Permits required for ceremonies at Coldwater Spring

Anyone holding a ceremony at Coldwater Spring, a sacred and culturally important place for Dakota people, is required to get a permit from the local office of the National Park Service office in St. Paul, known as the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area or MNRRA.  However as of August 30, 2012, no permits are being granted for ceremonies or anything else at Coldwater Spring, until the spring of 2013 at the earliest. Any violation of this rule or others relating to MNRRA’s regulations may subject the violator to a fine of “up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months, ” as well as being “adjudged to pay all court costs associated.” No exceptions appear to be available for the Dakota people whose original place of creation includes Mni Owe Sni or Coldwater Spring.

Information about this and other rules promulgated by Superintendent Paul Labovitz of MNRAA are found in an annual “Superintendent’s Compendium,” an annual listing compiled by all Park Service superintendents for the areas they supervise and which they may revise “as necessary.”  Labovitz issued his new compendium on August 30, 2012. In it are rules designed to govern everyone who uses the Coldwater Spring site and the few other locations that are part of MNRRA. The reference to ceremonies occurs in a section entitled “Activities that Require a Permit,” deriving from 36 CFR 1.6, in the Code of Federal Regulations. These activities include ceremonies and many other events. Following each item is a rationale given in the Superintendent’s Compendium citing the basis for the requirement of a permit:

 §2.50(a) Conduct a sports event, pageant, regatta, public spectator attraction, entertainment, ceremony, and similar events

Events need to be regulated to ensure there is no resource damage and to ensure that events do not conflict with each other.

• §2.51(a) Public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades and other public expressions of views

Gatherings need to be regulated to ensure there is no resource damage and to ensure that events do not conflict with each other.

Nothing in these rules specify any exceptions for Dakota people, for whom many if not all gatherings at Coldwater Spring may involve ceremony. In fact it appears that MNRRA will apply this rule to any ceremony involving any number of people, as indicated in the proviso that no permits would be issued for any events at Coldwater Spring prior to the spring 2013 :

NOTE: The NPS is not issuing any special use permits for Coldwater Spring until late spring of 2013. The land and wetland restorations are so new that even small events could harm them. The NPS will  review this position in the spring to determine whether it is okay to open Coldwater Spring to permitted events.

According to the Superintendent’s Compendium anyone with comments on these and other regulations are invited to write to the superintendent who issued them in the first place:

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
St. Paul, MN 55101

However, given the lack of responsiveness of Labovitz and others in his office to concerns about the attitude of MNRRA toward the Dakota and other Native people, a more useful response may come from:

Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

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