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The Cultural and Historical Importance of Coldwater Spring and Surrounding Area

Comments for the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Research Center Campus--Draft EIS

With an accompanying Affidavit

Bruce M. White

Minnesota Sacred Places

St. Paul, Minnesota

November 27, 2006

Minnesota Sacred Places is a non-profit association dedicated to the purpose of acknowledging, documenting and preserving places of sacred, cultural and historical importance in Minnesota and the surrounding region.

Drawing of Ojibwe camp at Coldwater

An engraving based on a painting by George Catlin of an Ojibwe camp at Coldwater Spring, in 1835. That year, as in previous years, 500 Ojibwe came to the site to trade, dance, and meet ceremonially with their hosts, the Dakota.

Introduction

Note: The citations given in this report to the same list of sources found in the Affidavit. Neither these comments nor the Affidavit are exhaustive. They are intended only to show examples of the kinds of information that the Park Service has missed in assembling its record for the DEIS. Further work must be done beyond what I have done here to make the record complete.

The purpose of these comments is to provide an analysis of some of the documentary information and analysis released by the National Park Service on August 18, 2006 as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Research Campus NEPA process. This documentary information and analysis relating to the historical and cultural importance of Coldwater Spring and the surrounding area is intended to inform the Department of Interior in its eventual decision-making regarding the disposal of the Bureau of Mines Property. The importance of this information and analysis cannot be overstated. If the Department of Interior is given inadequate information and analysis during the current NEPA process, then it will not have an adequate basis for decision-making. Inadequate information about the cultural and historical importance of Coldwater may lead to decisions not properly supported by the actual facts relating to the area. For all these reasons my comments are intended to aid the National Park Service in determining whether or not the DEIS has adequately documented the historical and cultural aspects of the Coldwater area, and to provide information that will help the Park Service to remedy any inadequacies that may be found.

The Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Campus property contains the place where Coldwater Spring—a spring best known for having been used as a camping place by the U.S. Army as early as 1820 during the construction of Historic Fort Snelling—comes out of the ground, where its waters are gathered in a pool and where these waters begin to flow to the Mississippi River. The Park Service’s draft includes as supporting documents three reports relating to the spring and the surrounding area. Two of the reports, an archaeological report (The Clouse Report) and a historical report (Historical Study) were completed under an entirely different NPS process, prior to the beginning of the current NEPA process, but were withheld for five years, until their release in 2006 as part of the DEIS. The third report was a study (Ethnographic Study) designed to evaluate Coldwater Spring and surrounding area for traditional cultural property status under the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places. Each report provides varying amounts of documentary information and analysis about the Coldwater Spring historical and cultural area. In what follows I will discuss each of these reports and the way in which the information in them is presented in the DEIS. Finally, I will provide some additional documentary information about the Coldwater area in the form of an Affidavit I prepared for a recent court case relating to Coldwater Spring and the Treaty of 1805.1

My discussion of these subjects is based on my extensive experience in studying the Fort Snelling area. I am a historian and anthropologist, with an MA in history from McGill University in Montreal (1985) and a PhD in anthropology from the University of Minnesota (1994). I have more than thirty years of experience in studying Minnesota history, Native American history and the early history of white settlement in the Midwest as an editor and researcher with the Minnesota Historical Society and later as an independent historian and consultant. I have done work on Ojibwe and Dakota history and have published a number of articles and have co-authored several books. I am the author of a forthcoming book scheduled to be published in 2007 entitled We Are At Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People. All of my professional work is documented on my enclosed vita. In 1998 I was the co-author of Fort Snelling in 1838: An Ethnographic Study, which dealt with aspects of the Fort Snelling area. In 2003, with Alan W. Woolworth I co-authored the nomination of Pilot Knob or Oheyawahi for the National Register of Historic Places, a nomination which was published in 2004 as an article. In 2004 as a result of the nomination, Pilot Knob was determined to be eligible by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.

