Women of Coldwater–Native people at the spring

Many Native people lived at Coldwater Spring in the 1820s and 1830s. They were important members of the community there. Here are their names: Marguerite Bonga, Marie-Marguerite Hamelin, Suzanne Grant, Sarah Marie Graham, Marie Finley, Marie Frances Boucher, and a woman named Stitt, whose first name is not known. The fact that they are not usually mentioned as Native inhabitants of the area around Fort Snelling during that period has to do with the fact that they were women and that they were often categorized by the ancestry and the ethnicity of their European-American husbands, fathers, or grandfathers, rather than that of their sisters, mothers or grandmothers. Yet their Native ancestry was a key factor in their history and the history of the place called Coldwater.

Coldwater Spring, located on the Bureau of Bureau of Mines Twin Cities campus property in Hennepin County, Minnesota, is according to Dakota elder Gary Cavender,  the site of the Dakota “creation myth (or “Garden of Eden”) and the beginning of Indian existence on Earth.” He added: “Our underwater God “Unktehi” lives in the Spring.” Non-native Minnesotans have also claimed Coldwater Spring as  “the birthplace of Minnesota.” The Native and non-Native histories of  Coldwater Spring are drawn together by the story of the women who lived there.

Like much of the area around Fort Snelling in the 1830s, the Camp Coldwater settlement contained a rich mixture of whites and Indian people, intermarrying and living peacefully together. Writing in 1838, a missionary who was seeking to build a mission house and school on the Fort Snelling reservation said that some of the inhabitants of Camp Coldwater were former employees of the traders Benjamin F. Baker and Henry H. Sibley who had married Dakota and Ojibwe women. He wrote:

These men wished for & obtained leave from the commanding officers at different times to build houses for their families, on the reservation, & near the trading houses while they were out in the employ of the traders. Subsequently some of these men left the service of the traders . . . & became farmers & mechanics.

Living at Camp Coldwater, Mendota and other scattered areas, he noted, were now “some 4 or 500 souls, the children of whom, or at least most of them, speak Sioux, Chippewa, French & English.”

Information about the people of Coldwater and the locations where they lived is found in a map drawn by Lieutenant E.K. Smith, who was given the job in 1837 to draw a map giving the location of settlers living throughout the Fort Snelling military reservation. Although the map has been mentioned for many years as a resource for information about possible archaeological sites within the Coldwater area, only recently has the National Park Service acknowledged that the map could help guide further interpretation and archaeological study of the Bureau of Mines site.

On May 11, 2009, Paul Labovitz wrote a letter having to do with the draft Memorandum of Agreement for the treatment of the Bureau of Mines property during restoration of the property. The letter was sent out to members of the public with an interest in the property:

To help with your review, we have also included a brief overview of the historic preservation considerations for the Bureau of Mines Campus. The discussion of the Camp Coldwater Community is based upon our effort to rectify the 1837 Smith Map with the current landscape. Given changes to the landscape and problems with scale, we have to emphasize that map we have included is at best an approximation.

The map included with the letter made clear that MNRRA believes that the residences of Peter Quinn, Olver Cratte, Benjamin F. Baker, Jacob Falstrom (Jacob’s), Pierre Pepin (Papin), and Joseph Raiche (Le Rage) were located on or at the edge of the Bureau of Mines property, surrounding Coldwater Spring. Each of these individuals were connected to Indian families, and their households included members of Ojibwe and Dakota communities in Minnesota.

A portion of Lieutenant E. K. Smith's 1837 map showing Coldwater Spring and surrounding area. This reproduction, like Smith's original map does not correct for the 11 degrees E of magnetic declination that existed in 1837, which would tip the map eleven degrees to the right.

Benjamin Baker, the trader, had his trading post at the spring and built a stone house above it. Early records sometimes refer to the Coldwater area as “Baker’s.” Baker’s wife was the daughter of an English trader named Stitt–possibly the North West Company trader John Stitt–who married an Ojibwe woman from the Sandy Lake area, related to the chiefs Hole-in-the-Day and Strong Ground, both of whom came to Coldwater during the 1820s and 1830s. Her brother William Stitt worked for Baker. In 1836, Joseph Nicollet traveled through up the Mississippi River in Ojibwe country, along with William Stitt and his “kind, elderly mother,”  who Nicollet said was traveling on her own to Red Lake. In 1835 William Stitt had worked as interpretor for Major Jonathan Bean who surveyed the Sioux-Chippewa boundary line. Mrs. Baker died in December 1838 after the birth of her son Robert. Benjamin Baker himself died in St. Louis in 1839. His business interests were inherited by his colleague Kenneth McKenzie, who also had an Ojibwe mixed-blood wife, also a relation of the Chief Strong Ground.

Jacob Falstrom–“Jacob” on the map–was the first Swede to live in the Minnesota region (unless there were some Vikings here long before), having arrived as a fur trader. He was married to Marguerite Bonga, a woman of African-Canadian and Ojibwe ancestry. The Bonga family were involved in the fur trade of northern Minnesota starting in the late 1700s. One source states that Marguerite Bonga was the sister of the Mille Lacs chief, Rat’s Liver, also known as Rat’s Heart or  Wash-ash-ko-kowe, and had many relations at Mille Lacs. As noted below, in relation to another Coldwater resident, Marguerite may have been a sister in the Native sense, which could include the relationship of cousins. Wash-ash-ko-kowe came to the Fort Snelling area in the 1820s and 1830s. On June 24, 1832, Agent Taliaferro wrote:

The Rats Heart — with all his band of Chippeways of Rum River approac[h]ed my house with their Flag flying — with a Pipe. The Chief walked into my house & into my Bed Room with his Pipe — lit — & presented it to me — out of which I smoked of course & gave him, & his people 250 lbs of Tobacco.

Antoine Pepin (or Papin) whose house was located on the western edge of the Bureau of Mines property, was a blacksmith for the Indian agency run by Lawrence Taliaferro. His first wife was Cree or Ojibwe. When living at Coldwater Spring his wife was Marie-Marguerite Hamelin, probably Ojibwe mixed blood or Canadian Metis. Like the other blacksmiths connected to the Indian agency Pepin often made or repaired traps, spears, and other metal goods for Indians who came to Fort Snelling, including some who wintered over near the fort.  Pepin was also called upon to be an armourer, that is to repair guns and other weapons, although Taliaferro complained that he was not skilled at it. Because his work involved fulfilling obligations under various treaties, Pepin was sometimes knows as the “treaty smith.” In November 1835, Taliaferro wrote

A Papin called at the office to shew his hands which were very much burnt & swollen in makeing 100 Traps for the poorer Indians — and as he laboured in great pain — he requested to be excused from the duties of the shop for a few days. As his hands were evidently in a very bad state, and the Indians all of[f] on their winter hunt — except a few straglers — I consented to his request.

Le Rage, located next to Pepin, could be Joseph Reche or Raiche, spelled Raesh by Taliaferro. He was married to Suzanne Grant, the daughter of a well known North West Company fur trader in northern Minnesota, Peter Grant, and Margaret Ahdiksongab aka Marthe Ckear Sky, who may have come from an Ojibwe community in Minnesota. Joseph Raiche supplied wood to the agency and also raised livestock, just like Joseph Buisson, who lived to the north outside of the present-day Bureau of Mines property area. At one point Raich was also assistant to the blacksmith Antoine Pepin which may explain the proximity of their houses. In February 1836, Taliaferro stated that he “Rode out to Camp Cold Water to visit Joseph Reasch – striker for Treaty shop who I found very sick. Doctor Jarvis was with me to see him.”

Oliver Cratte, who lived just south of the spring, and was also a blacksmith for the Indian agency, was married, according to one genealogical source, to Sarah Marie Graham, the daughter of Duncan Graham fur trader Duncan Graham and Susanne “Istag iwin & Ha-za-ho-ta-win” Pennishon. The name given for Sarah Marie’s mother suggests a connection to the chief of one of the villages along the Minnesota River, known as Penition’s Village, although other sources state that she was connected to the family of Chief Wabasha.  Another individual shown on Smith’s map to the north of the present-day Bureau of Mines property, Bisson, or Joseph Buisson was married to another daughter of Duncan and Susanne Graham.

Writing about Oliver Cratte in February 1836 Agent Taliaferro stated:

Oliver Cratte — consulted — and agrees to serve the U States for 4 years as Treaty smith under certain conditions—to be agreed upon and forwarded for the approval of the Com of Indn affairs. He is an excellent armourer, & sm[i]th just such a man as will suit the Indians who are delighted.

Shortly after that Taliaferro stated:

Oliver Cratte takes charge of the shop on the 1st of April under the following agreement: Know all men by these presents that we Lawrence Taliaferro agent of the United States and Oliver Cratte — have enter[e]d into the fol[l]owing articles of agreement for the period of four years unless sooner revoked by the proper dept That is to say —The said Oliver Cratte does hereby agree to serve the United States Indian Dept at the agency at St Peters or elsewhere as Treaty Black smith and Armourer for the Sioux under the 11th art Treaty of July 15th 1830 — & binds himself firmly by these presents to furnish a good & comfortable shop with all nescessary[sic] tools for the same, and all Charcoal requisite to carry on the same shop and that it shall at no time be left without coal or suitable tools to perform the work for the Indians, and he binds himself to work for no other person or persons whatever (except in repairing fire arms for the officers of the United States when not otherwise employed for the benefit of the Indians.)

The fact that Pepin and Cratte were treaty smiths doing work for Indians coming to the fort meant that they would have received frequent visits from Indian people at Coldwater–including relatives of their wives and other people at Coldwater–though exact details of their interactions are not always available unless there was a mishap as when, in 1836, Taliaferro wrote: “Tuesday June 19th A Horse of O. Crate Treaty Smith shot in the shoulder & badly wounded by some Indian unknown with an arrow.”

Another resident who would have had frequent visits from Native visitors to Coldwater was Peter Quinn, whose house was located on the east side of the Bureau of Mines property. He was the Ojibwe interpreter for the Indian agency. His wife was mixed blood Ojibwe. One source says that her name was Mary L. Finnley or Finley and that she was a mixed blood of the Red Lake band of Ojibwe.  She was said to be the mother of their son William L. Quinn, born in 1828, who would later marry a Mdewakanton Dakota woman, Angelique Jeffery or Jeffries, in Mendota on November 20, 1849.  Peter Quinn’s second wife was another Ojibwe mixed-blood woman Louise Boucher, with whom he was married after leaving Coldwater Spring. Quinn was an interpreter for the Ojibwe Treaty of 1837, signed at Fort Snelling. The Ojibwe who came to negotiate that treaty stayed at Camp Coldwater perhaps close to Quinn’s home.  In August 1838, Hole-in-the Day and “3 or 4 of his most daring braves” stayed with  Peter Quinn, just before an attack on his delegation to the fort, as revenge for an attack by Hole-in-the-Day on a Dakota community earlier. The man killed had been mistaken for Hole-in-the-day, because he was wearing clothing borrowed from the chief when he stepped out of the door of Quinn’s house.

Just beyond the Bureau of Mines property to the northeast at a place on the Mississippi River lived Louis Massy or Massie and his wife Marie Frances Boucher, mixed-blood Ojibwe from the Lake Superior region. Her brother Pierre Boucher was described in government records as being related to Chief Buffalo of Lapointe and also the Chief Strong Ground mentioned above. The document states: “Strong Ground is a brother at least according to the Indian mode of estimating relationship, that is, he is a cousin.” Pierre and Marie Frances Boucher had relatives throughout the region. According to the same set of records,  Marie Frances Boucher had worked for many years at the Fort Snelling hospital, “and is much esteemed by those who are acquainted with her.” At the hospital she may have worked with her neighbor at another river landing to the south, Mary Anne Perry, wife of Abraham Perry, who was known as the midwife for the officer’s wives at Fort Snelling.

The stories of the women of Coldwater is only one facet of the Native history of the spring area. There is a lot more to tell later.

Hypocrisy 101: Dakota history now a selling point for Coldwater Spring

After years of denying the importance of Coldwater Spring to the Dakota, throughout the recently completed NEPA process for the Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Campus property, the Park Service now plans to use Dakota history at the site as a selling point, according to Paul Labovitz, Superintendent of MNRRA which carried out the NEPA process and is the new manager of the property. He stated in a recent press release:

“The public’s interest in this site throughout this process illustrates the great significance that the Dakota and so many others attach to this special place,” said Paul Labovitz, NPS superintendent for MNRRA. “We are excited to be the caretakers, and to work with many partners to tell all the stories associated with this place. There are many layers of history associated with this site, from the Dakota to European settlement to 20th century mining technology. This is a truly unique place in the Twin Cities.”

This statement can be found in a press release  at: http://www.nps.gov/miss/parkmgmt/upload/RODNewsRelease.pdf

An invitation from the Park Service: “Sue us!”

