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.