In the following comments and the attached Affidavit, I discuss a number of issues, including the following major points:

1. In regard to the conclusions of Robert Clouse in his archaeological report, the fact that soils in the north end of the Bureau of Mines property may have been waterlogged does not exclude their potential for containing archaeological resources, especially in an area once known for wetlands where Dakota people may have carried on ceremonies and harvested aquatic plants. Given the cursory nature of the Clouse archaeological survey at the north end of the property, further archaeological testing should be done to determine the adequacy of his survey in that area.

2. The release by the Park Service on October 11, 2006 of its TCP Analysis must be considered a revision of the EIS, but one which the wider public was not properly informed about, thus interfering with the public’s right to comment in an informed way during the DEIS comment period.

3. The TCP-Ethnographic study provides a convincing case for the TCP status of Coldwater Spring. However, given the insistence of the Park Service in opposing TCP status, opinions and an eventual determination of eligibility should be sought from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the Keeper of the National Register and this should be presented to the public prior to the finalizing of the BOM EIS, so as to provide an opportunity for public comment.

4. The treatment by the Park Service of the testimony Reverend Gary Cavender a well known Dakota elder and expert on Dakota traditions—whose knowledge has already provided a basis for the nomination and placement on the Register of another Dakota traditional cultural property—raises many questions about the bias of the Park Service in regard to the TCP status of Coldwater Spring. To my knowledge, no one has until this moment questioned the cultural credentials of Gary Cavender as an expert on Dakota traditions. The questions posed by the Park Service in regard to Cavender raise important issues about just what testimony the Park Service would be prepared to accept as convincing in regard to the traditional cultural importance of Coldwater Spring to the Dakota people. If the testimony of such an important expert as Cavender is found to be suspect by the Park Service, just what testimony would it be willing to accept?

5. Cultural and historical evidence about Coldwater—apparently ignored by Park Service officials—shows that the spring derives its some of its significance from being part of or connected to a larger area, specifically the place called Taku Wakan Tipi, the dwelling place of the gods. This point is discussed in detail in the attached Affidavit.

6. The Henning Historical Study is an inadequate description of the historical record of Coldwater Spring. As shown in my attached Affidavit, one major source of information completely ignored in the report—the diary of Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro—provides a wealth of additional information about the historical use and meaning of Coldwater for the Dakota and Ojibwe. The inadequacy of the historical record compiled by the Park Service must be remedied prior to the issuance of a final EIS, and a revised DEIS should be issued to allow comment by the public. Had the Historical Study been released to the public when it was finished, in 2002, the public would have informed the agency of the inadequacy of the report. As it stands now, until that inadequacy is remedied no conclusions whatever can justifiably be drawn from the historical record that the Park Service has assembled.

The Clouse Archaeological Report

The report done by Robert Clouse on the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities campus property was completed in 2001 as a result of several weeks of work done over a period of two years. A detailed list of what Clouse uncovered during his dig is not included in the report. In Chapter 9 of the report Clouse mentions fragments of bottle and window glass, pottery, a gunflint, a bone comb and a number of other objects dating from the early 19th century. However, the most important thing that Clouse found in the survey is that intact soil surfaces from the 1830s were still on the site of the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities campus property, buried under as much as several meters of fill. As Clouse notes, the Bureau site still has the significant potential to contain archaeological resources, buried under the fill.

