Atrocities -  Mendota Dakota /Development/ Burial Site (100 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
From: Madam D (MadamD) DelphiPlus Member Icon2/27/03 1:21 PM 
To: All  (1 of 1) 
This is one of the struggles we have been opposing for the last 8 months or so...Please take the time to read this, I realize it is long, but again a Scared Site....... Debbra

Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota ancient burial site is in danger of development. ACT NOW to stop townhouses from obliterating history!

by Dan Brown

"Nobody else has to fight so hard to preserve the resting places of their ancestors."
- Jim Anderson, Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community Historian

In 1699 French explorer Le Sueur sailed past Pilot Knob looking for copper. In the 1700s both French and English pursued the fur trade at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. In 1805 Lt. Zebulon Pike selected a bluff at the confluence for Fort Snelling and purchased the property from the Dakota Indians. His military reservation extended across the river including almost half of today's Mendota Heights. In 1819 Col. Henry Leavenworth built cantonment New Hope to assemble fort materials. With the construction of Fort Snelling, the village of Mendota formed around the American Fur Company post.[1]

Mendota, meaning "meeting of waters" in the Dakota language, is the oldest permanent Euroamerican settlement in Minnesota. The town began in the 1820s as a regional fur trading headquarters for the American Fur Company. Today preserved elements of that early occupation have been designated as the Mendota National Register District. The district is the site of the oldest private residence in the state built in 1836-7 by Henry Hastings Sibley. Sibley has been described as "one of the most prominent figures in Minnesota history." Next door to the Sibley house is the stone home of Jean Baptiste Faribault, a pioneer fur trader, that was erected ca. 1839-40. In the southeast corner of the district is the 1854 brick home of Hypolite Du Puis, Sibley's clerk. Two city blocks to the southwest stands St. Peter's Catholic Church, constructed in 1853 and now the oldest church building in continuous use in the state.

The Sibley House has been called the "Mount Vernon of Minnesota." From 1835 to 1862 it was the residence of Henry H. Sibley - fur trader, member of the constitutional convention, delegate to Congress, civic leader, military leader during the US- Dakota Conflict of 1862, and first governor of the state of Minnesota. When it was constructed the house served as a fur trade center and locus of hospitality on the frontier; later, as the region developed, it became the governor's mansion.

Archeological excavations at the Henry Hastings Sibley House and American Fur Company District Headquarters reveal identifiable horizons associated with multiple 19th century occupations. Below these levels is nearly 1 meter of natural soil with at least three pre-European contact habitations. These occupations have been identified as belonging to the Late Archaic, Middle Woodland, and Late Woodland Periods.[2]

In 1829 a Dakota Mdewakanton village was located on the west shore of a lake that would be known as Lake Calhoun in the area that would become Minneapolis. Cloud Man, also known as Man-of-the-Sky (Ma-hpi-ya-wi-ca-sta), was chief of this village, known as Reyataotonwe (Inland Village) or Eatonville (for John H. Eaton). Cloud Man agreed with the Fort Snelling Indian Agent, Lawrence Taliaferro, to have his band learn to farm using the plow.

Philander Prescott was the government farmer who worked with the Lake Calhoun band. Volunteer missionaries, Gideon and Samuel Pond, were enlisted to work with them. Samuel Pond took the opportunity to write down the Dakota language and compile a dictionary. In 1839, Cloud Man and his band moved to Oak Grove in Bloomington because of renewed conflict with the Ojibwe. Gideon Pond also moved to Oak Grove. Other Mdewakanton villages included Chief Wabasha's at Winona, Wacouta's at Red Wing, Little Crow's at South St. Paul, Black Dog's near the present site of the power plant on the Minnesota River in Burnsville, Pennesha's near the mouth of Nine Mile Creek in Bloomington, and Chief Shakopee at the community of Shakopee. These were the main villages during the years 1805 to 1852 in the area to become southern Minnesota.[3]

While archaeologists have recorded settlements of Native Americans in Minnesota dating back to at least 10,000 years ago, the Dakota (also known as Sioux) and the Ojibway (also known as Chippewa) are the Native American people who were confronted by European fur traders and explorers and white American settlers as they moved into traditional lands. Actually, the Assiniboin and several other historic tribes moved to the west during the early 1600s, soon after the French explorers and traders entered the lands that would become Minnesota.