The spring is the dwelling place of the undergods and is near the center of the Earth. The Spring is part of the cycle of life. The underground stream from the Spring to the Mississippi River must remain open to allow the Gods to enter the River through the passageway. The Spring is the site of our creation myth (or “Garden of Eden”) and the beginning of Indian existence on Earth. Our underwater God “Unktehi” lives in the Spring. These words were contained in an affidavit from Dakota elder and spiritual leader Rev. Gary Cavender for a lawsuit in 1998. Imagine that these words had been on the first page of the recently finalized Environmental Impact Statement for the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Campus property in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Their presence would not have guaranteed a different result from the process, but the context for interpreting  the decision to keep the Coldwater Spring in the hands of the Park Service would have been very different.

The National Park Service’s Record of Decision signed on January 15, 2010, to keep the Coldwater Spring/ Bureau of Mines property in the hands of the Park Service, is an invitation to the Dakota people,  Dakota communities, and those who support their rights, to sue the agency. It is hard to find a more blatant rejection of Dakota history, culture, and treaty rights than is contained in the final text of the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines EIS.

The National Park Service has decided to keep Coldwater in federal hands for the long term because it can and because it had put together documentation that predetermined the result. There’s no way to sugar coat it. In responses to comments submitted to correct the historical record it had assembled, the Park Service said that what it had was “substantive enough.” Substantive enough for what purpose? It is evident now that the EIS was substantive enough to provide a justification for keeping the property in federal hands at the expense of Dakota people.

Below where the water comes from the ground at Coldwater Spring, March 2009

Imagine that the decision about final ownership had taken into account the central importance of Coldwater, Taku Wakan Tip, and Bdote, for the Dakota people. Imagine that the text for the EIS, instead of including several pages about prehistoric peoples named by archaeologists–peoples which were acknowledged by the Park Service to have no demonstrated connection to Coldwater Spring–had contained that statement from Dakota elder Rev. Gary Cavender in 1998:

The Camp Coldwater spring is a sacred spring. Its flow should not be stopped or disturbed. If the flow is disturbed, it cannot be restored. Also, if its source is disturbed, that disturbs the whole cycle of the flow. The spring is the dwelling place of the undergods and is near the center of the Earth. The Spring is part of the cycle of life. The underground stream from the Spring to the Mississippi River must remain open to allow the Gods to enter the River through the passageway. The Spring is the site of our creation myth (or “Garden of Eden”) and the beginning of Indian existence on Earth. Our underwater God “Unktehi” lives in the Spring. The sacredness of the Spring is evident by the fact that it never freezes over, and it is always possible to see activity under the surface of the water.

Imagine that the text of the EIS had contained a discussion of the Treaty of 1805, through which Coldwater Spring has been under uinterrupted federal ownership since that day. Imagine that instead of stating that there were no federal trust obligations toward Indian tribes regarding Coldwater, the EIS had stated that in Article 3 of the treaty, the United States promised “on their part to permit the Sioux to pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done, without any other exception, but those specified in article first” in the area of the treaty, which included Coldwater Spring. Imagine that the EIS had acknowledged that this, like other treaty rights, was federal trust obligation.

Such information was inconvenient in the context of a self-serving, predetermined decision by the National Park Service to give Coldwater Spring to the agency itself.  Now that the decision has been announced, and in such a short time after the completion of the final EIS, the process through which this all happened has been greatly clarified and exposed. It will be recalled that in December 2008, an official in the Department of Interior announced the Preferred Alternative for Coldwater Spring, which was that the land be treated as open space or park land, with buildings removed and restored vegetation, and that it remain in federal hands to be managed by MNRRA.

In February 2009 an open house was held, announced as an opportunity to give input on the restoration plans for the property and to get information about the Preferred Alternative. However, at this meeting federal officials were not interested in hearing about the long-term ownership of the property, only about the removal of buildings and the restoration of vegetation. Some Dakota people did speak at the meeting and make their wishes known about the ownership of the property. After that a subsequent meeting on the schedule was cancelled.

Throughout this time Park Service officials stated that the time had not yet come when it would be appropriate to discuss the long term ownership of the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property. On April 7, 2009, Steven P. Johnson, an official with MNRRA explained that the time to comment on the long term ownership of the property would come after the final EIS was published:

Publication of the FEIS triggers a 30-day written comment period in which it will be appropriate for individuals and organizations to comment on the Department of the Interior’s preferred alternative for future management of the site. Autumn, you will want to resubmit your petition at that time. All comments received during that 30-day period will be forwarded to the Department of the Interior, which will evaluate the FEIS and the comments received before making a final decision. The Department of the Interior’s final decision will be announced in a document called a Record of Decision.

The defaced historical marker at Coldwater Spring, as seen in April 2009

Little of this statement was accurate. The publication of the final EIS did not trigger a comment period. The Park Service did not seek comments. It is not likely any comments received were read. The final decision would be made regardless of any comments.  All it would take would be to make a few tweaks to the Record of Decision which was likely already drafted. It took less than four days to get the Midwest Regional Director of the Park Service to sign.

What is clear now is that the process should have been viewed in the following way:

1. Draft EIS for Coldwater is completed. Comments are sought.

2. Intense lobbying occurs within the Park Service over a period of two years to determine the disposition of the Bureau of Mines property. Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service quarrel over which will get the property. Park Service wins. In December 2008 the Preferred Alternative is announced, including the decision for MNRRA to keep the property.

3. In February 2009, MNRRA has an open house and 30-day comment period on carrying out Preferred Alternative to clear and restore the property. People object to the decision to keep the property in federal hands, but they are told their comments are out of order.

4. In the spring and summer, the EIS for the property is revised to provide basis for Preferred Alternative and for keeping the property in federal hands. In fact it is likely that the EIS was in final form in 2008. No information that does not lead to the preferred result is included in the final EIS narrative and analysis.

5. Just before Christmas 2009 the final EIS is released. Nothing happens for thirty days, until January 11, 2010. Four days after that the decision already reached prior to December 2008 is announced as the final decision.

In retrospect Steven P. Johnson was correct in saying that last winter or spring was not the time to make statements about Dakota ownership of the property. But January 2010 was only the right time from the point of view of MNRRA which did not want to hear opinions on that score anyway. The right time to make a difference was actually in 2006, 2007, and 2008, when the decision was being made inside the Park Service. Only at that time could intense lobbying have altered the result.

The cynicism of this process may seem surprising to those who have not followed the actions of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area over the last ten years. MNRRA does not actually manage parks. Instead it is bureaucratic player which specializes in interacting with other agencies, sometimes telling them what they can and cannot do regarding changes to the historic or environmental character of their properties within the Mississippi corridor. The way it has managed the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines process has shown MNRRA’s expertise in bureaucratic game playing, but it has not demonstrated that MNRRA can be a positive force in the management and stewardship of property.

Now that MNRRA will be managing the 27-acres of the Coldwater property, can the agency change? Now that it will be in a position to interpret the history and cultural meaning of Coldwater Spring, will it change its practice of excluding historical and cultural  information when they decide that information does not contribute to MNRRA’s self-serving aims? Can MNRRA be a positive force rather than a negative one?

In what Dakota people, historians, and anthropologists have written over the years about Coldwater Spring they have made a case for Coldwater as a historic, cultural, and sacred place for Dakota people. The fact that the Park Service decided to ignore that record in their information-gathering and decision-making does not take away from the value of that record.

Ultimately the  the truth of that history and culture will have to be acknowledged. However, whether it provides a basis for Dakota people to lay claim to the place depends on Dakota tribal governments and their interest in making Coldwater an issue. Perhaps Dakota tribes are perfectly happy with the federal government managing sites of such importance to them. Perhaps they will be content that the Park Service views Dakota people on par with spiritualists and people out for a stroll, all of whom will receive equal access and equal consideration.

The only good outcome of this process is that the buildings and pollution will be cleared from the Bureau of Mines property at federal expense. In the meantime, the effort to get the land back for the Dakota can continue. A lawsuit may be nice, but continued lobbying is still important.

Finally, though this is not my final discussion of Coldwater Spring, I have a few words of advice for people who will deal with MNRRA in the future: Trust, but only if you verify.

Park Service decides to keep Coldwater Spring–A quick decision

Not wasting any time, less than four days after the end of the 30-day no-action period for the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines Property in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the National Park Service, through its Midwest Office Regional Director, Ernest Quintana, signed the Record of Decision, stating that the National Park Service would retain the Coldwater property, restore it, manage it as park or open space as a unit of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) . The full text of the Record of Decision is found below and the original version is online.

A view of graffiti on Building 11, one of the abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings above Coldwater Spring, March 2009 photo.

Detailed analysis is required of this document. A few things stand out. The document does mention that there was an ethnographic study on the issue of whether  Coldwater Spring was a place of traditional cultural importance (TCP) for Dakota people. It does not mention that the study supported Coldwater as a TCP, but it also does not mention that the Park Service had rejected the finding. On the other hand the Record of Decision does not refer to TCP status as an environmental aspect of the site that could be affected by the decision of the government about ownership.

Another interesting facet of the document is very short paragraph that has the appearance of being added at the last minute:

A key aspect of Fort Snelling’s history is the fort’s role as a center for meetings between the U.S. and the Dakota and Ojibwa who visited the post. Members of both tribes undoubtedly camped at and around spring.

For the Park Service to acknowledge finally this aspect of the site’s history is progress, but it hardly makes up for all the missing information in the EIS.

What follows is the full text of the Record of Decision, as scanned for this website from a non-textual pdf on the Park Service website. Corrections will be made later for any errors found due to scanning.

More analysis later.

[January 15, 2010]

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

RECORD OF DECISION

DISPOSITION OF BUREAU OF MINES PROPERTY,

TWIN CITIES RESEARCH CENTER MAIN CAMPUS

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

Hennepin County, Minnesota

The National Park Service (NPS) has prepared this Record of Decision on the Disposition of Bureau of Mines Property, Twin Cities Research Center Main Campus, Hennepin County, Minnesota. The Record of Decision includes a description of the background of the project, a statement of the decision made and basis for decision, descriptions of other alternatives considered, a description of the environmentally preferable alternative, statements on the impairment of park resources and values, an overview of measures to minimize environmental harm, and a summary of public and agency involvement in the decision-making process.

BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT

The Twin Cities Research Center (Center) property consists of 27.3 acres of land near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The property has been in federal ownership since 1805 and was once part of the much larger Fort Snelling Military Reservation. The former U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) began managing the property in 1949 and eventually constructed 11 buildings and associated infrastructure on the site. The property is located within the boundaries of the Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), a unit of the National Park system.

The Center closed in 1996 after Congress abolished the USBM and the President signed the Balanced Budget Downpayment Act terminating funding for the USBM. Upon closing the Center, administration of the property remained with the U.S. Department of the Interior (Department) under USBM closure legislation (Pub.L. No.104-134 [1996]).

In 2000, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) proposed to acquire the Center to protect the approach to runway 4-22 after that runway was to be extended to accommodate larger aircraft. The MAC withdrew its proposal in October 2001.

In 2002, the Department evaluated the cost to renovate the Center for use as a central campus for all Departmental agencies and operations in the Twin Cities area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), through a local contractor, completed a space utilization study and associated master plan for needed improvements to the Center. After review of the plans, the Department determined the project was cost prohibitive and declined to move forward.

USBM closure legislation in 1996 provided the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to convey the Center to a university or government entity as the Secretary deems appropriate. In 2003, Congress included language and funding in the Department appropriations bill directing the NPS to lead the public planning process for disposition of the Center.

The NPS became the lead the agency in the preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) process. In 2004, the USFWS entered into a memorandum of agreement with the NPS as a cooperating agency to complete an environmental impact statement for disposition of the Center.

The purpose and need for the environmental impact statement is to identify the action necessary to dispose of the Center in accordance with the authority provided by Congress in legislation addressing the closure of the Center and to assess the environmental impacts of that action and alternatives.

DECISION (SELECTED ACTION) AND BASIS FOR DECISION

The Department has selected Alternative D, Modification of Land, Structures, or Other Improvements by the Federal Government Prior to Conveyance or Retention of the Center, as the preferred alternative, as described in the (Final Environmental Impact State, Disposition of the Bureau of Mines Property, Twin Cities Research Center Main Campus issued in December 2009.

Under selected Alternative D, the Department would manage and bear the cost of modification for all or part of the land, structures, or other improvements prior to conveyance or retention of the Center. Following completion of the modifications, the Department would dispose of the Center property through a transfer to a university or nonfederal government entity without conditions, transfer to a university or nonfederal government entity with conditions, or by retention by the federal government. The Department also selected one of three land use scenarios considered in the environmental impact statement. The Department selected the Open Space / Park scenario that will convert the Center property to open space and natural areas where the focus would be on restoration and use of the natural environment. This would be accomplished by removing some or all buildings, structures, and roadways. Nonnative plant species would be identified and removed. Native vegetation would be planted and the site naturalized to recreate the historic characteristics of an open oak savanna, prairie-type setting typical to this vicinity.

