The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers is one of the most historically significant landscapes in Minnesota, known to many Dakota people as Bdote. It is a place where rivers and people have come together for at least 10,000 years.
How to say Bdote
Bdote means “where two waters come together.” While bdote can refer to any place where waters converge, many Dakota people consider this location as a sacred place of creation, identifying themselves as the Wicahpi Oyate (Star Nation) who originated in the sky and came into being on this land.
Historic Fort Snelling sits on the bluff at Bdote, the confluence of the rivers. The Bdote area consists of many locations of historic and contemporary Dakota significance, such as Taku Wakan Tipi (Carver's Cave), Mni Owe Sni (Coldwater Spring), and Oheyawahi (Pilot Knob). The area also includes federally operated buildings, urban development, a national cemetery, and a state park.
The Dakota people are part of the Oceti Ṡakowiŋ, or Seven Council Fires (historically also called the Sioux, or Great Sioux Nation). Oceti Ṡakowiŋ tradition tells how the people came to be, and provides teachings that all land and water are sacred, and describes that human beings hold responsibilities to one another, to the land, and to the water at places such as Bdote.
For the Dakota, there are multiple stories of creation, with one account widely held in this region. According to oral tradition, the spirits of the people came down from Caŋku Wanaġi, “the spirit road,” made up of the stars of the Milky Way, and when they arrived on Earth, the Creator shaped the first people from the clay of Maka Ina, “Mother Earth” at Bdote. The people were the Oceti Ṡakowiŋ, a society that reflects their cosmic origin. Missionary Stephen R. Riggs documented in 1893, “The Mdewakantonwan think that the mouth of the Minnesota River is precisely over the center of the earth and that they occupy the gate that opens into the western world.” (Dakota Grammar, Texts, and Ethnography by Riggs, Stephen Return, 1812-1883; Dorsey, James Owen, 1848-1895).
Dakota sacred sites in this area still exist and are honored by Dakota people and others.