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The Death of a Mound

Politics and Human Remains in Minnesota

Part 10

 -December 21, 2005-

Why?

Bruce White

 

Details have been available since August about the remains of more than 55 Native people found at the site of Lincoln Mounds 1 and 2 in Bloomington, Minnesota, several blocks from the Mall of America. The facts were far worse than any of the rumors reported during the last year. The rough draft of a report on the excavation by Summit Envirosolutions—the firm hired by the developer, McGough Construction, to do the archaeological work—dates the burials to 2000 years ago and describes the way the remains were arranged and how they were removed to another site. But some basic questions remain: How could this have happened? Why did the agency responsible for the protection of Native American burial sites allow this one to be destroyed?

A variety of explanations have been given for what happened. Many are, however, a bit suspect. Because of what was found and what was done at the Lincoln Mounds, no one wants to take full responsibility. Finding support in the written record for the various explanations given is problematic because the Lincoln Mounds decision-making process is so poorly documented. But it is worth going over the record, once again, to try to arrive at some explanations, however, incomplete and unsatisfactory they are.

The Back Story

It has been sixteen months since late August 2004, when Michael Scott and Jim Anderson of the Mendota Dakota Community went to the Lincoln Mounds site in Bloomington one afternoon and encountered Jim Jones of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) coming out of a trench at an archaeological excavation. Jones told them that the remains of one Dakota ancestor had been found. The next day there was press conference during which some of those concerned about the excavation briefly entered the tent where the dig was taking place. They left shortly thereafter and gathered on the perimeter of the site.

For more than a week after that, members of the Mendota Dakota and their supporters occupied a site near the archaeological excavation, holding a vigil to bear witness to what was going on. During the second week in September they held a prayer ceremony and then dispersed.

A few days after this the Mendota Dakota received an anonymous letter saying that, contrary to what Jim Jones of MIAC had told reporters, the remains of more than twenty human beings had been found at the site in Bloomington and that they were arranged in a circle with adults on the outside and children or infants on the inside. Despite this find, the excavation was being continued and the remains would be removed, and the letter writer ascribed these activities to motives of greed on the part of some of those making the decisions.

Now that a rough draft of the report about the site has been made public, we know that there were almost three times as many sets of human remains as the anonymous letter suggested, and they were arranged in two configurations, not one, although the arrangements were square or oval rather than circular. Also, though there were disturbances in the general area of the development, the mounds themselves were comparatively undisturbed.

The letter writer accurately described the scale of excavation, but the writer’s ascription of motives of greed has not been proven. And the actual decision-making process that led to the removal of these remains has yet to be explained fully. This is still the puzzle about the Lincoln Mounds. How was it that the MIAC, the agency which for so long has been the first and last defense against the desecration of Native American cemetery sites, made the decision to remove such a significant site? The various answers suggested have been vague and unsatisfying.

When Michael Scott and Jim Anderson first encountered Jim Jones at the excavation, Jones did not just tell them a single skeleton had been found. He also informed them that any remains found would be removed, that it was too late to do anything else, but that it was being handled respectfully. It was being done in “the right way.” This was an explanation that would be repeated in the weeks and months to come, though with few details.

At that point in late August 2004, just one week before an anonymous source accurately specified at least twenty human burials at the site, Jim Jones must have known that the site held far more than one set of remains. The dig began on July 19, six weeks earlier. It is unreasonable to suggest that the archaeologists uncovered nineteen burials in the week before the letter was written. Thus by the end of August MIAC had to know that the site was significant and contained a substantial number of remains. It was, in the words of the state law, a “large Indian burial grounds,” just the sort of site that the law calls for preserving rather than removing.

If the presence of many remains was known by late August 2004, and the MIAC was adamant that the remains were being removed, Jones’s assertion that it was too late to do anything else is confusing. MIAC is the only agency that can permit the removal of an Indian cemetery. When did MIAC decide that removal was the proper course? And why?

The Law and the Myth

Anyone who hopes to understand how human remains are treated archaeologically in Minnesota has to learn about the way Minnesota law works. But they must also understand the personalities, the feuds, the suspicion and the sheer dysfunctional nature of the way the archaeological community in Minnesota has operated for many years. And they must also understand the cluster of beliefs that people involved in these activities hold about Mark Dudzik, who resigned his position as State Archaeologist in July 2005 for personal reasons.

