Learning from the Dakota: Water and Place

Beach and beaver tree at Bdote. A tree has been gnawed down to its core by a beaver.
Beach and beaver tree at Bdote. Photographer Lorie Shaull (CC BY-SA 2.0).

By Mona Smith

These videos and audios are from Bdote Memory Map. The deep mapping project created by Allies: media/art is a partnership project with the Minnesota Humanities Center.  The website was created several years ago to help citizens of the area now called Minnesota know where they are, and to learn from the Dakota that this place and the river is not a resource, but rather a relative.

The memory map is a multi-media collection of information and expressions from Dakota points of view, provided by generous people who agreed to be recorded. From a planetarium program director, a retired professor, to spiritual leaders, to leaders in education, to young Ojibwe and Dakota people, each person offers a gift from cultures who have the longest relationships to this place.

Jim Rock and We Are Water MN

Minnesota is the homeland of Dakota people. Jim Rock offers insights on Dakota people and the star knowledge that connects people, place, and the universe.


Chris MatoNunpa on Mnisota Makoce

Much of the land now known as “Minnesota,” particularly the area around the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, is “Mni Sota Makoce,” the homeland of the Dakota people. Chris Mato Numpa describes the term and translations of it.


Minnehaha Falls

“We honor water, it is sacred to us…the water is powerful.”

Chris Leith (1935-2011), spiritual leader of the Dakota from Prairie Island Community, speaks of water as the most powerful medicine.


Know Where You Are – Bdote

In this 17-minute video, Ramona Kitto Stately and Ethan Neerdaels guide viewers on a tour of several Dakota sites in the Twin Cities. In the Dakota language, “bdote” is a word for the confluence of two bodies of water. To Dakota people, the most important bdote is the joining of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers—a place of genesis for the Dakota people. This tour is hosted by the Minnesota Humanities Center.


Healing Place

“That’s where it starts, to know how you are connected, or disconnected, from this place.” On the relationship between healing and place, from the Healing Place Collaborative.


Wakan Tipi, Ojibwe Youth is Moved

“The trip there made it seem like I was riding home.”


Wičáŋȟpi Iyótaŋ Wiŋ on the Minnesota River

“The (Minnesota River) valley stretches east to west, so it’s always lit up with sunlight.”


We Are Home

“In an urban area, what it means to be a Dakota person…this belongs to us too…we are home.”


Ramona Stately on Wita Tanka/Pike Island

Educator Ramona Stately recounts an elder’s words that the earth knows our footprints.


Alameda Rocha on the Mississippi River

Words and reflections from Alameda Rocha, at a multimedia art exhibition celebrating the Mississippi River and the continued presence of Dakota people in the modern Twin Cities metropolitan area.


All media with permission from the Minnesota Humanities Center and Mona M. Smith of Allies: media/art.

Recommended Citation

Smith, Mona. 2018. “Learning from the Dakota: Water and Place.” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, no. 11. https://openrivers.lib.umn.edu/article/learning-from-the-dakota-water-and-place/.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24926/2471190X.4481

Download PDF of Learning from the Dakota: Water and Place by Mona Smith.