Use these guides to help navigate you way around the byway!
Use these guides to help navigate you way around the byway!
The byway has three new maps of the byway. These are great detailed maps that are mark our discovery sites and have more information on the back side.
Click below on a map for an orientation map. Also called a “Tear Map”.
These are 11×17 and printable.
West Map ♦ Central Map ♦ East Map
The Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway is creating a new visitors guide! The guide is printed every 2-3 years. The Byway covers an area of 287 miles along the Minnesota River – the only entity that markets the Minnesota River as a whole!
We distribute 25,000 copies of the guide far and wide and also display an online version on our website that will include a hyperlink to your website through your ad. This is a great opportunity to market your business to locals and visitors coming to your area looking for things to do and places to eat, shop, and stay!
We would love to include your business in the new guide! Reserve your ad space by April 18th to receive our early bird discount!
Click here for more advertising info and to reserve your ad space today!
Keep up with some of the detours along the byway by going to the 511 website:
This does not cover the county or city detours.
You can now become a byway member online! Head over to our membership page for an online form and method of payment.
Your membership means a lot to the Byway! Thank you!
Daḳota words on this page are using the Dakota font. We have mixed in some English versions so this page is searchable.
As you visit sites along the Minnesota River Valley Scenic National Byway, you may find descriptions of people that lived in these places. For many years, the authority to formally interpret and describe Daḳota places has been held by colonial institutions–museums, universities, and governments. Archaeologists have developed a system of classification that is used to describe artifacts and features of the region. Some of these terms include Paleoindian, Clovis, Mississippian, and Oneota. These are not terms that Native people used to describe themselves or their ancestors. The use of these terms disconnects Native people from their past and those that came before us, our wic̣ahuƞkake. When the term “Oneota” is used to describe the significance of a place to contemporary Minnesotans, we miss the Daḳota connection to this place. We ask that you recognize that the people that lived in these places are our wic̣ahuƞkake.
Daḳota people refer to this region as Mni Sóta Maḳoce, the land where the water reflects the skies. We recognize these lands as our homelands and the place of our Wic̣ahuƞkake (Ancestors). Mni Sóta Maḳoce includes the land within the current colonial borders of Minnesota but also includes lands in eastern North and South Dakota, southern Canada, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa. This name is important because it illustrates a deep knowledge of the landscape that Daḳota people developed over thousands of years. Daḳota people were drawn to many of these places for the natural features and resources that could be found there, and the teachings that are related to some of these places. It is through knowledge and experience, and through relationship, that Daḳota people have named places or the names of places have been revealed to us. Throughout this Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway website, you will encounter Daḳota place names. Using Daḳota place names is a way to maintain these connections to places that we all share today.
The Daḳota (meaning “friend” or “ally”) are the eastern members of the Oc̣eṭi Ṡakowiƞ, or Seven Council Fires of the Laḳota, Naḳota, and Daḳota tribal groups. The Oc̣eṭi Ṡakowiƞ are known as Wicaḣpi Oyate (Star People), and we each have our own creation stories as well as distinct histories centered within the lands from which we come. Originally Ikce Wicaṡta, or Human Being, we are sometimes referred to as the “Sioux.” This term came from early French explorer accounts that write about “Nadouesioux” peoples. Translations of “Sioux” have been said this word comes from the Ojibwe, influenced by the French, with a meaning that translates as either “snake” or “enemy,” but it is not a word that we traditionally used for ourselves. Though many in our communities today do not like this term, it has historically been adopted for tribal names because “Sioux” was what the United States government used during the treaty era.
Between 1805-1868 treaties with peoples of the Oc̣eṭi Ṡakowiƞ were drafted between the United States government and “the Sioux.” Since the term “Sioux”refers to a larger number of peoples covering a wider more regional area of land than was outlined in these documents, many members of the Oc̣eṭi Ṡakowiƞ were not aware that these treaties were being created.
The Daḳota are made up of four bands, sometimes called fires, the Bdewakaƞtuƞwaƞ (Dwellers of Spirit Lake), Sisituƞwaƞ (Dwellers of the Fishing Grounds), Waḣpetuƞwaƞ (Dwellers Among the Leaves), and Waḣpekute (Leaf Shooters). Within each of the larger fires are smaller camps, or tiyoṡpaye (extended family groups) that lived near one another and historically migrated with the seasons throughout the region of Daḳota territory.
Today, there are four reservation communities in Mni Sóta: C̣aƞṡayapi (They Paint the Trees Red, also known as the Lower Sioux Indian Community), Peżihutazizi K’api (The Place Where they Dig for Yellow Medicine, or Upper Sioux Community), Tíƞta Wíta, (Prairie Island Indian Community), and Bde Maya Ṭo or Shakopee (Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community). Some communities of Daḳota people outside of Minnesota include: Flandreau Santee Sioux (Wakpa Ipakṡaƞ), Sisituƞwaƞ Waḣpetuƞwaƞ Oyate and Crow Creek (C̣úƞkicakse) in South Dakota, Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, and the Spirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota. There are also Daḳota tribal members who are either from or whom migrated after the exile into Oc̣eṭi Ṡakowiƞ communities at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, Fort Peck Sioux Tribe in Montana, and into Canadian communities such as the Sioux Valley First Nation, Dakota Plains Wahpeton First Nation, Dakota Tipi First Nation, Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Canupawakpa First Nation, Standing Buffalo First Nation, Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Wood Mountain First Nation.