Minnesota law has stringent protections for cemeteries and burial places of all kinds. The relevant portion of the Minnesota Private Cemeteries Act starts with this declaration of purpose, which applies equally to prehistoric and historic burial sites and formally designated cemeteries:

To achieve the protection of all burial places, initial authority is given to the State Archaeologist: “The state archaeologist shall authenticate all burial sites for purposes of this section and may enter on property for the purpose of authenticating burial sites.” If while authenticating burial places the State Archaeologist determines that remains found are Native American, the participation of the MIAC in the process is triggered:

Finally, it is important to note that a further role is given to the MIAC in determining what should happen to a Native American cemetery, so authenticated and identified by the parties involved:

Minnesota law thus sets up two parties, the OSA and the MIAC, as instrumental in the process of authentication and identification. The law gives the State Archaeologist primary initial authority to authenticate burial places—that is, to determine the presence of Native American remains. Subsequent authority for what happens to them is almost entirely in the hands of the MIAC, the only party given the authority under law to allow Native American cemeteries to be moved.

These are basic outlines of the law relating to the treatment of Native American burial sites in Minnesota. But although they may appear to divide authority fairly clearly, there are a number of problems with the law that leave it open for disagreements in specific cases. Many of the problems involving burial sites in Minnesota have arisen because of these differing interpretations.

For one thing, what exactly does “authenticate” mean, and how should it be applied in practice? A dictionary definition would suggest that to authenticate something is to prove that it is what it is claimed to be. In this case, that would mean that an authenticated burial place under Minnesota law would be a place where “human burials or human skeletal remains” are found in the ground.

But in some cases, there may be Native American mounds in which no burials can be found, either because there never were any there or because bones have either disintegrated through natural process or been removed through vandalism or the action of animals. On the other hand, mounds containing burials may exist in the landscape but not be visible any longer because their surfaces have been lowered to the height of surrounding landscapes.

Over the years, the State Archaeologist Mark Dudzik appears to have insisted on a higher level of proof for authenticating Native American burials than the Indian Affairs Council believed was necessary. The Council has asserted, for example, that if burial sites were located by the archaeologist Theodore Lewis in the 19th century, as thousands of such sites were, this should be considered “sufficient to establish the authenticity of a burial site.” The State Archaeologist, however, has required that actual human remains be located in the ground at such sites before he would authenticate them.

Beyond such differences of opinion about what constituted authentication, there is a further difference of opinion that arose between the two agencies relating to the actual methods used to authenticate burial sites. One of the most frequent criticisms made by archaeologists and Indian people of the State Archaeologist Mark Dudzik was that he would allow the use of mechanized equipment during the process of authentication, particularly a method of stripping the soil from an area in very thin layers using a backhoe or a so-called belly scraper or self-loading scraper.

Many archaeologists make use of mechanical stripping under particular circumstances. One archaeologist contacted recently stated that there were large differences between the kinds of equipment used in mechanical stripping. For example, he noted that while a belly scraper made it possible to remove very thin layers of soil over a large area, economically, a backhoe operated by an experienced person could actually be a more sensitive tool because it could remove soil from a location without having to drive across the surface of soils containing fragile remains. The shovel of a backhoe can be made into a scraper by welding a straight metal plate along its toothed edge, which can then be drawn along the ground to remove soil in thin layers.

Although many archaeologists accept the practice of mechanical stripping, the Indian Affairs Council and some Indian people view it as culturally insensitive and potentially damaging to delicate human remains when used in burial authentication. The Indian Affairs Council preferred the use of shovel testing and soil boring to help locate burial sites.

These differences in definition and practice between the two agencies are laid out in detail in a report prepared by the Minnesota Legislative Auditor in 2001 looking into the Office of State Archaeologist. The report provided a detailed look at the dynamics of the relationship between the OSA and MIAC, and other agencies and tribes. Despite the disagreements between OSA and MIAC, the report noted that there had been occasions when the agencies worked together. The report also stated that despite the problems between the OSA and MIAC, 18 out of 22 tribal representatives interviewed felt that their working relationship with the OSA was fair or good.

According to the Legislative Auditor, some of the major differences between OSA and MIAC had to do with the problem of authentication and the use of mechanical excavation of burial sites. The report noted that under archaeological guidelines in Wisconsin mechanical stripping of topsoil at burial sites was considered appropriate when historic maps suggested the presence of burial sites but surface indications were lacking. It mentioned that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension [BCA] used mechanical excavation to uncover “clandestine graves in murder cases,” reporting “only one incident of bone damage using this technique in the last 19 years.” It also noted that the previous State Archaeologist—who worked more closely with the Indian Affairs Council—sometimes used mechanical stripping.

