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Spring 2016 NEWSLETTER

Stephanie Meeks addressing the media and attendees at the National Trust Announcment

Letter from the President

2016 Board of Directors


James Miller,
Jeffrey Olson, Vice President
Malcolm McDonald, Treasurer
Linda Michie, Secretary
Todd Adler, Past President

Board Members

Susanne Adler
Todd Adler
John Andrews
Dr. Jerald Dosch
Matt Fluger
Carol Forbes
David Gilberstadt
Jonathan Morgan
Mary Ann Newman
Dick Nicholson
Stephen Osman
Dr. Nelson Rhodus
John Rupp

Honorary Director
Charles W Arnason

Larry Peterson, Fort Snelling State Park

Tom Pfannenstiel, Fort Snelling & Sibley Historic Sites

This is an exciting time of renewal and redevelopment at Fort Snelling.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated Fort Snelling a National Treasure. The National Trust referred to “Bdote Fort Snelling” in recognition of its importance to Native Americans prior to the founding of the fort. This designation highlights the importance of Fort Snelling to our region and nation.

The Minnesota Historical Society continues to pursue its plans for the replacement of its visitor center in the Lower Post. The state continues to work with Dominium to redevelop a couple of dozen buildings on the Upper Post for affordable housing. The Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts plan to break ground on a new Twin Cities headquarters building near their Base Camp.

This is the centennial year of the founding of the National Park Service. The NPS continues its work to restore natural prairie to the Coldwater Spring site.

A number of summer activities are planned at Fort Snelling State Park and the historic fort on the Lower Post. Details of these plans are in the newsletter below, on the Friends of Fort Snelling website, and at the hosting organizations respective websites.

The Friends of Fort Snelling continues to work to grow and plan for the bicentennial of the founding of the fort in 2020. As another step in this direction we plan to host our third annual pre-bicentennial dinner in mid-September. 

Jim Miller,

Legislative Update - Historic Fort Snelling Funding Remains Uncertain
David Kelliher - Minnesota Historical Society

The Minnesota Historical Society’s state funding request of $34 million for the revitalization of Historic Fort Snelling remains in limbo as state leaders consider returning for a special session. The Minnesota Legislature’s regular session concluded May 23 without the passage of a capital investment bill. Before adjourning, the House and Senate considered a capital investment bill that was smaller and more focused on transportation than several of the previous proposals. The Historic Fort Snelling project was not in this final proposal that did not pass. The project did gain considerable support throughout the session and was included in the recommendations from Governor Dayton and the Senate.

At the time of this writing, the future of the capital budget bill and of the Historic Fort Snelling visitor center project remains uncertain. Legislative leaders and Governor Dayton have met several times to discuss bringing the legislature back for a special session to pass a bonding bill but no major details of what would be included appear to have been agreed to. Governor Dayton issued a list of priorities for inclusion in a special session bonding bill and included Historic Fort Snelling. Check back to www.mnhs.org/HFS2020 for updates.

For now we will continue to advocate for the Historic Fort Snelling project at every opportunity. Advocacy by Friends of Fort Snelling members has been much appreciated and is still very important even if you have already called or sent a note. You can send a message in support of the project to state leaders and thank Governor Dayton for his support via www.mnhs.org/HFS2020.

Association Management Update

The Friends of Fort Snelling's new website is taking shape! It continues to progress towards becoming the information hub meant to connect users with the whole Fort Snelling Area. The member database has been fully loaded into the system and can now be used for record keeping and outreach to help better connect the Friends of Fort Snelling with its membership. Members should keep an eye out, as we will be reaching out to you through this system to inform you of your membership status and other important news. 

A meeting has been scheduled for June 23rd with the Friends of Fort Snelling Board of Directors and association staff to review and and work towards finalizing the organization's new business plan, budget, and membership structure. Necessary information from that meeting and the following board meeting will be shared with membership as appropriate. 

Bdote Fort Snelling Recognized as a National Treasure

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Bdote Fort Snelling a National Treasure. With this designation comes a commitment to help local partners create a unified vision for a sustainable reuse of the Fort Snelling Area and a model for an empowered governing entity. The Trust can also work with the Native American community and landowners to honor and acknowledge the tribal history throughout the greater Fort Snelling area.

