Before European Contact
The Minnesota River Valley has been home to the Dakota for hundreds of years; the existence of our ancestors was sustained by their relationship with the earth and their surroundings. For generations Dakota families fished from the river, gathered rice from area lakes, and hunted game on the prairies and in the river valley woodlands. Along the banks of the lower Minnesota River, leaders of the Eastern Dakota including Sakpe, Mazomani, Chaske, and Wambdi Tanka established villages. From these sites, the Dakota traveled for hunting, gathering, and meeting with other tribes. Our ancestors lived in harmony with the world around them, and Dakota culture flourished.
The Treaty and Reservation Era
In 1805 U.S. soldiers arrived at Mendota, and a series of treaties forced on the Dakota Nation over the next 50 years would see their homeland taken away, their ability to provide for themselves destroyed, and an increasing reliance upon the government’s promises for payments and goods. The traditional Dakota way of life was stolen and replaced by confinement to reservations.
After another winter of starvation and months spent listening to the agent’s lies about the arrival of annuity payments and provisions as promised by treaties, the Dakota could tolerate no more and were forced to fight. In 1862 the Dakota battled for their homelands, their culture, and their way of life.
The largest mass execution in United States history was the result when 38 Dakota were hanged at Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862. The United States Congress abrogated all treaties with our ancestors and decreed that the Dakota were to be removed from Minnesota. The majority were sent on barges to Crow Creek, South Dakota, and eventually removed to Santee, Nebraska. Other Dakota traveled to Canada and settled there. But some Dakota never left their homeland.
Those Dakota who remained in Minnesota spent many impoverished years attempting to gain support and help from the government. It was not until the early 1880s that Congress finally began to realize the strong Dakota presence in Minnesota. In the 1890s land was re-acquired for the Mdewakanton Dakota in Minnesota. For the next 50 years, life for the Dakota people was one of poverty and hardship. Children were sent away to Indian boarding schools, and the government’s policy to destroy Dakota culture continued.
In the 1950s and 1960s Dakota families living on trust land in Prior Lake fought hard to make ends meet and to put food on the table. Health care, educational opportunities, and steady employment were out of reach. In 1969 after years of persistence in dealing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community was finally given federal recognition as an Indian tribe and began the difficult process of creating a government and economic system. During the early 1970s Community members depended on food subsidies called commodities, and low paying jobs were still the norm. The economic reality of life on the reservation was harsh. But Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota families did not give up. Through a number of tribal initiatives, members developed a health care program, a childcare facility, and a home improvement program. All of these programs began to change life on the reservation, though most reservation roads remained unpaved.
Prospects Begin to Improve
In the 1980s, the economic future began to look brighter. On October 16, 1982, due to the hard work of Community members, the Little Six Bingo Palace opened, and this new source of economic opportunity brought many changes to the Community. Tribal government services began to improve, and opportunities for the tribe and its members increased. Healthcare, housing, and education are examples of services the SMSC began to provide for its members.
During the 1990s, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community continued its transformation from an economically distressed reservation to one of the most economically successful Indian tribes in the United States. In this new era of self-sufficiency, the Community was able to use its inherent sovereign rights and growing economy to purchase additional lands and to radically improve its economic base. In May 1992, Mystic Lake Casino was unveiled, and the impact on the SMSC was positive.
In 1993 a new Community Center was built and dedicated to the children of the SMSC. Diversification of the tribal economy throughout the 1990s was a priority with the opening of Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Store, the Dakota Mall, Playworks, Dakotah Meadows RV Park, and adding the hotel to the casino complex. The infrastructure of the Community went through major improvements as well, with new sewer, water, and roads. New subdivisions offered major changes in housing for Community members.
Growth Continues in the 21st Century
Growth continued throughout the first decade of the new century. Since the year 2000, the SMSC built Tiowakan Spiritual Center, two additional hotel towers, Dakotah Meadows Mini Storage, Playworks LINK Event Center, parking decks for Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, two phases at Dakotah Meadows RV Park, The Buffet at Mystic Lake, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, the Mystic Lake Store at Mall of America, and opened a second Shakopee Dakota Convenience Store.
In 2002 the SMSC began development of Mdewakanton Emergency Services, a full-time, professional fire and ambulance department staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The department responds to an average of 250 calls and transports an average of 60 patients monthly, providing mutual aid to area departments on request. Six solar panels heat water at the SMSC Fire Station for washing fire trucks and ambulances and for showers. Skylights with daylight harvesting sensors used in the SMSC Fire Station reduce energy use. The Mdewakanton Emergency Services Department also administers the Mdewakanton LIFE Program which has donated 775 automatic external defibrillators. The program has documented 21 lives saved because of the use of defibrillators donated by the SMSC.
