“Preserving, Protecting and Promoting the Dakota Culture for Future Generations”


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Friends of Coldwater response to MCES project 1-MN-344 Tunnel Improvement, threatening the flow to Coldwater Springs.

Earth Day, April 22, 2015

Re: Friends of Coldwater response to MCES project 1-MN-344 Tunnel Improvement, threatening the flow to Coldwater Springs

Dear (name of the) Metropolitan Council Member:

The Metropolitan Council is planning a sanitary sewer project that is in direct violation of the 2001 Coldwater Springs protection law. To call this construction project just north of Minnehaha Park an “improvement” is inaccurate. The language is important, using language straightforwardly is crucial in a litigious society.

The proposed project would construct a brand new, larger, sanitary pipe in a different location from the existing sewer, bury a 44 by 60-foot “vault” beside Minnehaha Creek, leave another ten-foot diameter vertical access tunnel in the ground as well as the original pipe, dewater the area for two-years, and suggest that the water will “just flow around” the underground structures as it did without those solid, waterproof walls.

The Law [Protection of the Natural Flow]
Neither the state, nor a unit of metropolitan government, nor a political subdivision of the state may take any action that may diminish the flow of water to or from Camp Coldwater Springs. All projects must be reviewed under the Minnesota Historic Sites Act and the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act with regard to the flow of water to or from Camp Coldwater Springs.

The language of the law is specific, forbidding “any action that may diminish the flow.” Not “temporary” dewatering, not “permanent” dewatering—no “action that may diminish….”

I was one of a team of citizen lobbyists who worked for three years at the Minnesota state legislature to secure this law. It is the law. There is no distinction between methods of intercepting the flow to or from Coldwater because no capture of the flow is permitted.

The Metropolitan Council plan calls for two–years of “temporary” dewatering and “daily” monitoring of the flow to Coldwater. There is no mention of the Coldwater protection law in the Council’s “Project Narrative.” It is the elephant in the living room. Vague language about the spring admits that “contingency plans” are unknown, that conditions are “unforeseeable,” that an observer will be on site to come up with “reasonable solutions.”

Planners are “confident” about “restoring” the spring. There is a “low risk of permanent impact to the flow” however a 10 to 20 percent variation in the flow at Coldwater is “hard to tell.”

This kind of wishful wording appears to be a willful violation of law. The alternative plan would be to build a bypass sewer and replace the old pipe in situ. The bypass pipe could run along the Minnehaha Parkway bridge—it is do-able. The design would be less disruptive to the land beside and under Minnehaha Creek and the limestone bedrock fault that hydro-geologists are having such a difficult time mapping and that furnishes some groundwater to Coldwater. That one limestone bedrock fault or “joint” is not the only source water for Coldwater Springs. The area is a sieve.

The proposed infrastructure design includes wells, drains and sump pumps in an extensive circumference around the 44 by 60-foot underground vault beside Minnehaha Creek and the access shaft at the downstream end of the sewer line. Construction requires getting rid of the groundwater in 25 feet of overburden, 26 feet of limestone and the top 21 feet of sandstone.

Post construction the subsurface structures and all those holes in the land would require plugging, waterproof sealing and grouting with plastic contaminants with unknown life spans in our freeze and thaw environment.

The projected 2-year duration of dewatering for this long term construction project is problematic. It could be referenced to explain post-construction flow decline, a lack of bounce back. Damage to Minnehaha Park, the rare black ash seep in the gorge and the necklace of seeps at the top of the bluff in Minnehaha and Coldwater parks is not considered.

Project research is not yet complete. Nevertheless the alternative plan was called too difficult and too expensive.

During Highway 55 reroute construction a grit chamber cut into a main joint at 50th Street and the Park (a mile from Coldwater) required dewatering at a rate of 500 gallons per minute for months. The water was routed to a storm sewer and dumped directly into the Mississippi. A drop in the flow to the Spring occurred. Coldwater is 1.5 miles south of the proposed sewer project.

Coldwater is at least 10,000 years old, the last natural major spring in Hennepin County, and a Dakota Tribal Sacred Site and Traditional Cultural Property according to the Ethnographic study commissioned by the National Park Service (2006), which immediately rejected the findings.

Dakota and other Native people and also non-Indians come to the Spring to collect water for ceremonial uses, to drink, to leave offerings and to pray. What do those people do for the 2-year construction/dewatering period?

Coldwater is not just any spring. Coldwater is the place where the Dakota deity of water and the underworld, Un K’Te Hi, entered an underground passage (like a limestone fracture water channel) and plowed up a sacred burial hill now on Veterans Administration land.

There is a quarter mile drop down the Mississippi gorge from where the spring bubbles out of limestone bedrock to Misi Zipi, “big long river.” It is the only true river gorge on the entire 2,350 mile length of the river. Below Coldwater Waterfall at the place where Coldwater Creek empties into the Mississippi, the bedrock is 451 million years old. The rock layer at the top of the bluff is 438 million years old. Above that the entire overburden was glacier-scraped south to Iowa, which is why we have no native earth worms.

A Dakota man, the story goes, showed Lt. Col. Henry Leavenworth’s troops the good water source in May of 1820 after a disastrous winter on the Mendota floodplain where 20 percent of the troops died due to “unsanitary practices.” The soldiers camped at the Spring while building Fort Snelling, 1820-23.

Coldwater is often called the Birthplace of Minnesota, where a civilian community developed around the Fort to supply the army with servants, wives and midwives, baby sitters, traders, translators, blacksmiths, meat, lumber, missionaries and liquor.
Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century.

