Susu Jeffrey | Coldwater Named A National Treasure

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 protects and preserves religious rights and cultural practices including access to sacred sites, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rights, and use and possession of objects considered sacred. Spring water is considered sacred.

By Susu Jeffrey
Published in the newsletter of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom—MN Metro Branch, Summer 2016

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has recognized Coldwater Springs as part of the “National Treasure” that is “Bdote Fort Snelling.” Bdote, Dakota for meeting of waters, is defined as including “the entire area known as Fort Snelling: the Upper Post, Historic Fort Snelling State Park, Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Coldwater Spring[s] and the confluence of the rivers.”

Consider the awesome geography of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers beneath towering cliffs carved by glacial melt waters. Just upstream on the Mississippi, Coldwater Creek outflows, then Minnehaha Creek and nine miles upstream, the great falls now called St. Anthony.

The Dakota consider Bdote their place of emergence as a people. Like the Biblical Garden of Eden, the Dakota place of genesis is a spring in a garden which parts into major rivers. It is not a dot on the map but a region that provided food, shelter and all the good things of life.

Coldwater is the last major natural spring in Hennepin County. “Camp” Coldwater is the Birthplace of the State of Minnesota, the first Euro-American settlement in our state. Before the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and European expansion across North America, Coldwater was a traditional gathering and ceremonial site for Dakota, Anishinabe, Ho Chunk, Iowa, Sauk and Fox nations.

Currently 10,000-year old Coldwater Springs is an acknowledged Dakota sacred site recognized by the National Park Service (NPS) which claims to “own” Coldwater. Four federally recognized Dakota tribes requested to manage the 27-acre Coldwater campus but were denied because they did not consolidate their applications into a single proposal according to Paul Labovitz, former local NPS superintendent.

Coldwater became the fenced Twin Cities Research Center, a Cold War state-sponsored industrial development facility working famously on mine air-filtration safety and secondarily on taconite from 1950 to 1991. After the TCRC was closed by an act of Congress the land, between Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Park, fell into management limbo under the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It became wild and beautiful and mysterious.

Unfortunately, the Hiawatha/Highway 55 reroute and light rail transit construction cut into that void of protection resulting in the loss of 46,000 gallons per day (gpd), more than 35 percent of the flow. Coldwater was reduced from 130,000 gpd to 84,000 gpd.

State transportation and regional Metropolitan Council authorities planned and promoted the Hiawatha projects considered pro-jobs, pro-development—with at least 50 percent federal funding.


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Despite the Law

Legally, on paper, Coldwater is preserved and protected by international treaty and federal and state laws. The U.S.-Dakota “Pike” Treaty With the Sioux of 1805 allows Dakota people to “pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done.”

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 protects and preserves religious rights and cultural practices including access to sacred sites, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rights, and use and possession of objects considered sacred. Spring water is considered sacred.

The 2001 Minnesota Coldwater law mandates no diminishment of the flow to or from the springs. Despite these guarantees Coldwater lost more than a third of its volume with construction (1999-2002) of the Hiawatha/Hwy 55 reroute and light rail train. Now Metropolitan Council engineers are designing a new sewer near a subsurface facture that carries an unknown amount of water to Coldwater.

On September 1, 2011, the NPS opened its newly landscaped Coldwater Park to the public with an armed guard because the local Mendota Dakota Community held a pipe ceremony that had been forbidden by Superintendent Labovitz.

Current NPS superintendent, John Anfinson PhD, with an academic and administrative background, considers Coldwater sacred only to the Dakota band of the Lower Sioux Reservation in Morton, rather than the entire Dakota Oyate (nation, people) despite the 1805 Treaty With the Sioux.

There is virtually no oversight of the Metropolitan Council’s sewer project by the NPS except passive water monitoring. “As we have in the past, we will continue to be in contact with Met Council Environmental Services engineers and consultants and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District regarding this project,” wrote Alan Robbins-Fenger, Chief of Resource Management (3/31/16).

“Since the pumping is not to exceed 30-35 gpm nor exceed 2000 gallons total pumped from each test well and that only one well at a time will be pumped, there will not be a large volume of water removed at any given time. We will continue to monitor Coldwater Spring[s] as we currently do.”

Dismissal of Indian rights and ignorance of local history is an old story in Minnesota where state funded bounties on Indian scalps, “redskins,” were granted into the 1900s.

Racism is America’s original sin.

For 10,000-years plants and animals have depended on Coldwater for water so pure watercress grows in its flow today. In 1976 Coldwater became an emergency drinking water supply for south Minneapolis where tap water was “putrid with algae.” Consider the next 10,000 years.

Please contact Gov. Mark Dayton, 651-201-3400 (800-657-3717) http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/.  The governor issued a “remembrance and reconciliation” proclamation on the 150th commemoration of the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War. At the same time Governor Dayton appoints Metropolitan Council members whose sewer plan violates international, federal and state law. Ask the governor to Respect the Treaty and Obey the Law!

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