In evaluating the environmental impacts of alternative futures for the site, the focus was placed on future uses—and their environmental effects— and not on future owners. The three conceptual land use scenarios were developed to address a range of potential development options that may be feasible. It was not the purpose of the EIS to select a recipient but to inform the decision-maker about the impacts associated with the transfer, given that a variety of uses could result from a transfer to a non-federal recipient.

In establishing the process for determining the site’s future, Congress authorized potential transfer of the site to a university or government entity. During the public review of the Draft EIS, the NPS solicited written requests for proposals for future use of the Center property from universities and governmental entities. A broad list of potential recipients were contacted, and a request for proposals from all parties was included in the Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the draft EIS. The adjacent landowners to the Center, including the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, declined taking ownership of the property. Three federally-recognized tribes submitted separate requests that the property be retained in federal ownership and held in Trust for them.

Public comment received during the 60 day Draft EIS comment period strongly favored removal of the Center buildings and infrastructure and returning the property to a more natural condition. Each of the proposals for ownership from the three tribal governments contained requests that the Center buildings and infrastructure be removed at the federal government’s expense prior to transfer and the site restored to natural condition. Studies for the reuse of the Center structures determined that the removal of hazardous materials and abatement of hazardous conditions and necessary building rehabilitation were negative factors leading to the conclusion that reuse of most of the existing structures was not a viable option. The EIS process indicated the long term environmental impacts of Alternative D, with the Open Space / Park land use scenario had generally minor to moderate and beneficial impacts.

Public involvement in preparation of the EIS and compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 process revealed that the Center property is a special place to many people. The four federally-recognized Dakota tribes in Minnesota—the Upper Sioux Indian Community, the Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Prairie Island Indian Community, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community—declared Coldwater Spring and the surrounding area central to their history. The Lower Sioux Indian Community declared Coldwater Spring sacred under Executive Order 13007. Individual members of the Ojibwa and other tribes have also shown an interest in the spring.

A key aspect of Fort Snelling’s history is the fort’s role as a center for meetings between the U.S. and the Dakota and Ojibwa who visited the post. Members of both tribes undoubtedly camped at and around spring.

The property is also historically significant in American history and the history of Minnesota.  To many, Fort Snelling and the Camp Coldwater settlement that grew up around it are considered the birthplace of Minnesota. Coldwater Spring became the water supply for the Foil Snelling Upper Post from the late 1870s through early 20th century. Because of the history that occurred there, the Center property falls within the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark and National Historic District and the Old Fort Snelling State Historic District. Although it gets less attention, the Center accomplished such nationally and internationally significant work that it has been determined eligible for the National Register as a Historic District (USBM Twin Cities Research Center Historic District), despite the fact that some portions are less than 50 years old.

Public comment during the EIS process showed that since the late 1990s, the spring and reservoir have become spiritually and environmentally significant to many individuals and groups. Some use the site for meditation and a source of inspiration. Many of these individuals and groups have also been active proponents of protecting the spring and reservoir by supporting and assuring the passage of legislation to protect the flow of water to and from the spring.

Public comment on the EIS and Section 106 processes revealed that while there is disagreement as to who should own the property, there is agreement that Coldwater Spring and the area around it need to be protected and that public access is essential. Other public comment received noted that the NPS is uniquely suited to manage the site since its mission is to protect and interpret America’s greatest places, providing access for all.

The Department, after consideration of the findings of the environmental impact statement, the review of responses received on the request for proposals for future use of the Center property, and the fact that the Center property is located within the MNRRA boundary, has determined that future management authority will be transferred to the National Park Service.

OTHER ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED

Alternative A: No Action—Retention of the Center by the Federai Government

The Secretary of the Interior is authorized, but not directed, to convey the Center. Accordingly, the Center could have been retained by the federal government. Under the no-action alternative, the conditions as they exist today would continue at the Center. Disposition of the Center to a university or nonfederal government entity would not occur and the Center would continue in caretaker status under control of the federal government. Currently, the public has unrestricted access to the Center property, and under alternative A, this would not change. The buildings would continue to be vacant, except for occasional permitted special use. Maintenance would consist of lawn care, security patrols to ensure the buildings remain locked, inspecting the fence surrounding the site and repairing breaks, maintaining power and phone service for the existing alarm system, and boarding up broken windows. The USFWS is currently responsible for maintenance of the Center. The Center would remain available for future disposal or use by the federal government.

The no-action alternative does not preclude short-term minor repair or improvement activities that would be pail of routine maintenance of the Center. No plans currently exist, however, for improvement or renovation of the buildings. The no-action alternative would not include use of the buildings for anything other than short-term, special, permitted use. The no-action alternative was used to compare baseline conditions at the Center with potential impacts that could result from implementing Alternatives B, C and D.

Alternative B: Convey the Center without Conditions to a University or Nonfedera! Government Entity

Under alternative B, the Center would be conveyed to a university or nonfederal government entity with no conditions imposed on the future use of the Center or the land, except for those restrictions on use that currently exist for the property and arise out of applicable laws and regulations. Under alternative B, a recipient would have no restrictions on subsequent transfer or sale of the property. Therefore, any future owner under this alternative would be free to subsequently use, sell, or transfer the Center property to a private entity for use or development. Except for the restrictions on future use outlined in existing federal, state, and local laws and regulations, the actual use or combination of uses of the Center would be determined by the recipient.

Alternative C: Convey the Center with Conditions to a University or Nonfederal Government Entity

Alternative C would be the transfer of the Center to a university or nonfederal government entity, however, transfer of the Center would be subject to conditions that would limit the recipient’s use of the property or create affirmative obligations to be carried out by the recipient. Examples of restrictions that could be placed on the transfer include building or redevelopment restrictions, restrictions on use of resources, or restrictions on operations or types of uses. Affirmative obligations that may be placed on the transfer include those that create a duty in the recipient to manage or maintain the Center or its resources in a specific way. For example, the federal government could convey with conditions designed to protect natural, historic, cultural resources, or with conditions designed to ensure compliance with various authorities that may apply to the recipient. These examples, however, do not limit the types or subject matter of conditions available for use by the federal government in the actual transfer of the Center. Preservation and protection of Center resources upon transfer could be accomplished by applying restrictions to the transfer agreement or by retaining title to a portion of the property. Methods by which restrictions on use of the Center might be imposed by the transfer agreement include the use of various types of defeasible estates, covenants, or easements, including conservation easements. The legislation that authorizes the disposal of the Center limits the transfer to either a nonfederal government entity or university. Therefore, the federal government would impose conditions on the transfer of the Center based on the types of recipients that could receive the property to reflect the proposed use of the properly.

CONCEPTUAL LAND USE SCENARIOS

Three conceptual land use scenarios were developed to address a range of potential land use development options that may be feasible under alternatives B, C, and D.

The environmental impacts of alternatives B, C, and D depend on how a future owner would use the Center, and on the activities associated with that use. However, neither the future owner nor the future use of the Center could be identified until after the EIS was completed. Therefore, the EIS analyzed the impacts of alternatives B, C, and D in terms of a reasonable range of potential uses of the Center by a future owner under three conceptual land-use scenarios. The conceptual land-use scenarios reflected potential uses of the Center suggested in public comments during the scoping process, and encompass a reasonable range of activities.

Open Space / Park

Under this conceptual scenario, the Center property would be converted to open space and natural areas where the focus would be on restoration and use of the natural environment. The Center property would become a park or be used as open space. This could be accomplished by removing some or all buiidings, structures, and roadways. Normative piant species could be identified and removed. Native vegetation could then be planted and the site naturalized to recreate the historic characteristics of an open oak savanna, prairie-type setting. This scenario is part of the Department’s preferred alternative.

Interpretive / Nature / History Center

Under this conceptual scenario, some portion of the Center would represent a natural environment, while development and structures would be used in conjunction with the natural environment for learning and interpretation. New structures could be built at the Center, and all or a portion of the existing structures could be demolished. New construction would be limited by applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Most of the existing buildings at the Center have the potential for reuse; however, some are in better condition and more readily lend themselves to reuse. Most of the existing infrastructure is not reusable in its current condition; improvements would be required if reuse is desired.

Training Center / Office Park

Under this conceptual scenario, the focus of the Center would be the built environment and active reuse of the Center. Under this scenario uses could include the total reuse of existing structures, reuse of as few as one building, or all new construction. Most of the existing buildings at the Center have the potential for reuse; however, some are in better condition and more readily lend themselves to reuse. Most of the infrastructure is not reusable in its current condition; improvements would be required. New construction would be limited by applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERABLE ALTERNATIVE

The environmentally preferable alternative is defined as the alternative that will promote the national environmental policy as expressed in section 101 of the National Environmental Policy Act. Ordinarily, the environmentally preferable alternative under section 101 is that alternative which causes the least environmental impact to the biological and physical environmental. It also means the environmentally preferable alternative may also be that alternative which best protects, preserves and enhances the historic, cultural, and natural resources (Council on Environmental Quality, Forty Questions, 1981.)

The environmentally preferable alternative is Alternative D, Modification of Land, Structures, or Other Improvements by the Federal Government Prior to Conveyance or Retention of the Center, with the Open Space / Park scenario. This alternative best meets the range of national environmental policy goals as stated in NEPA’s Section 101. This alternative preserves, enhances and restores important historic, cultural and natural resources; maintains an environment that supports the diversity of public interests and special considerations for the Center property; improves the access for, safety of, and the cultural and aesthetic setting for Center property visitors and; improves the resource’s sustainability for future generations.

Alternative A, No Action and retention of the Center by the federal government established a baseline condition for the evaluation of other alternatives. Alternative A is the least environmentally preferable alternative as it does not adequately address the preservation, enhancement and restoration of important historic, cultural and natural resources.

Alternative B would result in the transfer of the Center property without conditions to a university or nonfederal government entity. Such a transfer would allow the future owner to subsequently use, sell or transfer the Center property to a private entity for use and development. The ability to control the preservation, enhancement and restoration as well as provide public access to a culturally and historically important place would be lost.

Alternative C would allow protections and conditions to be placed on the Center property prior to transfer to a university or nonfederal government entity. The ability to influence the preservation, enhancement and restoration and continued public access to a culturally and historically important property could be maintained.  Under such conditions, Alternative C would be more environmentally acceptable; however there would be a limit to the ability of the federal government to control actions taken by subsequent owners based upon the instruments needed to ensure preservation, enhancement and restoration. Those efforts could have been less than successful.

FINDINGS ON IMPAIRMENT OF PARK RESOURCES AND VALUES

The Center property is located within the boundaries of the Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park system. The NPS may not allow the impairment of park resources and values unless directly and specifically provided for by the legislation or proclamation establishing the park. The prohibited impairment would occur when, in the professional judgment of the responsible NPS manager, the integrity of park resources or values would be harmed. Any effect on a resource or value could be an impairment, but impairment would be most likely if it would result in a major or severe adverse effect on a resource or value whose conservation is:

  • necessary to fulfill specific purposes identified in the establishing legislation or proclamation of the park,
  • key to the natural or cultural integrity of the park or to opportunities for enjoyment of the park, or
  • identified as a goal in the park’s general management plan or other relevant NPS  planning documents as being of significance (NPS Management Policies 2006, section 1.4.5)

This policy does not prohibit all impacts to park resources and values. The NPS has the discretion to allow impacts to park resources and values when necessary and appropriate to fulfill the purposes of a park, so long as the impacts do not constitute an impairment. Moreover, “an impact would be less likely to constitute an impairment if it is an unavoidable result of an action necessary to preseive or restore the integrity of park resources or values and it cannot be further mitigated” (NPS Management Policies 2006, section 1.4.5).

While the eleven buildings and related structures of the Center are contributing elements of the U.S. Bureau of Mines Center Historic District and the selected action calls for modification or removal of some or all of the structures, an analysis of the threshold impacts for context, intensity and duration indicate that the removal or modification of the buildings and structures is necessary to preserve, enhance and restore the integrity of the attendant cultural and natural resource values of Center property as outlined in the Final EIS.

After analyzing the environmental impacts described in the Final EIS for the disposition of the Center and public comments received, the NPS has determined that implementation of the  selected action alternative will not constitute an impairment to MNRRA resources and values

MEASURES TO MINIMIZE ENVIRONMENTAL HARM

Three historic districts and a national historic landmark overlap on the Center property. The NPS has coordinated and is completing the process to comply with Section 106 requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The resulting Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) will address the documentation and data collection for the removal or modification of some or all of the Center buildings and structures. Protection measures to avoid and mhiimize impacts to other cultural and historical resources such as Coldwater Spring and reservoir during restoration of the Center property under the selected action are also addressed in the MOA.

