Population (2010)

217

Introduction

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.

Visitor Information

Contact the Treasure Island Casino and Resort (800.222.7077).

History

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.

Exploring the Area

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 100-passenger luxury yacht that cruises on the Mississippi River from early May through October.

Entertainment and Events

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.

Festivals

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; you’ll also find art and craft vendors.

**Prairie Island Indian Community is covered in Road Tripping Along the Great River Road, Vol. 1. Click the link above for more. Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

Where to Eat and Drink

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.

Where to Sleep

Treasure Island offers nearly 800 hotel rooms on Prairie Island, many with great views of the river. The rate structure is a bit complicated because they offer so many different room types, but you’ll have a hard time finding a room that isn’t in the price range you’re looking for. To get the most out of the money you spend, look for package deals that combine a room with other options like a meal.

Camping

Treasure Island RV Park (651.267.3060) has nearly 100 sites with full hook-ups plus room to pitch a tent.

Moderate and up

Most of the rooms at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino (888.867.7829; WiFi) above budget rates, but 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 There

The casino operates free, roundtrip bus service from places within a couple hours drive of the casino, including the Twin Cities, Rochester, and La Crosse; call for details and to make a reservation (800.222.7077, x 2594).

Where to Go Next

Heading upriver? Check out Hastings.

Heading downriver? Check out Eggleston.

Community-supported writing

If you like the content at the Mississippi Valley Traveler, please consider showing your support by making a one-time contribution or by subscribing through Patreon. Book sales don’t fully cover my costs, and I don’t have deep corporate pockets bankrolling my work. I’m a freelance writer bringing you stories about life along the Mississippi River. I need your help to keep this going. Every dollar you contribute makes it possible for me to continue sharing stories about America’s Greatest River!

©Dean Klinkenberg, 2011,2017