Nation’s Leading Historic Preservation Organization Names ‘Bdote Fort Snelling’ a National Treasure

For immediate release

Release dated: 
April 20, 2016
Media contacts: 

Virgil McDill, Public Affairs, 202-294-9187,
Jessica Kohen, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3148,

Nation’s Leading Historic Preservation Organization Names ‘Bdote Fort Snelling’ a National Treasure

The National Trust for Historic Preservation today named “Bdote Fort Snelling” a National Treasure, bringing a national spotlight to a historic place which reveals the richness of the American story. Bdote Fort Snelling is the first National Treasure designated by the National Trust in the state of Minnesota.

This designation by the nation’s leading preservation organization is in recognition of the site’s connections to Native American history, its role as a military post during the 19th and 20th centuries, and its connection to several significant events in American history, from the Dred Scott decision to the Japanese language school that was part of the World War II effort.

The National Trust chose the name Bdote Fort Snelling because of its location at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Bdote Fort Snelling’s history stretches back several millennia—it is believed that the first humans entered the area 10,000 years ago. “Bdote” is a Dakota word, meaning ‘where the two waters come together.’ Many Dakota people regard this meeting of waters as their spiritual and cultural point of origin, the place where “the Dakota people began.”

“Bdote Fort Snelling connects us to and helps us tell the story of several chapters of history in North America,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “From the first humans who walked this area thousands of years ago, to the military families who called this place home until just a few decades ago, this sacred site helps us understand the breadth of human experience in North America.” 

“We fully understand that not all of the events that occurred here were positive, particularly the Native American experience in this area,” Meeks continued. “In restoring Bdote Fort Snelling, we hope to capture the site’s complex history so that future generations fully understand the lessons it has to teach. We look forward to engaging a broad coalition of partners in the campaign to revitalize this important place.”  

Bdote Fort Snelling is a significant place that helps tell the complex—and sometimes painful—story of centuries of Native American, Minnesota and American history.  It includes the entire area known as Fort Snelling:  The Upper Post, Historic Fort Snelling, Fort Snelling State Park, Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Coldwater Spring and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

As part of its National Treasures campaign, the Trust will employ its national expertise in helping to support the current efforts, and to fill in the gaps where needed, for sustainable uses of this historic area so that it can once again be a thriving center of community life in the Twin Cities. 

“The timing of this designation dovetails with a major Minnesota Historical Society initiative to revitalize Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota’s best-known historic site and first National Historic Landmark,” said Steve Elliott, director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society. “Working hand-in-hand with the community and our partners, including the National Trust, will help us realize our goal of creating a place that provides important historical context to our nation, brings people together for crucial conversations, and builds understanding around issues that still resonate today.”

Fort Snelling was established by the US government in 1820 and named for Colonel Josiah Snelling, who oversaw its initial construction and served as its first commander from 1820-1827. Beginning in the late 1800s, dozens of new buildings were constructed on the Fort’s upper bluff for military training, supplies, housing and administration. While the original 1820s fortification, known as Historic Fort Snelling, is a popular destination for tourists, other parts of the Bdote Fort Snelling area have had relatively little attention for the past several decades.

At a press event held at Bdote Fort Snelling this morning, the National Trust, along with the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Friends of Fort Snelling announced their intention to work towards developing a vision for the area’s future revitalization. With a unified vision and an effective, empowered governing entity, the coalition believes that Bdote Fort Snelling could once again be a thriving center of community life in the Twin Cities. 


About The National Trust for Historic Preservation 
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. 

About Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

About National Treasures
The National Trust for Historic Preservation mobilizes its more than 60 years of expertise and resources to protect a growing portfolio of nearly 70 National Treasures that are threatened buildings; neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes that stand at risk across the country. Our National Treasures program demonstrates the value of preservation by taking direct action to protect these places and promote their history and significance.