'Native people are still here': Macalester professor addresses 'The Truth About Treaties'

Historic Forestville hosted Macalester assistant professor Katrina Phillips' talk in conjunction with the "Why Treaties Matter" exhibit.

Attendees watch Katrina Phillips deliver her presentation "The Truth About Treaties" in the barn at Historic Forestville, surrounded by the banners of the "Why Treaties Matter" exhibit.

PRESTON, Minn. — Minnesota's history of treaties has had an effect on the state and the country, even hundreds of years after they were signed.

Katrina Phillips, an assistant professor of American Indian History at Macalester College, explained the history of treaties during a presentation Saturday, Aug. 14, at in Preston, Minnesota.

As the sun shone outside, Phillips, an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, stood in the shade of the Historic Forestville barn, lit by string lights overhead as she delivered her lecture, “The Truth About Treaties.”

“Native nations still want the U.S. government to uphold these treaty promises,” she said. “Because by now, a lot of these treaties are 200 years old, but they have a really important role in our sovereignty and our economies, and in our cultures and in our identities.”


Katrina Phillips, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and assistant professor at Macalester College, delivers her talk "The Truth About Treaties" on Saturday, August 14. Teresa Nowakowski / Post Bulletin

The talk was hosted by the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating and Historic Forestville, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places, and located within Forestville State Park. It was in conjunction with Historic Forestville’s display of the “Why Treaties Matter” panel exhibit, part of efforts to acknowledge the original occupants of the land the museum town now sits upon.

“This is stuff that I didn’t grow up learning,” Phillips said. “Much of what I do, in instances like this, is to educate, so that going forward, these are conversations that we’re having continually.”

“Why Treaties Matter” is a traveling exhibit featuring a video presentation and 20 banners exploring the history and lasting importance of treaties for the Dakota and Ojibwe nations, whose homelands became the state of Minnesota. The exhibit is a collaboration between the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The first banners of the "Why Treaties Matter" exhibit, on display in the barn at Historic Forestville, on Saturday, August 14. Teresa Nowakowski / Post Bulletin

Phillips touched upon a variety of topics during her presentation, such as historical treaties that paved the way for the state of Minnesota and the importance of the sovereignty of Native nations.

She began by telling the audience “Native people are still here,” emphasizing that there are more than 5 million Native people and 600 recognized Native nations across the U.S.


Phillips also spoke about her own experiences.

“I’m a historian, but I’m also Ojibwe,” she said. “So for me, this is about showing what our history is, but also what it means for us today. For me to be able to talk a little about my family story and how treaties play a role in my life today is a great part about having the chance to do a program like this.”

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