University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Friday Favorites Blogroll: Bdote Memory Map

It is difficult for me to know where to start in conveying how much I have learned from the Bdote Memory Map.  I could talk about the ways the map conveys Dakota names for places that are very familiar to me, thereby disrupting my complacent sense that I have figured out a lot of what makes the place work.  I could talk about the ways the map sparks my imagination, suggesting 1001 questions that might be good topics for research and inquiry, either by me as a scholar or through my teaching, to pass to students.

For me, though, the dominant impression from the Bdote Memory Map is the voices it offers.  Map creator Mona Smith has interviewed Dakota people about what specific places mean to them, and has arranged the interviews along with other important materials on a map interface that highlights well known places such as St. Anthony Falls, and offers vitally important perspectives on places such as the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the “bdote” of the map’s title.

These voices have turned out to generate some of the formative principles for us at River Life:

  • Listen to indigenous people.  They are still here, not just part of the historical record of the place.
  • The voices of indigenous people matter.  In programs, provide ways to hear those voices, rather than mute them in favor of what others have said about them.
  • There is much to learn from the voices and perspectives of indigenous people, most of which can’t really be expressed in summarized “lessons” or anything so cut-and-dried or reductive as that.  They just need to be absorbed, and, having been heard in a good way, the new insights will come back at times of their own choosing.

The Bdote Memory Map covers only the Twin Cities area of the Mississippi River at this point, and contains only Dakota voices.  We need to be identifying comparable ways to the voices and perspectives of Ojibwe people, and of Ho Chunk people, both of whom lived in or near these areas before whites came.  And of course, native people lived all over North America, and still do, contributing important voices, insights, and ways of knowing the world we inhabit together.

Once again, one of the beauties of the internet is the way it can put “the world at our fingertips.”  Web sites are poor substitutes for getting to know people and indigenous communities face to face, but until we have unlimited time and money for travel, the web will have to do.  Some of the groups that we attend to in particular include:  Proud to be Indigenous, First Peoples Worldwide, Media Indigena, First Nations Development Institute, and Conversations with the Earth.  An important page that does not focus so much on the cultures and voices of indigenous people, but on the relation of indigenous people to climate change is the National Geographic collection Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples.

I have barely gotten started to the richness of these communities and voices.  I welcome suggestions for more explorations.

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One Comment

  1. Mona M SmithApril 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    A few more places to explore:, (many videos and other resources presenting indigenous voices of Minnesota) Just click around! Links to Communities/Nations/Tribes in Minnesota

    and here’s an old one with links

    And many, many more…..


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