Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Virtual Gathering 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020 - 9:00am to Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 12:00am
Bde Maka Ska and other connections with water


We have all become accustomed to seeing our urban lakes surrounded by modern buildings: high rise apartments and homes built in a style imported from Europe. These buildings are often separated from the water by concrete - curbs, roads and sidewalks. Many areas of plants are “groomed” and maintained. Luckily, there are areas left wild to attract and support birds and other animals, and there are dirt paths through bird sanctuaries right in the heart of the city. Still, it can be difficult to imagine and remember a time when villages along the shores of our urban lakes were comprised of tipis, and the landscape around them looked very different - far fewer trees, no paved roads, and many more animals.

One thing has remained the same - water forms a natural gathering spot for both people and animals. Today, when we gather virtually at the ancestral lakes of the Dakota people, we also enjoy and appreciate the water as a community. We can remember those who lived here before us, celebrate the continued vitality and spirit of Indigenous people, and honor the importance of water to all communities.

Our Partners have shared videos and distance learning lessons encouraging activities to deepen our appreciation for the water and our connection to it. Please visit their sites and resources. We invite you to share your photos of your activities with us to show how you have connected and to build our virtual Mde Maka Ska presence. Please send your favorite photo from your water experience with us! Send us a message on our Facebook page: Mde Maka Ska

In 2013, LeMoine LaPointe summarized the origin of the Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering event. His brief summary is included in the first minute of this engaging video.


2020 Educational Resources From Our Partners!

Wilderness Inquiry
As a partner at the Mde Maka Ska Canoe Nations Gathering, Winderness Inquiry has taken over one thousand young people onto the waters of Mde Maka Ska. This year, they reintroduce us to the lake through a video tour of the lake and explain some of the history and qualities of the lake. 


project WET - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Description: Join us as we explore the world of H20 though Project WET. Discover hands-on activities that help us connect with our most sacred resource-WATER.
Water is life. As the season changes, find ways to honor water in your daily activities. Splash, have fun, and understand how water flows through our communities, backyards and ourselves!
Here are sites to keep you busy learning about water through interactive activities!
Discover projects WET's "The Role of Water in Our Lives"
project WET Distance Learning!
Here is an adaptation of a project WET activity that might be of particular interest!


Dream of Wild Health
This is the seed bowl lesson from our Seed Regeneration Supervisor, Lucas Humblet. This lesson complements the DIY seed packets that Franklin Library is partnering with Marlena Myles to make, as well as seed distribution to families through Nokomis Library. 

Hope Flanagan (Seneca) is from the turtle clan. She is an elder who teaches about plants and wild plant gathering. She is also a Storyteller in the Native Community. She has taught and worked in the Twin Cities Native Community since the late 70’s. Most recently, Hope taught in an Ojibwe Immersion classroom for ten years, and prior to that as a Storyteller for Minneapolis Public Schools in drug and alcohol prevention for six years. She has worked at Dream of Wild Health since 2009. Here, Hope shares her wisdom about gathering sacred medicines....!

Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
Mia has been part of this festival for 6 years, collaborating with Nawayee Center School and Native artists to provide creative activities as part of this annual community gathering. This year Artist Graci Horne (Sisseton Wahpeton/Hunkpapa) created a mixed media print collage activity illustrating a Dakota water story about Wabaduska and Thunderbird. You are invited to join her as she leads the Water Connects Us Activity



Mississippi Watershed Management Organization
The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization is a public organization that partners to protect and improve water and habitat in our urban watershed. They connected us to THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI: ELECTRONIC FIELD TRIP This project is a collaboration between WYES-TV, New Orleans PBS member station, and the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Other Event Videos From Previous Years

2011 - 

2012 - 

Interesting facts about Bde Maka Ska:

  • Bde Maka Ska translates to “White Earth Lake” in the Dakota language and is the largest lake in the city of Minneapolis 
  • From 1829-1839, the lake was the site of the Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ Dakota agricultural village known as Ḣeyate Otuŋwe, but had been inhabited by others prior to this time. 
  • Most of the lake and surrounding park land was acquired in 1883 but the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
  • In July 1911 Bde Maka Ska was “married” to Lake of the Isles with the opening of a channel between the lakes. The opening of the water connection between the lakes on July 5 was the focus of a week-long celebration in the city. The celebration featured canoe races, fireworks at Lake Harriet and a play about the city’s history that ran for three nights at Loring Park to crowds of 25,000 each night. 
  • Bde Maka Ska was never connected by a channel to Lake Harriet because its surface is seven feet higher in elevation than Lake Harriet. Connecting the lakes would have required constructing locks between the lakes. The other lakes in the Chain of Lakes did not have as great a difference in elevation, although the waterline in Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake dropped five feet when those lakes were connected to Lake of the Isles and Bde Maka Ska. 
  • The lake contains black crappie, bluegill, bowfin, common carp, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, tiger muskellunge, walleye, white sucker, and yellow perch. It is rumored to be the best ice fishing lake in Minneapolis.