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Winona State University is situated on Mni Sota Makoce, the ancestral lands of the Dakota Oyate. We acknowledge and honor the Dakota Nations and the sacred land of all Indigenous peoples, and we strive to give that acknowledgement meaning by working with Indigenous people and nations whenever possible.

In 2017, two analyses of the Somsen Hall mural were commissioned. The two documents were written by Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair, Associate Professor, Saint Cloud State University and Jill Ahlberg-Yohe, Associate Curator of Native American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, respectively.

The Somsen Hall mural, painted in 1938 by John Martin Socha, was covered with cloth coverings in 2020. The mural is currently not viewable by the public in Somsen Hall. The mural imagery is historically inaccurate and deeply hurtful to Indigenous peoples. Conversations led by Dr. Cindy Killion, Faculty Emerita, visiting scholars with relevant expertise, student groups, faculty and staff committees, and the Oceti Ŝakowiŋ led to the decision to cover the mural. The mural will be preserved, yet hidden from public view. Images are available for continued discussion and learning opportunities surrounding equity and bias. The WSU community and partnering communities will determine further steps to address the mural’s content.

Publication Date



Winona State University


Winona, Minnesota


Indigenous Peoples, Somsen Hall Mural, Works Progress Administration, New Deal, 1935-1943, Federal Art Projects, Minnesota, Winona State Teachers College



Unique Identifier


Somsen Hall Mural Context: The Founding of Winona and the Somsen Hall WPA Mural



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