The recent statement by John Anfinson, historian with the National Park Service’s Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), that Coldwater Spring was “latched onto” by various groups including American Indians as a sacred place is merely one more example of the Anfinson’s closed mind and biased point of view. He and the agency for which he works, made up their minds a long time ago. Here’s more evidence of that. In 2008 a vehement, non-Indian Coldwater Spring supporter sent me an email saying:
I am getting quite concerned about the lies being spread about Camp Coldwater in the papers by [name deleted]. Sacred waters, now healing waters. Sacred trees. Its that old saying, when a lie is said often enough, people start to believe it. I know for a fact that [name deleted] asked [name deleted] to lie about 4 sacred trees to stop MNDOT in MHHA park. [Name deleted] keeps making things up as he and his merry little band want the land for a Casino down the road.
I responded noting that the oak trees were a moot point, since they had been cut down eight years before, and that there were no Dakota people who wanted a casino at Coldwater Spring. I said:
What is important is that the spring be preserved and respected . . . . . I am not in a position to tell anyone about the particular power of the water in the spring, but I believe there is plenty of evidence about the importance of the water there for Dakota people, in relation to Mdote, Taku Wakan Tipi, and the wakan wacipi [medicine ceremony]. I am ready to argue that point with anyone who denies it, based on historical and cultural evidence.
The Coldwater Spring supporter forwarded these emails to John Anfinson at MNRRA, who wrote of Park Service plans for the protection of the spring. He added:
I am not going to get into any extended discussion of the sacred character of the spring. I have said what I believe about that already. The bottom line is that it is tremendously important to many people. It will require the best effort to define its restoration, protection and access protocol.
Anfinson was unwilling to discuss the issue of “the sacred character of the spring.” He had made up his mind. And that mind, as indicated in the statement made in September 2010, to the Pioneer Press reporter, was inclined to agree with the non-Indian who objected to Dakota beliefs about the importance of the spring, suggesting that they were manufactured. Yet MNRRA has pretended to have a open mind about the issue. In recent “White Paper” written in January 2010 by the staff of MNRRA, the agency stated:
For the Draft EIS, MNRRA’s Cultural Resources Specialist, Dr. John Anfinson, evaluated Coldwater Spring’s eligibility for the National Register as a TCP under 36 CFR part 63 and under National Register Bulletin 38, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional! Cultural Properties. He found that Coldwater Spring did not meet the National Register criteria or the guidelines of Bulletin 38. MNRRA presented this initial finding in the Draft EIS. The TCP review process under Section 800.4, however, was just beginning. MNRRA’s position stated in the Draft EIS was simply an initial finding and open for discussion.
The final determination on the TCP status was open until MNRRA sent out the final MOA for signature on January 20, 2010. And, MNRRA is still willing to consider the designation.
Despite these last claims, neither the MNRRA nor John Anfinson were willing to consider or discuss the designation of Coldwater as a TCP or as a sacred place after August 2006. Anfinson had made up his mind. Mind, and case, closed.