From the Native American Press
October 27, 2000

Reprinted with permission

Department of Interior calls for dig

By Cheryl Lewis Fields

As part of a traditional cultural property study required for the transference of property out of federal control, the Department of Interior (DOI) began an archeological dig this past week at historic Camp Coldwater in Minneapolis pending the sale of the former Bureau of Mines site; sacred to the Dakota, to The Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC).

Standing in front of the abandoned Bureau of Mines compound, representatives of the federal and state agencies involved in the sale met with Dakota tribal and Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition members to discuss the three week excavation. While the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota community has spearheaded local efforts to save Coldwater Spring, representatives from the Prairie Island Indian Community and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community were also present. Jo Ann Kryal, Superintendent for the National Park Service (NPS) which oversees
the DO I cultural and historical study, clarified that “the land has not (yet) been sold” and the public review process period has been extended. According to Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition spokesperson John Steinworth, the MAC and DOI had tried to “ramrod through the sale” last month without following the proper process which they now seem to be doing.

Kryal reassured that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) a land covenant that would run with the deed in transference of the property to MAC “would incorporate language that says ‘no parking lot’ will be constructed at the site.” MAC originally wanted to turn the area into a multistory parking lot. The MOA would also state that the area would be managed naturally, allowing the option for some shelter to be built for an interpretive facility. Coldwater Spring is connected to Dakota stories of creation and also the site of the first European settlement in Minnesota in 1837. “We do expect to find artifacts,” stated Robert Clouse, head archeologist of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) and lead investigator of the study. Nonetheless those concerned about preservation of the area remain guardedly skeptical wondering if this isn’t just another “coffee can” dig.

MMDC tribal chair Bob Brown points out that in the past the MHS has testified that artifacts previously unearthed in the area were not significant because it was not “an intact site”, the ground around Coldwater Spring having been disturbed for previous construction of the Bureau of Mines structures in the 1950’s, berm and road construction and prior usage by the nearby Veterans Hospital (VA).

According to archeologist Vergil Nobel from NPS’ regional Midwest Archeology Center in Lincoln. NB, who is supervising the excavation, “the whole area has been disturbed” but essentially the earth was moved around within the bounds of the property so most artifacts would have remained, stating they “do know there is archeological potential for early remains.” Even if they fmd artifacts of historical significance, that is no guarantee that the sale to MAC will not go through, cautioned Jim Anderson, Mendota Cultural Chair and Historian. The community based Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition concurs that stewardship would be better entrusted to the Dakota people and not the airport commission or
governmental agencies with conflicting interests.

Of critical concern is nearby road construction currently in process which according to hydrology studies could curtail up to one third of the groundwater flow to Coldwater Spring resulting in permanent damage to the Spring, even stopping its flow altogether. The DOT which is currently responsible for the Spring has not taken any steps to seek protection of the Spring and officials were naively unaware of the imminent situation.
Earlier this year the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District sought and was granted protection of Coldwater Spring after finally being convinced by Coalition and Dakota tribal members trying to save the Spring. In a contentious move, however, the MAC successflully lobbied the Watershed Districts’ supervisory board to give protection of the groundwater that feeds the Spring to a different Watershed District which does not have enforcement authority.

In addition to seeking to protect and preserve the area, the Mendota people and the Coalition have also been seeking increased access to the sacred site which is closed late afternoons, evenings, weekends and holidays. Kyral of NPS reassured that the deed covenant for the sale would also include language making the Spring accessible seven days a week with considerations for security of the area At the same time, however, James Olson who currently manages the site for the Department of Interior pending the sale, citing “department policy”, denied a petition by the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and MN Veterans for Peace to have access to the Spring for a Veterans’ Day honoring ceremony, on Sat., Nov. 11, although tribal members had previously been told that they may seek permission to have access for ceremonies that do not occur during normal business hours. The annual ceremony will still be held, outside the locked gates to the Spring near the site where the Four Oaks, destroyed last year for the highway reroute, had stood.

Comment period extended
The period for comment on the pending sale of Camp Coldwater located in south Minneapolis to the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC) has been extended. According to testimony of Eddie Benton Benais, Anishinaabe Grand Chief of the Mdewiwin Lodge (Medicine Society) in northern Wisconsin, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) along with the Dakota Nation, the Saux and Fox (Mesquakie) and the Potowatamie mutually used the Coldwater Spring area, agreeing “that it is forever a neutral place and forever a sacred place.” “We know that the falls which
came to be known as Minnehaha Falls...and that point (where the rivers meet, the Mendota) there were sacred grounds that were mutually held to be a sacred place...And that there’s a spring near the Lodge, that all nations used to draw the sacred water for ceremony:’ stated Benais in affidavits provided by many different tribes.

The Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community who have spearheaded local efforts to save the Spring and the Coalition to Preserve Camp Coldwater who also oppose the sale to MAC urge people of the First Nations to submit their comments immediately to the National Parks Service which is conducting an historical cultural study of the area.

John Steinworth of the Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition, Jim Anderson, Mdewakanton Dakota Cultural Chair and Historian, Jeanne Holiingsworth, Vergil Nobel of the Regional Archaeology Center, Bob Brown (back to camera), listen to JoAnn Kryal, National Park Service discuss 3-week dig.