Browse Exhibits (8 total)

Hmong in Inver Grove Heights

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A brief history of Hmong origins and Hmong farming in Inver Grove Heights.

African Americans at Simley High School

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Inver Grove Heights is home to a majority of white residents compared to the minority groups of Black, Hispanic, and other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) residents. Racial segregation and discrimination were very common for African Americans and minorities. Ever since slaves were brought over to North America, native-born Americans struggled with accepting a person of a different color. Following World War II, suburbs across the United States appeared in the outskirts of cities, in contrast to diverse urban areas, which many regarded as a ghetto while white families moved into cookie cutter homes. 

As Simley has become more diverse (55% white in 2022, according to U.S. News and World Report), reflective of broader changes in Inver Grove Heights since the 1990s, BIPOC students have experienced into hurdles and road blocks. Contemporary, normalized forms of racism like blackface in the school theater program had, by the early 1990s, given way to complaints of racism and threats to minorities in the Inver Grove community.

Simley took action in response to these and other concerns. In 1993 the school hired Hamilton Bell as its diversity specialist. Bell educated Simley students and staff about the importance of diversity. During his employment, Bell recalled, he faced discrimation from co-workers and parents, noted that his race may have prevented his promotion to vice principal. His efforts at Simley left an impact on students and the community by promoting diversity and having a greater acceptance of minorities in the education system.

The stories of racism and diversity at Simley High School reveal the changing face of Inver Grove Heights, as well as steps taken in public education to acknowledge the complexity of diversity in a Minnesota suburb.

Native Americans and Pine Bend

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This collection describes Waukan-ojan-jan ("Spirit Light"), or Chief Medicine Bottle to white traders, a Mdewakanton Dakota chief who led a settlement on the Mississippi River at Pine Bend by the spring of 1838.

LGBTQ History in Inver Grove Heights

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The LGBTQ community had little public presence at Inver Grove Heights prior to the creation of the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in 2004 at Simley High School. Few newspaper articles or student yearbook accounts exist describing events centered around the LGBTQ community at Simley.

Despite this, the community worked hard to advocate for their cause, allowing both Simley High School and Inver Grove Heights Middle School to become more open to the LGBTQ. Schools in Inver Grove Heights developed efforts to make the community feel seen and safe thanks to the efforts of students and staff in the 2000s. These collections reveal some of the early information about that process. 

Rex Speedway

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Rex Speedway was a 1/2 mile oval dirt race track that was in operation from 1949 to 1954 in Inver Grove Heights. It was forced to close because of fatal crashes three years in a row.

Simley Pond History

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Simley pond, originally called Lake Nelson, is a popular hang out spot among Simley High School students and Inver Grove Heights teens. However, many visitors are unaware of the history surrounding the small pond, including the drownings of 2 Simley students. 

Simley Pond originally had no connecting bridge to the island, leaving this a popular swimming spot during the hot summer months. After practice or an early release from school, many students would swim from the edge to the island. Under Mayor Joe Atkins, a bridge was added to make the popular island more accessible.

Tragedy surrounding this pond struck Simley High School in July of 1966 when star athlete Timothy Boche drowned swimming to the island after football practice. It struck again in June of 2002, when freshman Alex Tourville drowned swimming on the last day of school. Water depth and temperature were thought to be the blame for both deaths. 

Check out Simley Pond then (in 1970!) and now (map by Cory Haala): https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/juxtapose/latest/embed/index.html?uid=6dac60d6-71f8-11ed-b5bd-6595d9b17862

Early Years of Simley High School

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Learn more about the beginning of Simley High School, Irwin T. Simley himself, and the growth of the school.

Corrine Erstad Case

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On June 1st, 1992, 5 year old Corrine Erstad was biking in Inver Grove Heights near Skyview Park when she was believed to have been kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Corrine Erstad’s DNA and blood was found in 24 year old Robert Guevara’s trailer and storage locker, along with her dress and undergarments. Robert Guevara's semen was also found near these items just days after her disappearance. Despite direct evidence, Guevara was aquitted in 1993 and denied direct charges for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Corrine.

After she was listed as missing, Inver Grove citizens, police, and Corrine’s family worked to search the ins and outs of Inver Grove Heights including the landfills. The searches were extensive but still no body was found. The evidence from Guevara's house was the only solid physical proof ever found, leaving Corrine Erstad’s body missing to this day.

Robert Guevara was acquitted of all charges because Minnesota was one of two states in the nation that didn’t fully recognize the statistical significance of DNA evidence. Despite an RFLP analysis in which the blood and semen was found as a direct match to Corrine Erstads and Robert Guevara DNA, the proof was inadequate in convicting Guevara.

As of now, the case is still open due to the fact that Corrine's body hasn't been found. Several blog sites still are looking for Corrine and want Guevara to receive the proper conviction. Guevara is still the main prospect partically due to the fact of being friends with the Erstads and his family’s history; Robert’s brother Jerry has been convicted with sex and abuse on many children and his other brother, Peter, has been charged with withholding thousands of child pornography material.

The technological advancements and laws changing would make this case an easy conviction if it occurred in modern times. Although, due to the double jeopardy court ruling, Robert cannot be put on trial for Corrine's case thus making Geuvara's conviction significantly harder to conduct. Due to the circumstances of the times of Corrine’s disappearance, Corrine Erstad hasn’t received the justice she deserves.

Attached: Simley High School students, Ana Alvear, Rachael Scufsa, Gwynn Gorter, and Avery Renslow, spoke in depth on the details within the case and the trial's final verdict. Listener discretion is advised due to graphic content.

My Movie - Corrine from Avery Renslow on Vimeo.

Corrine Erstad Podcast