In response to these statements in the Legislative Auditor’s Report, the Indian Affairs Council wrote a letter, also contained in the report, stating that under the previous State Archaeologist mechanical stripping was never used in the authentication process, but only in cases where burials were to be removed and only “after hand excavation had been completed.” It also made the point that “surveyed cemeteries are not murder scenes. The BCA approach is irrelevant to this situation.”

As an example of the differences between the agencies, the report described a case involving a proposed development in suburban Hennepin County in 1997. A housing developer sought to develop a site where burial sites had been surveyed in the 19th century. The State Archaeologist notified the MIAC but took the lead in what happened next:

MIAC was unhappy with this result. This case cemented the belief that the State Archaeologist was willing to do things that might destroy sites important to Indian people. Concerned about what happened in cases such as this, the MIAC passed a resolution in 1998 seeking the removal of the State Archaeologist.

Beyond the differences about authentication and the methods to be used it doing it, it should be noted that there were other factors, some rooted in the laws defining the roles of the OSA and MIAC, some personal. Mark Dudzik was quick to assert the primary or initial role of his office in the authentication process, and MIAC was quick to take offense at this assertion.

To be sure, the relative roles of the MIAC and OSA have changed over the years. At an earlier time, the two agencies appear to have had a more equal roles in the initial authentication of American Indian burial sites. But in 2001, when the Legislative Auditor noted the change in the law and the current primary role of the State Archaeologist, Joe Day of the Indian Affairs Council simply denied the statement, saying that “the Indian Affairs Council does not agree that the State Archaeologist has sole lead authority for application of the burial protection statutes within Minnesota.”

The statement appeared to deny that a primary role in authentication meant “lead authority” over Native American burial sites. However one might view the legal conclusion or semantics behind it, the statement was a sign of the sensitivity of the Indian Affairs Council to anything that might be viewed as diminishing its authority over burial sites. In 1998 and 1999, the MIAC unsuccessfully sought legislative authority for the entire process of identification and authentication of American Indian burial sites.

Beyond these differences over law, there was simply the matter of personality. In carrying out his job, Dudzik could be blunt. Some people appreciated this fact as an indication that they were receiving the information they needed with little delay. But even Dudzik’s friends state that he could be arrogant and sometimes touchy: there were days when you did not mind dealing with him, and other days when he could be “a bear.”

Because of the disagreements and friction between OSA and MIAC, over the years of Mark Dudzik’s work as State Archaeologist, it came to be more and more commonly believed by some archaeologists and some Indian people that Mark Dudzik had only the best interest of developers at heart, that he would like nothing better than to bring in a backhoe and destroy a burial site. The belief took on the proportions of a myth, not because there were no genuine differences involved, but rather because the beliefs about Mark Dudzik appear to have outgrown the man himself and the worst allegations about him could often simply not be corroborated.

What Happened in Bloomington

To say that the communication between the MIAC and the OSA has been difficult in recent years is an understatement. Recently Jim Jones stated that relations were so bad that MIAC did not have direct access to the database that the State Archaeologist maintains to record archaeological sites in the state. When he needed to learn about specific burial sites, Jones said that he depended on Newton Winchell's Aborigines of Minnesota, a 1911 compendium of information gathered on burial mounds in Minnesota in the 19th century.

Because of the extreme misunderstanding and lack of communication between MIAC and OSA, one could imagine a clever person manipulating the dysfunctional relationship to his own ends. There is no evidence that this is what happened in Bloomington. However, the problem in the relationship between the two agencies appears to be one factor in what happened at the Lincoln Mounds in 2004.

Over the past year MIAC officials have stated at public meetings that there were a variety of reasons for what they did in relation to the Lincoln Mounds but that one of the reasons was that they wanted to forestall action on the part of the State Archaeologist that would have led, they say, to the destruction of the mounds. Less publicly the State Archaeologist himself has stated that the ultimate fate of the Lincoln Mounds rested not in his hands but in those of MIAC officials and that any suggestions about his actions are part of an attempt to use him as a straw man and a scapegoat. He suggests that the MIAC had reasons of its own for what it did, reasons about which it has not been forthright. However, he has not been specific about what those reasons are.

For those who have followed the disagreements between OSA and MIAC over the years, these are familiar quarrels. In fact, many details of the Lincoln Mounds case appear to fit into the contrasting views expressed by the two agencies for the past ten years. However, in order to find out what actually happened in Bloomington, it is necessary to sort out the details of what is known, what is assumed, and what may never have happened.