The NPS will adhere to all policies and applicable federal laws and regulations, recommended best management practices during removal or modification of the Center buildings and structures and during the subsequent land restoration to an open space / park. Additionally, state and local laws, regulations and policies that are directly applicable to NPS actions will be followed, especially if by doing so, it will result in outcomes appropriate to implementing the selected action in environmentally appropriate manner. Specific measures and actions to avoid and minimize the environmental impacts as identified in the Final EIS associated with implementing the selected action will addressed in a subsequent Center site development plan.

PUBLIC AND AGENCY INVOLVEMENT

The Final EIS incorporates the input and ideas presented by American Indian tribes, the public, the NPS, and other federal, state, and local governments. Consultation and coordination among the tribes, agencies, and the public were vitally important throughout the plarming process.

Public Meetings and Outreach

Public meetings and newsletters were used to keep the public informed and involved in the planning process for the park. A postal mailing list and an email notification list was compiled consisting of American Indian tribes, governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, legislators, local governments, and interested citizens.

EIS Scoping and Public Involvement

A notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement was published in the Federal Register on January 28,2005 and on the MNRRA website. News releases, mailings and website notices were used to announce the public scoping meetings. Meetings were held on March 30 and 31,2005 and were attended by over 70 people and 107 comments were received during the public scoping period. A written report on the results of the public scoping  comments received was issued in July 2005.

Draft EIS and Public Involvement

Preparation for data collection, analysis and alternative formation to complete a draft EIS on the Center property began in April 2005. A consultant assisted the NPS in managing the workload and producing a draft document. A draft EIS was completed in July 2006 with a Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2006. Public open house meetings on the draft EIS were held on September 24 and 25, 2006. Requests to extend the 30 day official comment period, set to expire on October 24, 2006, were made by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and other interested parties. The NPS notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the comment period would be extended 30 days through November 27, 2006. At the close of the official comment period, a total of 509 responses on the draft EIS were received via oral comments, written letters, email and through the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) internet-based system. Respondents provided comment on future management authorities, addressing impacts to cultural and historical resources, interpretation of the site’s history, and restoration of the site to more natural conditions, as well as pointing out factual errors and short-comings of the draft EIS. A comment analysis report was compiled in January 2007 which summarized and categorized all public comment received on the draft EIS.

Request for Proposals for Transfer of the Center Property

The Notice of Availability in the Federal Register for the draft EIS also solicited written proposals for the future use of die Center property. Public Law 104-134 addressed the disposition of Bureau of Mines properties across the United States and included provisions which would allow the transfer of the Center property to a state, local or tribal government or university entity. State, local and tribal governments and universities within the immediate Center region were notified by letter.

At the close of the comment period, six written proposals from qualified entities were received for the transfer of the Center property. Responding were the USFWS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Prairie Island Indian Community, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

Coordination with Federally Recognized Indian Tribes

Coordinating with interested federally-recognized American Indian tribes was an on-going effort throughout the EIS process. A total of 20 federally-recognized American Indian tribes have been contacted. The four recognized tribes in Minnesota, die Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Prairie Island Indian Community, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and the Upper Sioux Indian Community, have been the most active in expressing then interests in the Center property.

Ethnography

An ethnographic resources study was conducted at the Center to document tribal use and perceptions of the Center, and to assess whether Camp Coldwater Spring constituted a Traditional Cultural Property under NHPA section 106 (16 U.S.C. 470f) or a sacred site under Executive Order 13007. The study consisted of consultation, archival research, and interviews. Consultation specific to this study was conducted with the four federally-recognized Dakota communities in Minnesota-Lower Sioux Indian Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Upper Sioux Indian Community. In addition, other tribes that participated in the study included the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe and the White Earth Band of Chippewa. Twenty three individuals were interviewed for the study including 11 official federally-recognized tribal representatives, seven key cultural experts (six Dakota and one Ojibwe), and five others with knowledge of the history and past use of the Center.

Cultural Resources Consultation and Section 106

The NPS used comments received at or as a result of an open house held on February 23, 2009 to write a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The NPS then circulated the MOA to all the consulting parlies for their review and comment. The NPS provided comments from the public meeting and on the MOA to the Minnesota SHPO and met with the SUPO to discuss further revisions to the MOA. The final version of the MOA reflects this consultation process. The MOA incorporates the selected action that the Center property is retained by the federal government and managed by the NPS as a unit of the MNRRA.

Endangered or Threatened Species Consultation

In accordance with section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the NPS contacted the USFWS by letter on April 21,2005 to initiate informal consultation. A response letter, dated June 8,2005, was received stating that: “…Because of the location and type of activity proposed, we concur with your determination that this project is not likely to adversely affect any federally listed or proposed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat.”

Wetlands and Floodplains Consultation

hi June 2005, wetlands on the Center site were delineated using the routine methodology described in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual (USACE 1987). A panel of 18 technical experts in wetlands delineation conducted onsite field review of the delineation. In June 2005, the USACE responded to the NPS confirming the wetlands report performed at the Center site. However, nothing has been accomplished as yet in terms of consideration of impact mitigation to wetlands since the owner of the property was not determined until this time. Additional work may be necessary to prevent or mitigate impacts to the wetlands on the property, and that work will be accomplished within the site development plan.

Final EIS and Public Involvement

The Notice of Availability for the Final EIS was published in the Federal Register on December 11,2009, and the 30-day no action period ended on January 11,2010. Public comment received during the no-action period were similar to those expressed during the review and comment period for the Draft EIS and those received during the open house meeting addressing Section 106 and the preferred alternative.

CONCLUSION

The Department has selected the preferred alternative, Alternative D, Modification of Land, Structures, or Other Improvements by the Federal Government Prior to Conveyance or Retention of the Center, with the land use scenario Open Space / Park, for the final disposition of the Center property, as described in the Final EIS. In addition, the Department has determined that the future management authority will be transferred to the National Park Service. The selected alternative represents the alternative that best meets national environmental policy goals (environmentally preferable), Department and NPS policy and management objectives, and balances the public interest in the Center property. The selected alternative will not result in the impairment of resources and values as defined by NPS policy.

Approved: [Signature] Ernest Quintana_Date: 1-15-2010

Ernest Quintana Regional Director, Midwest Region, National Park Service

A Dakota invitation to come to Coldwater Spring in 1820

Although the National Park Service’s final EIS for the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines property in Hennepin County, Minnesota, contains the statement that “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), there is actually ample evidence of the presence of Dakota, Ojibwe, and other Native people at Coldwater Spring. One example is a birch-bark scroll sent by Dakota leaders to invite their Ojibwe counterparts to meet with them to make peace at “Cold Spring” in the summer of 1820. The scroll is part of a detailed history of such diplomacy at Coldwater Spring.

Although it is not known if the original birch-bark message has survived, Henry Schoolcraft included an engraving based on it in his six-volume compendium Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. According to Schoolcraft the original birch-bark message was left near the mouth of the Sauk River (in between present-day Minneapolis and St. Cloud), a place bordering Ojibwe country, where it was expected Ojibwe leaders would be able to find it. Schoolcraft, who visited the area with the expedition of Michigian territorial governor Lewis Cass, described this message and later took it back with him to Washington. After seeing the message, Schoolcraft and company continued on down the river to Coldwater Spring.

Inter-tribal diplomacy between Dakota and Ojibwe is one of the biggest untold stories of early Minnesota history, particularly as it relates to Coldwater Spring. In the years that following the events of 1820, Coldwater Spring was the habitual camping place of the Ojibwe who came to visit Fort Snelling, the Indian agency, and the nearby Dakota communities. Ojibwe and Dakota traded, danced, and participated in ceremonies there for many years. It is likely that the site was also used for this purpose prior to the arrival of the Americans. Dakota-Ojibwe diplomacy was recorded long before the creation of Fort Snelling. Although the Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro liked to take credit for the diplomacy, in many cases the impetus for it came from the Native leaders themselves, particularly those who had mixed Dakota-Ojibwe ancestry through intermarriage that had been going on for hundreds of years. For Native leaders Taliaferro provided an important intermediary to continue efforts their people had been carrying out for generations.

Agent Taliaferro’s first effort at diplomacy occurred at Coldwater Spring in the summer of 1820, when the military encampment switched from Cantonment New Hope to Coldwater Spring. Taliaferro arrived at St. Peters early that summer and may have encouraged the Dakota who sent the invitation to come to Coldwater Spring. In his journal Taliaferro did not record a narrative of what occurred that summer, but he did leave a record of presents given to Dakota leaders starting in June 1820.

C11 FS pictograph adjusted 5 copyThe invitation sent by the Dakota leaders shows the extent to which they themselves were instrumental in bringing about the diplomacy. Along with the engraving in his multi-volume work, Schoolcraft gave a written explanation of what the figures on it meant.

The scroll containing this inscription . . . as obtained above St. Anthony’s Falls, on a public expedition. . . . It consisted of white birch bark, and the figures have been carefully drawn. Number 1 [at top left], denotes the flag of the union;–Number 2, the cantonment, then recently established at Cold Spring on the western side of the cliffs, above the influx of the St. Peters [Mdote or Bdote]. Number 4 [the figure holding the sword and wearing a hat] is the symbol of the commanding officer, (Colonel H. Leavenworth,) under whose authority a mission of peace had been sent into the Chippewa country. Number 1 is the symbol of Chakope, or the Six, the leading Sioux chief [wearing what looks like a round peace medal], under whose orders the party moved. Number 8 is the second chief called Wamade-tunka, or the Black Eagle. The symbol of his name is number 10 [that is, the figure on the far right at bottom, a black dog, which means this is a reference to the chief of Black Dog’s Village, the closest village on the Minnesota River above Fort Snelling]. He has 14 lodges. Captain Douglas, who had begun the study of this ‘bark-letter,’ as it was called thought this symbol denoted his descent from Chakope. Number 7 is a chief, subordinate to Chakope, with 13 lodges, and a bale of goods (Number 9), which was devoted, by the public, to the objects of the peace. The name of Number 6, whose wigwam is Number 5, with 13 subordinate lodges, was not given. The frame, or crossed poles of the entire 50 lodges composing this party, had been left standing on the high, open prairie on the west bank of the Mississippi above Sauk River, and immediately opposite the point of Hornblende Rocks, which results from the figure-alphabet being precisely the same in both [Dakota and Ojibwe].

As a result of this effort preliminary meetings occurred between the Dakota and Ojibwe at Coldwater Spring in the summer of 1820. Henry Schoolcraft noted on August 1, that “a treaty of peace was this day concluded in the presence of Governor Cass, Colonel Leavenworth, Mr. Tallifierro, the Indian agent at St. Peter’s, and a number of the officers of the garrison.” In his account Schoolcraft makes clear that the garrison of soldiers who had come to the area in the fall of 1819 and had spent the winter on the river bank at the mouth of the Minnesota had moved to Coldwater Spring in the the spring of 1820, to avoid floods. On July 31, 1820, James Duane Doty, future governor of Wisconsin Territory, who had accompanied the Cass expedition, noted in his own diary:

Early in the Spring [of 1820] Col. Leavenworth discovered the fountain of water where the troops now are, & to which they moved as soon as the ice would permit. It is a healthy situation, about 200 feet above the river, and the water gushing out of a lime stone rock is excellent. It is called “Camp Cold Water.”

Records of peace ceremonies between Dakota and Ojibwe, such as the one that occurred in 1820 at Coldwater Spring, abound in historical and ethnographic sources. The anthropologist Ruth Landes in her work on the Prairie Island Dakota (1968: 85-86), records a traditional account of a peace ceremony said to have occurred between the Dakota and Ojibwe or as she spells the name, the Ojibwa. The story says that the Dakota chief was named Shakopee and had a village in an area near the Ford Factory in St. Paul and near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, a place that would have been close to Coldwater. But the story also says that the event took place at Shakopee, which may be the result of confusion in translation or in remembering the tradition. In fact the story recalls many ceremonies that occurred near Fort Snelling and at Coldwater.

The story told that an Ojibwa chief had sent word that “his people were coming to make peace with the Sioux.” The Dakota chief gathered all his villages to meet the Ojibwe. The people came from the east and west.

