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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Class is rewriting book about Dakota artists, history

Students researching, writing Dakota Sioux cultural history.

By Robb Murray, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 4/30/2011]

Free Press photos by John Crossstudents investigating museum displays of Dakota artifacts.
Students in Gwen Westerman's Dakota Culture and History class at Minnesota State University filled a display case with materials highlighting contemporary examples of prominent Dakota people. Shown here are (from front to back) Mackenzie Dougan, Justin Peterson, Meagan Scheibel, Tiffany Ranweiler and Raul Mejiaborja

When Gwen Westerman sent her students on an online research expedition to find credible information on Dakota artists, the wily teaching veteran knew what they’d come back with.


Or, rather, nearly nothing. A Google search will produce results, of course, but surprisingly few. So she told them to broaden their research a little, to look for anything on Dakota culture and history.

Again, not much. And again, Westerman — a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe and English faculty member at Minnesota State Mankato — had a pretty good idea about what they’d find.

So, not long into the semester, the students learned what Westerman has known for years: that the history of Dakota people is less than exhaustively documented.

The goal of the course, then, has been a simple one. Fill the information void.

To do that, the class took a series of steps its six members hope will provide good information about the Dakota. Perhaps the boldest is this: They are writing new and accurate pages in Wikipedia about Dakota.

And with 2012 on the horizon (the 150th anniversary of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War,) Westerman believes more people than ever will be looking for information about the Dakota.

The students — Scheibel, Raul Mejiaborja, Justin Peterson, Tiffany Ranweiler and Mackenzie Dougan — also put together a display in a prominent case in the Centennial Student Union.

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