Mdote Minisota

A Public EIS

Part 5

 

"A truthful, open, and ongoing environmental review process carried out by the public for the public, is needed to examine, document, and review all actions planned or undertaken by public agencies and private entities within the area of Mdote Minisota. Without such a process in place, this sacred and historic space may continue to be destroyed, bit by bit, historic property by historic property. . . ."Mdote Minisota, A Public EIS, Part 1

-July 4, 2006-

Read the (Secret) Clouse Report, Finally

 

William W. Folwell

(folwell@minnesotahistory.net)

The draft Clouse Report about the former Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Campus, the report that the National Park Service believes has the capacity to cause harm if it is read by the public, is available for public examination. Actually it has been available for public examination for several years, though most of the public did not know it. Those who are interested can read it in the form of a number of Adobe Acrobat files, listed below, available at the Friends of Coldwater website. Or they can read it at Minnesota’s Legislative Reference Library in the State Office Building in St. Paul. The Legislative Reference Library is an institution open not only to Minnesota’s elected public representatives, but also to the people who elected them, the citizens of Minnesota.

Although the draft version of the Clouse report does not include a detailed description of all of the artifacts he found, a major point that emerges from this draft version is that much of the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Campus is covered with a thick layer of fill deposited in the last 150 years, covering intact soils surfaces from the early 19th century. Underneath those intact soil surfaces Clouse found artifacts from the early 19th century. As a result Clouse recommended that the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Landmark/ Historic District be expanded to include additional portions of the western edge of the property, beyond the Coldwater Spring basin.

For more information about what is in the Clouse Report, read the Q & A below

 

Clouse Report files in Adobe Acrobat format, available at the Friends of Coldwater website:

Clouse1: Title page, table of contents, summary

Clouse2: Chapter 1: Introduction,  Chapter 2: Theoretical Constructs, Chapter 3: Military Context, Chapter 4: Environmental Setting

Clouse3: Chapter 5: Historical Context and Growth of Fort Snelling

Clouse4: Chapter 6: History of the Camp Coldwater Locality

Clouse5: Chapter 7: Previous Archaeological Research, Chapter 8: Field Methods

Clouse6: Chapter 9: Project Results,

Clouse7: Chapter 10: Management Recommendations, References

 

Clouse Report Q & A:

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know about the Clouse Report . . . .

 

Q: What was so controversial in the draft Clouse report which could explain why the Park Service was keeping it from the public for five years?

A: Many people are scratching their heads about this. One possible explanation is that Clouse’s recommendation for expanding the Fort Snelling Landmark/Historic District boundary is a problem for the agency. The Park Service (or the Department of Interior, which will be making the final decision) may have wanted to keep its options open. Beyond that the Park Service may think that the archaeological evidence in the Clouse Report will prejudice any outcome it may decide to support in relation to the current Bureau of Mines EIS process.

 

Q: If the Park Service has been keeping the report secret, where did this copy of the report come from?

A: This copy of the draft report is in Legislative Reference Library, which got its copy from Minnesota Office of State Archaeologist (OSA).

 

Q: Wasn't this report prepared by the Minnesota Historical Society? Why didn’t you get a copy of the report from them?

A: For over a year now the Historical Society has refused all requests to release any version of the Clouse Report. The Park Service requested that the Historical Society not release the report.

 

Q: Isn’t the Historical Society a publicly funded agency? Didn’t they have some obligation under state law to release the report?

A: The Historical Society carried out the survey while operating under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Clouse was the expert on archaeology in the Fort Snelling area. The Historical Society owned property adjacent to Coldwater Spring within the Fort Snelling Historic Landmark/ Historic District and operated it under state law as part of the State Historic Sites Network. The report was designed in part to provide the Historical Society and other state-funded agencies with information to be used in managing that public state network. But despite substantial state funding and its many state programs, the Minnesota Historical Society has recently been found not to be subject to the Data Practices Act, the Minnesota equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Q: Doesn’t that mean that this report you are giving out is contraband?

A: Not really, because in 2001 someone filed a copy of the report with the Office of State Archaeologist, a common pratice among archaeologists in Minnesota, which the OSA appreciates. The OSA is under the Minnesota Department of Administration and is subject to the Data Practices Act. The OSA used the copy to prepare a summary of Clouse’s work for an annual report on archaeological surveys in the state. Absent a particular exemption from public disclosure, there’s no way the State Archaeologist could declare the report secret. And I doubt if the Minnesota Historical Society will want to deny the Clouse Report to the state legislators who give the Society its primary funding, by trying to remove the report from the Legislative Reference Library or from the files of the OSA for that matter.

 

 

Q: Okay, so this is a public copy of a report which the Park Service has declared to be secret. What’s the secret? What did Clouse find?

A: A detailed list of what Clouse uncovered during his dig is not included in the draft report. In Chapter 9 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.

 

Q: “Intact soil surfaces”? Please speak English.

A: In other words, underneath many feet of fill placed on the property in the last 150-some years, is the same ground that Benjamin Baker, Jacob and Marguerite Falstrom, Joseph Buisson, Dred Scott, the chiefs Hole-in-the-Day, Flat Mouth, and Little Crow and many other Indian people and other historical figures stood upon in the 1830s in coming to, living at, and working around Coldwater Spring.

 

Q: Did Clouse find the remnants of the buildings where these people lived, worked, or visited?