Some Ojibwa arrived in the advance of the chief; four came with their chief; next day the whole body of Ojibwa arrived and camped at a distance from the Sioux, totaling about 150 men, women, and children. The chief and his companions stayed with the Sioux until the other Ojibwa arrived; then the chief and his men returned to their people. The Ojibwa chief with some chosen men walked forward in a line parallel to the Sioux encampment. The Sioux chief likewise advanced to the Ojibwa. The Sioux lit his redstone pipe [carved starkly and decorated with dyed braids of porcupine quill and downy feathers] and handed it to the Ojibwa chief for a puff. The latter handed his pipe equally choice in style and finish, to the Sioux, inviting him to puff. Each man received back his own pipe after pointing that of the friendly enemy to the six directions. The Ojibwa chief gave his pipe to the Sioux guards facing his camp in a parallel line; and the Sioux chief reciprocated with the Ojibwa guards. Each chief, having returned to his own men, shook hands with the other, saying that they would never war against each other.

Afterwards there was a feast, dancing and other celebrations, lasting through the night. “Everyone was happy when peace was restored. Landes noted that even in 1935 the Dakota and Ojibwe still talked of being enemies, yet “these people made peace, probably as often as they made war.”

Frances Densmore, in her work Chippewa Music, published in 1910 and 1913 provided additional information of these kinds of peace events, from the Ojibwe point of view (Densmore 1973, 2: 126-29). An Ojibwe war leader whose name was the same as his tribe sang her a song that would be sung at a peace treaty between the Dakota and Ojibwe, an event “attended with much ceremony.” This song was sung by both tribes using the same melody but with different words. In it the members of each tribe would sing the praises of the leaders of the other tribe. The Ojibwe version praised Little Crow, Little Six, and Wabasha, in succession. The Dakota would have sung the same song praising Ojibwe leaders such as Hole in the Day and others. After the song the two groups would share a pipe ceremony, dances, and the exchange of presents, exactly the kinds of events that took place at Fort Snelling in the 1820s and 1830s

Many written documents record the interactions between the Dakota and Ojibwe at Coldwater Spring. It is also recorded in the Ojibwe oral tradition. Eddie Benton-Benai stated in his testimony at a hearing in 1999, relating to the Native American claim to the Coldwater area. At that hearing Benai stated, according to a rough transcript (Minnesota Department of Transportation 1999):

Through our oral traditions, our history, recent and older, we know that the falls which . . . came to be known as Minnehaha Falls, that there was a sacred place, . . . a neutral place for many nations to come, and that further geographically define the confluence of the three rivers, which is actually the two rivers, that that point likewise was a neutral place. And that somewhere between that point and the falls, there were sacred grounds that were mutually held to be a sacred place. And that the spring from which the sacred water should be drawn was not very far, and I’ve never heard any direction from which I could pinpoint, but there’s a spring near the [Midewiwin or medicine] lodge that all nations used to draw the sacred water for the ceremonies.

Now that’s in the words of our people of the [Midewiwin] lodge. And the people that are concerned or the people that are identified there are the Dakota, the Sac, the Fox, the Potawatomi, the Wahpeton Dakotas, the Mdewakanton Dakotas, the Meskwaki people as all having used and recognizing and mutually agreeing that that is forever a neutral place and forever a sacred place. That is confirmed in our oral history. And it is difficult even to estimate when the last sacred ceremony was held inter-tribally, but my grandfather who lived to be 108 died in 1942, and I will tell you this, that many times he re-told how we traveled, he and his family, he as a small boy traveled by foot, by horse, by canoe to this great place to where there would be these great religious spiritual events, and that they always camped between the falls and the sacred water place. Those are his words. . . .

Within my physical memory, visiting the Prairie Island Dakota Nation as early as the 1940s, there were still elders in that community in the 1940s who were still members of the Midewiwin Lodge along with the Winnebago of Wisconsin. And my memory serves me to say that there was a great dialogue among our people and those of the Prairie Island Community regarding the lodge, and that’s how we have always known this way of life and practice as the lodge, but meaning the Midewiwin Lodge as a system of belief. . . . The Honorable Amos Owens . . . is the last person of that community I ever heard talk about that mutually sacred place, meaning the falls and the spring from which sacred water is drawn, Coldwater.

The information presented here about the Native history of Coldwater Spring is only a sampling of a history ignored in the National Park Service Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines EIS. For the history that is included the final EIS relies on a 2002 study done for the Park Service which includes the following statement:

In a book published in 1835, Charles Joseph Latrobe stated that “lodges of the Sioux and the Chippewas encamped near the Reservation, or near the trading houses.” These would have been temporary visits, if only because the Dakota and the Chippewa were enemies unlikely to reside near one another except for brief visits to traders, the Indian Agency, or the fort.

The 1820 invitation by the Dakota for the Ojibwe to come make peace with them, along with all the other evidence not included in the final EIS, make clear the inaccuracy of this statement, and of the Park Service’s account of the Native connections to Coldwater Spring.

The restoration of Native lands

Those who argue for the restoration of beautiful but damaged places–by making claims about their sacredness and importance to Native people– should look beyond trees and plants to consider a firmer commitment to the rights and values of Native people themselves. To make use of Indian history and culture as an argument against development and for preservation may be a valuable tool in battles for particular sites. But if advocates make such arguments without considering all the implications–including ownership by Native people who are very much alive today–they risk undermining not only future coalitions between Native people and preservationists, but respect for themselves and for the very beliefs of Native people that they use in their arguments.

When policy makers and citizens meet to discuss the restoration of places like Coldwater Spring, they seldom mean their restoration to the indigenous peoples from whom they were taken. Instead they refer to the removal of pollutants and buildings, and the restoration of vegetation, so that the site can one day resemble how it appeared at some amorphous time in the past. That officials and citizens do not think more seriously about restoring these places to Native communities, results from an odd romanticism and a persistent hypocrisy about the nature of the places and why their vegetation is worth restoring.

In other cases, where public land is involved–as in the case of the Coldwater Spring/ Bureau of Mines property in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which has been under federal ownership since the Treaty of 1805–mechanisms exist for the re-acquisition of the land by Native communities. These are opportunities that should not be ignored or rejected out of hand, especially for sites that have such clear connection to Native history and culture.

The process through which Native people were dispossessed of their lands in Minnesota is a harsh story, full of corruption involving government officials, traders, timber companies, and including some of the founding fathers and families in the state. It is a history that emphasizes why restoration of Native lands to Native peoples is so important. Sometimes, especially in cases involving private land, creating opportunities for the acquisition of lands by Native communities may depend on the willingness or ability of Native communities themselves to buy the land. However, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) through its Tribal and Native Lands Program shows how a partnership between conservation groups and tribes can benefit both by allowing “tribal governments to acquire and protect their ancient homelands.” TPL notes that “Tribes are proven leaders as natural resource stewards and restoring traditional lands to tribal ownership–or under public ownership where tribal values are afforded legal protection-assists native communities in meeting their land conservation, natural resource restoration and cultural heritage objectives.”

The idea of “restoration” in multiple senses is a primary theme in the preservation of many sites deemed important in recent years. Geographer John Brinckerhoff Jackson, in a provocative essay on “The Necessity for Ruins,” notes that, whether it involves old farmhouses, neighborhoods, battlefields, forts, or sacred Native landscapes, Americans today value the sense of rediscovery of a neglected site and its subsequent renewal.  Jackson states that the approach to such sites is ritualistic, bound up with the idea that there was some kind of golden age in the past, followed by a period of neglect, and then rediscovery. Once renewed the place, the landscape, sometimes become “scenes of unreality, places where we can briefly relive the golden age, and be purged of historical guilt.” Jackson continues:

The past is brought back in all its richness. There is no lesson to learn, no covenant to honor; we are charmed into a state of innocence and become part of the environment. History ceases to exist.

The current process involving the Coldwater Spring/ Bureau of Mines site exemplifies the way the process works. For the purpose of “restoring” a romantic, “natural” space, Park Service officials have crafted a process of information-gathering designed to purge any historical guilt about the past. Knowledge about the colonization of the Dakota through trade and treaty and their exile from this region in 1863, and long term and continuing importance of the site to the Dakota, are all suppressed so as to construct a context for the future park or open space, in which Dakota and other Native relationships to this site are vague and only incidental.

In its Preferred Alternative for the Coldwater site,  “the federal government would demolish some or all of the 11 buildings and related infrastructure on-site and restore the property to a natural condition resembling an open space or park.” The focus of this alternative would be

the conversion of the Center property to open space and natural areas where the focus would be on restoration and use of the natural environment. The Center property would become a park or be used as open space. This could be accomplished by removing some or all buildings, structures, and roadways. Nonnative plant species could be identified and removed. Native vegetation could then be planted and the site naturalized to recreate the historic characteristics of an open oak savanna, prairie-type setting.

The result of this process will be a natural site in which Indian history is vague, colonized, and timeless, not specific or even very accurate. A report on this future park or open space, on Minnesota Public Radio, Dec. 14, 2009, gives the context in which the site’s Dakota history and culture will take its place:

The spring was used by Indian tribes before the U.S. Army built Fort Snelling nearby. In the 1820s, soldiers used the spring as a resource. In the late 1800s, a spring house and reservoir were built. As part of a final Environmental Impact Statement, the National Park Service recommends demolishing the buildings to make way for native prairie, oak trees and trails for people to enjoy nature and learn about the site’s history, said Alan Robbins-Fenger, a planning and land use specialist with the park service.

Judging by the final EIS and the historical report included with it, the amount of detail that visitors to the site will learn about Dakota history will be minimal. Park Service officials have made every effort and strategy to make Dakota details as sparse as possible, both in the EIS and in other contexts. In a February 2009 letter, MNRRA historian John Anfinson stated:

Although well-known as a site associated with Fort Selling’s history, the spring had not been recognized for any separate American Indian historic significance or associations until the late 1990s, when protests began over a nearby highway project. Protestors, including some American Indians, found Coldwater Spring on the abandoned Bureau of Mimes property, and it became a gathering place. Since that time the spring’s significance as a spiritual place for some American Indians and for various groups of non Indians has grown.

Anfinson draws the conclusion that because Dakota connections to the property were used as an argument for stopping the construction of the highway, and that the spring became a gathering place for highway opponents, this is evidence that the Dakota claims are suspect. However, whether or not non-Dakota preservationists have used Dakota history and culture for their own purposes, there was and is evidence of the Dakota importance of the place that could have been brought out at any time in the last 150 years and more. The controversy about Highway 55 in the late 1990s simply provided an opportunity for that information to be made more widely known.

Anfinson does have an point to make, though perhaps it is unintentional. It is clear that Dakota history and culture were used by some Highway 55 opponents for their own purposes. That effort has continued. Before and after opponents were successful in getting a highway redesign that better protected the flow of water to the spring, efforts to preserve the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property have often included references to it being a sacred site for the Dakota and a site of historical importance. Discussions of the rehabilitation of the property have included plans for re-vegetation to a time period in the past when the area was inhabited by the Dakota and other tribes. Plant choices have included suggestions of plants used by Dakota people.

But, oddly, when it comes to actual Dakota ownership or management of the Coldwater property, some advocates for preservation and restoration suggest that continued federal ownership is preferable. In the process, the emphasis on aboriginal connections to the property shifts not to the Dakota but to thousands of years of habitation by tribes whose names have been invented by generations of archaeologists.

Of course this is the same strategy employed by the National Park Service in its final EIS. The final report includes several pages of discussion of “American Indian History,” (pages 61-64) starting at 12,000 BP with Paleo-Indians, proceeding through Archaic and Woodland peoples, finally culminating in a brief discussion of the Dakota:

The Eastern Dakota, which included the Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wahkpute, and Sisseton, inhabited much of Minnesota at the time of European contact. These people came to be known to the French as the Sioux (hereafter referred to as the “Eastern Dakota”). By the time of initial French contact in the mid-1600s, the Eastern Dakota had adapted their subsistence and settlement patterns to the prairie/forest border and occupied relatively permanent villages in forest areas. Following contact with the French, Eastern Dakota lifeways, material culture, and geographic distribution changed considerably. There is limited archeological knowledge about Eastern Dakota presence within the MNRRA corridor. The approximate locations of villages and other communities are known, but few sites have been recorded or excavated. Within the MNRRA corridor, communities where approximate locations are known include Kaposia, Shakopee, Pine Bend, Black Dog’s village, and the Little Rapids site. Additionally, a Dakota internment camp where some 1,500 individuals were held following the Dakota Conflict of 1862 is located in the river bottom below Fort Snelling, but has never been archeologically investigated (Anfinson 2003). Pike Island, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, was frequented by the Eastern Dakota, but has never been investigated (Anfinson 2003).

Dakota people are mentioned subsequently in relation to European traders, explorers, and government officials, including a short discussion of the Zebulon Pike’s Treaty of 1805 through which the lands at Coldwater and the entire Fort Snelling Reservation came under federal ownership:

Pike arrived at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers on September 21, 1805, and set up camp on the island that would take his name. The next day, Little Crow and about 150 Dakota men arrived to meet with him, and together they traveled up the Minnesota River to a Dakota village. On September 23, Pike negotiated a treaty with the Dakota for an area of land “nine miles square at the mouth of the St. Croix, [and] also from below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters [Minnesota] up the Mississippi to include the falls of St. Anthony, extending nine on each side of the river, …” This land included the future Fort Snelling military reserve. In return, the Pike offered $200. Little Crow and Way Ago Enagee signed for the Dakota. (Coues 1987, pp. 24-26, 231.)

