SAP Elementary School students embark on b’dote field trip

By Sarah Clark

Every fall and spring, fifth grade students in the St. Paul School District embark on b’dote field trips.

The word b’dote in Dakota means “where two waters come together” and in this case, those waters are the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Dakota people regard this b’dote as the place of their genesis. It is also the location of a genocide and Native American concentration camp during the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862.

St. Paul Public School students participate in b’dote trips in order to meet one of the state’s social studies standards: to frame Dakota history as a significant part of Minnesota history.

St. Anthony Park Elementary School’s fifth graders went on their b’dote field trip on Oct. 27, visiting three sacred Dakota sites in St. Paul: the b’dote at Fort Snelling (Wita Tanka), the Wakan Tipi (at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary) and Indian Mounds Regional Park.

SAP Elementary’s fifth grade teachers reported their students have shown great curiosity, empathy and awareness of American Indian history since their field trip, said SAP Elementary Principal Karen Duke.

“When they saw vandalism on the signs at Mounds Park, they were angry,” Duke noted. One student is reported to have said, “I never knew how much I was not told about the Dakota.”

SAP Elementary’s fifth grade teachers have been trained by the school district to lead b’dote field trips. Weeks before the field trip, teachers lead students through many lessons about the Dakota people in Minnesota, featuring the voices of Dakota elders who tell the history and significance of the sites they will visit.

For more information on local sacred Dakota sites, visit

Sarah CR Clark is a regular freelance writer for the Park Bugle. She lives with her family in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood.

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