At the SMSC Gaming Enterprise, a new Entertainment Center containing a Showroom for concerts and events and a Bingo Hall opened in the fall of 2007. On December 13, 2007, a new Little Six Casino opened at the site of the original Bingo Hall.
In July 2008 the SMSC opened a Water Bottling Facility on the reservation to bottle water for use in tribal enterprises, special events, and for sale commercially. The plant also produces the plastic bottles in various sizes from preformed plastic. In 2011 production began for distilled water products.
In November 2010 Mazopiya, a natural food market, opened as the Community’s newest enterprise. Featuring a large variety of organic, natural, and local foods, Mazopiya also also holds classes designed to help Community members, employees, and the general public live healthy lives.
The Community’s newest restaurant, Mystic Steakhouse, opened December 14, 2011, featuring the freshest entrées from land and sea.
Wellness is a Priority
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has made a commitment to the health and wellbeing not only of its members, but also for its more than 4,200 employees. In addition, the SMSC provides services for Native Americans living in Scott County who are enrolled in a federally recognized Indian tribe. The success of the SMSC’s enterprises has allowed the Community to create and operate numerous health and wellness programs to enhance and encourage physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing using modern best practices while being mindful of traditional cultural values.
Services include the Shakopee Dakota Clinic, Shakopee Dakota Dental Clinic, Mystic Clinic, the Wellness Center with a Vision Clinic, Hearing Clinic, Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, Mental Health Care, and the Mobile Unit.
A longstanding relationship between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and nearby St. Francis Regional Medical Center of Shakopee, Minnesota, was formalized through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2012. The MOU establishes a working partnership to improve the health and wellness of SMSC members and staff. The goal of the MOU is to foster an environment that brings together the strengths, resources, and expertise of each entity to actively improve the care and services provided by both.
The Dakota way is to plan for the Seventh Generation, to make sure that resources will be available in the future to sustain life for seven generations to come. Conserving and protecting the earth today ensures that there will be food, trees, natural areas, traditional wild foods and medicines, cultural resources, and open spaces in the environment for coming generations. As a steward of the earth, the SMSC conducts a number of activities to preserve and protect the land for future generations.
Prescribed burns are used to improve native prairie conditions. Wild rice is sown in Community wetlands. Beehives are maintained, and honey is gathered. Maple syrup is made from sap collected from trees on the reservation. Environmental specialists are active in restoring and managing wetlands and taking an inventory of existing natural communities, both floral and faunal. Trees and other native flora are planted. Water resource staff assesses water quality, coordinates the Community’s Wellhead Protection Program, plans projects to improve water quality, and implements erosion control. A total of 548 acres of former farmland has been restored to native prairie and wetlands.
A Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) utilizing European technology to treat wastewater for reuse as irrigation opened in 2006. Leftover, treated biosolids are used as fertilizer. The WRF also has one of the largest green roofs in the Midwest, which reduces energy costs and consumption, prolongs the life of the roof, and treats storm water. The WRF has been honored by three entities for its excellence: the Minnesota American Council on Engineering Companies (ACEC), Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers (MSPE), and the Minnesota Governor’s Award for Excellence in Waste and Pollution Prevention.
In 2008 a second sheet of ice opened at Dakotah! Sport and Fitness. Dakotah! Ice Center is home ice for the Prior Lake High School Girls’ and Boys’ hockey teams. The facility features a 32,648 square foot green roof. The facility also has 16 solar panels to heat water for use in the ice-making equipment, skylights with daylight harvesting sensors, and a compressor system and heat exchanger to take the waste heat from the ice-making equipment and redirect it through the bleachers to heat the seating area.
In a unique collaboration, a compost site created by the SMSC opened for joint use by the residents of the City of Prior Lake in 2008. For three years the site accepted leaves and other yard waste for organic recycling directly from local residents in exchange for use of the City’s tree range to grow native trees and shrubs for planting on the reservation. Today, a new 25-acre Organics Recycling Facility is operational. The new facility accepts commercial food waste and yard waste to create compost.
A 1,000,000-gallon water tower was built near Mystic Lake Casino. A second water treatment facility and another water tower were constructed on the northern portion of the Community. In early 2009, a reverse osmosis facility was added to provide enhanced water treatment by eliminating the need for water softeners in Community enterprises and homes.
The SMSC is a partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural by-products and grown energy crops. Fully operational since May 2009 as a combined heat and power plant, Koda Energy is the first biomass facility in the country that burns only natural, non-manmade materials.
Another innovative project now converts the Community’s waste motor oil to partially heat buildings, which reduces the use of natural gas. Additionally, each year 18,800 gallons of used cooking oil from tribally owned restaurants is converted into as much as 17,900 gallons of bio-diesel used to fuel casino shuttle buses and other Community-owned vehicles and equipment.