Beyond these brief references, the connection of Dakota people to the Coldwater site itself through specific historical accounts and cultural accounts linking them to it, are scrupulously avoided. As stated in earlier accounts on this website, the final EIS contains the statement that “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 comments submitted on the draft EIS, various individuals submitted comments intended to alter the historical account as given in the report, but these comments were ignored or rejected by the Park Service. In a table of comments and responses, the Park Service noted in one case (p. 372):

This and related comments added detailed information on the history of the area. We appreciate the additional information, but the intent of the EIS is not to be an exhaustive treatment of the history of the property, but to provide enough history to determine what is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and, therefore, subject to Section 106, and so that the general public can get a sense of the importance of the place over time. To that end, the description of the history of the Center provided on pages 71 – 82 of the Draft EIS serves that purpose. . . .The comments here reference the whole area once considered Camp Coldwater, not the spring specifically. The Camp Coldwater area encompassed far more the Bureau of Mines property and is beyond the scope of this analysis.

The response is a very odd or disingenuous one, as though officials are playing a shell game with information, since the historical sections in the EIS report itself are very general, discussing a great deal more than the actual spring, yet ignoring specific historical information relating to the area of the spring, much of which is actually part of the Bureau of Mines property. And a great deal of that information that is left out has to do with the presence of Dakota and Ojibwe people there.

Joseph Nicollet's map from the late 1830s shows the Coldwater Spring area at left, with the initials T.H., indicating Benjamin F. Baker's trading house located there. The map shows Dakota tepees at that location and at other typical camping places of Dakota people near Fort Snelling. In his comments on the draft EIS, local historian Robert P. Mosedale informed the Park Service about this map, but it was not included in the final EIS, which stated in response to Mosedale's request for the inclusion of more information: "The information gathered for the EIS and Section 106 process is substantive enough."

Others who commented about the draft EIS provided more information about the Treaty of 1805 with the Dakota. In response the Park Service did add a reference to the treaty, but did not include the words of the treaty and their possible meanings.  The final EIS, like the draft version, in reference to any trust obligations the federal government might have in regard to the Coldwater site, does not mention the Treaty of 1805 (FEIS, page 46):

Secretarial Order 3175 requires that any anticipated impacts to Indian trust resources from a proposed project or action by USDI agencies be explicitly addressed in environmental documents. The federal Indian trust responsibility is a legally enforceable fiduciary obligation on the part of the United States to protect tribal lands, assets, resources, and treaty rights, and represents a duty to carry out the mandates of federal law with respect to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. There are no Indian trust resources in the area of the Center, which is federal property and was, prior to the closure of the USBM in 1996, used for federal offices and laboratories. The lands comprising the Center are not held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the benefit of Indians due to their status as Indians. Therefore, the impact topic of Indian trust resources was dismissed from further analysis.

In response to an earlier version of that statement, the Lower Sioux Dakota community had passed a resolution pointing out that the Treaty of 1805 contained wording that referred to a specific ongoing right of the Dakota people to all the land contained within the Fort Snelling Reservation:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The Community Council hereby declares that Coldwater Spring and the land that surrounds it, is defined by the Treaty with the Sioux Nation of Indians-1805 and is part of the ancestral lands of the MN. Mdewakanton people.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The Lower Sioux Indian Community demands that the United States uphold their “promise”…to permit the Sioux to pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done, without any other exception…” and recognize the cultural nexus that the Lower Sioux Indian Community has with Coldwater Springs and the lands that surrounds it.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The Community Council hereby requests that the United States restore to it’s natural state-Coldwater Springs and the land that surrounds it and recognize the cultural and religious significance to the Lower Sioux Indian Community and that Coldwater Springs site be protected as a traditional cultural property.

In response, the Park Service wrote:

The rights asserted under the 1805 Treaty would have to be evaluated in a court of law, and the NPS cannot comment on them.

Similarly in response to another comment on the Treaty of 1805, the Park Service responded:

The resolution of treaty claims concerning this or any other property is beyond the scope of this study. While it may have bearing on the ultimate disposition of the property, treaty rights and resolution of claims have a long and complex history and do not appear to be close to a final solution. The intent of this study is to disclose the impacts associated with the transfer of the property. The intent is not to resolve these complex issues.

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. The image was part of a comment to the draft EIS, to which the Park Service responded: "Comment noted."

Clearly a discussion of any current meaning for the Treaty of 1805, involving a binding agreement of the federal government, is inconvenient in the context of a Coldwater Park that gives a sense of being an Indian place but has no living Indians. In this context, rather than responding or correcting the deficits in the draft EIS, the responses to comments about those deficits included a dogged defense of the sparse historical sections in the EIS. Sometimes the responses not only rejected the comments but by extension the statements in the EIS, to which commenters were simply trying to amplify or use to make their own points. In the draft and final EIS, as noted above, the Park Service begins its historical account discussing Indian people in the immediate region 12,000 years ago. One commenter referred to the use of the spring by Indian people for 10,000 years and stated “Your study is well written but so incomplete. For thousands of years natives from many cultures would have found their way to this spring and enjoyed the stunning waterfall that we all seem to forget about.”

In response, the Park Service was quick to reject the comment and the clear implications of their own historical account:

Neither the archeological record nor the ethnographic study provided any evidence that American Indians used Coldwater Spring for thousands of years. American Indians most likely used the spring when in the area, but simple use of a spring would not give it any special significance.”

The comment makes clear the purpose of the Park Service in the crafting of its EIS: To acknowledge Indian presence in the general region but reject it in relation to the spring, prehistorically, historically, and culturally. Throughout the report the only grudging acknowledgement of a Dakota claim to the spring comes from a reference to “ritual.” The final EIS states: “Camp Coldwater Spring and Reservoir are culturally important to some Indian people for ritual and ceremonial reasons.” All references to the historical nature of the rituals and ceremonies and their connections to Coldwater, are erased, as are all historical connections to the spring.

The effect of this denial of history and the meaning of Dakota culture makes possible a kind of romanticized Native and vaguely Dakota connection of the Coldwater site, but a denial of any claim the Dakota themselves might have to the place. As a result the Park Service can create a restored park or open space at Coldwater with an exotic suggestion of Indianness without having to give Indian people a special claim to the place.

In the Park Service’s view Indian people are just one of a number of people who have a claim to the place. Page 151 of the final EIS states:

Visitors to the [Coldwater/Bureau of Mines] Center include American Indians, spiritualists, environmentalists, and residents of the nearby neighborhoods. The alternatives presented in this EIS along with the scenarios present differing levels of access to the Center by the public for continuing the personal rituals and meditations as they currently exist.

Clearly the Park Service will want to accommodate Native people, spiritualists, and people out for a walk, all of whom have varying “personal rituals and meditations.” From this point of view, Dakota people can best be accommodated if the Coldwater Spring property is a public space, a park or open space. A response to one individual’s comment on this question states (p. 353): “The Final EIS has been clarified to note that conveyance to an entity that did not keep the property open to public use would be detrimental to use by American Indians.”

In making the point that a public space at Coldwater is the best way to accommodate Dakota people, the Park Service found an ally in one of the Coldwater preservation advocates, who stated recently: “Coldwater Park . . . . respects the 1805 Dakota-Pike treaty guaranteeing all Dakota people the right to ‘to pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done.'”

Judgments about whether the preservation advocate is correct in the statement about how a public park open to everyone is a fine way to accommodate Dakota treaty rights is something that Dakota people and tribal governments must make. But one thing is perfectly clear: To argue for the restoration of places like Coldwater, by making claims about their sacredness and importance to Native people, without also showing a commitment to the rights and interests of Native people today, is hypocritical. It is important to look beyond the trees and vegetation toward a commitment to the restoration of Native lands to Native people.

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 http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=150&projectId=11443&documentID=30989

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.

COORDINATION WITH FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBES

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
steven_p_johnson@nps.gov

Games that bureaucrats play with Native places—Is Coldwater Spring a TCP or is it a HPRCSIT?

Thank you for taking time to discuss the Bureau of Mines project in Hennepin County. Minnesota. The property covers 27 acres along a bluff above the Mississippi River and includes 11 buildings and the Coldwater Spring and Reservoir. . . . Although well-known as a site associated with Fort Selling’s history, the spring had not been recognized for any separate American Indian historic significance or associations until the late 1990s, when protests began over a nearby highway project. . . . The question I called you about concerned the difference between the evidence needed to determine a site eligible for the National Register as a TCP or as a site of “religious and cultural significance” to an American Indian tribe.letter of a MNRRA official to an official of the National Register of Historic Places, Feb. 27, 2009, discussing the possible status of Coldwater Spring as a Traditional Cultural Property or TCP.

For several years now the National Park Service has expressed its categorical rejection of the finding of its own expert that Coldwater Spring, which flows out of the ground on the Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Campus property in Hennepin County, Minnesota, is a place of traditional cultural importance for the Dakota and other Native people. The Park Service in the 2006 draft EIS relating to the disposition of the property rejected TCP status for the property and the final EIS released in December 2009 does not change that. In the interim the Park Service had received a great deal of comment and new information which could have led to a change in the determination. But as stated in the final EIS in volume 1, on page 23, there was little change (annotations added for greater clarity):

In support of the EIS planning process, an ethnographic resources study was completed at the Center (Terrell et al. 2005) [which came to the conclusion that Coldwater Spring was eligible for the National Register as a TCP]. The primary focus of this study was to document tribal use and perceptions of this area, to assess whether Camp Coldwater Spring constitutes a TCP under NHPA section 106 (16 U.S.C. 470f) or a sacred site under Executive Order 13007 (Indian Sacred Sites), and to identify any additional ethnographic resources present within the area of potential effect of the proposed action and alternatives being assessed in this EIS. A TCP is generally defined as a property that “is eligible for inclusion in the NRHP because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that (a) are rooted in that community’s history, and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community” (Parker and King 1998).

After review of the study, the National Park Service has determined that [contrary to the conclusions of the Terrel, et. al.] Camp Coldwater Spring does not meet the criteria listed in the NRHP for designation as a TCP. However, Camp Coldwater Spring and Reservoir are culturally important to some Indian people for ritual and ceremonial reasons. The importance ascribed to this area, including the spring and reservoir and the subsequent need for protection, is addressed in the alternatives presented in this EIS. A copy of the draft ethnography report was also provided to the Indian tribes and interviewees that participated in the study by the National Park Service. The ethnographic resources study will be sent to the Minnesota SHPO as part of the section 106 process occurring concurrently with this EIS.

The two paragraphs present a remarkable lack of explanation. If one could talk with Park Service officials one might ask whether there really is a meaningful distinction to be made between a site that is “eligible for inclusion in the NRHP because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that (a) are rooted in that community’s history, and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community,” and a site that is “culturally important to some Indian people for ritual and ceremonial reasons.”

Where the water comes out of the ground at Coldwater Spring, March 2009 photo

Where the water comes out of the ground at Coldwater Spring, March 2009 photo

Lacking in the final EIS was a detailed explanation of how the Park Service reached the conclusion that Coldwater Spring was not a TCP. In the fall of 2006 an analysis was written by an unnamed author working in the MNRRA office and distributed to a few members of the public. The memo contained many statements that were highly debatable. Further, it was not even included in the final EIS. As a result,  the TCP determination of the Park Service about Coldwater Spring continues to appear arbitrary and capricious.

The text of the final EIS report does not reveal the name of the author of that phantom memo from October 2006. But the name is disclosed in a four-page letter buried in an Appendix to the final EIS. The letter was written by the same individual to an official of the National Register of Historic Places almost a year ago, in February 2009. That letter does reveal some evolution in the thinking of Park Service officials, but it is not clear if this evolution is actually progress.

Having categorically rejected the analysis that Coldwater Spring was a TCP, and asking the Dakota to provide documentary proof that it is, the official appears to twist himself in knots over the idea that the site could be accepted as a “historic property of religious and cultural significance to an Indian tribe,” or, one might say a HPRCSIT, simply based on the assertion of that fact by an Indian tribe. But in the course of the analysis the author manages to convince himself out of that idea, springing back to the Park Service’s original position.

The letter is a sad demonstration of bureaucratic hair-splitting and untenable requests that Indian people prove the veracity of their cultural heritage. But since it is in the public record as a subsidiary document to the final EIS (Appendix H, pages 145-148), the public needs to read it and make up its own mind. The text of the letter follows. I have added some discussion and links to helpful documents, especially when there are mistakes or inaccuracies in the text. Any other errors in the text may have resulted from the scanning process through which the fuzzy pdf found on the Park Service website was transformed into a digital text.