The campaign goals that the Trust has established are:

  • Implement redevelopment strategy for Upper Post.
  • Develop governance model to oversee redevelopment and long-term management in the area.
  • Engage Native American tribes to acknowledge and represent their history through the greater Fort Snelling area.

For more information on what makes Bdote Fort Snelling a National Treasure according the National Trust for Historic Preservation, visit https://savingplaces.org/places/bdote-fort-snelling#.V0cVIPkrLRY

Stephanie Meeks, President & CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Stephanie Meeks led off the Fort Snelling National Treasure designation press conference, highlighting the importance of the area not only to the state of Minnesota, but the entire nation.

“It is crucial to understanding who we are, and how we came to be” Meeks explained, “Built in 1820, Fort Snelling was a key training ground for soldiers during the Civil War. A place where thousands of Minnesotans were inducted into both the first and second world wars." 

"Fort Snelling played a key role in the Dakota War, hundreds of Native Americans, most of them elderly, women, and children were incarcerated on nearby Pike Island. All of the stories, including the difficult ones, need to be told. They are a part of our national narrative.”

She also talked about what it means to have the designation as a National Treasure. “The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to mobilizing 65 years of expertise and resources to help save the physical contents of Fort Snelling. Beyond that, they will also work to ensure these stories are interpreted fully, and appropriately. “

There are currently 84 National Treasures in existence, with Fort Snelling being the very first in Minnesota. Factors that are considered when the National Trust makes a designation are national significance, importance to the communities in which they reside, and the opportunity to tell a deeper and richer narrative of the American People.  

“With this designation, we believe Fort Snelling is of critical national importance. We care deeply about its future, and will be working arm in arm with all of you to create a more vibrant future” explained Meeks.

Meeks acknowledged the decline of the buildings on the Upper Post, and their desire to reverse that.  It is the belief of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that through a unified vision, an empowered coalition, all of Fort Snelling can be a thriving center of community in the twin cities.

“We see this transformation all over the United States, older buildings taking on new life, supporting the current needs of their communities” Meeks continued. “It doesn’t mean trapping them in amber, it means keeping them alive and thriving. Very much a team effort, we at the Trust are honored to be a part of it. Not just the physical restoration of the Fort, we’ll be working together to also promote acknowledgement healing and reconciliation in the use and interpretation of Bdote Fort Snelling.”

Meeks finished by acknowledging the conflicted history of the area. “I mentioned earlier that this is a place with a very complex, difficult, and challenging history. I know that at times the Native American community has felt their history has not been fully told and appreciated here. So we hope that here where the waters come together that we will all be coming together as a community to make Bdote Fort Snelling a place of life, and learning for the twin cities, and all of America.”

Steve Elliot, President & CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society

Steve Elliot followed up to reiterate the historic importance of the area, the need for investment in the future of the entire area, and the bright future of Fort Snelling.

“The time is right to recognize the significance of this place. To celebrate the roles of the many people who have lived, worked and died here” explained Elliot. “The historic fort area includes the historic fort diamond, where the state’s oldest building, the round tower, and its oldest house, the commandant’s house have stood for nearly 200 years. It includes former cavalry barracks, which have become a modern visitors center and a number of other historic structures entrusted to our care. By investing in the historical infrastructure in Fort Snelling we can better tell the rich stories of a diverse MN. We can remind folks in this place of natural beauty, that humans have been here for 10,000 years. That here, some of the consequential stories of American history unfold of American Indians past and present and Dakota homeland, of slavery, the civil war, and the struggle for human rights, and the emergence of the US as a global military power. This is a place that many people care deeply about, and that many more could.”

“We are working with community partners to tell the many stories of historic Fort Snelling and to build support for our revitalization efforts. We have invited community groups to tell us what they want to see in a re-envisioned historic Fort Snelling. We continue to work close with them as we develop our program. The future of the Fort Snelling area, we can now say, is bright.”

“Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, this area has served as a gateway for centuries, and will continue to attract people from across the nation to learn, to remember, and to heal. This is without question, a national treasure, and a great treasure for all of the people of Minnesota. “ 

What Next?
Mary Lu Seidel, Chicago Field Director at National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Bdote Fort Snelling National Treasure launch was successful in raising awareness about the work already done and further needed to improve the uses of buildings and land around Ft. Snelling. The National Trust will continue its engagement with local stakeholders toward the revitalization and repurposing.

