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Project Background:

The land we now call Indian Mounds Regional Park, located atop the bluffs of the Mississippi River on the eastern side of downtown Saint Paul, is rich in geological and cultural history and is sacred for the American Indian Tribes especially the Dakota Nations.  

The City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation staff continues to consult with representatives of the Tribal Nations to build partnership around the protection, interpretation, stewardship and potential improvements of the site.  A Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan has been our initial step to update the City’s practice for the preservation, awareness and understanding of the significance of this place.  The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected by the Field Archeology Act (MN Statutes 138.40) and Private Cemetery Act (MN Statutes 307.08).

The Cultural Landscape STudy and Messaging Plan has been a collaborative planning process focused on the Dakota burial site (cemetery) that is known today as Indian Mounds Regional Park. The purpose is to establish respectful preservation of the burial site and an appropriate management of the surroundings. This process is intended to be guided by Dakota representatives (and the consensus of their communities) and presented to the public, neighbors and current park users to build understanding  and awareness of the significance of this place and find common ground for its proper use and care.  

The development of the final document, was created with input and partnership of a Project Advisory Team of both local and national parties, building upon an understanding of the role of physical features and locations within the park, and verbal and written stories gathered from the American Indian community.  It also presents an important opportunity to recognize and support Indigenous community connections to the landscape. The study documents the historic landscape, evaluates the significance and integrity of the landscape, and provides a compelling 20-year vision and plan for landscape treatment and interpretation. The document has been prepared by cultural landscape specialists, landscape architects, and interpretation experts from Quinn Evans Architects, Ten x Ten Studio, and Allies, LLC.

The stakeholder engagement approach used will serve as a model for future protocol and engagement process, both formal and informal, within and near sacred and culturally sensitive sites in the City of Saint Paul. As a nationally significant site, informing the public and interpreting the multifaceted history of the site is especially important to the understanding of this land as part of a history that has not been appropriately represented. 

The boundaries for the Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan are determined by the Indian Mounds Regional Park boundaries. The narrative also references the adjacent bluffs and caves, and the views of the Mississippi River.

Project Description:

The City has been using the IMRP Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan to guide changes and updates within the site. Recent additions have included signage to let people know they are in a sacred place of burial and there are relatives of those buried who are still here. Ongoing installations will be done with the intention of relaying the importance of the site both in history and today. 


May 25, 2022

  • Parks and Recreation staff are working toward the next phase of messaging implementation. 
  • Consultant is being contracted to lead community engagement and design work.
  • Community engagement will begin Summer 2022 to review phasing options from the Messaging Plan and get feedback on next steps. 

April 20, 2022

  • Over the last 2 years initial components of the Messaging Plan have been integrated into the site focusing on the pavilion and area surrounding it. Those include graphics on the pavilion floor and ceiling, and addition of signs on existing light posts and benches which indicates that this is a sacred burial place.
  • Sandblasting of messages in areas of the sidewalk will be added Spring 2022.
  • Implementation of additional "messaging" measures is being determined currently.
  • Consultation with the Tribal Historic Information Officers (THPOs) as the City strives to establish a Memorandum of Understanding or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA/MOU) that outlines process for determining use, maintenance and other changes to or influences on the overall site.  

Indian Mounds a Sacred Place of Burial: Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan:

Foreword:  "The landscape of Indian Mounds is a sacred place of burial. It is a cemetery built by ancestors of living people. The place has deep significance to the Upper Sioux Community, Lower Sioux Community, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and other descendants of those who are buried here. It is home to the only known remaining burial mounds within the Minneapolis-Saint Paul urban core.

The purpose of this Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan is four-fold, as explained in Chapter 1: Introduction.

One major purpose is identification of an appropriate process for The City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department to use for including associated Indigenous communities in decision making about sites that are significant to them. The project team sought to accomplish this by undertaking a collaborative approach, and adjusting the process in response to guidance from Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs). More description of the process is included in Chapter 1.

The collaboration informed development of a vision grounded in understanding of Indian Mounds as a sacred site. It also resulted in recommendations that preserve the sacred site and to create a partnership between the City and Tribes to work together in making decisions about and caring for the landscape.

However, the process was not able to fully address requests for the associated communities to control management of the property. It is recommended that the City build upon the relationship established through this project process to expand policies so that it can more fully respond to requests of associated Indigenous Peoples.

A statement from the THPO for the Upper Sioux Community is included in Appendix C."

Indian Mounds a Sacred Place of Burial: Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan. Prepared by Quinn Evans Architects, TenxTen, Allies LLC, for the City of Saint Paul.

