New Oral Histories Document the Stories of Minnesota’s Somali and Oromo Communities

For immediate release

Release dated: 
November 21, 2017
Media contacts: 

 Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137,
Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148,

New Oral Histories Document the Stories of Minnesota’s Somali and Oromo Communities

MNHS has added two new oral history projects covering Minnesota’s two largest East African communities to its collections. Both the Somali and Oromo communities were identified as underrepresented groups in MNHS’ collections, which works to document the history of the Minnesota and its people.

The Somalis in Minnesota Oral History Project is made up of 58 interviews, in both English and Somali, from residents across the state in communities from Moorhead to Mankato to the Twin Cities metro. Interviewees include both everyday Somali people as well as prominent community members, like Abdi Warsame, the first-ever Somali on the Minneapolis City Council. MNHS worked closely with Macalester College and the Somali Museum of Minnesota to complete this oral history project.

MNHS worked with the nonprofit Oromo Community of Minnesota to complete 12 oral histories for the Oromo in Minnesota/Oromoo Minisootaa Keessa Oral History Project. Minnesota has one of the largest Oromo communities outside of Ethiopia, estimated at over 40,000 people according to the Oromo Cultural Institute of Minnesota. Eight of the 12 oral histories were conducted in Afaan Oromoo because of the history of suppression of the Oromo language in Ethiopia. Interviews conducted in Afaan Oromoo also include an English translation transcript.

“Not everyone has things to donate to the Minnesota Historical Society, but everyone has a story,” says Ryan Barland, MNHS oral historian. “These projects are true partnerships with communities who want to preserve their history, and we are humbled to be the stewards of those interviews.”

These oral history projects are available online on the MNHS website and in person in the Gale Family Library. These projects were made possible by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit 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.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.