Who decides that there is “no adverse effect” of a sewage treatment plant on a sacred and culturally important place?

Deadline for comment on the desecration of the Afton Effigy Mound is Thursday, September 1, 2016, at 4:30 PM (not midnight). Here’s the pdf that includes information on how to submit comments.

In the end it is the Dakota people themselves–and other Native people who care about the place–who make such decisions. And this decision cannot be made on archaeological grounds alone. As seen in the case of the Afton Effigy Mound, it is not the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office which makes such decisions.

The MNSHPO made its recommendation that it might be true that there was “no adverse effect,” but in the end it was the Minnesota PCA–the agency pushing the sewage treatment project within and adjacent to the ancient mount–which made this “determination.” But this was an archeological determination. It was about the effect of the project on the mound as an archaeological site. It did not take into account the effect of the mound as a sacred and cultural place.

What is the effect of building a sewage treatment project adjacent to and within a sacred and culturally important place? Not the effect of the project on an archaeological site, but the effect on that intangible sacredness and cultural importance contained in the mound and the area around it.

This is not a question either the MNSHPO or the MPCA is interested in answering. But it is a question Dakota people have to answer for themselves. And the answer they give–like the the answers they have given in relation to many such development projects in the past–will have implications for generations to come.

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