Hearing recent accounts, one would assume that the decision-making process was contentious from the beginning, involving a great deal of wrangling about the form that authentication of the mounds would take and who would be involved in it. Mark Fabel, of McGough, the company seeking to develop the site of Lincoln Mounds 1 and 2, stated at a public event at Mille Lacs in February 2005 that he spent a month in the spring of 2004 trying to determine with whom he should deal and that one agency told him not to have anything to do with the other. At the same event Jim Jones stated that the State Archaeologist had tried to exclude MIAC from the process.

Some of this may have had to do with the long-running arguments between OSA and MIAC about which agency had priority in dealing with Native American burials. Already on the record was a letter written by Mark Dudzik in 2001, part of an environmental review done for the entire Bloomington area of which the Lincoln Mounds site was a part. That review provided very little information about specific burial sites, but it anticipated that some might be found in the area and called for consultation with OSA and MIAC in that case. In response to the draft version of the report, Dudzik wrote:

Also on the record were reports of the earlier Ceridian project that took place across the street from the Bloomington Central Station site in 1998. At that time archaeologists pinpointed the locations of Mounds 4 and 5 Lincoln Mounds group. Mound 4 was partially intact and plans for the siting of the new Ceridian building were altered to preserve it. During the same project, scattered remains found on the site were consolidated in a newly constructed mound. For many of those involved, including archaeologists, Indian people, and construction people, the Ceridian project was a formative experience, showing how all could work together to deal sensitively with American Indian remains.

Because McGough was the construction company for the Ceridian project, it hoped to apply some of the same procedures to the Bloomington Central Station project. Various sources state that McGough tried to be proactive, seeking to work with the Indian Affairs Council to deal with any remains found on the property.

In a phone conversation in August 2005 Mark Fabel stated that McGough had hoped to build on the positive relationship established between the company and MIAC during the Ceridian project. However neither Fabel nor anyone else working on the 2004 project had been around during the earlier project. Fabel was also unfamiliar with the procedures established under state law for dealing with burials and also did not know about the long-running feud between OSA and MIAC. Fabel’s initial instinct, because of the earlier project, was to deal initially with MIAC, but he was soon informed that the law gave the State Archaeologist primary responsibility for authentication. Fabel states that the State Archaeologist suggested to him that calling MIAC would be opening a can of worms. However, Fabel also states the State Archaeologist did not appear to be attempting to exclude MIAC entirely from the entire process, only the initial authentication phase. Assuming that Native American remains were found, according to Fabel, the State Archaeologist appeared ready to bring MIAC into the process.

The use of the Ceridian project as a model for what would happen in 2004 appears to have run into difficulties because there were many differences between the new project area and the old one. Some Bloomington city officials asserted initially that the site was heavily disturbed like the Ceridian site and they are believed to have communicated that opinion to the developer, but there was no guarantee that the same situation of extensive disturbance would be found in the new site. There was no evidence that the site had ever been plowed. Aerial photos showed that the area was in the front yard of a farmhouse. On a 1961 survey map done for the Control Data Corporation and in the possession of city planners in Bloomington, an Indian burial mound was identified near the farmhouse. And nothing had subsequently been built in this area of the property.

After visiting the site early in the process, Mark Dudzik stated in early 2005 that he had come to believe that there was a strong possibility of finding mound sites that were comparatively undisturbed on the site. Dudzik recalled in early 2005 that at meetings with a firm working for McGough, he pointed out that the Lincoln Mounds were in a fairly discrete area contained in a small park-like setting and suggested altering the project to work around the site. He was told that this was impossible because of the underground parking garage intended for the part of the site where Lincoln Mounds 1 and 2 were located. Corroboration of this conversation has come from someone who was witness to some of what happened during this early period of the Lincoln Mounds project.

According to Mark Fabel of McGough, however, it appeared that everyone involved in the process in the spring of 2004, including city and state officials, believed very little would be found at the Lincoln Mounds because of disturbance from road construction and other activities. However, Fabel does recall that the State Archeologist suggested the possibility that if any remains would be found they would be located at the site of Mound 2.

Despite the discouragement from the State Archaeologist about involving MIAC at this point in the process, Fabel did contact Jim Jones and met with him separately in early May 2004. According to Fabel, Jim Jones was pleased that Fabel contacted him and appeared ready to work with him, but was especially concerned about the possibility that the State Archaeologist might make use of mechanized equipment to authenticate the Lincoln Mounds. The possibility appears to have come up at one of the earliest meetings between Fabel and Dudzik, in which the State Archaeologist discussed the use of ground penetrating radar and mechanical stripping as a means of locating and revealing human remains. According to Fabel, Dudzik emphasized that mechanical stripping was a cost-saving means of removed surface soils.

