A case study of archaeological sites
in the Minnesota River Valley
This Land is Our Land
Before these additions can be made to the corridor, federal law requires that Hennepin County work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are issuing a permit, and talk with tribes to determine if there are any cultural sites that may be affected by the roadwork. But the law doesn’t outline exactly how talks should be conducted and efforts are sometimes approached as a check-the-box effort. Such minimalist approaches can come at great cost to the American Indian tribes. However, Hennepin County saw the value of moving beyond this way of thinking.
For this project, great care was taken to hear Dakota voices and to place those voices at the heart of the cultural resources planning and interpretation process.
The People and Their Past
This area was also a permanent home for the people who lived there. There are a number of factors that contribute to this belief. The practice of collecting different resources during different seasons meant that American Indian people were moving around in a sort of rotation, the population of different areas rising and falling in correlation with each part of the cycle. There was also the presence of groundstone celts which are artifacts associated with the clearing away of forest areas using a particular method. This deforestation effort would not have been undertaken for a temporary campsite. In addition, large features that were discovered indicate that American Indians placed great investment into their landscape.
In the 3.7 mile stretch of roadside, Dakota history is being interpreted and given new light with the voices of existing tribe members. Initiated early in the process, input from representatives of four Dakota tribes (Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux, Prairie Island, and Shakopee) was received, before much of the intensive excavations were conducted.
Tribal representatives joined archaeologists on-site during the excavations to observe, discuss, participate in, and supply their perspective on the process. Beyond fieldwork, representatives also aided in the study and interpretation of the objects recovered, highlighting their significance.
Dakota history spans back well over a thousand years, far before the United States of America was able to call itself an independent nation. Indeed, far before Europeans stepped foot on the continent. As is the case for all communities, their relationship with their home is one of great intimacy and substance.
The broad and sweeping nature of what was found in the ground along Flying Cloud Drive has the ability to influence the narrative that has been sterilized by stereotype and misinformation. For this project, great care has been taken to engage Dakota voices and to place them at the heart of the interpretation process. Tribal representatives have helped guide and inform our interpretation and the telling of stories about the place, the people who lived here, and their connection to descendants who live there today.
We, at the 106 Group, would firstly like to thank Hennepin County for their ongoing management and positive support for this important archaeological and interpretive work. The Office of the State Archaeologist and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided regulatory review and insights. The Tribal Historic Preservation Officers and elders from four local Dakota tribes: Upper Sioux, Lower Sioux, Prairie Island, and Shakopee, continue to provide great insights and open dialogue about the archaeological work and the significance of these sites for the Dakota story in this place. Their contributions have made this project so much more meaningful in so many ways, both for our 106 Group team but also those who have and will continue to benefit from the interpretive elements in progress. It is our hope that this type of collaboration will become a model for all future projects of this nature. Everyone’s efforts ensured this project was a great success.