In collaboration with:

Upper Sioux Community

Lower Sioux Community

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux

Prairie Island Indian Community

The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin

Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

Orthography by:

Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye

    March 26, 2020

    • The City of Saint Paul Parks Department resumed the consultation process with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO), Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC), and the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) for the Indian Mounds Regional Park (IMRP) Cultural Landscape Study and Interpretive Plan in November 2019. MIAC and the OSA are working on the cemetery designation and have advised approaching the land within the park limits as an indigenous cemetery. They will guide the appropriate management and maintenance of the existing burial mounds and surrounding burial grounds. 
    • The consultant team is working in collaboration with the Parks and Rec Department, the THPOs, and MIAC in developing a phased approach to gradually accomplish the long-term vision and goals developed through public engagement and presented in Part One of the study.
    • Vision: Develop a plan for the future of the landscape guided by Mitakuye Owasin that reflects the inter-connectedness of people, land, water, sky, plants and animals. We aspire to provide a place for reverence, remembrance, and healing in a way that protects, honors, and recognizes the sacredness of the location.
    • Messaging and landscape treatment strategies will be implemented in the park to help people understand that they are in an Indigenous place of burial and encourage respect for this place. Access will be limited in areas where there is safety concerns or areas that need to be restored from erosion. 
    • The Part One draft of the Indian Mounds Regional Park Cultural Landscape Study provides a historical overview and assessment of the landscape and is available on the project website. Part Two will include recommendations for the future and will be completed by mid-summer. We anticipate hosting a community informational table in two months. If the situation with the  COVID-19 outbreak continues, we will explore the possibility of sharing information with the community through a virtual format.  

    November 13, 2019

    On Thursday Nov 21, 2019 a Community Information Session will be held at Marian Center of Saint Paul, 200 Earl Street, Saint Paul from 4:30 - 6:30 PM. Join us at your convenience for an individual question and answer session about the current Trail Reconstruction and Cultural Landscape Study (CLS) Projects. This is an opportunity to ask questions about the cemetery designation, CLS report phase 1, trail reconstruction, decision making process, and project schedules, as we wait for the cemetery delineation results.
    Meeting Flyer

    September 5, 2019

    Part 1 DRAFT REPORT of the Indian Mounds Regional Park Cultural Landscape Study and Interpretive Plan has been posted on the link below. The report includes an introduction to the project, historic information and existing conditions of the site. 

    Indian Mounds Regional Park Cultural Landscape Study Report Phase 1

    August 6, 2019

    On July 22, 2019 a community listening session was held to provide factual information about Indian Mounds Regional park projects and processes, listen to the community concerns, and share personal stories and views about the place. (Access meeting notes, written comments and responses to frequently asked questions here)

    We will restart engagement for the IMRP Cultural  Landscape Study and Interpretive Plan once the state has completed the cemetery designation. The City is aiming for the end of September at which time we will release the IMRP Cultural Landscape Study report. For more information or to become involved in upcoming meetings, please subscribe for updates on this website or contact project manager 

    July 1, 2019

    The state continues working on the cemetery designation. We will resume community meetings related to the Cultural Landscape Study once the cemetery designation process is completed. Thank you for your patience.

    April 2, 2019

    The process for this project is intended to be highly collaborative, and our team is committed to listening and responding to guidance from collaborators. We have learned that the state is working to designate the Dakota burial ground located in this area as a cemetery. In order to ensure that the Cultural Landscape Study is responsive to this designation, the schedule is being adjusted.

    A draft of Part 1 of the Cultural Landscape Study, which documents historic and existing conditions, will be ready for us to share soon and will be posted on the website.

    Thank you for your patience as we work to ensure that this project will address the landscape in an inclusive and respectful way.

    Upcoming Project Advisory Team Meetings:

    A Project Advisory Team (PAT) was created to collaborate with the City and Consultants to guide the project.  The PAT is comprised of community members, representatives of Dakota Nations , Tribal Communities, and other stakeholders.  There will be six facilitated PAT meetings throughout the project process, as well as six separate facilitated Community Engagement Events (CEE). 

    • PAT Meeting 4: Preliminary site use/visitor experience program, refined interpretive themes and preliminary concepts (Workshop). (TBD)
    • PAT Meeting 5: Development of Site Treatment and Interpretive Recommendations (Workshop) (TBD)
    • PAT Meeting 6: Final Presentation of Recommendations (TBD)

    Past Meetings:

    PAT Meeting 1:  PAT Introductions, Project Expectations and Issues, Cultural Connections to and concerns about the Landscape, Focus Group Topics, Group Site Visit and sharing.

    PAT Meeting 2: Overview of preliminary findings of research, inventory, and analysis, discuss cultural connections to and concerns about the landscape, collaborate in working session to develop draft Vision, Goals, and Guiding Principles.

    PAT Meeting 3: Finalize Vision, Goals, and Guiding Principles, preliminary interpretive themes. (Jan 17, 2019)

    Upcoming Community Engagement Events (CEE):

    • CE Event 4: Preliminary site use program, interpretive themes and concepts  (TBD)
    • CE Event 5: Development of Site Treatment and Interpretive Recommendations (TBD)
    • CE Event 6: Final Presentation of Recommendations. (TBD)

    Past Community Engagement Events:

    • CE Event 1: Introduction to the Project and Public Input to identify interest, concerns and connections to the landscape and expectations for the project (Open House). Meeting Notes_2018_11_08.pdf

    • CE Event 2: Sharing and listening session about significance of the park. Facilitated discussion about project goals. Dec.06 2018  Meeting Notes_2018_12_06.pdf

    • CE Event 3: Collaborative workshop to engage in activities and discussions about vision and goals for the project, types of activities appropriate in the landscape, themes for interpretation, and cultural connections to the place. Jan. 12 2019  2019_0112_CEE_notes.pdf


    Indian Mounds Master Plan
    National Park Services - National Register of Historic Places Program
    National Park Services - National Register of Historic Places Registration


    Last Edited: May 25, 2022