One of the meetings where this was discussed was on May 11, 2004. After the meeting Fabel sent an email to Jim Jones of MIAC stating that he had had a meeting that day with Mark Dudzik and Bob Sharlin. Fabel wrote: “I expressed our reluctance to pursue geophysical studies prior to hand excavation and also expressed our reluctance to use a belly scraper.” The first reference was to the possibility of using ground penetrating radar and other means as a non-intrusive means of locating significant features at the Lincoln Mounds. Later on such means were part of the authentication done at the urging of Mark Dudzik, under his supervision. On several occasions Jim Jones has stated that he has little faith in such means for locating human remains in glacial soils.

As for the mention of the use of a belly scraper this could be evidence for what has also been asserted recently, that this was one of the ways that Mark Dudzik would have approached the excavation of the Lincoln Mounds. At a cultural resources meeting at Izatys Resort on Lake Mille Lacs in February 2005, Jim Jones stated that at some point in the process of discussing the Lincoln Mounds with the State Archaeologist he stated forcefully, “No more!” meaning no more mechanical excavations of burial sites.

The rough draft report by Summit Envirosolutions states that “a work plan was developed by the State Archaeologist which proposed to authenticate the Lincoln Mounds by mechanically excavating trenches across the mounds.” The Summit rough draft also repeats some of the same arguments that have enlivened OSA and MIAC discussions over the years:

The rough draft report points out that many American Indians and archaeologists disagreed with the idea that a burial area should be determined by the presence or absence of human remains. One reason is that remains can decompose in the ground. “Second, mounds are sacred places whether or not human remains are present, as it is obvious that family and friends spent a tremendous amount of energy constructing a mound to bury and memorialize their loved ones.”

In conversations earlier this year, Mark Dudzik denied that he ever made a proposal to do full mechanized excavation of the Lincoln Mounds site. He said that he would have asked for controlled, monitored, mechanically-assisted excavation only to remove disturbed overlying soils or overlying fill. He also pointed out that even the MIAC sometimes ordered such mechanized excavation, as it ultimately did with portions of the Lincoln Mounds site in 2004 and as was done earlier on the Ceridian project. Thus, if the reference to a belly scraper in Fabel’s email was meant to refer to something proposed by Dudzik, it could have simply had to do with Dudzik’s desire to use a scraper to remove top soils at mound locations so as to reach more quickly and cheaply the levels where remains might be found.

Did Mark Dudzik call for mechanized trenching to authenticate the Lincoln Mounds site? Evidence on this point comes from memos, emails, and notes in the files of the MIAC and the OSA. Although there are references to possible mechanical excavation of the Lincoln Mounds, there is no proof in such documents to suggest that this idea came from Mark Dudzik

On May 26, Bob Sharlin of the City of Bloomington emailed to various parties involved in planning for the project a draft of “an outline of the field investigation activities for the Lincoln Mound Group.” The document outlined a phased process, including “initial mechanical cross-trenching of mound area augmented by skim shoveling based on conditions and circumstance.” The term skim shoveling refers to a manual process of removing soil with a shovel in very thin layers. As for the reference to cross-trenching, it is not clear that this term was meant to imply “mechanically excavating trenches across the mounds,” the phrase used in the Summit Envirosolutions draft report. If this work plan originated in part with the State Archaeologist, the term could have been intended to refer to Dudzik’s use of mechanical means to remove disturbed surface soils so as to expose intact mound surfaces. Beyond that, however, it is not all clear that the proposal was initiated by Dudzik.

In fact, Sharlin did not suggest in his email that Dudzik had authored the plan. The document bears an identification referring to a file name on the Bloomington’s own computer system. In addition, some aspects of the wording of the document itself support the idea that it was written by Sharlin or some other employee of the city of Bloomington. For example, it contains the statement that “the role of the City Staff is to facilitate cooperative activities with property owners, the State Archaeologists Office and the State of Minnesota Indian Affairs Council in the identification and preservation of prehistoric mounds.”

Corroboration that the draft plan was authored by Sharlin has come recently from Sandra Johnson, a Bloomington assistant city attorney. In September 2005 Johnson wrote that the document

What is not clear, however, is why the statement contained a reference to “mechanical cross-trenching” of the mound area. One possibility is that Sharlin, like others, was at this point drawing his cues about what might be done on the current project from the Ceridian project. In September 1998, once archaeologists had a sense of what remains might be found on the Ceridian site, they filed a “mound management plan” of the kind that the City of Bloomington has required, at least until recently. The plan called for mechanical stripping with a backhoe of disturbed surface soils on Mound 4 of the Lincoln Mounds, in order to expose intact mound soils which would then be hand excavated, just the sort of technique that Dudzik had frequently proposed. However there was no mention of “mechanical cross-trenching.”