In historical sections of his report Clouse puts the history of the site in the military context of Fort Snelling, as the place where soldiers first camped in 1819 and as the source of water for the soldiers throughout the19th century. He also writes a little about the civilians who were living around Coldwater Spring in the 1830s. As to the Indian history of Coldwater, Clouse did not cover this aspect of the property in much detail. Clouse did state that "no material cultural assignable to an American Indian occupation was discovered." But this is a matter of interpretation. As I stated above, Clouse found a bone comb, and other manufactured goods. Many of the people who lived around Coldwater Spring were of Dakota and Ojibwe ancestry and as noted in the Clouse report (page 43), they described the Dakota as their “relatives and friends” and noted that the Dakota “have always found a friendly resting place at our firesides” when they came to Coldwater. In a document from 1835 not cited by Clouse, the settlers who lived in the area of Coldwater Spring stated that “they are all, with one exception, connected with the Sioux & Chippewa Indians, either by marriage or ties of blood,” and that they were “friends of the Indians inhabiting this region. (Source: Clarence Edwin Carter, The Territorial Papers of the United States, 12: 1066, 1068, Washington, D.C.: 1935).When they visit this Post they warm themselves and smoke by our fires, and share our scanty Stock of Provisions.” Since manufactured goods were a common trade item with Dakota and Ojibwe people for hundreds of years, how would one know whether the bone comb, for example was used by Indians, people of mixed ancestry, or non-Indians?

One major unanswered question in the Clouse report has to do with the a map drawn by Lieutenant E. K. Smith of the Fort Snelling area in 1837 that showed the location of the settlers around Coldwater Spring. Many people have puzzled over this map for many years. When Clouse began his work on the survey he announced that he would find these locations on the modern landscape. He described plans to use ground-penetrating radar and other remote-sensing methods to help do this. Although the Smith map is mentioned in the Clouse report, no effort to locate the residences shown on the map is described, suggesting that Clouse was not given the resources necessary to carry out the examination.

As a result of what Clouse did find in his survey, he called for the expansion of the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Landmark/ Historic District to include much of the Bureau of Mines property. He proposed leaving out the northern 1/4 of the property, including the main building and the surrounding parking lots for archaeological reasons. While this may be reasonable in relation to the area immediately adjacent to Building 1, this is a questionable conclusion as far as the areas of the north end Clouse describes as consisting of waterlogged soils. The fact that soils in the area may have been waterlogged does not exclude their potential for containing archaeological resources, especially in an area once known for wetlands where Dakota people may have carried on ceremonies and harvested aquatic plants. Given the cursory nature of the Clouse archaeological survey at the north end of the property, further archaeological testing should be done to determine the adequacy of his survey.

The TCP-Ethnographic Study

The TCP-Ethnographic Study was done in 2005-06 by the firms of Summit Envirosolutions and Two Pines Resource Group, under contract with the National Park Service as part of the current Bureau of Mines NEPA process. Researchers under the lead of principal investigator Michelle Terrell studied the written documentation about the spring—in particular the historical study of the Bureau of Mines property which will be discussed below—and then consulted with six key Dakota cultural experts, one key Ojibwe cultural expert, eleven official representatives of four Dakota communities and one Ojibwe reservation, and six additional Indian and non-Indian consultants. The TCP report describes this research and consultation, and carries out a National Register analysis. As a result of this analysis the consultants determined that Coldwater Spring fulfilled National Register criteria as a traditional cultural property for Dakota people, under Criteria A and C of the National Register criteria. The analysis, recorded in a fourteen-page discussion and a later seven-page summary, is extensive and is encapsulated in the following statement in the report:

Boundaries are often a key issue with TCPs. The consultants discussed the boundaries that Dakota and Ojibwe people assigned to Coldwater Spring. The report noted:

As a result of this finding, the consultants recommended that "the actual boundary determination be made in consultation with the Dakota and Ojibwe communities."

Little of these conclusions were mentioned in the Park Service’s DEIS. Instead the Park Service reached its own determination not only to reject the conclusions of its own consultant, but to not even report the consultant’s finding. Instead in the DEIS, the Park Service stated:

No citation was given for this comment, but on the second page of the separate Ethnographic Study, the Park Service placed the following notices:

Further amplification of the Park Service’s finding is contained in a May 2006 letter from the Park Service to  Stanley Crooks, chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and, possibly, to other Dakota communities, enclosing a review copy of the DEIS. Providing slightly more information than in the DEIS, JoAnn Kyral, superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), the local agency handling the EIS process, stated in a letter to Crooks:

Kyral's words suggests that although the federal government rejected the Dakota communities' claim to the spring as a historical and cultural feature and in the process rejects the history and cultural traditions on which it is based, the Park Service will try to protect the spring because it is part of a site important for, among other things, its role in colonizing Minnesota and sending the Dakota into exile in 1863. Apparently from the Park Service’s point of view the area's place in Dakota history and culture is not significant; its connection to the history of white colonization is.

