A long neglected sacred site in Minnesota will soon be cleaned up and added to the neighboring National Park Service land.
The 27 acres that sits between Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Park was formerly owned by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, but has not been used by that organization since 1996. In the intervening 15 years, the site has fallen into disrepair, its 11 buildings now grafitti-spattered, their windows smashed and their copper wiring and piping pilfered by scavengers. The plan is to demolish all of them, haul away the debris, and restore the area to pastoral splendor.
Like Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Park, the land to be restored is part of what the Dakota called Bdote Minnesota, or Mdote, the sacred place where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet.
“The tribes said it’s a very important place and that we should respect it and do the right thing by it,” John Anifson, chief of resource management for the Park Service, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Chris Mato Nunpa, retired professor of Indian Affairs at Southwest Minnesota State University, agreed that the Park Service should take action. “We’d like them to clean up that land. They destroyed it, they poisoned it, they contaminated it,” he told the Star Tribune. But he feels that ultimately the land should be in Indian hands, and that Indians may take legal action to try to claim it. “We’d like it back,” he said.
The restoration is designated the “Coldwater Creek Project” by NPS and extensive information is available at nps.gov. According to the website, the first phase is demolition and construction, which will finish by August 31, 2012. A key feature of this phase will be removing the culvert from a creek that flows beneath the land, what the Parks Service calls “daylighting” the creek. Phase two will be restoring the landscape to the area’s typical prairie/oak savanna conditions, and phase three will be the restoration and renovation of the Coldwater spring house and reservoir.