pile of hard red rock suddenly erupts from the sod. It's Sioux quartzite, once sand at the edge of a red ocean, cooked and pressed into marble-like stone over a billion years. Beneath the quartzite is a thin seam of a softer stone, a red, hardened clay that's barely harder than a fingernail.

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  • Road trip: Southwest Minnesota

    In the southwest corner of the state, the prairie hardly looks like typical Minnesota vacation land. Instead of lakes, fractured red quartzite erupts from the earth, and wind towers pop up on the horizon like giant black daisies. Herds of bison graze in fields, and yellow blooms cover prickly pear cactus. This was the spiritual center of the universe for indigenous people on the prairie, and it exerts a pull on others, too.

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  • Dancing on the Yellow Medicine

    For many people, the Minnesota River Valley is full of shadows. But on the first weekend of August, people of indigenous and European descent alike come to Upper Sioux Agency State Park to have a good time. At a wacipi, or powwow, the tradition of welcoming outsiders has held steady for many generations.

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  • Powwow primer

    Until the first Bemijigamaag Powwow, many community leaders in the northern Minnesota town of Bemidji had never been to a powwow. But the powwow's tradition of welcoming outsiders is an old one. It's a family reunion, and the one concept central to the Ojibwe and Dakota world view is this: We are all related.

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