These short statements concerning the Park Service's TCP decision provide little information about the deliberative process that produced this determination to reject the findings of the consultant. After the release of the DEIS, in late August I sent an email to MNRRA Bureau of Mines Project Coordinator Kim Berns asking for more information about any deliberative process involved in the decision-making about Coldwater Spring as a TCP. In response I was informed that:

Subsequently, however, on October 4, 2006, a written analysis of the decision by the Park Service was sent to the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and to Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Dakota Community and, possibly to other Dakota communities. The same document was made available to me on October 11 and was placed on the MNRRA website, although it has yet to be placed on Park Service’s planning website for the Bureau of Mines property. [In 2009 the document is still on the MNRRA website but  it is still hard to find.]

The National Park Service TCP Analysis and Related Documents

The Park Service apparently does not consider its TCP analysis to be part of the its DEIS. If it had it would have included the analysis in the DEIS, or at least have provided it to all recipients of the DEIS or notified these individuals of its existence once it was released to the public on October 11, 2006. The Park Service did none of these things. However, since the TCP analysis does amplify and explain the reasons why the Park Service chose to reject the findings of its own consultant, it does provide information missing from the DEIS. Its release must be considered a revision of the EIS, but one which the wider public was not properly informed about, thus interfering with the public’s right to comment in an informed way during the DEIS comment period.

A review of the Park Service TCP Analysis, shows that a substantial portion of the analysis relates to disagreements with the Park Service consultant about the application of National Register criteria relating to TCPs. The Park Service believes that the authors of the Ethnographic Study—although experienced enough in the application of National Register criteria to have been hired by the Park Service to do the study in the first place—did not adequately apply the criteria to Coldwater Spring. As a result the Park Service or at least the individual or individuals who wrote the TCP Analysis seek to argue fine points about the definition of a TCP under National Register criteria and about the application of those criteria to Coldwater Spring as a place of importance to Dakota people.

It is not my purpose here to engage in a argument about the adequacy or inadequacy of the National Register analysis in the Ethnographic Study or the TCP Analysis. I happen to believe that the Ethnographic Study presented a convincing case about the TCP eligibility of Coldwater Spring for the Dakota. But the proper arbiters for issues like this are the experts in the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and in the office of Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C. Opinions and an eventual determination of eligibility should be sought from these agencies and it should be presented to the public prior to the finalizing of the BOM EIS, so as to provide an opportunity for public comment.

A more important purpose can be served here, by an analysis of some of the points made in the TCP analysis as to the documentation presented to show the traditional importance of Coldwater Spring for Dakota people. Two points appear to be especially important in the TCP analysis, one relating to questions on the part of the Park Service about the major cultural expert who testified to the traditional cultural importance of Coldwater Spring for the Dakota, the other about the significance of their being a Dakota name for Coldwater Spring. I will deal with these points in turn.

Point 1. One important point made in the TCP analysis and in the letter sent to Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has to do with the testimony of Reverend Gary Cavender about Coldwater Spring. Cavender is an Episcopal minister and a spiritual leader of the Shakopee Dakota at Prior Lake, Minnesota. For a number of years, in various venues Cavender has testified as to the importance of Coldwater Spring. In an affidavit for a 1998 court case relating to the construction of Highway 55, Cavender stated:

In January 1999 Gary Cavender stated further:

In the TCP Analysis Park Service officials raise a number of objections to the statements of Cavender. One point has to do with a Dakota name for Coldwater Spring, a point which will be discussed below. The TCP Analysis states:

In its letter to Stanley Crooks, the Park Services goes even further in questioning the credentials of Gary Cavender, stating:

Later on in the letter, the Park Service asks:

There are a number of important problems relating to the questions posed by the Park Service. Perhaps the most important point to be made here is that Gary Cavender has been widely consulted as an expert on Dakota cultural traditions in the past. In particular he was consulted—in fact he was the only named living cultural expert—in relation to a nomination prepared by the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office for a spring in Scott County called Boiling Springs or Maka Yusota, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. This location was the first Dakota TCP in Minnesota to be placed on the National Register.