A: He did find some logs, but he thinks they were railroad ties rather than any part of a cabin or another structure.

 

Q: So in other words there’s nothing there? Does this mean that the property can be developed?

A: No. There is a lot there. The survey was the result of several weeks of work over a period of two years. The site still has the significant potential to contain archaeological resources, buried under all that fill. And even if Clouse only found scattered historic or prehistoric artifacts, the site could be preserved purely on that basis, as Clouse himself says in the report. You don’t have to find structures to preserve archaeological sites.

 

Q: But couldn’t the Department of Interior when it makes its final decision say that monitoring during construction on the property would insure that nothing significant would be destroyed and then decide to proceed with some sort of development, say a police academy, a mid-level management-training center, or an office park?

A: The significance of this site goes well beyond archaeology. Clouse’s job was to describe what was known about the site historically and do a quick archaeological survey, not to determine the overall significance of the site historically or culturally. So archaeilogical resources will not be the sole determining factor relating to the preservation of the site.

 

Q: What did Clouse say about the history of the site?

A. He 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 the 19th century. He also writes a little about the civilians who were living around Coldwater Spring in the 1830s.

 

Q: What about the Indian history of the site?

A: Clouse did not cover this very much. Clouse did state that "no material cultural assignable to an American Indian occupation was discovered." But this is a matter of interpretation. As I said, Clouse found a bone comb, and other manufactured goods. Since many of the people who lived around Coldwater Spring were of Dakota and Ojibwe ancestry, and 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 or non-Indians? It does not appear that Clouse did any DNA testing of scalp residues on the comb. Just because only manufactured goods were found we should not assume that they are evidence only of non-Indian occupation. In any case Clouse is an archaeologist, not a historian or ethnographer. It was not his job to deal with the Indian history or cultural importance of the site.

 

Q: So somebody else is going to write about the Indian aspects of Coldwater Spring for the Park Service?

A: There’s an ethnographer who has been doing a traditional cultural property study to learn if Coldwater Spring is a sacred site, a place of cultural importance for Indian people.

 

Q: Isn’t that pretty much known by now?

A: It’s been mentioned a lot over the years, but the Department of Interior likes to make up its own mind.

 

Q: Well, what's your overall evaluation of the Clouse Report as an archaeological report?

A: It's a competent report as far as it goes, a good preliminary survey of the Bureau of Mines site. The main finding in the Clouse Report, about those buried soil surfaces, is an important piece of information for people to know. And Clouse includes a lot of solid, important historical information. But because of that fill, a really thorough survey would cost a lot more money.

 

Q: So do you have any criticisms of the report?

A: There are a lot of things I could point to, and many of these will come out during the EIS process, but I'll just mention two. One that that bothers me is that while Clouse calls for the expansion of the boundaries of the Fort Snelling Landmark/ Historic District to include much of the Bureau of Mines property, he proposes leaving out the northern 1/4 of the property, including the main building and the surrounding parking lots for archaeological reasons. I happen to disagree with his argument on this point and I would hate to seek the Department of Interior base any decision it makes on this point alone.

 

Q: Are you saying that the Department of Interior might split up the property and preserve only part of it?

A: There's always the possibility that DOI might take a "split the baby" approach, proposing some sort of development on the north section while preserving the spring to the south. I think this would be a big mistake. DOI would have a big fight on its hands if it tried to do that.

 

Q: Is that a threat?

A: Not from me.

 

Q: Any other problems with the Clouse Report?

A: One thing that bothers me, and I suppose its not a big thing, is that Clouse keeps calling the civilian population around the spring in the 1830s “squatters.” It seems like a derogatory term that doesn’t do them justice. These people were settlers, part of a thriving local economy, growing out the fur trade. They raised cattle and made charcoal and butter for the soldiers and the traders. As I said before, some of them were mixed-blood Dakota and Ojibwe. Jacob Falstrom was a blacksmith, the first Swede in Minnesota, who was married to Marguerite Bonga, who was herself African-Ojibwe. Mrs. Perry—who was Swiss—and lived below Coldwater Spring near the Mississippi River, was the midwife for the wives of the officers at the fort. These people were permitted to stay on this part of the military reservation because they had an important role to play in supporting the military presence. They were asked to leave when one commander of the fort decided they shouldn’t be living there. Even then some were allowed to stay for a number of years after that. To call them squatters is demeaning and not really historically accurate.

 

Q: Are there any unanswered questions in the report?

A: The main one is the Smith map, the map 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 try to find these locations on the modern landscape. He had a lot of plans to use ground-penetrating radar and other remote-sensing methods to help do this. Apparently he didn’t have much success, although there may be more about the Smith map in the final version.

 

Q: Will the public ever see the final Clouse report?

A: The latest word is that a draft of the EIS for the Bureau of Mines-Twin Cities Campus is due out in mid-July. It may also include other reports the Park Service has been sitting on over the years. So if you are planning a vacation in July or August and like to read, this material may give you something to do at the cabin or the beach. And when you come back you can write a letter to the Park Service and tell them what you think.

 

Q: Where are you going to be in August?

A: I’m going whitewater rafting. But I don’t want to miss anything. Maybe the Park Service will give me a laminated copy of the draft EIS to take with me.

 

Q: You should be so lucky. . . . Did you mean coldwater rafting?