Ancient Burial Sites on Mississippi River Bluffs Preserved
Burial mounds overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul have achieved protection through being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As described in an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this listing affords a measure of protection against harm from federally funded activities, and also provides protection under Minnesota state laws protecting private cemeteries. David Mather, National Register archaeologist for the Minnesota Historical Society, noted that the designation is a “past due” recognition of the mound’s significance.
The mounds, which are a small fraction of the original mounds complex, are in public ownership; Mounds Park is owned and managed by the St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation. It’s unlikely, then, that we would ever revert to the practices of a century ago when treasures such as these mounds were summarily leveled to make way for modern desires. Many of the mounds that were removed in the late 19th-early 20th century were taken out to improve the views from newly built, expensive housing in that part of St. Paul.
Conflicts between “preservation” and “development” continue to play out in the Twin Cities Mississippi River corridor. The state Department of Natural Resources is in the middle of a process to review and revise the regulations governing development along the river corridor for 72 miles through the heart of the cities. As another recent news story put it, apparently no one is very happy. Development interests are quoted to the effect that they worry about government intrusion and regulation on local land use measures, while river protection advocates decry “giving up” authority to protect a landscape of national, maybe global, significance.
This article in Minnpost.com provides interesting and helpful context on the debates about development in the river corridor. In addition, this piece points out that development conflicts are not just over bluff top developments and protection of steep slopes, but also affect the floodplain itself, which has been home to varied settlements of immigrants off and on since the 1870s.
What does all this add up to? Hard to say, aside from the point, which bears repeating, that the river is an important element of the community and of this place that people have called home for millennia. It is testament to the river’s power that divergent strongly held opinions are still such a current part of the debates over the river’s future.