It should be said that nowhere in the notes kept by Jim Jones himself from the spring of 2004 was there any suggestion that Mark Dudzik had proposed mechanical excavation of the Lincoln Mounds nor that Jim Jones ever said in a meeting that there should be “no more” mechanical excavation. In his detailed notes of a meeting with Dudzik, Bob Sharlin and Mark Fabel on May 21, 2004, when such a suggestion might have been discussed, there was no mention of it. The notes appeared to have been prepared for Leonard Wabasha, who worked for the Shakopee Community. Jones summarized the belief of those at the meeting that Mound 2 of the Lincoln Mounds “might still be intact with some disturbances to it,” and referred to the 1961 Control Data survey map which showed, according to Jones, that Mound 1 “was still intact on the property.” He added: “My personal view is that this mound is still visible on the ground.” Jones summarized the questions that the Shakopee community might want to consider:

At this point that Jones added: “Leonard, I have included a draft plan that was put together by Bob Sharlin, City of Bloomington.” It is likely that this is the document emailed by Sharlin on May 26. The statement provides further proof that the draft work plan calling for “mechanical cross trenching” was produced by Sharlin and that Jim Jones of MIAC did not attribute the plan to Mark Dudzik. As it developed, this method of authentication was not one used in the authentication agreed upon by OSA and MIAC.

The Authentication Plan

Since recent statements by MIAC officials and others suggest that the negotiations between OSA and MIAC about the Lincoln Mounds were contentious, it is surprising that existing documents surviving from those negotiations do not record any disagreements. Instead, the documents show that the various parties involved appear to have believed in late May 2004 that some intact mound areas continued to exist at the Lincoln Mounds and that while removal of remains was a possibility, it was not the only one.

But given the long-running disagreements between OSA and MIAC about what constituted authentication, it would not have been surprising if there had been some disagreements. Recently Mark Fabel of McGough stated that the first meeting he attended that included both Mark Dudzik and Jim Jones, much of the contentious discussion dealt with the continuing disagreements about the authority over mounds under state law. Also at issue were the methods to be used in authentication.

Over the years MIAC has argued that if mound sites had been surveyed in the 19th century as part of the Theodore Lewis survey, this would in an of itself constitute authentication in which case no excavation would have been necessary. But if one were to rely on Theodore Lewis’s survey notes for authentication purposes, how accurate are these survey notes? To what extent can they be relied upon without additional archaeological work to prove that a site is in fact a burial site?

These questions are relevant in relation to the Lincoln Mounds because during early consultation between the OSA and a firm working for McGough the exact location of these mounds was at issue. The firm brought the OSA a projection based on the locations of the other Lincoln Mounds on the Ceridian site that placed Mound 1 along the edge of the LRT line to the north of a small park at the corner of 34th Ave. and Old Shakopee Road and Mound 2 in the Health Partners parking lot to the west. After looking at the survey measurements taken during the Lewis survey, OSA projected that Mounds 1 and 2 would more likely be located within the area of the park. The change was the result of factoring in magnetic declination—the difference between magnetic north and true north, a difference that changes over time.

Even this location of the Lincoln Mounds was not assumed to be authoritative and the recent Summit Envirosolutions draft report has suggested that it was also off the mark. Historical survey data like this may be subject to error. And Lewis did very few excavations of the mounds he surveyed. Burials can be placed anywhere or not at all in particular mounds. Sometimes they are located between mounds. This means that if one were to accept the Lewis data as authoritative it would be possible for an area accepted as authenticated to miss the actual location where remains lay in the ground. Not having a completely accurate answer as to where the remains lie  might make it difficult for a landowner to know what portion of his property would be usable for development and what part should be preserved as a cemetery and surrounding buffer zone.

In the case of the Lincoln Mounds, as it turned out, the whole matter became moot at some point in early June 2004. According to Mark Fabel of McGough, the contentious discussion between OSA and MIAC ended when Mark Dudzik said, essentially, to Jim Jones: “You want to handle it? Ok you handle it.” This opened the door for MIAC to assume responsibility for the entire process to be used in authenticating and dealing with the Lincoln Mounds.

And it appears that it was during this same period that MIAC reached its initial decision to remove and rebury whatever remains were found on the development site. On June 10, 2004, less than a month after Jim Jones reported the possible intact mound areas, MIAC renewed an agreement with a nearby landowner for the placement of remains on a site where remains were reburied during the earlier Ceridian project. The agreement had run out on April 1, 2004, and it would appear that there would be no reason to renew it unless it was planned to use the site for remains found during the summer of 2004.