In 2009 a 262-foot, 1.5 megawatt wind turbine became operational in the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. This turbine generates the equivalent of all the SMSC’s residential energy demands, though the energy it generates is metered into a nearby power substation and sold on the open market.
In 2010 the SMSC built two mirror-image buildings using a number of environmentally responsible initiatives incorporated into the building design. A geothermal system for temperature control captures heat and cooling from the ground. In addition, sustainable and local materials, non-toxic finishings and surfaces, water conservation through the use of rain gardens, and other systems make these buildings uniquely “green.”
One building is leased to South Metro Federal Credit Union while the other houses Mazopiya, a natural food market. The South Metro building received LEED certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings, emphasizes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. The building housing Mazopiya will be submitted in the future for LEED Certification under LEED 2009 for Retail Guidelines.
To provide for the safety and welfare of its members, employees, and area residents, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has a history of working cooperatively with other governments. Over the years, the SMSC has worked on joint projects with the City of Prior Lake, Shakopee, Scott County, the state of Minnesota, agencies of the federal government, and many other government entities.
The SMSC’s collaboration with neighboring governments has increased in recent years, working together on common projects and initiatives to improve community-wide services throughout the region. To be a good neighbor, the SMSC cooperates with local governments on projects such as land issues, shared resources, and emergency services.
More than 78 agreements have been signed between the SMSC and local governments since 1969 covering police and emergency services, road upgrades, emergency sirens, equipment sharing, sales tax agreements, well head protection, protection of burial mounds, cultural resources, ground water policy, traffic signal installation, watershed districts, and more.
Donations to Five Neighboring Cities and Scott County
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community provided $900,000 in grants to six neighboring governments; the Tribe provided $150,000 each to Scott County and the cities of Belle Plaine, Jordan, Prior Lake, Savage, and Shakopee. Specifically, the grants are for the benefit of local residents as determined by each governmental unit. In a letter announcing the grants, SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig wrote, “Our Dakota culture includes a strong tradition of sharing. We offer this grant as a way to continue our good faith effort to work with you on a government to government basis and to build and strengthen our relationship based on mutual respect.” He concluded by saying, “I look forward to working with you on issues that impact both of our communities.”
Intergovernmental Work Group
In February 2012 the SMSC and the governments of Scott County, Prior Lake, and Shakopee signed a Memorandum of Understanding which established an Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) consisting of two members appointed by their respective government which meet at least once each quarter to identify and investigate issues of concern to the governments. The IWG serves as a forum for enhancing intergovernmental relations, resolving intergovernmental disputes, and joining in mutually beneficial cooperation in service to their citizens.
Land Provided for Transit Station
The Eagle Creek Transit Station was dedicated on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. The new park-and-ride, which serves local residents, is located on Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community land next to Eagle Creek Elementary School near Highway 169 and the County Road 21 extension which opened in 2012. The Park and Ride site contains a paved lot and a bus shelter for commuters to use for car pooling and to catch buses. Scott County operates the station on 12 acres leased from the SMSC for 25 years with an option for an additional 25 years. The transit station is a project of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, Scott County, the Metropolitan Council, and the cities of Shakopee and Prior Lake.
Spring Lake Regional Park
In October 2012, Spring Lake Regional Park was dedicated, with representatives of local governments including the SMSC in attendance. The SMSC granted access for the trail system to extend onto tribal lands; and tribal leaders were invited to participate in the dedication. The park, with 353 acres in Prior Lake, Minnesota, contains 3.5 miles of paved trails through the majestic maple-basswood-oak forests, wetlands, and prairie areas. Trails are plowed in the winter for year-round use.
While the SMSC is not legally required to pay for improvements to the system of roads and highways that lead to its reservation, it has a history and practice of supporting projects which are mutually beneficial. Since 1996 the SMSC has paid more than $7.6 million for shared local road construction and an additional $16.7 million for road projects on the reservation.
Some of the local shared road construction projects include:
To improve life for all area residents, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is proud to be an active member of the Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency (SCALE). Representatives from 28 local governments including the SMSC, Scott County, local townships, school districts, and cities in Scott County make up SCALE Members meet monthly to discuss ways to collaborate and share resources and services. Greater efficiencies and leadership in public service are encouraged through enhanced communication, collaboration of services, and sharing of resources. SCALE has a Joint Training Facility for police and fire departments which the SMSC has supported since its inception in 2002.
The SMSC has a Mobile Unit which travels the state of Minnesota providing services to those in need. The dual purpose unit is both a mobile medical clinic, which provides health screening, mammograms, prevention and education, treatment services, and a mobile incident command center which can be used to handle emergency situations like search and rescue for lost individuals, incident command support, and medical support for events.