Central to a Daḳota worldview is the concept Mitakuye Owas’iƞ (all my relatives). This teaching is at the core of our wicoḣ’aƞ (ways of life) and it is used to guide our decision-making and actions. Who are the relatives that are included in the word “all”? We have been taught that this includes “everything seen and unseen”–animals, plants, humans, rocks, earth, waters, spirits. For many, it requires a significant shift in thinking to see all of creation as our relative and not as an object or property. We are taught that to be a good Daḳota is to be a good relative. So, for Daḳota people to follow our teachings, we must consider our relatives and our responsibilities to them. To not follow this central kinship rule is to abandon our identities as a people. This is especially important in continuing our relationships to the land, in general, and to many specific places within Mni Sóta Maḳoce.
Within the Minnesota River Valley are sites that are considered sacred to Daḳota people. How is sacredness seen and experienced in these places? These sites have become important to Daḳota people for many reasons. Some are places where a teaching was learned and that story was shared and passed on. We visit this place and mark it in our collective memory. Some of these places support resources that we depended on like medicinal plants and animals. Places where important historical events happened are also seen as sacred. These places help us remember our creation as a people and the many events that have occured in Mni Sóta Maḳoce. Lastly, some places have a power that may be unseen but this power has been observed or witnessed. Many of our sacred places have been altered, damaged, and even destroyed by colonization. The condition of these special places may impact our experience but it doesn’t lessen the power that is there. We hope that we will see a time when these places are properly taken care of. Most importantly, our teaching is that the land is our relative and all land is sacred. To better understand this, there is a teaching that asks us to think of sacredness like rain.
Before the treaties of 1851 (Mendota and Traverse Des Sioux) 5,000-6,000 non-Native people lived in the Daḳota territory that is now known as Minnesota. This number rapidly grew to 30,000 in 1854, and climbed to over 150,000 people by 1857. This overwhelming number of newcomers were mainly settlers looking to lay claim to lands that the Daḳota did not want to or willingly agree to give up. A lack of food due to overhunting by the Fur Trade industry and unfair treaty negotiations over many years forced Daḳota families to a small strip of land along the Minnesota River. Our relatives were going hungry and struggling to survive by the mid twentieth century. Tensions between the Daḳota and those who entered our lands illegally resulted in war with the United States government in 1862. Six weeks of battles between the Daḳota, the United States military, and settlers ended with lives lost on all sides.
After the war, Daḳota people were forcibly removed by the military from our Mni Sóta homelands. Thirty-eight (plus two at a later date) of our Daḳota men were hanged in Mankato on December 26th 1862, in the largest mass execution in United States history. Experiences of imprisonment, extermination, and genocide are necessary histories to know about Minnesota places. Though many of our ancestors were removed from Minnesota, the Daḳota connection to our ancestral homeland holds strong. For over 150 years we have struggled to remain Daḳota in Mni Sóta Maḳoce, or have returned home over time. There are also Daḳota people still living in exile (outside of the state), and these relatives continue to honor their connection to this place as home. We remember the stories and the Daḳota names of places that nourished us, have an unbreakable bond to these places that we have cared for over over thousands of years, and these spaces have helped to shape who we are.
While Daḳota people have not been the only people to live in Mni Sóta Maḳoce, in the past or today, we have maintained our relationships to this place. We strive to continue our connections to many important places in this region. This effort helps us reaffirm our wicoḣ’aƞ (ways of life) and live into our responsibilities. Our relationships to these places are directly influenced by colonization. Though colonization, all of our Daḳota institutions were threatened–education, economics, religion, justice, health care, governance, family life, and foodways. So while we see the impacts of colonization, we are also commited to decolonization and rekindling our wicoḣ’aƞ. We remain Daḳota and we are still tied to our homelands.
As you visit these places that mean so much to us, we ask you to think about ways that you can help: increasing your awareness, sharing new perspectives within your own circles, recognizing our mutual dependence on the land, and supporting our shared work in caring for these places. After all, you, whoever you are, are our relative.
Pidauƞyayapi ye! We are grateful to you all!
Iyekiyapiwiƞ Darlene St. Clair is Daḳota and a citizen of the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Minnesota. She is an Associate Professor at St. Cloud State University.
Ahdipiwiƞ Kate Beane is Daḳota and a citizen of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota. She is a public historian and educator residing in Minneapolis
This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.
Here are some new videos about the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway. Watch and share!
Discover the Byway
Arts and Culture
Watch this video to see some great Outdoor Activities in the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway!