The Mille Lacs Indian Museum offers exhibits dedicated to telling the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the issues and way of life of contemporary American Indian people who live on the reservation and the surrounding area. The arts and crafts of the Ojibwe people are part of the displays, as well as puzzles, loom beading activities and an interactive Ojibwe language game for kids. The centerpiece of the museum is the dramatic "Four Seasons Room" which features life-size dioramas modeled after actual Mille Lacs Band members. Other exhibits include "Our Living Culture," showing an array of contemporary pow-wow outfits and related activities; "Making a Living," documenting the many ways Ojibwe people have endured economically through the past century; and "Nation Within a Nation," exploring how the people of Mille Lacs have asserted the rights of sovereignty and self-governance. The exhibits draw heavily on the personal stories and oral histories of Mille Lacs Band members.
The museum's spacious crafts area serves as a learning area for traditional cooking demonstrations, monthly workshop instruction and kids craft activities. The museum also has classroom/meeting space for rental and outside picnic areas that overlook beautiful Mille Lacs Lake.
The Four Seasons Room
The dioramas in the current Four Seasons Room were installed in the old museum in 1964. Life-cast mannequins were added in 1972. The dioramas and mannequins were incorporated into the new museum in 1996 in an enhanced setting in the Four Seasons Room. Throughout the years, the display has been praised by visitors and has become a source of pride for many Ojibwe people who helped to build and equip the room and who posed for the life-size figures. The dioramas illustrate traditional activities of Mille Lacs Band members in spring, summer, fall and winter.
About the Museum
Opened in May 1996, the building's arching window wall reflects the shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs. Fashioned in cedar, the exterior is highlighted with a copper dome, corrugated copper columns and an inset tile belt of blue oak leaves designed by Mille Lacs elder Batiste Sam.
The new museum was the product of a partnership between the Minnesota Historical Society and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Both groups worked together to select a location, an architectural firm, and the content of the exhibits. As a result the Society's and the band's expectations successfully merged in a museum designed to conserve precious artifacts and incorporate the beauty of its setting to tell the Band's history.
Adjacent to the museum is a 1930's style trading post that buys and sells handcrafted, authentic American Indian arts and crafts, as well as arts and crafts supplies, food, books, educational resources and other products from a variety of American Indian companies.