By 1819, the Mdewakanton traded furs with the American Fur Company at Mendota. In 1838, an agreement with chiefs of the Dakota tribe opened the lands east of the Mississippi River to private ownership by white settlers. By 1839, some five hundred non-native persons lived in the area.

In the late 1830s, Governor Henry Dodge of the Wisconsin Territory (containing Minnesota East) obtained cession of all of the Ojibway lands on the St. Croix River and the Dakota ceded their land east of the Mississippi to the United States government. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, by the time early white settlement took place, the Dakota lived on the prairie and bottomland hardwood forests of the southern portion of the state and the Ojibway lived in the pine forests of central and northern Minnesota. Both societies had a mixed woodland subsistence economy that required scheduled and seasonal movement to hunt, fish and gather and harvest their foods.

The Mdewakanton Dakota tribe numbered about 2,150 in 1846. By that time, significant changes in the region had occurred, including the logging of the trees and turning prairie lands into farm land. The buffalo population had been killed off and the populations of deer, bear, and other animals had been greatly depleted. During this same time period, the disease whooping cough killed many. The Dakota were accustomed to living through hard times but now, as they were finding it difficult to find food, they saw the settlers and the soldiers having adequate rations. In a weakened condition due to health, lack of resources and food, life grew harder, alcoholism spread and the debt they owed to the traders increased. The buying and selling of land was a concept foreign to the Dakota but they had become dependent on the goods available at the stores and were in need of monies to purchase the goods. To receive monies from the U.S. government, they agreed to sign a treaty to give up their rights to their ancestral lands.

During the 1850s and 60s, both the Dakota and the Ojibway tribes were forced to give up most of what is now Minnesota in treaties. Treaties signed at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota in 1851 left the Dakota with only narrow reservations along the upper Minnesota River. In 1854, the Mississippi, Lake Superior, and Bois Fort bands of the Ojibway ceded their lands surrounding the western tip of Lake Superior and north to the Canadian border. In 1855, the Mississippi, Pillager, and Winnibigoshish bands relinquished their claims to the lands from Mille Lacs Lake north to the Canadian border and west to the Red River. In 1863, the Red Lake and Pembina bands gave up their land on both sides of the Red River north to the Canadian border. In 1866, the Bois Fort ceded additional territory south of the Rainy river.[4]

In 1862, the United States government was focusing its attention on the Civil War and neglected to pay the Dakota in a timely fashion. The Dakota people were plagued by hunger; they were disgusted with the unfulfilled promises from the government, and they were dissatisfied with reservation life. This condition drove many back to their old lands which now were being farmed or logged. The stage was set for conflict between the two very different cultures. A sudden, violent attack on settlers in the southeastern part of the state took place on August 17, 1862 which set in motion a violent killing spree by the Dakota, the military, and the settlers. The conflict lasted until September 26th. Governor Henry Sibley was in charge of the military. The area around Fort Ripley in southwestern Minnesota had the most conflict between the Dakota, the military and the new settlers. By September 26th, the Dakota realized they had not gained control over the military. The deaths of about 500 whites and the destruction of property evoked cries for their removal. Over three hundred captured warriors were initially held either at Mankato (those who had been condemned) or Fort Snelling. President Lincoln pardoned all but those who had been condemned to death for the killing of settlers. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged. The others held in captivity finally received their sentence, in 1863. Those sentenced were moved out of the state of Minnesota, mostly to the Missouri Valley (not far from Fort Randall). Those who had been convicted (but not hung) were sent to Davenport, Iowa. The remaining Dakota were exiled to a reservation at Crow Creek (in the area that is now South Dakota). In 1866, the Dakota at Crow Creek were moved to the Santee Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. The Ho-Chunk remaining in Minnesota in 1862, by then residing primarily in the region around Mankato, were also forced by the United States government to move west as a result of the war, even though they had not participated in the fighting.[5]

In the 1870s only a few Dakota remained in Minnesota. Those living closest to Minneapolis lived at Oak Grove in Bloomington at the residence of Gideon Pond or at a remnant of a Dakota scout camp in Shakopee. A few also lived in Bloomington and in Mendota.