The only record in surviving documents about the Lincoln Mounds of any significant event in the period between May 21 and June 10, 2004, was a projected meeting between Jim Jones and the Shakopee tribal council. In his May 21 memo to Leonard Wabasha, who represented Shakopee, Jim Jones stated: “I will be will [able?] to meet with the Council in person next week to answer any questions that they may have.”

Such a meeting would have been a key one in decision making about the Lincoln Mounds. Shakopee was the nearest Native American community to the site. Under rules agreed upon between the OSA and MIAC, when Native American remains were found that could not be identified as being associated with an existing tribe, decisions about what should happen to them involved consultation with the closest Native American community.

Did a meeting between Jim Jones and the Shakopee Tribal Council or other officials take place in early June 2004? Did the Shakopee tribal council reach the conclusion that any remains found during the Lincoln Mounds project would be removed and reburied? Answers to these questions cannot be found in the available public written record. However, details of what may have happened at a meeting with the Shakopee tribal council come from the Summit Envirosolutions rough draft report.

The draft report states that “much of the decision” about what would happen at the Lincoln Mounds “was based on information that came to tribal representatives through ceremony.” The report gives five main reasons for the decision to remove. First, the Shakopee tribal council was simply in favor of relocating the remains “to a more protected location.” Second, the Ceridian project provided a model of successful cooperation between a developer and Indian people for dealing with human remains. Third, since remains from the other Lincoln Mounds had already been removed in the Ceridian project, the current project would provide an opportunity to unite any newly found remains with those already reburied. Fourth, it was expected that any remains found would be significantly disturbed, like those found in the earlier site. Finally, it was believed that if the remains were not removed now, future projects might endanger them again.

If decisions were reached by MIAC in early or mid June 2004, nothing much seems to have happened involving the Lincoln Mounds until after mid-July. Why the delay in commencing archaeology on a project that several of those describe as being on a “fast track”? There is no explanation available in the public record. What is known is that sometime during this period Summit Envirosolutions was retained by McGough to do the work on the Lincoln Mounds. As a result of the decisions reached by MIAC, the Shakopee Dakota Community, and the State Archaeologist, Mollie O’Brien of Summit Envirosolutions drafted a plan for dealing with the remains at the Lincoln Mounds site, involving first an authentication, followed by removal and eventual reburial. In mid-July 2004, after intensive revisions, O’Brien sent versions of the work plan to OSA and MIAC for their comments.

It is not known if MIAC had any major revisions to suggest, but written notes from the time and oral accounts since then show that the State Archaeologist insisted that the report clearly delineate what portions of the work were done under his supervision and which under the supervision of MIAC. As a result, the final version of the work plan was divided into two phases, the authentication process under the supervision of OSA and a related cultural study and reburial process under MIAC. Both phases were guided by the decision that had already been made that any remains found in the Lincoln Mounds would be removed. In the first phase, there would be manual trenching of each identified mound site, consisting of a series of formal one-meter-by-one-meter units, followed ultimately by skim shoveling, also done by hand. Based on the trenching, any remaining portions of the mound would be skim shoveled:

The only reference to mechanical methods of excavation was in the second phase, under the supervision of MIAC. The work plan stated that in areas considered to be non-mound areas, if human remains were not encountered during shovel testing, “the non-mound area will be mechanically stripped and archaeologists will conduct pre-construction monitoring.”

The Archaeology

On July 19 the authentication process at the Lincoln Mounds began promisingly, with a prayer ceremony at the site. Mark Fabel of McGough attended and stated in an email to Jim Jones:

On July 23, 2004, Mark Dudzik sent an email reporting the find that day of the first human remains, a tooth fragment at the location of Mound 2. He wrote:

This email is the only document on the public record from the summer of 2004 describing in any detail the finding of human remains at the Lincoln Mounds site. More recently, in September 2005 and later, Mollie O’Brien of Summit called into question some of the information in the email. O’Brien noted that the location projected for Mound 1 by OSA was not ultimately found to be accurate. More significantly, she pointed out that the only mechanical excavation carried out by Summit at any time during the Lincoln Mounds project involved the kind of mechanical excavation MIAC favors, on areas where hand excavation had already taken place, or in areas between burial-mound features. This took place very late in the project.