Further discussion of the letter will appear on this site in the days ahead.

Letter to written from an official in the National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, St. Paul office to an official in the National Register Office in Washington, D.C.

February 27, 2009
Turkiya Lowe
National Park Service
National Register of Historic Places
1849 C Street, NW (2280)
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Ms. Lowe,

Thank you for taking time to discuss the Bureau of Mines project in Hennepin County. Minnesota. The property covers 27 acres along a bluff above the Mississippi River arid includes 11 buildings and the Coldwater Spring and Reservoir. Since the Bureau of Mines closed in 1996, the property reverted to the Department of the Interior and has been abandoned. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3, oversees day to day management, and the National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, is completing an Environmental Impact Statement (E1S) for potential disposition and treatment of the property. While the Draft EIS considered transfer of the property out of federal hands, the Department of the Interior has determined that the preferred alternative is to remove the 11 puddings, restore the land to a native landscape and return the property for management by the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The exact treatment of the spring and reservoir will be resolved through consultation as we finalize the Section 106 process. [More on this in later installments.]

The Department of Interior and Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office have agreed that the Bureau of Mines campus is eligible for !he National Register of Historic places. Coldwater Spring and Reservoir are contributing elements to the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark (NHL) and Fort Snelling National Register of Historic places Historic District. [It is not, and never will be, a comfort to Dakota people that Coldwater Spring is eligible for the National Register because of its association with a military fort that was involved in the exile of their people from Minnesota. ]

The project has a number of politically and emotionally charged issues tied to it. One concerns Coldwater Spring and its historical significance for American Indians. Although well-known as a site associated with Fort Selling‘s history, the spring had not been recognized for any separate American Indian historic significance or associations until the late 1990s, when protests began over a nearby highway project. Protestors, including some American Indians, found Coldwater Spring on the abandoned Bureau of Mimes property, and it became a gathering place. Since that time the spring’s significance as a spiritual place for some American Indians and for various groups of non Indians has grown. [Extensive information about the use of the site as a meeting ground for Dakota and Ojibwe–trading, dancing, participating in ceremonies together–during the 19th century was submitted to the Park Service in 2006. Even at that time the Park Service knew that the Ojibwe treaty signers for the celebrated Ojibwe Treaty of 1837–which was the subject of the Minnesota v. Mille Lacs treaty rights decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999–camped at Coldwater Spring. None of this made it into the final EIS.]

I have enclosed a number of documents concerning the project. One CD contains the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the three cultural resources studies the NPS completed for the site. One is an ethnography that included a Traditional Cultural Property assessment, I have included a written copy of the analysis I wrote disagreeing with the study’s conclusion that Coldwater Spring qualified as a TCP. I added a CD of some PowerPoint images about the site’s history that might help put the site in context. Finally, 1 have enclosed the letter we recently sent to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation providing some background information regarding potential impacts to historic resources an the property under the preferred alternative. [The author appears to be taking credit for the so-called phantom memo, but was that memo an official analysis designed to support the EIS conclusion? Or was there another analysis that no one has seen? What was the process involved in the Park Service determination? Also, were the comments submitted to the Park Service for the draft EIS, which took issue with the record assembled by the Park Service, included with the submission to the National Register official?]

The question I called you about concerned the difference between the evidence needed to determine a site eligible for the National Register as a TCP or as a site of “religious and cultural significance” to an American Indian tribe. My question arose after reviewing the Advisory Council’s Consultation with Indian Tribes in the Section 106 Process: A Handbook.” On page 19, point 3. the Handbook states:

Within the Section 106 process, the appropriate terminology for sites of importance to Indian tribes is “historic property of religious and cultural significance to an Indian tribe.” Unlike the term TCP, this phrase appears in NHPA and the Section 106 regulations. It applies (strictly) to tribal sites, unlike the term TCP. Furthermore, Section 101(d)(6)(A) of the NHPA reminds agencies that historic properties religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes may be eligible for the National Register. Thus, it is not necessary to use the term TCP when considering whether a site with significance to a tribe is eligible for the National Register as part of the Section 106 process.

And on page 20. point 5, the Handbook says:

Is the federal agency required to verify a tribe’s determination of significance with archaeological or ethnographic evidence before making a National Register eligibility determination?

No. The agency is not required to verity a tribe’s determination that a historic property is of religious and cultural significance to the tribe, The ACHP regulations at 36 CFR 800.4(c)(1) state, in part, that “[t]he agency official shall acknowledge that Indian tribes . . . .possess special expertise in assessing the eligibility of historic properties; that may possess religious and cultural significance to them.” The National Register considers the information obtained from a tribe’s recognized expert to be a valid line of evidence in considering determinations of significance, For additional guidance on making eligibility determinations, the agency should consult with the staff of the National Register.

Given the above statements, it appeared that the simple assertion by a tribe that Coldwater Spring was National Register eligible or merited listing on the National Register required no documentation. After looking at the full context of 56 CFR 800.4(c)(l), I saw that it stated,

In consultation with the SHPO and any Indian tribe that attaches religious and cultural significance to identified properties and guided by the Secretary’s standards and guidelines for evaluation, the agency official shall apply the National Register criteria (36 CFR part 63) to properties identified within the area of potential streets that have not been previously evaluated for National Register eligibility.

So, it appears we are required to gather and evaluate the available documentation before making a determination of eligibility. This is what we have done and will continue to do. [Wait a minute: What happened to acknowledgement of the “the special expertise” of Indian tribes “ in assessing the eligibility of historic properties.” That is found in the same regulations too.]

The Willow tree next to the Coldwater Spring basin on a cold January evening, 2010

The Willow tree next to the Coldwater Spring basin on a cold January evening, 2010

The NPS does not have a National Register determination of significance from any tribe, but we do have a letter from the four recognized Dakota tribes in Minnesota dated September 13, 2000, stating that “It is well established that for centuries, the entire area around Coldwater Springs and the meeting place of the Minnesota and Mississippi River have held very significant cultural and practical importance to the Dakota.” And we have an October 12, 2006, resolution from the Lower Sioux Indian Community stating the Coldwater Spring is a sacred site and that “the Lower Sioux Indian Community publicly declares that Coldwater Springs arid the land surrounding it is a usual and accustomed place for the exercise of fundamental religious, spiritual and cultural purposes.” The resolution asserted that the Lower Sioux Indian Community should get the Bureau of Mines property. A number of other tribes have made claims to the land as well, and some Dakota ate insisting that it go to all the Dakota or a number of bands of the Dakota. Again, the DOI has stated that its preferred alternative is to keep the land and have the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area manage it. [What is meant here by the reference to “a National Register determination of significance” from a tribe? Does he mean that a tribe would have to do their own TCP study? What if the tribe simply asserted the historic and cultural significance of the place, as they have done? Do they have to utter the magic words “traditional cultural property,” for it to be a “determination”?]

The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers lies about one mile from Coldwater Spring and is recognized as a place of historic and cultural importance to the Dakota We do not, however, have specific documentation regarding Dakota use of the spring. As you will see from my comments on the TCP determination and the ethnographic study, we have good contextual background on why the spring might be historically significant but almost no evidence concerning the specific use or importance of this particular spring to the Dakota. In contrast, other significant Dakota sites in the Twin Cities area have historic names and stones associated with them that have been known for hundreds of years. [The spring is also directly adjacent to and has been argued by Dakota people to be an integral part of Taku Wakan Tipi, the dwelling place of the water spirit who manifests himself in springs. Europeans have generally assumed that Taku Wakan Tipi was simply hill, but, in the 19th century, no one bothered to ask the Dakota what the boundaries of it were. Do you suppose that the spring flowing out of a hill in which the water spirit was said to dwell, might be seen as a pathway for that spirit? That is what many Dakota say, but maybe it requires verification by a bureaucrat.]

The NPS is not adverse to the site being a TCP or one of National Register religious or cultural significance. The NPS already recognizes the spring as a sacred site to the Lower Sioux based on their resolution. The NPS also recognizes the need to work closely with the Dakota to address their concerns regarding the spring, regardless of the Section 106 and National Register issues. We have sent over 20 tribes letters asking for direct consultation and will be following up with telephone calls. Whether considered a site of religious and Cultural significance or a TCP, the NPS simply would like more documentation that shows that the Dakota used the spring historically and for what so we can better plan for future use and possible restoration of Coldwater Spring as a natural area. [The real question being asked here is for the Dakota to prove that they really believe what they say they believe. How does one go about proving that to anybody? Beyond that: What does it mean to manage Coldwater Spring as a “natural area,” and is that environmental approach compatible with Dakota beliefs about sacred and culturally important places? In the TCP study Dakota people said that the sacred area for Coldwater Spring included where the water came from, where it came out of the ground, and where it went into the Mississippi River. Coldwater as a TCP is not just about the where the spring comes to the surface, but includes a broad area.]

Thank you for taking time to discuss this complex project with me and your willingness to help us work through any National Register issues that arise. The NPS will continue to work with the Minnesota SHPO and the tribes to as we finalize the E!S and Section 106 processes. The attached documents do not adequately convey the complexity of the issues surrounding the Bureau of Mines Property, and I am available to answer any questions you might have. . . . [Unfortunately the author has not been available since the release of the final EIS to answer questions on this issue from members of the public.]

Sincerely.
John O. Anfinson
Historian

What can we do about Coldwater Spring?

People are asking me what I would recommend doing to respond the National Park Service’s handling of the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines EIS process. As stated in the last few days, I believe that the Park Service has mishandled and manipulated the process to achieve rigged results that have harmed the public interest and the interests of Dakota people. The issues have to do with both short-term and long-term outcome of the process–what happens to Coldwater Spring in the short-term and who ends up owning Coldwater for the long haul. I will discuss these outcomes in more detail below.

However, the bottom line is that if you really want to be heard about the issue, especially if you believe that the Dakota interests in the property have been given little attention in this whole confusing process, the best thing is to write to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar (see how to contact him below), who ultimately will be responsible for making decisions about the outcome for Coldwater. It is important to tell him that the Coldwater EIS has been biased and has intentionally ignored the Dakota heritage found in the property. It is important to tell him that while short-term federal management and cleanup of the property may be reasonable, in the long term, the property should be returned to the Dakota. (When communicating with national officials who may not be familiar with all the details of the project, it is important to mention that EIS concerns the disposition of Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Research Center Campus, Hennepin County, Minnesota.)

It would also not hurt to write to President Obama, Kimberly Teehee (the president’s advisor on Indian issues), and Senators and members of Congress who represent Minnesota in Washington. While it would not hurt also to submit comments to MNRRA, the local branch of the Park Service, which has promised to submit comments along with the final EIS when it is sent to higher-ups in the Park Service and Department of Interior,  judging by past practice it may be more effective to communicate directly with the people in charge and the elected officials to whom they are accountable. Addresses and emails for communicating with the various officials are found at the end of this article.

p1020029-bulrushes

Bulrushes in a wetland in the center of the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property, March 2009

Last March, long before the release of the final EIS for the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property, I wrote that continued federal ownership of the Coldwater Spring/Bureau of Mines property–on a short-term basis–was a reasonable outcome of the current Department of Interior environmental review process, one that many who disagreed on other issues might agree upon, even though they would not agree publicly. I said that the sticking points were about what should happen later.

That was written after an announcement by an Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Lyle Laverty, in the waning days of the Bush administration, of the selection of Alternative D as the Preferred Alternative, including the cleaning up of the property and D[3] the subsequent ownership and management by the Park Service’s Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, MNRRA.

I stated: “The Park Service has put the cart before the horse yet again. . . . Having announced the decision in December about keeping the Coldwater property in federal hands and cleaning it up, the Park Service had its open house on February 23 to get comment on how to accomplish the cleanup.” A comment period in later winter was designed only to elicit comment on the cleanup, not on longterm ownership.  But many of those who wanted to comment had real reservations about continued federal ownership. How could they comment on cleanup by itself, in the abstract?

When Park Service officials were pressed they stated that this was not the time to express opinions about the ultimate ownership of Coldwater Spring. That time would come later. Once the final EIS was released there would be a 30-day comment period when people could express their views about the Preferred Alternative, that the land would be cleaned up and then turned over to the MNRRA to manage long term.

That turned out to contain several misstatements, as MNRRA officials now acknowledge. The current 30-day comment period is not a comment period, but rather a period of “no action.” And the final EIS does not actually state that the Preferred Alternative actually involves long term ownership or management of Coldwater by MNRRA. When Lyle Laverty, the Bush official  came out for Alternative D, he should have said nothing about long term ownership. “He was kind of putting the cart before the horse,” an official told me recently.