To my knowledge, no one has until now questioned the cultural credentials of Gary Cavender as an expert on Dakota traditions. The questions posed by the Park Service raise important issues about just what testimony the Park Service would be prepared to accept as convincing in regard to the traditional cultural importance of Coldwater Spring to the Dakota people. If the testimony of such an important expert as Cavender is found to be suspect by the Park Service, just what testimony would it be willing to accept?

As suggested by the Park Service letter to Stanley Crooks, the Park Service might be willing to accept the testimony of Cavender if the Stanley Crooks and the Shakopee Community if Shakopee or another Dakota community in Minnesota were willing to state that Gary Cavender speaks for them on this matter. On this point, it must be noted that the opinion of a tribal government about the cultural testimony of a spiritual leader is not a determining factor in relation to that testimony. In posing the question Park Service officials have confused the government-to-government relationship of the federal government to the tribes with the information-gathering under NEPA and under Section 106. In neither case is the validity of testimony a matter for exclusive tribal-government decision-making.

It also appears that the Park Service might be willing to accept the testimony of Cavender if “other Dakota elders” were identified by tribal leaders who agreed with his testimony. On what basis has the Park Service determined that the testimony of more than one elder is needed before accepting an assertion of cultural importance? How many elders are required?

Point 2. A major point in the TCP analysis is the assertion that Coldwater Spring does not have a Dakota name and that therefore the traditional cultural importance of the spring for the Dakota is suspect.

In fact it should be noted that there is at least in recent years a Dakota name for Coldwater Spring, Mni Sni, which does in fact mean roughly “cold water.” It is recorded on a map of Dakota cultural sites issued by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the 106 Group, and is included in the Ethnographic Study (Figure 10).

Were they informed [or reminded] of this fact, Park Service officials might suggest that the name is too recently published to provide evidence of the traditional cultural importance of the spring to the Dakota. But this argument presumes that if a Dakota name for Coldwater Spring was not recorded by non-Indians early enough in non-Indian history, that a name did not exist.

Either way, however, the example of Boiling Springs or Maka Yusota is instructive. The name Maka Yusota can be translated roughly as “roiling earth.” The nomination of the site for the National Register contains written documentation for the Dakota name of this site going back only to 1982, a fact which was not fatal to the nomination of the site to the Register.

Further, Park Service officials appear to assume that having a name for something is a key cultural fact among the Dakota. No cultural evidence is presented on this point, which suggests that the objection is based not on cultural evidence at all but rather on the ethnocentric idea that having a name for a place is a key fact among all peoples.

Finally a key point that must be made is that the fact that other cultural evidence about Coldwater—apparently ignored by Park Service officials—shows that the spring derives some of its significance from being part of or connected to a larger area, specifically the place called Taku Wakan Tipi, the dwelling place of Taku Wakan, also known as Unktehi, or more precisely, a particular Unktehi. This point is discussed in detail in the attached Affidavit.

