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University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Honoring a gift

August 12, 2009

The Tribal Nations Plaza.

The 11 sky markers on the plaza have glass panels that display tribal flags, a map, images, and historical information specific to each nation.

Photo: Patrick O'Leary

U dedicates Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza outside of new stadium

By Rick Moore

The University kicked off the first of its stadium-related celebrations with a dedication ceremony for the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza on August 17.

The plaza, which encompasses the main western entrance to TCF Bank Stadium, is named in honor of the 11 American Indian nations in Minnesota. It features 11 18-foot-tall sky markers—one for each of the nations.

The soaring structures have glass panels that display tribal flags, a map, images, and historical information specific to each community. The marker for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community includes the derivation of the name: Mde = lake; wakan = sacred or mystic; and ton = dwell at a place (short for tonwanyan). So Mdewakanton translates to "the dwellers from sacred or mystic lake." Similarly, you'll learn that Pezihutazizi Kapi, the home for the Upper Sioux Community, means "the place where they dig for yellow medicine."

The plaza was made possible by a $10 million gift to the U from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC)—the largest single private gift ever to Gopher Athletics. In addition, the SMSC donated $2.5 million toward a matching fund that will create a $5 million endowment to provide scholarships at the University, with a preference given to American Indian students.

"We feel it is very important to tell the story of American Indians in Minnesota through this plaza," said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks. "We all know that the history books haven't always told our true story so we commend the University for their efforts to include us. We hope that the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza will help others better appreciate the unique historic and ongoing contributions made to the state of Minnesota by the sovereign Tribal Nations who call Minnesota home."

The public ceremony on August 17 was attended by approximately 400 people, including the leadership of all 11 tribal nations, state legislators, and members of the Board of Regents. There were remarks by a number of dignitaries including Crooks, SMSC vice chairman Glynn A. Crooks, President Robert Bruininks, Board of Regents chair Clyde Allen, and Vice President Nancy "Rusty" Barceló, as well as honor songs by the drum groups Cozad and Mazakute. Barceló also acknowledged the recipients of the first round of scholarships awarded through the endowment fund. Earlier in the day, the 11 sky markers were formally blessed.

TCF Bank Stadium is funded in part by nearly $90 million in private gifts and sponsorships. The first game at the new stadium will take place on September 12 when the Gophers host the United States Air Force Academy.

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