Project Description:

The City is referencing the Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan to guide changes and updates within the site currently called Indian Mounds Regional Park.  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.  QR codes link visitors to videos of Native American individuals talking about the site today. 

As of Fall 2023 visitors can see additional physical cues that remind people visitors they are in a special, sacred space. The scope of work installed includes new areas of prairie, planted berms to mark the entrances of the site, and messaging stones that tell stories related to Indian Mounds. This important work has been planned with consultation of the Dakota Tribal Nations as well as a Project Advisory Team who have represented the larger community. 

Project Updates:

November 27, 2023

  • The work at Indian Mounds is done for the year.  It is exciting to see the messaging pieces in place and providing some wonderful background information and reminders for visitors to the site. It looks wonderful and we are looking forward to the growth of the prairie over time.  

October 4, 2023

  • The prairie is progressing.  These things take time, and more effort than widely recognized.  So our contractor is working on the establishment of the prairie areas within the site and have just completed the planting of 12,000 "plugs" which are very small plants - all native forbs which are flowering species.  This area will change a lot over the next few years as it gets established.
  • Additional messaging signage is being fabricated.  The signs will be fixed to large boulders along the trail and will convey information about the cemetery and Dakota culture to continue the effort of helping to convey the importance of this place. The messaging will be in both Dakota and English languages.  

August 8, 2023

  • The fence line around the burial mounds has been cleared of vegetation. To perform that work, several prayer ties needed to be removed. Representatives from Prairie Island Indian Community. They want to make sure that the City extends "encouragement to the Native American community to continue visiting the site and leave offerings to our relatives. We hope that this maintenance allows better (visual) access for all."
  • Prairie is in progress still. Due to the drought, however, there is a bit of a stall on the growth. Our consultants are happy with what has grown and the work will resume in the fall when temperatures are more consistent with what is required for establishment.  And there will continue to be establishment work for the next few years to make sure the prairie is off to a healthy and sustainable start.

May 15, 2023

  • Work is progressing and Prairie is Coming! LandBridge Ecological is prepping the existing prairie at Indian Mounds for enhancement, and new areas at Indian Mounds for prairie installation. The prairie will be seeded with grasses and forbs.  There will also be some small "plugs" in a matrix in order to expedite establishment. 
  • In addition, Aloha Landscaping is has formed the berms which demarcate entrances to the park (at Burns and Mounds Boulevard and also at Mounds Boulevard and Commercial Street). The berms will be planted with sacred species including flat cedar, red willow and sage.  
  • Messaging stones with stories about the site will be in place along the trail from Earl Street toward the location of the airway beacon.  

April 17, 2023

  • We are excited for site work will begin in April. The work requires some cooperation of weather, but we expect to complete the installation of prairie, placement of large limestone boulders with messaging, and placement of new gateway berms with plantings to be complete toward the end of June
  • The work that our contractors will be doing is minimally disruptive as required by our convenings with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. There will be minimal disturbance of the soils since this is a cemetery. The recognition of the sacredness of this land is important for all users, and for everyone doing work there. Specifications and subsequent discussions with the contractors who will be doing installation, has included information about the work we have been doing with the Cultural Landscape Study so that they are aware of the history of this cemetery. Tribal monitoring will be part of the construction oversight to be sure we are carrying out the work in an acceptable way. 
  • The purpose of new prairie is to reset the landscape, provide habitat & stormwater benefits, and encourage people to other areas of the park for recreational activities. In addition to new prairie, amendments will be made to the existing prairie areas that need to have woody plants removed and to supplement the existing plants with new.  Success of prairie will take time so we have a long term establishment plan.  Contrary to what people often think, prairies require management including weeding, spot spraying, and burning over time. Prairie plantings may look very different in one area than another due to the geology, hydrology and soils. 

February 8, 2023

January 25, 2023

  • Meeting with THPOs - provided same presentation as 1/11/2023 PAT meeting along with feedback received.  

January 20, 2023

  • Project Advisory Team Meeting #3 - Site walk to review mock up of messaging designs with designers and co-creators of text.
  • No presentation 

January 11, 2023

  • Project Advisory Team Meeting #2 Meeting at Metro State
  • Provision of updated design direction with request for feedback.  
  • View Presentation

November 8, 2022 

  • Project Advisory Team Update with current plans and request for feedback 
  • This was held instead of a PAT meeting due to scheduling conflicts

 October 13, 2022

  • Community Meeting was held on October 13 to present ideas and collect feedback to the larger community
  • Watch the video of the community meeting. 
  • View the presentation
  • IMRP Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan FAQs

September 6, 2022

  • Project Advisory Team Meeting #1. The purpose of the meeting was to provide representatives with an update on the work to date and the process for decision making. Through discussion, the City would like to gain input and insight on the community's priorities for the Phase 1 Messaging work as outlined in the Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan.
  • In preparation for the first PAT meeting, we met with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for the Shakopee Mdewakanton, Prairie Island Indian Community, Upper Sioux Community and the Lower Sioux Indian Community as well as Parks and Recreation's Maintenance and Operations Division. 
  • View Presentation
  • Review Notes

August 24, 2022

  • Meeting with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers
  • Review of the direction that we heard at Meeting on July 27, 2022. 

July 27, 2022

  • Meeting with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers 
  • Priorities for next steps in implementation of Messaging Plan
  • Acceptable methods for work on the site to ensure minimized disturbance.

July 18, 2022

  • Parks and Recreation is refining the schedule for Project Advisory Team meetings and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer meetings that will take place over the next few months. IN addition, there will be a community meeting in September to provide an overview of the project and give the community the opportunity to respond to design proposals.
  • TENxTEN is the consultant that the city is working with on the messaging implementation.  They were responsible in the last phase for developing the Messaging Plan that we are moving forward.
  • In addition, the City is also working with the Dakota Tribal Nations on establishing a process for renaming the site. We will make sure to provide updates, including how to be involved, as we are moving through it. 
  • Continue to check back for updates.  And reach out to the City's project manager, Ellen Stewart, with questions or if you are interested in being involved. 

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.  


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 was 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. This process was guided by Dakota representatives (and the consensus of their communities) and presented to the public, neighbors and current park users to build understanding  and find common ground for its proper use and care.  

The development of the final document was created with consultation of Tribal Representatives and 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.


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

Indian Mounds Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan Executive Summary

Indian Mounds Cultural Landscape Study 

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.

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). 

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.

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

Last Edited: November 27, 2023