Throughout the summer, Trust staff will work to strengthen partnerships with key community leaders and property owners in the area. Through those conversations, a specific work plan will be developed to meet the campaign goals. Landowners, community leaders and tribal community representatives will be brought into the conversations to shape the work the National Trust will do.

Upcoming Events:

For a list of all upcoming events at Fort Snelling please visit our events page!

Featured events:

 Important Links

DNR Logo

Minnesota Historical Society

Base Camp

Official seal of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Soldier One-Day Camp
Historic Fort Snelling
Sat., Jun 25, 2016, Noon - 4:00 pm
$50/$45 MNHS members

Geocaching through History

Fort Snelling State Park
June 26, 2016 
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

Northern Star Summer Adventure
Base Camp
June 27 - July 1
July 11 - 15

Exotic Minnesota
Fort Snelling State Park
July 3, 2016 
1 p.m. to 2 p.m. 

Independence Day Celebration
Historic Fort Snelling
Mon, July 4, 2016
10 am - 5 pm

Women in the Parks: Nature Hike- Summer in the City
Fort Snelling State Park
July 9, 2016 
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 

Support the Fort

With the commitment by the Friends of Fort Snelling to help plan the 2020 bicentennial comes an increased need for resources and support. If you, or someone you know are interested in becoming a member or donating to the Friends of Fort Snelling please visit:

Fort Snelling at Grand Old Days, St Paul 2016

The Friends of Fort Snelling would like to recognize the Minnesota Historical Society. As a participant in the 2016 Grand Old Days parade, they proudly represented Historic Fort Snelling. (photo courtesy of Dick Nicholson)

Edwin Nakasone: ‘Thanks to Fort Snelling, I’ve become Minnesotan all the way through’
Pioneer Press Opinion Article - Edwin Nakasone

The following article is a segment of an opinion piece written by Edwin Nakasone in the Pioneer Press. A fascinating story, offering a unique first hand experience that dives into how the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling came to be and what it meant to those involved. Please follow the link below the first part of the article below to finish reading Edwin's article at the Pioneer Press website.

In less than four years, Historic Fort Snelling will be 200 years old. But why, you may ask, should you care? How can a place built so long ago be relevant today? I’ll tell you how, but it may not be what you’re expecting to hear.

My path to Fort Snelling began on Dec. 7, 1941. I was 14 years old, in the kitchen of my family’s home on Oahu, eating a bowl of corn flakes. While looking out through the screen door, I spotted planes flying through the Kolekole Pass on their way to attack Pearl Harbor and Wheeler Army Airfield.

The attack, and the war that followed, led me to join the army when I finally turned 18. I arrived at Fort Snelling on Christmas Day, 1945, to enter the Military Intelligence Service Language School. The secret school trained soldiers as Japanese linguists to support the U.S. military during and after World War II. Nisei soldiers, second-­generation Japanese Americans like me, fit this role perfectly. We were American, yet we had grown up with Japanese language, culture, and history.

The school was founded in San Francisco in 1941. But when President Roosevelt forced Japanese Americans on the West Coast into internment (concentration) camps, the school had to move. But what state would take a school filled with students who looked like the enemy?

One state would. One governor. Amid all the mistrust and anger directed toward Japanese Americans, Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen said, Yes, we will accept them. In 1942 the school moved to Camp Savage, Minn., then to better facilities at Fort Snelling in 1944.

About 90 percent of language-school soldiers were Nisei, and their work had enormous impact: They shortened the war in the Pacific by two years, saving nearly a million lives and billions of dollars. Our work in Japan after the war sowed the seeds for democratizing Japan.

This history alone is a strong argument for the relevance of Fort Snelling. We should all learn of the patriotism and impact made by soldiers serving a country that treated them like second­-class citizens. But there is more.

Despite rampant mistrust and anger toward Japanese Americans during the war, when I arrived at Fort Snelling at the end of 1945, I felt welcome. Minnesotans looked upon me as a U.S. Army soldier. An American citizen.

To read the entire article, visit http://www.twincities.com/2016/05/15/edwin-nakasone-thanks-to-fort-snelling-ive-become-minnesotan-all-the-way-through/

Contact Us:
Office: (651) 455-6100

Address:  Sherry Howe
7926 Barbara Avenue
Inver Grove Heights, MN  55077

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