Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announces $2.3 million in grants, two new publications to support teaching of Native American content

Grants and projects mark the conclusion of the tribe’s Understand Native Minnesota campaign

Prior Lake, Minn. — The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), through its Understand Native Minnesota campaign, today announced $2.3 million in grants and the availability of two new publications to support the teaching of Native American content in Minnesota schools. Understand Native Minnesota is the SMSC’s philanthropic campaign to improve the narrative about Native Americans in Minnesota’s K-12 education system. The campaign was launched in October 2019 and engaged in a wide variety of public awareness-raising, research, publishing, programming and $5 million of grantmaking – the last of which is being announced today as the campaign comes to a close at the end of this month.

New publications to support teaching of Native content

The SMSC commissioned and just released “A Guide to Reliable Native American-Related Teaching Resources,” written by Odia Wood-Krueger, a first-of-its-kind guide that provides educators with a reliable, classified bibliography of 550 recommendable teaching resources aligned with current state English Language Arts academic standards for use by teachers.

In conjunction with Native Governance Center, the tribe also commissioned and co-published the “Minnesota Native American Essential Understandings for Educators” guide, providing teachers, curriculum developers, students, and others with a compilation of the most essential information about Native people and tribal governments in the state.

Both publications stem from recommendations in the tribe’s 2022 “Restoring Our Place” report, which assessed teaching resources on Native American subject matter used in Minnesota classrooms based on a survey of hundreds of Minnesota teachers.

“We hope these two new publications give educators across Minnesota the practical help they told us they need to enhance their teaching of Native American content in our schools,” said SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, chair of Understand Native Minnesota. “They took an incredible amount of collaboration to develop and are tools that will help ensure that the students of today know that Native peoples are not relegated to the past, but rather are making important contributions to society.”

Final grants of the Understand Native Minnesota campaign include:

  • $126,014 to the Bell Museum for the development of a grade 2-5 field trip offering focused on traditional Indigenous ecological and astronomical knowledge.
  • $226,240 to Daḳota Wicoḣaƞ for enhancements to and the promotion of its “Mni Sóta Maḳoce: The Dakota Homelands” curriculum for sixth-grade social studies.
  • $75,000 to the Minnesota Historical Society to support the free distribution and promotion of its Native history educational materials and provide related professional development.
  • $141,550 to the Minnesota Historical Society Press for the creation of a young adult edition of its book “Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota” and the future free distribution of the book to schools.
  • $172,400 to the Minnesota Humanities Center for the development of nine new books in the Minnesota Native American Lives series and teachers’ guides for all 12 books in the series.
  • $35,000 to the Science Museum of Minnesota for the development of an educator guide for school groups visiting its “We Move and We Stay” exhibit which is aligned with state academic standards and features access to the museum’s large digital archive of its Dakota and Ojibwe collection.
  • $353,916 to St. Cloud State University for a four-year expansion of the Native Studies Summer Workshop for Educators (NSSWE) professional development program for educators.
  • $533,700 to Wakaŋ Tipi Awaŋyaŋkapi for the development of K-12 curriculum, teaching materials and exhibits for the Wakaŋ Tipi Center to be opened in 2025.
  • $124,325 to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center to develop and integrate Dakota and Ojibwe content into the curricula of its programing for outdoor school groups and educators.
  • $194,470 for the development and distribution of teaching resources and professional development on Indigenous fire practices and culture, including a book giveaway of the forthcoming book “Wildfire: The Culture, Science, and Future of Fire” in partnership with the Minnesota Science Teachers Association.
  • $71,950 for a future K-12 schools book giveaway of Anton Treuer’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Reader Edition)” and development of a teacher’s guide for the book.
  • $275,000 to create and distribute a new podcast series offering guidance to educators on Native books and other teaching resources.
  • One additional large grant award will be separately announced within the next few weeks.

“Through the Understand Native Minnesota campaign, our tribe set out to make a dedicated effort to improve the narrative taught in classrooms about Native peoples,” said Crooks-Stratton. “We are proud of the work we have accomplished but know that much more remains to be done. Our grantees and many others working in K-12 education are making meaningful, lasting advances on how students learn about the historical and contemporary Native experience.”

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is a federally recognized, sovereign Dakota tribal government located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to other tribal governments and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County and attract millions of visitors to the region.

About Understand Native Minnesota

Understand Native Minnesota is a philanthropic campaign launched by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) in October 2019 to improve the Native American narrative in Minnesota’s K-12 public schools. The SMSC has committed $5 million for grantmaking to support research, teaching resources, professional development and educational programming. The campaign engages stakeholders and the interested public through convenings, listening sessions, a podcast, social media channels, and other activities. For more information, visit