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'Why Treaties Matter'

The traveling treaties exhibit is on route from White Earth to Detroit Lakes, where it will stay for one month at the Becker County Museum.

Pieces of American Indian history are coming to the Becker County Museum to show why they still matter.

A traveling treaties exhibition, which was unveiled at the White Earth Tribal Headquarters building a month ago, is being showcased in Detroit Lakes starting Monday.

Twenty large, freestanding banners will line a new gallery in the museum for the next month, each displaying portraits and stories of historical treaties and where they stand today.

The display, which will eventually travel all over Minnesota, is open to the public, and is intended to serve as an educational tool.

The Minnesota Humanities Center, the Smithsonian and the Indian Affairs Council collaborated on the project, called "Why Treaties Matter."

Lorna Lague, Executive Assistant of Special Projects for the White Earth Tribal Council, was one of several contacts for the creators of the display.

"They traveled throughout Minnesota to the reservations and got input as far as what these panels should look like, what they should say and what the message should be," said Lague.

Native input was key in sculpting the messages of the display because according to many Native American leaders, their messages have been misunderstood for too long.

"This needed to be brought out into the general public for teaching the history of treaties from the point of view of our native people," said the secretary-treasurer of the White Earth Nation, Robert Durant, "because I believe the way history has been written in the past and how we've been taught is determined on one point of view."

Durant says the exhibit breaks down, in an easy to understand way, the number of treaty issues still left unresolved today and explains the relationships, negotiations and rights of American Indians.

"It's just a small piece of the total story, but it's enough to get people interested," said Durant.

The executive director for the Becker County Museum, Amy Degerstrom, says the treaties exhibit will be displayed in a new gallery on the upper floor of the museum.

"We renovated a space just for this purpose," said Degerstrom, "We named it after Marly Rislund, an 81-year-old volunteer who came in here and worked and worked for six or seven weeks to make this space beautiful."

There will be an opening reception for the exhibit on Monday, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.

"We'll have speakers from White Earth and the Upper Sioux Reservation as well as the Drum and Dance Team from Detroit Lakes and some light refreshments," said Degerstrom.

During the month of October, the museum will be open on Mondays (days they are typically closed) in order to give residents an extra day to view the exhibit.

They will also be holding a Brown Bag Lunch Series every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Depot during October.

"Each week we'll talk about different treaties; it's meant to be an informal discussion where you can ask questions about treaties in a comfortable environment" said Degerstrom, who added that a drop box will be provided for questions to be asked anonymously.

"People can just drop their questions in there as a way to start discussions."

Degerstrom says the first 10 people to show up to the Brown Bag events get their lunch for free.

"So, I hope that people will come and ask questions and learn more about that part of our history because these are issues that still effect us today," said Degerstrom, "and my goal is to get some of those conversations going."

The exhibit will end its travels in December of 2012 -- its permanent home is not yet known.