Descendants of the Dakota tribe, French-Canadians and many other nationalities make up the present day population of Mendota.[6]

An article titled "Pilot Knob Purchased by Masons: Will be Converted Into a Cemetery" appearing in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 1, 1926 stated the following:
"Pilot Knob, one of the historic landmarks of the state, located just across the river from St. Paul, near Mendota, has been privately purchased and will be converted into a cemetery. Prior to General Sibleys arrival at Pilot Knob in November, 1834, the Knob was used as a burial ground for Sioux Indian Tribes of the vicinity. Its original name, so far as records of the Minnesota State Historical Society reveal, was LaButte des Morts, which translated reads The Knoll of the Dead." The Dakota called it O He Ya Wa He, a hill much visited. In an article published by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1934 it states, "The Indians loved this beautiful piece of land. Many of the braves were buried here, and when the spot was included in Acacia Park in 1928 their remains were disinterred and laid to rest elsewhere until some future time when with befitting ceremonies they will be re-interred near their old resting places. It was here, too, they came to build their pergolas and hold their councils, the Ojibwe treaties of 1837, Dotys ungratified treaty of 1841 and the 1851 Treaty of Mendota were made on Pilot Knob."[7]

In the 1840s, Seth Eastman painted Pilot Knob with a Dakota scaffold on top of it.[8]

In 1932, the Daughters of the American Revolution set a marker commemorating the Treaty on Pilot Knob in concert with the design of Acacia Cemetery.

What happened to those remains of Indian "braves" and when will they return to Pilot Knob? They seem to have been kept in storage since 1928.

From 1934-1945, the Minnesota Acacia Park Cemetery Association promoted its plots to the Masons through brochures entitled, "One of nature's beauty spots, Pilot Knob." These brochures encouraged Masons to obtain a high-quality eternal resting place. Comparing the cemetery to "Pyramids, Parthenon, Vallhall [sic], Westminster Abbey, Taj Mahal" the brochure argued that no plot could have a better view – a view that would remain for all time. The site also offered excellent drainage. Finally, the brochure pointed out that the park was a place people could visit for memorial purposes but also to enjoy the view of the area. Once again, use of the hill depended on the view it afforded and using the hill as a place to view the area – an open space for contemplation, of Nature, of the prairies, of the Fort, of the city, and of mortality. As always, this type of use coincided with its designation, since at least the eighteenth century, as a Knoll of the Dead.

In the late 1950's, and in response to the construction plans for Highway 55 at the western end of Mendota Bridge, the Minnesota Historical Society and residents of the Twin Cities came together to demand the salvaging of Fort Snelling. They were backed by every group imaginable both political and private. The design of the highway was altered, the fort renovated, a park cleared of inhabitants that surrounded the confluence of the rivers, and a historic district placed around Mendota Village. While arguing for this vast act of landscape preservation, the Minnesota Historical Society dubbed the area it sought, the "cradle of civilization" whence came the state of Minnesota. The headboard of the metaphorical cradle is Pilot Knob; the footboard is Coldwater Spring; the cradle lies in between and includes Mendota Village, the meeting of the rivers, and Fort Snelling. The head – espied by the steamboat captain for navigation (hence the name), the site of Tribal conferences and Dakota burials, the place where many travelers stood to view the area and whose reports then encouraged settlers to come – and the foot – a spring whose waters were used by humans since they first entered the area and which nourished the troops at Fort Snelling – are the two of the most endangered places in Minnesota. [9]

Had it been available in the 1960s, Pilot Knob would have been included in the park or in the Mendota Historic Village District. However, those forces that led the choice to preserve Fort Snelling and Mendota felt that Acacia Cemetery would make good use of the land.

In a report titled "History of Mendota" done in 1966 recommending areas to be included in Fort Snelling State Historical Park, it states: "Several of Mendotas sites have been preserved by private agencies: Pilot Knob, the site of the signing of the Treaty of Mendota, is now a cemetery and is not expected to be changed or industrialized. In any case, these lands are in good hands and their preservation seems assured".