In fiscal year 2012, the SMSC Mobile Unit was deployed 97 times: 22 with Scott County Public Health; 24 at tribal and Indian health clinics; 24 on the SMSC for Community members, employees, and Scott County Native Americans; seven at Shakopee Women’s Prison; 13 times for other health screening events, and seven incident command deployments.
There were 872 mammograms performed in fiscal year 2012, bringing the total to 4,422 mammograms performed since operations began in 2007. Also in 2012, services were provided to 478 dental patients; 164 vision screenings were given; and 65 patients seen in the diabetes management clinic as the Mobile Unit traveled to areas around the state. Another 153 patients had their cholesterol tested and 20 had the PAD Net test. The Mobile Unit visited the Leech Lake, Grand Portage, and Red Lake Reservations as well as the Indian Health Board and Native American Community Clinics and other locations.
Through collaboration between the SMSC and the Scott County Public Health Department, uninsured and underinsured residents of Scott County can receive health screenings, preventative care, health information, and assistance with connecting to ongoing health care and other local resources aboard the SMSC Mobile Unit at three different locations around the County.
When disaster strikes, help is needed on the ground without delay. The Mobile Unit as an incident command center contains space and technical capabilities for tactical planning needed to coordinate services in case of a large-scale event or emergency, including search and rescue operations. The Mobile Unit’s emergency response component includes radio, telephone, satellite, and video recording of the emergency scene as a part of the command center functions.
In fiscal year 2012, the Mobile Unit was used for medical support and incident command by Mdewakanton Emergency Services in coordination with other service providers for events such as the Lakefront Music Fest, the American Diabetes Association’s Metro Walk, the Twin Cities Marathon, and others.
Largest Employer In Scott County
As the largest employer in Scott County, the SMSC provides much needed jobs with good benefits for more than 4,200 people. In 2010 and 2011 the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Enterprise was named one of the Top Workplaces in the state based on employee surveys completed and submitted in response to a Star Tribune project. At the SMSC Gaming Enterprise in 2012, Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino team members participated in two workplace surveys, and the Gaming Enterprise was recognized as a top place to work in both surveys: • Minneapolis Star Tribune Top Workplaces 2012 program named the Gaming Enterprise a National Standard Setter. • Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s 2012 Best Places to Work named the Gaming Enterprise one of the best places to work in the Twin Cities 13-county metropolitan area—placing it fourth in the large employer category.
Charitable Giving and Loans
The SMSC is proud to be a leader in sharing its success with other Tribes by making charitable donations. From 1996 through fiscal year 2012 the SMSC donated more than $258.2 million to Indian Tribes and charitable organizations. The SMSC has also made $509.2 million in loans to other tribes for economic development projects.
In 2012 the SMSC donated $1 million to these Indian Tribes: Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe (MN), Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (SD), Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (SD), Lac Courte Oreilles (WI), Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (SD), Omaha Tribe of Nebraska (NE), Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (WI), Santee Sioux Nation (NE), Spirit Lake Nation (ND), Upper Sioux Community (MN), White Earth Nation (MN), and Yankton Sioux Tribe (SD).
In 2008 the SMSC made donations totaling $14.5 million to the University of Minnesota for scholarships and the new football stadium. The $10 million stadium gift was the largest private gift ever given to Golden Gopher Athletics at the time. A portion of the gift funded the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza to exhibit and celebrate the history, presence, and cultural contributions of all eleven Indian tribes in Minnesota. Tribal flags, images, and important facts are displayed on the 18-foot tall soaring glass sky markers.
The remainder of the donation went into a matching endowment fund, creating a $5 million endowment to provide scholarships for Native American students. Including the 2012-2013 school year, 112 students have received the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Endowed Scholarship, with four students graduating thus far.
Since 1996 the SMSC has paid $14.4 million to local governments for services and another $6.4 million for other projects. Millions of dollars are pumped into the area’s economy each year as a result of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s successful economic enterprises, both gaming and non-gaming.
Honoring Our Culture
To honor our ancestors and continue our Dakota traditions, the Community engages in a variety of cultural activities. Each August the SMSC hosts its’ annual Wacipi, or Pow Wow. Thousands attend the three day weekend filled with drums, contest dancing, Native American crafts, and foods. Children and adults are learning the Dakota Language. Each spring students perform in Young Native Pride under the watchful eyes of their elders, demonstrating various traditional dance styles for audiences at a local high school. Members of a Beading Club are learning traditional beading techniques.
Traditional ceremonies and a sweat lodge are also part of the SMSCs commitment to preserving the Dakota culture. In addition, the Community works to preserve cultural sites throughout the area, advising construction companies, developers, and other governments about the sacred sites so prevalent in the region.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota are proud of our accomplishments, and we honor our ancestors, for it is because of their strong sense of survival and pride in being Dakota, that we have the ability to prosper today.