Instead, officials now say that the EIS is only about comparing environmental alternatives, not ownership options. So in saying that the Park Service now calls Alternative D, the Preferred Alternative, that still involves all of the options I mentioned a few days ago. Under Alternative D, once the property was cleaned up by the federal government, the alternatives are:

[1]. The property could be transferred to a university or nonfederal entity–including Indian tribes–without conditions.

[2]. The property could be transferred to a university or nonfederal entity–including Indian tribes–with conditions.

[3]. The property could be retained by the federal government, including being held as trust land for Indian tribes.

Although Laverty, the Bush official came out in favor of keeping the land in federal hands, other entirely different outcomes are possible, especially under a new administration. Thus, despite announcements in December 2008 and December 2009 about Coldwater becoming a public park, this is not assured under Alternative D. And there is still no assurance that the land will remain in federal ownership.

Steven P. Johnson of MNRRA went into more detail on these points in a recent statement:

The purpose of the EIS was not to decide who got the property, but what that property would look like. The Draft EIS was clear that it was the determination of the land-use scenarios that was the focus of the EIS. For instance, the Draft EIS, page iv, Summary states: “The environmental impacts of the alternatives depend on how a future owner would use the Center, and on the activities associated with that use.” However, neither the future owner nor the future use of the Center could be identified precisely until after the EIS process was completed.  .  .  .

Essentially, the Secretary has had the authority to dispose of the property to a qualified party as defined by legislation, Pub. L. No. 104-134 [1996]. (See page 6 of the Final EIS for more detail.) An EIS is designed to disclose the environmental effects associated with the disposal. To that end, the EIS does that in quite some detail. However, there are no environmental effects associated with the actual ownership; the eventual owner would have to agree to manage the property in terms of the selected alternative, especially if the government will go to some expense to prepare the property for that transfer. Again, the impacts associated with that disposal has been disclosed.

It precisely on some of these points that there is disagreement. Considering that the Park Service has refused to acknowledge an important aspect of the property for the Dakota, then it may very well be that not all environmental effects associated with places of traditional cultural importance for Dakota people are dealt with in the final EIS. And for Dakota people, there may very well be “environmental effects associated with the actual ownership.” But this is how the Park Service has interpreted the framework under which it operates. And under that framework, now is the time to be heard on the ownership fof the property.

Despite the fact that there is no comment period now about the final EIS and that the final EIS does not actually specify a long term owner for the Coldwater property, this is the time to make your opinions known about who should get Coldwater and what they should do with it. A decision will be made very soon. Now is the time to be heard.

When will the decision about ownership be made? Officials say it will be part of the Record of Decision, the ROD, which can me issued at any time after Midnight, January 11, 2010.

How long will the comment period be after that decision? There will be no comment period. It is in the discretion of the federal government to pick any alternative for ownership compatible with the alternative determined to be the best one under the final EIS.

So in other words, any comments that members of the public wish to have to influence the decision about what happens to Coldwater Spring–whether it be held on to by MNRRA following cleanup or transferred to an Indian tribe, a governmental or non-governmental agency–are best directed at the people who will make the final decision about what happens to Coldwater, or the people those decision-makers work for. Their contact information is found below.

Also, in all of this talk about the EIS, there has not been time to talk about the Section 106 process, through which federal agencies are required to consider effects of their actions on cultural resources found on federal properties. A concurrent Section 106 process is taking place involving the Coldwater property, including consultation with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in St. Paul. The SHPO will reconsider the question of the TCP status of Coldwater. If you have opinions about that status, you should also write to Britta Bloomberg the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer of Minnesota.

More on the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines issues, including the 106 process, next time.

Contact Information
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Phone: 202-208-3100
E-Mail: feedback@ios.doi.gov
Online contact form

Senator Al Franken
60 East Plato Blvd
Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55107
(651) 221-1016
Online contact form

Senator Amy Klobuchar
1200 Washington Avenue South, Suite 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
Online contact form

Kimberly Teehee
Senior Policy Advisor on Native American Affairs
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
White House Comments: 202-456-1111
White House Switchboard: 202-456-1414
White House FAX: 202-456-2461
White House online contact form

Britta Bloomberg
Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer
Minnesota Historical Society
345 Kellogg Blvd. W.
St. Paul, MN 55102-1903
Phone: 651-259-3450
Fax: 651-282-2374
651-259-3466
Email: britta.bloomberg@mnhs.org

Superintendent Paul Labovitz
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
111 Kellogg Blvd East, Suite 105
St. Paul, MN 55101
Fax: 651-290-3214
Email: miss_info@nps.gov
Online contact form

How the Park Service Subverted the Coldwater EIS

In the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property in Hennepin County Minnesota, the National Park Service has produced a rigged document, designed to achieve the result it wanted to achieve, and avoid the result it wanted to avoid. In the process the public interest has been subverted and the interests of Dakota people in the cultural and historical heritage of Minnesota—the place that bears the name the Dakota gave it—have been have been deliberately thwarted.

Federal environmental review processes are governed by NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. As it happens January 1 of this year was the 40th anniversary of NEPA. Just a few days ago President Barack Obama issued a proclamation to mark the anniversary. He stated:

Forty years ago, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support, ushering in a new era of environmental awareness and citizen participation in government. NEPA elevated the role of environmental considerations in proposed Federal agency actions, and it remains the cornerstone of our Nation’s modern environmental protections. On this anniversary, we celebrate this milestone in our Nation’s rich history of conservation, and we renew our commitment to preserve our environment for the next generation

NEPA governs the actions of agencies like the National Park Service. And in terms of NEPA, the environment is defined to include the historical and cultural aspects of the environment—the meanings of places like Coldwater to people such as the Dakota. NEPA states that aim of NEPA is to “preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity, and variety of individual choice.”

An important aspect for consideration in a NEPA environmental review would be to determine if a federal property contained places of importance to people, and more specifically places defined under the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places as TCPs or traditional cultural properties. The definition of that term owes a lot to Thomas F. King, an archaeologist and noted expert in the field who co-authored National Register Bulletin 38, “Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties.”

King has authored many books and articles on the topic of NEPA and other laws governing environmental review. Recently he wrote to President Obama applauding his proclamation on the 40th anniversary of NEPA, but at the same warning of ways in which the law has been undermined by the federal agencies it governs. He wrote:

I especially appreciate your call for executive branch agencies to promote public involvement and transparency in NEPA implementation. I fear, however, that in the last decade or so most federal agencies have forgotten how to make their decision making transparent, and moreover, forgotten why doing so is a good idea. It is all very well and good for the concerned public to be able to look through the transparent window and see what an agency is doing, but if that public is unable to do anything about it, it only produces frustration.

King’s comment applies well to the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines EIS process, one that has fostered the opposite of openness, particularly on the question of the importance of Coldwater for Dakota people.

Three years ago, commenting on the draft EIS for Coldwater, I questioned in detail the conclusion the Park Service had come to in relation to the spring, pointing out that it was based on faulty reasoning and incomplete information. I stated:

The Park Service’s stance does little to undercut the traditional cultural importance of Coldwater Spring, but it does do great damage to the Park Service itself. The Park Service’s arrogant assertions about Coldwater Spring have already had and will continue to have a profound and disproportionate effect on the federal government’s environmental review process relating to the disposal of the Bureau of Mines property. As a result it is unclear if the Park Service is capable of carrying out a fair and unbiased environmental review.

It is now clear that the Park Service was not capable capable of carrying out a fair and unbiased environmental review in relation to Coldwater Spring. The proof is in the final Environmental Impact Statement released on December 11, 2009.

Environmental reviews are dependent on the gathering of complete and accurate information. When information is inaccurate or incomplete it can bias the conclusions that result. In relation to Coldwater Spring it was important to gather full information on the all aspects of the environment of the property, including its cultural and historical features.

It is in this sense that the federal EIS process has subverted the public interest in having complete information about the Coldwater/ Bureau of Mines property, and the interest of Dakota people in having their heritage and connection to the place acknowledged.

Like the draft EIS, the final version interprets the history of the Fort Snelling area in general and Camp Coldwater in particular through the lens of European history. While detailed and extensive information—much of it easily available in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul—on the activities of Native people, both Dakota and Ojibwe at the spring and the area around it, was submitted by members of the public in November 2006, none of this was incorporated into the final version.

This information supported the statements made by Dakota and Ojibwe people for the last ten years and longer about the historical and cultural importance of the place. However, in its record of responses to much of this information, the authors of the final EIS merely state: “Comment noted,” without any further effort to interpret the information.

The final EIS continues to rely on a cursory historical study completed in 2002, before the EIS was even contemplated:

A historical study completed in 2002 by Barbara J. Henning focused on the Center and also made a determination as to whether Camp Coldwater Spring is independently eligible for the NRHP. The author concluded that neither the spring nor associated features are independently eligible for the NRHP. However, she did conclude that Camp Coldwater Spring does contribute to the significance of the Fort Snelling National Historic District, the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark, and the Old Fort Snelling State Historic District.

Henning’s statement exemplifies a puzzling aspect of the NPS Coldwater/ BOM EIS process: Dakota tribes and communities were repeatedly assured that while the federal government would not recognize their own heritage, it would preserve Coldwater Spring because it was part of White, European-American heritage. But Henning’s conclusion was faulty, based on a brief study of secondary sources. In one of the most obvious errors, the study stated:

In a book published in 1835, Charles Joseph Latrobe stated that “lodges of the Sioux and the Chippewas encamped near the Reservation, or near the trading houses.” These would have been temporary visits, if only because the Dakota and the Chippewa were enemies unlikely to reside near one another except for brief visits to traders, the Indian Agency, or the fort.

But the evidence submitted in 2006 revealed an extensive written record of repeated interactions between Dakota and Ojibwe at Coldwater Spring, in which they met ceremonially, traded, and danced together. This information too supported to statements of Native people as recorded over the last ten years. But it was not acknowledged in the final EIS. As a result, in five separate places, the final report states: “no historical documentation of American Indian use of Camp Coldwater Spring has been found,” (first statement on page 72).

Besides ignoring the important written documents that support Native connections to Coldwater, the statement is  a clear and forthright admission of a shameful ethnocentric bias in the interpretation of what constitutes history and documentation. The Park Service discounts the importance of oral history and tradition for documenting the importance of culturally important places. The  FEIS states:

The studies completed for the EIS and Section 106 reviews located no ethnographic sites eligible for inclusion on the National Register. Oral traditions and histories collected during these investigations suggest that natural springs, like Coldwater Spring, are associated with ceremonies and deities of the Dakota Indian spiritual world. Coldwater Spring is currently used by some members of the federally recognized Dakota and Ojibwe communities, and other American Indians, as a source of water for ceremonies. Many American Indian communities have a traditional association with the area surrounding the spring.

Oral traditions and histories also state that Coldwater Spring itself is a place of traditional cultural importance. But this fact was simply not acknowledged in the various versions of the EIS. The Park Service also continues to reject the study by Michelle Terrell and her associates, the contractor for the Park Service, who found in a 2005 study that the site was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a traditional cultural property. Without even acknowledging the conclusion of that study the final EIS stated:

In support of the EIS planning process, an ethnographic resources study was completed at the Center (Terrell et al. 2005). The primary focus of this study was to document tribal use and perceptions of this area, to assess whether Camp Coldwater Spring constitutes a TCP under NHPA section 106 (16 U.S.C. 470f) or a sacred site under Executive Order 13007 (Indian Sacred Sites), and to identify any additional ethnographic resources present within the area of potential effect of the proposed action and alternatives being assessed in this EIS. A TCP is generally defined as a property that “is eligible for inclusion in the NRHP because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that (a) are rooted in that community’s history, and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community” (Parker and King 1998).

After review of the study, the National Park Service has determined [contrary to the conclusion of the Terrell study] that Camp Coldwater Spring does not meet the criteria listed in the NRHP for designation as a TCP. However, Camp Coldwater Spring and Reservoir are culturally important to some Indian people for ritual and ceremonial reasons. The importance ascribed to this area, including the spring and reservoir and the subsequent need for protection, is addressed in the alternatives presented in this EIS. A copy of the draft ethnography report was also provided to the Indian tribes and interviewees that participated in the study by the National Park Service. The ethnographic resources study will be sent to the Minnesota SHPO as part of the section 106 process occurring concurrently with this EIS.

The treatment of the TCP issue, the rejection of the Terrell report, the misplaced reliance on the Henning report, and the purposeful rejection of historical documentation on the historical use of Coldwater by Native people, are all evidence of the way in which the EIS process has been rigged and subverted by the National Park Service. As a result, the decisions that the Department of Interior is expected to make in the weeks ahead about the disposal of the property will not be grounded in complete and accurate information about the cultural and historical aspects of the environment of the Bureau of Mines property, though they may embrace the results the Park Service was seeking from the beginning.

More on this, and the 106 process mentioned in the quotation above from the FEIS, next time.