O’Brien drew a clear distinction between that kind of mechanical excavation and the kind favored by Dudzik, of top soils over burial features. O’Brien noted that given the kind of delicate, crumbling remains ultimately found at the site, mechanical excavation of top soils using a scraper would have caused great damage to significant remains. She stated further that at the Lincoln Mounds there was no plow zone, no layer of disturbed fill over the fill deposited during the original creation of the mound. Bone fragments were found as shallow as 10 cm below the surface. Any mechanized attempt to remove presumed surface soils would have quickly destroyed these fragments.

Regardless of these points, Dudzik has said that with this finding of the tooth his job ended. The presence of these remains was enough evidence to authenticate the mounds first surveyed by Theodore Lewis as a Native American burial ground. From then one, according to Dudzik, everything that happened was under the supervision of MIAC.

But MIAC and those working with the Council have asserted more recently, in interviews and conversations, that Dudzik had already affected the process. From their point of view, he had shaped the survey in important ways. They contend that many things that MIAC did were in response to Dudzik’s insistence on authenticating mound sites through the finding of actual human remains and his alleged attempts to initiate mechanical excavation of the Lincoln Mounds. MIAC officials insist that one of the reasons they decided to do a careful, respectful removal of the remains was in order to pre-empt what they thought would be a destruction of the site under the supervision of OSA. They were so mistrustful of Dudzik’s motives and methods that they could see no other choice. And because of their beliefs about the few scattered and disturbed remains they expected to find, they could only see this as the most respectful of all the alternatives available.

Tom Ross, a Dakota elder involved in the Lincoln Mounds project, stated in the Summit report that he did not have any faith that the OSA would have tried to preserve the site or find an alternative to construction. “Why the decisions were made in the manner that they were is that there is a lack of trust and faith in the [State Archaeologist].” Similarly Dallas Ross is quoted: “In this case, knowing the history of the present State Archaeologist I knew what would occurred if some sort of alternative though was given to it; they would just be destroyed and it would have been picking up pieces as is generally the case in Minnesota lately.”

However, based on the documents available in the pubic record, it is hard to make the case that Mark Dudzik intended to do a wholesale mechanical excavation of the Lincoln Mounds which would have resulted in their destruction, or even that a belief that such was about to happen motivated MIAC and the Shakopee Tribal Council in the spring of 2004 to decide to remove the Lincoln Mounds.

Since the Summit Envirosolutions rough draft report was made public in August there have been a variety of reactions to its account of the process leading up to the Lincoln Mounds excavation. In early September 2005, after reading some of the statements in the report about his influence on the process, Mark Dudzik sent an email to Mollie O’Brien stating: “Be certain you have primary documentation for any claims you make. They will be very much scrutinized by me and an ‘outside reviewer’ of my own.”

In early October 2005, two of the many authors of the report stated in conversation that the intention with subsequent drafts of the report—including one which will be done before Christmas—will be to remove some of the contentious discussion of the role of the State Archaeologist in the Lincoln Mounds project. Out of respect for those who were buried at the Lincoln Mounds, the report will instead concentrate on mounds, the people, and their story.

These authors, however, went on to say that the issues involving the State Archaeologist and the process of authentication would have to be discussed at some future time. They continued to believe that the State Archaeologist was the catalyst for what happened at the Lincoln Mounds because, following the authentication procedures he set up, the Indian community had to prove “there was something there” at sites located and surveyed more than a hundred years ago. In the case of the Lincoln Mounds the authors believe that the evidence of that earlier survey should have been enough to allow the site to be preserved with an adequate buffer area around it, without having to do extensive archaeological testing.

One way or another, however, the evidence of the public record shows that most of the archaeological work done in the summer and fall of 2004 was done under the supervision of MIAC, in consultation with Shakopee and, subsequently, several other Dakota communities. While the first work done may have been done with little knowledge of the extensive remains at the Lincoln Mounds, things changed radically after the third week of July 2004. Day after day archaeologists found more and more remains in an obviously significant arrangement. It appears that from believing that they were doing the right thing in the right way with remains that they had believed would be sparse and highly disturbed, MIAC officials and Indian people working with them now realized that they were digging up some very important mound sites, the very thing that they had long feared Dudzik himself would do.

The Summit Envirosolutions draft report suggests that those who made the decision now say that had they known what would be found at the Lincoln Mounds, they might have made a different decision. They have consoled themselves with the belief that what they did was ultimately a respectful way to handle the situation and still the best choice among those available. But it is still almost inconceivable that once more and more remains were found, there was no attempt to preserve the site rather that proceeding with removal, especially considering that the developer is said to have affirmed at many times that it was willing to save the site from development if MIAC asked. But MIAC never asked.

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