Consultation without representation

A National Park Service official in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area has responded to critiques of the recent final EIS for the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property. The critiques which appeared on this website and which were announced on various listservs, stated that the Dakota perspective on Coldwater Spring had been ignored in the final EIS, based on such statements as: “no historical documentation of American Indian use of Camp Coldwater Spring has been found,” (repeated five times in the final EIS, beginning on page 72).

In response the Park Service official has stated that the Park Service did not ignore the Dakota perspective on Coldwater, because it met with Dakota tribal groups and other Native groups repeatedly and sought their opinions throughout the process. He provides a full record of those consultations and attempts at consultation.

It is not surprising that the Park Service wants to prove that it consulted with the tribes for legal and other CYOA reasons. But why does the official not mention what the agency learned as a result of those consultations? In fact, several Dakota tribes said that Coldwater Spring was a place of cultural and historical importance to the Dakota and that they wanted to obtain the property for the long-term. How did the Park Service respond? Did the statements of the tribes affect the conclusions reached by the Park Service?

It is also important to note that getting a Dakota perspective in the EIS is not just about listening to tribal governments. The Park Service has an obligation to gather information and the authenticity of information relating to the Dakota people is not determined exclusively by tribal governments. Information about Dakota beliefs and history comes from oral traditions, Native elders, and even written documents. Ignoring all of those resources to minimize the Dakota connection to Coldwater can not be remedied by giving a list of all the meetings, letters, and other contacts with tribal governments.

Consultation without representation is just cynical manipulation designed to arrive at a pre-determined result.

Email from Steven P. Johnson, January 14, 2010, to the Minnesota Indian Affairs listserv

Several comments have been posted to the listserve asserting that the National Park Service has ignored the Dakota perspective in considering the future of the former Bureau of Mines campus.  The fact is there has been considerable coordination with the federally recognized tribes.

While disagreement about conclusions is important to a healthy democracy, it is helpful to base those disagreements on the same set of facts.  For those who haven’t been closely involved in this issue, the Final EIS includes the record of our tribal coordination.  It is available at

The National Park Service (NPS) has conducted extensive coordination with federally recognized tribes.  In addition to the correspondence and meetings cited below, NPS staff talked with representatives of various Dakota tribes throughout the process.  By federal law, the NPS is required to consult with federally-recognized tribes and their designed representatives.   The NPS will continue coordinating with the federally recognized tribes as long it is involved with the Bureau of Mines property.

I don’t want to use the listserve to engage in an argument with anyone, but I wanted you to know there are two sides to the story and the Dakota perspective has been considered throughout the process.


Coordinating with interested federally recognized American Indian tribes has been on on-going effort throughout the EIS process.   The NPS contacted a total of 20 federally recognized American Indian tribes over the draft and final EIS processes and through the Section 106, National Historic Preservation, process.  The four recognized tribes in Minnesota (Lower Sioux Indian Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Upper Sioux Indian Community) have been the most active in expressing their interests in the Center property, and the NPS has kept them informed at every stage of the review.  Early coordination regarding the EIS process is outlined below with additional coordination occurring during the Section 106 review process.  Copies of early coordination letters are included in Appendix E.

February 18, 2005. National Park Service mailed letters to the four federally recognized Dakota Tribes of Minnesota (Upper Sioux Indian Community, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Prairie Island Sioux Community and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community) as well as the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma inviting participation in the Center EIS planning process.

March 15, 2005. National Park Service delivered the scoping newsletter/comment card via telefax and U.S. Mail to 20 federally recognized Indian tribes.

April 6, 2005. National Park Service mailed letters to 11 federally recognized throughout Minnesota inviting participation in the Center EIS/Section 106 process.

April 11, 2005. National Park Service mailed letters to 16 federally recognized tribes inviting participation in the ethnographic study including TCP and sacred site analysis at the Center. Contacts included: Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Ho-Chunk Nation, Bois Forte Reservation, Fond du Lac Reservation, Grand Portage Reservation, Leech Lake Reservation, Mille Laces Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa, White Earth Reservation, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Lac Courte Oreilles Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Upper Sioux Indian Community.

April 26, 2005. National Park Service met with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.

April 29, 2005. National Park Service met with members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and participated in a site visit.

May 18, 2005. National Park Service mailed letters to federally recognized Sioux tribes outside Minnesota inviting participation in the Center EIS process including: Santee Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake, Flandreau, and Crow Creek.

May 5, 2005. National Park Service hosted members of three federally recognized Dakota tribes and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council on a site visit.

August 2005. National Park Service met with chairman of the Upper Sioux Indian Community.

August 23, 2006.  Notice of Availability for the Draft EIS published in the Federal Register.

November 27, 2006.  Comment period on Draft EIS closed.  After this, the National Park Service was waiting for a decision from the Department of Interior concerning the preferred alternative.

September 8, 2008.  Department of Interior announces the preferred alternative.

December 3, 2008.  National Park Service sent a letter to 20 federally recognized tribes announcing that the Department of the Interior (DOI) had selected a preferred alternative for the property, which calls for removing the buildings and infrastructure and restoring the landscape to a condition that emphasizes its ecological and historical significance.

January 22, 2009. The NPS announced through letters to the Minnesota SHPO, tribal governments, interest groups and individuals on its mailing list an open house meeting on Monday February 23, 2009 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis. The meeting’s purpose was to collect public comment on reuse and restoration of the Center site under the selected, preferred alternative and its impacts on the Center’s historic properties.

February 11, 2009.  The NPS sent a letter to 20 federally recognized tribes.  The letter noted the two letters above, and the Superintendent stated that “The purpose of this letter to let you know that my staff and I are available to discuss with you any concerns you may have regarding the preferred alternative, the site’s restoration, and the site’s future use and management.”

February 23, 2009, Open House.  Federally recognized tribes were specifically invited to this open house.

[April ?, 2009. Announced second public open house for Bureau of Mines is cancelled.]

May 11 and 12, 2009, MNRRA sent the Draft MOA to 10 Dakota tribes and interested parties participating in the Section 106 process and requested their comments on it. MNRRA also offered to meet with the tribes to walk through the document. MNRRA followed up with phone calls to each tribe to reiterate its willingness to meet with them.

Once the Record of Decision is signed, the NPS will submit the final MOA to the 10 Dakota tribes and consulting parties for their signature.

Copies of coordination and consultation letters for cultural resources and Section 106 are included in Appendix H.

Steve Johnson
Chief of Resource Management
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
National Park Service
111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
St. Paul, MN 55101
651-290-3030 x223
Fax: 651-290-3214

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