Minnesota Historical Society keeps its funding after Fort Snelling row

The society had been threatened with funding cuts after changing the Fort Snelling sign.
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The Minnesota Historical Society will not lose any of its funding, having been threatened with the prospect for changing the sign at Fort Snelling two years ago.

The nonprofit came under unexpected scrutiny during the most recent legislative session over a changed sign at the historical site, which now reads "Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote."

Bdote is a reference to the Dakota name for the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers at Fort Snelling, and though the sign was changed in 2017, it became a target for Republicans in the Minnesota Senate this year.

As a result of the sign change, which some senators criticized as "revisionist history," the GOP last month passed a bill that would have cut funding to the MNHS by $4 million a year, potentially causing up to 80 layoffs.

But after the final budgets and bills were hashed out in the special session, the MNHS budget was left untouched.

Both Gov. Tim Walz and the House DFL backed full funding for the organization, with the Pioneer Press noting that despite the Senate backing the budget cut, this was not included in the final budget deal struck in the early hours of Saturday morning.

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After the furor erupted, the MNHS issued an explanation behind the decision to add "at Bdote" to the sign.

"MNHS is dedicated to telling richer, fuller history, including expanded military stories of soldiers and veterans, Native Americans, enslaved and free African Americans, and women―stories supported by strong historical documentation and research, which help us better understand our state’s past and the Minnesota we live in today," it said.

"MNHS has not changed the name of Historic Fort Snelling, but in 2017, we added the words 'at Bdote' to signage to signify the location of the site and to add broader historical context to the multiple complex stories shared there."

One name change that won't be happening in the legislature, for now at least, is the Lake Calhoun-Bde Maka Ska controversy, with the DFL-led House pushing through a bill backing the name change, which failed in the Senate.

It didn't make it into the final budget deal, with lawmakers deciding to await the decision of the courts as to the validity of the name change.

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