Burial Ground Restoration Concerns Unaddressed

MnDot Meets with Frustrated Fond Du Lac Residents and Native Americans at Chambers Grove Park

Duluth, Minn.- There is growing anger from the Native American Community and people who live in the Fond Du Lac neighborhood.

They say they’ve got more questions than answers involving the ongoing restoration of a sacred Native American Burial Site, that was accidentally unearthed more than a year ago by MnDOT workers.

On Thursday dozens of disgruntled Fond Du Lac citizens, and a handful of Fond Du Lac Native Americans, gathered with MnDOT at Chambers Grove Park, to update and share their qualms about how long the restoration will take.

It was evident that MnDOT has to address the two sides’ conflicting needs, soon.

“Sometimes it’s a very different situation to explain something to people that they’re not happy to hear,” said Rick Costley, Project Manager for MnDOT. “For everybody to know that these things do take time.”

Time is the driving force of the argument. While residents say that the restoration is taking too much time, Natives don’t want the remains of their loved ones to be brushed aside.

This all comes from MnDOT constructing the Mission Creek Bridge last year. While working, they happened upon and dug up part of the burial ground, unearthing human remains and exposing workers to the gases. Construction halted, leaving the site in disarray, and immediately issuing an apology.

Now, the Native Americans want the site opened, so they go and perform the rituals necessary for this situation. Currently, the site is closed off and anyone found on the site will be penalized for trespassing.

“Maybe it should, at one point, be opened up. So that we can, as a community, the Ojibwe people or whomever else wants to come and participate. Can come and maybe do a ceremony so that we can have closure,” said Sherry Couture, a Native American whose forefathers were among the remains unearthed.

In order to help with this, MnDOT hired a Cultural Resources official for the site. Yet this, too troubles the Native
Americans, as she is technically not of Native American heritage. She claimed at the meeting that she was raised indigenous.

MnDOT has no visible timeline for when restoration will be completed. They they will continue having these community meetings throughout the project’s duration. They also said that anyone with questions or concerns should contact their Public Affairs officer, Stephanie Christensen. Her email is stephanie.christensen@state.mn.us

Still, many attendees left his meeting feeling as irritated and neglected as when they came.

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