The Landing-Minnesota River Heritage Park
The Minnesota River Valley has attracted people to live and work along its banks for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence from The Landing-Minnesota River Heritage Park shows that Native Americans were hunting and gathering in the area since approximately 3,000 years ago. The Landing is located on the south bank of the Minnesota River in Shakopee, about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis.
Much of the property is undeveloped and heavily wooded. A gravel road through the site connects a number of historic buildings. The place also contains archaeological sites that reveal stories from a past which are no longer visible.
The area in and around The Landing has been occupied for millennia. The place we know today as Minnesota is Mni Sóta Maḳoce to the Dakota. Extensive archaeological deposits and the remains of several groupings of burial mounds, recorded in the 1880s by T.H. Lewis as part of the Northwest Archaeological Survey, is evidence of the Native American presence thousands of years before Europeans set foot here.
Between 1700 and 1850, the Mdewakanton Dakota established their village, Tinta Otunwe (Village of the Prairie), along the banks of the Minnesota River. Also referred to as Dakota Chief Sakpe’s Village, it grew to be one of the largest Dakota villages along the lower river valley. Tinta Otunwe was initially located on the north bank of the river, but in the 1830s it moved to the south bank. Beyond the village were wild ricing areas, gardens, cornfields, and burial sites. Native American settlement in the area continued through the arrival of Euro-American immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1839, Oliver Faribault, a trader and farmer, was assigned by the United States government to teach the Dakota people modern agricultural techniques. He established a cabin and trading post near Tinta Otunwe. Faribault’s Cabin, one of the first permanent Euro-American residences in Shakopee, can still be seen at The Landing (where it was moved to).
At Faribault’s urging, Chief Sakpe II invited Samuel Pond to establish a mission school at the village. Pond came to the village in 1847 and resided there until his death in 1891. His house was once located across Highway 101 from The Landing. It is now commemorated by a historical marker. While at Tinta Otunwe, Pond served as interpreter for Major Richard Murphy. Major Murphy, who was appointed as the federal Indian agent, established an inn and ferry service across the Minnesota River in the mid 1850s (the ferry landing is no longer extant, but the foundation ruins of the inn remain).
Many trails forged by Native Americans became roads used by Euro-American settlers. Roads near The Landing are illustrated on maps created from surveyor notes made in the mid-1850s show. The roads are in the proximate location of today’s Highway 101 and one leads to Murphy’s ferry landing.
Like all Native American communities, the Dakota passed down information orally over generations. Samuel Pond and his brother, Gideon, were instrumental in documenting the Dakota language in written format. As the white settler presence grew, the Dakota were pressured to cede territory through treaty negotiations. While steadfastly maintaining their language, the Dakota were forced to rely on the work of white translators in the English-language treaty documents.
The Treaty of Mendota was signed between the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands of the Dakota and the United States Government in 1851. By signing this treaty and the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux the same year, ownership of Dakota land was transferred to the United States government. After the Treaties of 1851, the area was officially opened to European settlement and, in 1853, the inhabitants of Tinta Otunwe were forced to move to reservation land to the West. Historical accounts, though, indicate that the Dakota continued to return to the area of the original village for many years thereafter. In the area of the former Dakota village, ferry crossing, and fur trade post, the new town of Shakopee, which took its name from the chief of the Dakota village, was platted. In 1853, Scott County was organized and the town of Shakopee was named the county seat.
In 1969, the federal government granted the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community official recognition as a Tribe. The community has continued to grow since then and many members are direct descendants of Tinta Otunwe. For more information on the history of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community please see the community’s website at History of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community:
In the ensuing years, the east end of the site was used for the city landfill. In 1938, the National Youth Administration opened a residential camp for boys, providing educational and practical experiences. The stone wall overlooking the Minnesota River, as well as a quarry pit, are tangible, historical remnants from this period.
Expanding an Incomplete History
After Three Rivers Park District bought The Landing property in 2002, the name was changed from Murphy’s Landing to simply, The Landing. The name change reflected a change in the way the area is viewed, recognizing the longer continuum of human activity. Three Rivers Park District continues to work closely with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
How We Learn About the Past
There are many ways that we learn about the past. The Landing contains much archaeological information from development projects completed over many years. There are also oral histories of Dakota people, whose ancestors lived here. Written historical records from when the early explorers and surveyors such as T.H. Lewis documented the site also add to our understanding of what has taken place here through time.
106 Group has worked with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to support the community’s historical and cultural preservation. One such effort was a collaboration with Tribal elders to map ancestral sites along the Minnesota River valley. The map, called “Dakota Presence on the Minnesota River,” has heightened awareness of the strong presence of Native Americans in this region. This effort has particularly helped non-native people understand the magnitude of life, activity, villages, camps sites, and burial mounds that span the river valley.
Flying Cloud Drive
Just across the river from the Landing, our understanding of Native American settlement in the Minnesota River Valley recently expanded with the Flying Cloud Drive reconstruction project led by Hennepin County. Representatives from four Dakota Tribes (now based in Minnesota) collaborated with archaeologists and engineers during excavations to support data recovery and interpretation of significant findings.
Over 5,000 artifacts, including stone tools, pottery fragments, and animal remains provide new information about Native American settlement that represents the occupation and use of the area for well over 1,000 years. Interpretive wayside exhibits, to be installed in the spring of 2021, will share the stories associated with the sites and artifacts discovered there. There will also be information posted on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community's website.
Riverfront Cultural Trail
To best tell the story of the riverfront and Tinta Otunwe, a place of the utmost cultural and spiritual significance, interpretation should come from the descendants of those who called this place home for millennia.
Together with Dakota partners, we are developing interpretive themes and messages that weave both Indigenous & Euro-American stories along the trail, revealing each community’s interdependence while also reckoning with historical conflict and tragedy. To engage visitors, we are connecting the voices of the past with the diverse lived experiences of present-day Minnesotans.
For more information:
- The Culture of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
- Memory Map | Bdote Memory Map
- NPS Archeology Program: Professional Tools
- Minnesota’s Office of the State Archaeologist
We would like to extend our special thanks to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, without whose collaboration we could never have completed the work we have over the years. It has been an honor to work with you and study the home of your ancestors.
We would also like to extend our thanks to Three Rivers Park District with whom we have worked for many years. It was an honor to be invited to lead and participate in many planning efforts and archaeological investigations at The Landing over the years.