Dred Scott drank Coldwater when he was stationed at the fort between 1836-40. He met and married his wife Harriet here and used his residency in what was the then-free Wisconsin Territory and in Illinois to sue for freedom from slavery. In 1857 the Supreme Court found that because Dred Scott was African American, whether slave or free, he could not be an American citizen and therefore had no right to bring a case into federal court. African Americans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1868; for Native Americans it was 1924 with religious freedom legalized in 1978.

Since Euro-Americans assumed control of Coldwater it has been dammed, piped, rerouted and diminished to 84,000 gallons a day, but still flows. In 1976 Coldwater was an emergency drinking water supply for south Minneapolis where water was “putrid with algae.”

Coldwater is arguably the most historic land in the state. If this spring is reduced to a trickle the story shrinks because the land holds the story.

Friends of Coldwater urge the Metropolitan Council to reject the false economy of the cheapest/easiest sewer fix that threatens this ancient waterscape in the state named after water. We request that the Metropolitan Council respect the law and the history of this place where Native, European and African Americans came together in what is now Minnesota.

Susu Jeffrey
for Friends of Coldwater

“National Day of Prayer” It will be at the South Saint Paul City Chambers on the second floor 125 3rd Ave N City Hall.

May 7, 2015, is the date for the “National Day of Prayer” It will be at the South Saint Paul City Chambers on the second floor 125 3rd Ave N City Hall. The time is 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. You may do what ever you would like, say a prayer, sing a song, play an instrument or dance. If you can speak in your native language, please say the prayer in your native language and in English, also please wear your regalia, it would be so impressive and interesting. Let me know what time you would like to be there as I am making a program with the time schedule. Cordially, Therese Cosgrove 651-455-8617.2

Pat Bellanger, prominent Indian activist from Minneapolis, dies.


Over nearly half a century, Pat Bellanger was a voice and unwavering advocate for American Indians in the Twin Cities, the United States and internationally, on issues from treaty rights to social welfare programs. She died Thursday at age 72.

Pat Bellanger, prominent Indian activist from Minneapolis, dies

Over nearly half a century, Pat Bellanger was a voice and unwavering advocate for American Indians in the Twin Cities, the United States and internationally, on issues from treaty rights to social welfare programs.

She died Thursday at Methodist Hospital of pneumonia at age 72, her daughter, Lisa Bellanger, said Friday. Her Ojibwe name was Awanakwe, pronounced “A-wanna-kway,” which means “water woman.”

One of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968, an Indian activist organization that began in Minneapolis, she was an unassuming leader who participated in some of the seminal Indian protests of the modern era, including the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C., in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973, and last year’s mass march in Minneapolis to protest the Washington Redskins’ nickname.

“For years, she was the leading female spokesperson for Indian causes,” said attorney Larry Leventhal, who frequently represented Indian activists. “She was known as Grandmother AIM.”

Bellanger traveled the world as a founder and board member of the International Indian Treaty Council, recognized by the United Nations as a nongovernmental organization with consultative status.

“She was renown at a grass-roots level all the way to an international level for her ability to communicate the issues of indigenous people, and indigenous women as well,” said Bill Means, another council founder and board member.

“From the first time she met you there was a smile and a joke. She could certainly light up a room,” he added.

An Ojibwe, she grew up on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and came to the Twin Cities, where she met other young Indian activists.

“She was involved in all the protests,” said her daughter, Lisa. “I went to many of them as a child.”

Bellanger was one of the founders of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and was quoted in a 1979 Minneapolis Tribune article in connection with a reception held at the home of Mark Dayton, long before he became governor.

“I prefer to stay in the background, to work behind the scenes,” she was quoted as saying. “There is a lot to be done organizing things like the protest march against [nuclear power] last summer.”

Reporter Jim Parsons, who frequently wrote about Indian issues, continued, “Regardless of what Bellanger’s personal preferences may be, she is a leader. She isn’t as well known like Clyde Bellecourt and Russell Means, but she is chairwoman of AIM’s chapter in St. Paul. And she is a spokeswoman for the movement at times … and she has appeared before a U.N. conference in Geneva.”

“I’ve lived a long time and done a lot of things,” she told Larry Long, a local folk-singing troubadour who interviewed her several years ago for a song he helped schoolchildren write about her.

Long’s wife, Jacqueline Long, now a Hennepin County public defender, was working for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis in the 1970s when she said she met Bellanger, who told her, “We need you to help our people in the court system.” Jacqueline Long said Bellanger was concerned that many American Indian youth were being lost to white foster homes and white adoptions. She said Bellanger helped to lobby for the Indian Welfare Act, a national law that requires Indian children to first be placed with the family, then families in the same tribe before other placements are considered.

“She helped create programs in the Twin Cities that implemented that law, programs for women who had lost their children to alcohol abuse, helping them back on their feet and get reconnected to Indian culture,” Long said. She said hundreds of mothers were reunited with their children thanks to Bellanger’s work.

“She said her grandfather, who raised her, said she should be proud of her people and should live to protect them,” Long recounted.

Besides her daughter, Lisa, Bellanger is survived by a son, Michael, also of Minneapolis, and six grandchildren.

A wake and memorial meeting will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Minneapolis Indian Center, 1530 E. Franklin Av., Minneapolis.

  • Article by: Randy Furst
  • Star Tribune
  • April 3, 2015 – 9:32 PM

Twitter: @randyfurst      612-673-4224