Officials in the city of Shakopee want to develop a vibrant cultural corridor, bounded by the Minnesota River and the bustling highway. 101, which takes visitors back in time to historic sites important to the region’s indigenous inhabitants and the Europeans who settled there.
“We have one of the most historically relevant areas in the state and we’re not really presenting it,” said city administrator Bill Reynolds. “This story is being lost.
The plans are still conceptual, Reynolds said, with no defined timeline or source of funding. Shakopee set aside grant money to study the idea.
But thanks to the recent history of cooperation between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (SMSC) community and the city, things are moving forward. Governor Tim Walz’s bond bill includes nearly $ 12 million for riverbank stabilization, which is often prone to flooding and erosion.
The large but little-known expanse of land, resting on either side of Memorial Park, is where the Dakota and settlers once traded goods, got married, and even collaborated on the first Dakota dictionary. Today, it includes remains of settler huts and tombs, Indian burial mounds dating back several millennia, the former site of a Dakota village, and the Landing, a collection of pioneer-era structures.
City officials are proposing a 2.5 km trail through the area, starting at the western edge of downtown and ending at the pier. It would form a loop following the river and linking to an existing riverfront trail operated by the state’s natural resources department.
Moving the project forward to this early stage required collaboration with several partners, including the City, Scott County, SMSC and Three Rivers Park District, as well as MNR. Just ten years ago, officials said, such an endeavor would not have been possible.
The city will lead the project, with the tribe playing the role of cultural consultant, said Nicole Hendrickson, SMSC tribal planner.
“This will inform the public of the founding of Shakopee,” said Hendrickson. “What people should know is that there was actually a very good, reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship between natives and non-natives.”
But the project faces challenges. One is the riverbank, about 40 feet of which has disappeared over the past half century. “If we don’t stabilize the banks, the river will do what it does,” said Reynolds. “Absent [stabilization], we really can’t invest a lot of money.
And local veterans groups recently opposed the relocation of a Cobra helicopter and a veterans monument to the adjacent memorial park. The park plan is to move the helicopter and flag pole to Quarry Lake Park, a 111-acre park in the East Shakopee industrial area.
Confusion reigned in late January, when about 75 people showed up for a meeting at the American Legion about moving the helicopter. City officials eventually canceled the meeting.
“There was some clarity [since then], but there is a lot of tension, ”said Bob Zondlo, first vice-commander of Legion Post 2.“ Change is never easy.
City officials have formed a committee with members of VFW and the Legion to discuss the plans, Reynolds said. He added that nothing will be moved without the approval of veterans.
Two of the area’s significant sites – the burial mounds near Memorial Park and the Dakota village called Tinta-otonwe – are recognized in the Minnesota archaeological record, Hendrickson said.
Although Indigenous people have been present in the area for millennia, the village of Chief Sakpe II was first observed by settlers in the 1820s. Sakpe II, for whom Shakopee was named, signed several treaties that have then broken up by the U.S. government, paving the way for the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Attracted by nearby sources, Europeans settled there in the 1840s and traded items like clothing for furs and meat, Hendrickson said. Trader Oliver Faribault married a Native woman and Reverend Samuel Pond arrived to do missionary work among the Dakota. He compiled the first dictionary of the Dakota language.
The hallway would seek to highlight this story and others, Reynolds said, through the use of “augmented reality,” in addition to conventional signage. Smartphones would allow visitors to scan QR codes at stations along the corridor, see what the area looked like in the past, and view reconstructed scenes.
The trail would respond to growing interest in historic tourism while giving residents a stronger sense of place, Reynolds said.
“The city of Shakopee wants to embrace its history, and its history is not just a culture or a people,” he said.