After generations of difficult times, the Dakota who live on Prairie Island are now finally enjoying some economic prosperity. Even if you’re not a casino person, Treasure Island has so much going on that you can probably find something that will amuse you.
Arriving in Town
The only place you are likely to visit is the Treasure Island Casino and Resort, which is on Sturgeon Lake Road and stands out like bacon at a vegetarian buffet.
Contact the Treasure Island Casino and Resort (800.222.7077).
Following the Dakota Conflict of 1862, all Dakota were forced out of Minnesota and removed to reservations, first in South Dakota, then in Nebraska. By 1880, squalid conditions prompted many Dakota to go back to their homeland, some walking the entire distance from Nebraska. These Dakota ended up at a place they called Tinta Wita but Europeans called Prairie Island. Europeans considered the land on the island unsuitable for farming, so it attracted few settlers. The Dakota, however, knew how to live off the land at Prairie Island and used many of the native plants in traditional medicine. The relative isolation of life on Prairie Island helped these Dakota maintain traditional aspects of life better than Dakota in other places.
The US government granted official recognition to the Prairie Island Indian Community in 1886. In 1936 the reservation was expanded from 120 to 534 acres, and a Community Council form of government was adopted, operating akin to a state government. The construction of Lock and Dam 3 in the late 1930s flooded low-lying sections of the island and reduced the number of habitable acres on the reservation to 300. Until the 1980s, Dakota living on the reservation had limited economic opportunities; poverty was the norm. Community members faced another insult in 1968 when a nuclear plant was built adjacent to the reservation.
In 1984, the Prairie Island Indian Community opened a bingo room with seating for 1,400. After a 1989 agreement with the State of Minnesota, the community jumped into the gaming world with both feet by building their first casino. The casino now employs 1,500 people. Gaming revenues have been used to build a community center, a health center, to improve sewer and water facilities, and to fund a wide range of charitable causes throughout the region.
Prairie Island Indian Community is included in these products:
Lock and Dam 3 (651.388.5794) opened in 1938 and went through a major rehabilitation from 1988-1991. The dam is 365-feet long and the lock has an average lift of 10 feet.
Getting on the River
Spirit of the Water (Treasure Island Casino; 877.849.1640) is a 120-passenger luxury yacht that cruises on the Mississippi River (cruises from early May–Oct).
Entertainment and Events
The annual Wacipi Celebration (800.554.5483; July: 2nd weekend; free) offers a weekend full of traditional dancing, drumming, and singing that draws large numbers of Dakota participants; there are also a number of art and craft vendors.
The Treasure Island Resort and Casino (5734 Sturgeon Lake Rd.; 800.222.7077) is a huge place with 2500 slot machines, 40 blackjack tables, 10 poker tables, and a large bingo room. The resort also hosts nationally-known entertainers at the 3000-seat event center; the Parlay Lounge also hosts live music.
Treasure Island Resort and Casino has, as you would expect, several restaurants to choose from. The Thursday night seafood theme at the Tradewinds Buffet is a popular choice.
Treasure Island RV Park (651.267.3060) has nearly 100 sites with full hook-ups plus room to pitch a tent.
Treasure Island Resort and Casino (888.867.7829; WiFi) offers 480 stylish hotel rooms; flat screen TVs are standard and many of the rooms have river views. The suites have larger flat-screen TVs and elegant walk-in showers with a luxury showerhead.
Getting To and Out of Dodge
The casino operates free, roundtrip mini-bus service from places within a couple hours drive of the casino, including the Twin Cities, Rochester, La Crosse, and Eau Claire; call for details and to make a reservation (800.222.7077, x 2594).
TIP: The casino has a complicated rate structure, partly because they offer a wide range of room types. If you are booking on-line, look for package deals that combine a room with other options like a meal.
Heading upriver? Check out Hastings.
Heading downriver? Check out Eggleston.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011