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The Minnesota Historical Society Repatriates Native American Digital Photographs and Documents to the Manda, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is pleased to announce the digital repatriation of the Gilbert L. Wilson collections to the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation (MHA Nation). This joint endeavor returned digital copies of two collections containing more than 45 volumes of writings and illustrations, thousands of photographs, and other documents to the MHA Nation Interpretive Center.

Personal Connections, Tribal History

"It's tough to encapsulate everything we felt going into the event, after a long road to get there. There was so much joy, and a wonderful spirit around the return of the materials, and so much excitement at the future for our Tribal people who wish to know more about themselves and their ancestors," said Dr. Twyla Baker, President of the Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College.

"The personal ties however, were likely the most impactful for me as the granddaughter and great granddaughter of individuals whose images and words appear in the materials. I do hope that generations of our young people are able to see themselves and connect as fundamentally and spiritually as I did, when they see the collection. My hope is always that we continue to nurture a good relationship between our institutions as we move the needle towards justice and healing for everyone involved."

The Gilbert L. Wilson Collections

The collections focus on the anthropologist's perspective and study of MHA Nation residents of the Fort Berthold Reservation (North Dakota) between 1906-1918. The collections were digitized by MNHS staff in full color and high resolution, for preservation and future access.

Gilbert L. Wilson was a Presbyterian minister in Minnesota and North Dakota, as well as an amateur ethnographer. During his years of travel, he collected artifacts on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (New York), journaled about his observations, took photographs and made sketches. Frederick N. Wilson was an artist and accompanied his brother on some of his journeys, drawing, sketching and creating other types of illustrations. These materials were donated to MNHS in the early 1930s by Gilbert Wilson's widow, and have been popular with students, scholars and the general public for many decades.

For those interested in the specific contents of the collections, please visit the online finding aids: Gilbert L. and Frederick N. Wilson papers and Gilbert Livingstone Wilson photography collection. All contents can also be viewed in person at the Gale Family Library, located in the History Center in St. Paul.

About the 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. Visit us at


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