Ron Clark Construction Company proposes to develop 25 plus acres adjacent to Acacia Cemetery and above Highway 55 as a dense conglomerate of townhomes.

The spokesman for the proposal declared that the view of the metropolitan area from Pilot Knob was the incentive for building homes there. The desire for such a view, proponents believe, overlooks proximity to three cemeteries (Resurrection, Acacia, and St. Peter's), a major highway (55), a primary flight path for the airport, and a repressed history. Some 30 units, which would have the spectacular views of the river valleys, Fort Snelling, and the Twin Cities, will fetch $4 or 500,000. The 130 units that make the development profitable have impaired views for $2-300,000. These lesser units will sit behind an earthen berm topped with evergreens to mitigate impact by proximity to the highway, thus lessening their view.[10]

December 3, 2002: the Mdewakanton Mendota Dakota filed for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet to delay action on the development proposal for Pilot Knob. Regardless of this petition, the Mendota Heights City Council voted 3-2 to give conditional approval to the development.

December 8, 2002: Bill McAuliffe comments on the Pilot Knob development idea in his Metscape column, Metscape: Looking for controversy? Take Hwy. 55.

December 15, 2002: A story about the development of Pilot Knob appears in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

December 30, 2002: Members of Beth Jacob Congregation Speak out in favor of Preservation of Pilots Knob

December 20, 2002, MPR story on Pilot Knob.

January 6, 2003: support for the preservation of Pilot Knob grows.

January 6, 2003: Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office urges EAW to be done for the development of Pilot Knob

January 7, 2003: Mendota Heights City Council passes resolution requiring EAW for Pilots Knob.

January, 2003: The McKnight Foundation recognizes Pilot Knob as a unique treasure to be preserved

1. Write to the Mendota Heights City Council and urge them to use the EAW, along with the comments from the public and other government agencies, in deciding whether to approve, modify, or disapprove the developer's proposal. Urge them to take the time to know as much as you can about the historical, cultural, and natural values of Pilot Knob. We have only one chance to "do it right."

Individual mailing addresses of the new mayor and City Council members are as follows:
Mayor John Huber, 1359 Cherryhill Rd., Mendota Hts., MN 55118
Phone #: 651-450-0729

Jack Vitelli, 1334 Sylvandale Rd., Mendota Hts., MN 55118
e-mail: ("at"
Phone #: 651-455-5625

Sandra Krebsbach, 1230 Culligan Lane, Mendota Hts, MN 55118
e-mail: ("at"
Phone #: 651-454-5696

Mary Jeanne Schneeman, 792 Upper Colonial Dr., Mendota Hts., MN 55118
e-mail: ("at"
Phone #: 651-457-4337

Ultan Duggan, 2331 Copperfield Dr., Mendota Hts., MN 55120
Phone #: 651-452-5179

2. Contact the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and buy a t-shirt, poster, or print, become a sponsor, give them a donation, or find out how you can help them to carry on this fight!

Mendota Mdewakanton
Dakota Community
P.O. Box 50835
1351 Sibley Memorial Hwy
Mendota, MN 55150
(651) 452-4141 Phone
(651) 452-4232 Fax ("at"

3. Contact any other group you are affiliated with and encourage them to help the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community in this fight to preserve these ancient and heritage-rich grounds.
Some suggestions include:
The Sierra Club:
Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community:
Minnesota Historical Society:
Alliance for Democracy
Any church, synagogue, social, or activism group you know. Use your imagination!

4. Attend the Mendota Heights City Council Meeting to voice your support for the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community's fight to protect Pilot Knob.

Regular City Council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The meetings take place in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1101 Victoria Curve. City Council meetings are broadcast live on Government Channel 18 and are rebroadcast on a regular schedule. You may contact the Northern Dakota County Cable Commission (NDC-4) at 651- 450-9891 for rebroadcast dates and times. The City Council also meets from time to time in workshop sessions. Unless otherwise noted, all meetings are open to the public.











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