The Historical Study

Given the many questions raised by the Park Service about the adequacy of the Ethnographic Study, similar questions are worth asking about the Historical Study. The Park Service has focused a great deal of energy in seeking to refute the conclusion of its TCP consultant, based on questions about the validity of evidence and analysis. The Park Service does not even report the finding of the consultant in its DEIS. In sharp contrast, the Park Service has reported the recommendations of their other outside consultants without any critical comment. In discussing the 2001 Clouse Report, the DEIS states exactly what Clouse's recommendations were, including further testing of one of the archaeological zones on the BOM property and the expansion of the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Historic Landmark to include archaeological Zone II surrounding the spring (DEIS, p. 80). Similarly, a section on the 2002 Henning historical study stated that:

The Henning conclusions, which are contained in a skimpy half-page analysis in the Historical Study—in contrast to the 21-page discussion in the Ethnographic Study—may be open to question based on the adequacy of the data presented in the report. By presenting Henning's conclusions with no comment, the Park Service gives them tacit endorsement. Is the Park Service’s endorsement of Henning’s conclusions warranted? The adequacy of the Henning report must be judged on the evidence contained in the report and the whether or not the available historical evidence about Coldwater Spring is reported completely and accurately.

Available evidence suggests that the Henning report is neither complete nor accurate. It fails to make use of important historical information about Coldwater Spring and it draws faulty conclusions based on this incomplete information. The full extent of these problems cannot be fully reported here. To do so would require writing a completely new report, something which is not the duty of the public, but rather of the Park Service.

The most glaring examples of the incompleteness of the Henning report relate to the Native American use of Coldwater Spring. The bulk of the information presented relating to the Native use of the spring is found in a brief section which includes the following comment:

This statement is complete distortion of the nature of Pond’s account. There are many features Pond did not mention in 1835, some of which he described at other times, some of which he never mentioned. Whether he did or did not mention the Coldwater at that time provides no information about the importance of Coldwater to the Dakota or any other Indian group, but rather says more about his state of mind at the time and his purpose in what he was writing (See White and White 1998: 5-6).

Subsequent paragraphs in the Historical Study describe briefly the presence of Indian people at Coldwater and their purposes for being there:

Perhaps the most glaring omission from this account is any use at all of the journal of the Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro, who was located at Fort Snelling from 1820 to 1839. As stated in my attached Affidavit, no study of the Fort Snelling area in that period is complete without making use of the Taliaferro journal. The information relating to Coldwater cited in my affidavit suggests the extensive record of the use of Coldwater by Dakota and Ojibwe during this period, for trade, diplomacy, and ceremony, contrary to some of the statements quoted above. This information and other information not found in the Historical Study must be made part of the EIS record for the Bureau of Mines Site.

Why the Park Service did not hold the author of the Historical Study to the same standards of evidence it apparently feels that the authors of the Ethnographic Study did not meet, is unclear. During the course of the DEIS comment period I had occasion to pose this question to a MNRRA official who stated to me: “Yes, it is not a good report, but the question is: If it were any better would it make any difference?” The question suggests other questions: How does one know what difference adequate information will have until one has that information? Since when, in cultural resource studies, is one required to know in advance what one is going to find prior to doing any research? What excuses should be made for a historical study that does not make use of key information available in public archives and libraries?

In the case of Native use of the Coldwater area, additional information relating to the Native use of Coldwater Spring might make a lot of difference in determining the National Register eligibility of the area as a TCP or as a place of historical importance. If additional historical information were able to demonstrate the satisfaction of even skeptical Park Service employees that Coldwater Spring and surrounding area was a TCP, it could make a great difference in the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Historic District, since the question of boundary of the Coldwater Spring TCP was expected to be determined during further consultation with the Dakota. It could also affect the nature of any mitigation required for use of the Bureau of Mines property.

Similarly, if evidence were found to show that Coldwater Spring and a surrounding area beyond the boundaries of the current Fort Snelling Historic District were places of historical importance relating to the Indian use of the area, this too could affect boundary issues and mitigation.

For these reasons, this inadequacy of the historical record should be remedied prior to the issuance of a final EIS, and a revised DEIS should be issued to allow comment by the public. Had the Henning report been released to the public when it was finished, in 2002, the Park Service the public would have informed the agency of the inadequacy of the report. Now, at this point in time, until that inadequacy is remedied, few conclusions can justifiably be drawn from the historical record that the Park Service has assembled in the Historical Study.