Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
Dakota quillwork leather vest (1890-1899), Minnesota Historical Society. Part of the History of Survivance exhibit.

Digital Public Library of America Features Upper Midwest Natives


The Digital Public Library of America is now “open” to the public. It may not have four walls and a roof, but it does have more than two million items users can browse through.

The DPLA is a free platform that makes a number of digital collections and archives from across the country available on one site.

“It’s not very often you get to build a new library,” says Dan Cohen, DPLA executive director, in a blog. “It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to build something like the Digital Public Library of America—to shape a new, open portal to knowledge and wonder.”

The site allows users to explore by a regular search, by place, by date, or to view whatever special exhibitions the library may be offering.

Coinciding with the launch are a number of special online exhibits including History of Survivance: Upper Midwest 19th Century Native American Narratives, which focuses on telling the story of Native American survival in the Minnesota region.

“One must be particularly careful about the story being told since the narrative that largely exists is one of cultural denouement, of endings, as told by a colonizing population to its descendants,” notes the exhibit’s introduction. “The accounts of the lives of Native Americans during the 19th century that are told by Native peoples themselves are strikingly different to those recounted in history books, movies, and all too frequently in museums.”

The introduction notes that this exhibit is being “retold through the lends of Native American survivance.”

The exhibit offers six themes to choose from: Ancient Legacies, Colonization, Colonial Narratives, Conflict, Reservation Era, and Survivance.

The exhibit tells users about oral histories and burial mounds in Ancient Legacies and about the current culture of powwows and preserving Native languages in Survivance.

To check out everything the Digital Public Library has to offer, visit With a simple search that turns up 538 pages of results for the term “Native American” users could spend hours exploring.