Before it was a historic site, Coldwater was a sacred site: Coldwater Springs, 27-acres atop the Mississippi Bluff. Support Traditional Cultural Property Recognition for Native Americans. Read and sign the petition now.
View the Friends of Coldwaters slideshow
Next Full Moon Walk The Strawberry Moon Sunday, June 23, 2013
Gather in the Coldwater Springs parking lot, 7 PM
On the Summer Solstice Moon/Wedding Moon/Strawberry Moon/Rose Moon/Strong Sun Moon we celebrate the longest days of the year. If you're having trouble getting the kids to bed it's because of the light.
Traditional group caw or howl!
Full Moon celebrations at Coldwater
have been observed every month since 2000.
Sunset 9:03 PM
Moonrise 9:12 PM
Exact minute of full moon 6:32 AM
December full moon 8-hours, 49-minutes of daylight
January 9-hours, 35-minutes of daylight
February 10-hours, 58-minutes of daylight
March 12-hours, 32-minutes of daylight
April 14-hours, 0-minutes of daylight
May 15-hours, 10-minutes of daylight
June 15-hours, 36-minutes of daylight
DIRECTIONS: Coldwater Springs is between Minnehaha Park & Fort Snelling, in Minneapolis, just North of the Hwy 55/62 interchange. From Hwy 55/Hiawatha, turn East (toward the Mississippi) at 54th Street, take an immediate right, & drive South on the frontage road for ½-mile past the parking meters, through the cul-de-sac and into Coldwater to park free.
This gathering is free and open to the first 25 people who show up. (Otherwise we need a permit which the National Park Service is not issuing.)
Hear John Anfinson of the National Park Service declare "We begin history here in 1820." In 1820 U.S. Army troops marched up the Mississippi bluff to Coldwater Springs, assumed control of the land and water, and mined limestone out of the hillside to build Fort Snelling.
Coldwater Springs has been flowing more than 10,000 years and still flows at 80,000 to 90,000-gallons a day. Coldwater is half way between Minnehaha Falls and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers; it is part of the Dakota genesis story and considered sacred.
In 2010 the National Park Service took over Coldwater's 27-acres with the congressional mandate to restore it as public parkland. In December 2011 park officials had the area clear-cut including indigenous cottonwoods, maples and sumac bushes. The 2006 and 2009 NPS Environmental Impact Studies included airport rules and maps delineating runway rights-of-way where "no new trees" can be planted.
Native peoples and environmental activists are pressing NPS for a more inclusive history at Coldwater and a more natural, less corporate McPark look. (See NPS park plans here)
KFAI producer Allison Herrera explores the history of Coldwater Springs in this exclusive MinneCulture documentary.
The Willow Weeps No More
By Bill Sorem
The giant willow by the source of historic Coldwater Spring has been cut down. The National Park Service removed the tree claiming it was a hazard and could damage Coldwater reservoir. The tree was also showing its age with decaying wood, cracks and weak branches.
The spring has been there an estimated 10,000 years and was long a sacred site for the indigenous peoples, probably preceding the current Anishinabe and Dakota people. It was once Camp Coldwater, an adjunct to Fort Snelling. Troops and settlers were quartered there and water was hauled down to the fort, with a pumping system deployed in later years. It was a source of water for the fort from 1820 to 1920.
From the 1950s to 1991 the Coldwater property was a Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines research center. The site was transferred to the Park Service in 2010. When MnDOT rebuilt the Highway 55/62 interchange they did so without the required environmental assessment, claiming that they would prevent any harm to the spring. Their construction caused a loss of more than 27,500 gallons a day. The spring is currently flowing about 90,000 gallons a day.
Susu Jeffrey, founder of Friends of Coldwater, led a Full Moon Walk on August 13, 2011, to visit the old willow before it was cut down. She has lobbied, worked and written for the preservation of this historic area. Visitors sprinkled a circle of corn meal around the tree, celebrating its life and vitality. Some branches were clipped to be sprouted for future descendants of the tree.
Plans for development remain uncertain as the nation wrestles with budget issues and a group in Congress wants to defund the National Park Service. Thus the sacred spring and its environs are left in disarray.
Regarding the Willow... An Open Letter to the National Park Service
From: Sheldon P. Wolfchild, Dakota leader from the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation in Morton, Minnesota
To: John Anfinson, Ph.D., Chief of Resource Management for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) of the National Park Service
August 10, 2011
Subject: Removing "Sacred Willow Tree at Sacred Site"
Mr. John Anfinson:
The Dakota people who respect and honor our Sacred Sites and the natural vegetation surrounding these sites (which include specific sacred trees such as our willow trees!) and in particular the Sacred willow tree at our Dakota Sacred site Coldwater Spring), are requesting you grant the wish of our elders and spiritual leaders to put a stop on cutting down our Sacred willow tree at Coldwater spring.
As you should know by now the Department of Agriculture and the National Park Service met last March 11th in Phoenix, Arizona, with many Spiritual leaders and Elders to include new rules and guidelines for the protection and use of Sacred sites and the natural plant and tree medicines to be used by the indigenous of this country.
We ask that you call and stop this willow tree removal immediately.
This message will be sent to all our spiritual people across the country.
Friends of Coldwater Comment on the FEIS for the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines Property.
Friends of Coldwater recommendations for Coldwater Park
NPS / MNRRA Ownership
We support National Park Service/Mississippi National River and Recreation Area management and ownership of Coldwater for all peoples. Traditionally the Coldwater area was a "neutral, sacred" place where all nations gathered together and gathered water for ceremonial use.
Expand Coldwater Park
Expand Coldwater Park (27 acres) to include the adjacent Veterans Administration blufftop parcel (23 acres) and the Minnesota Historical Society bottomland (21 acres) to form one contiguous park linked to the National Park Service Island (108-01) in the Mississippi directly below Coldwater (see attached map).
Coldwater is an ancient geographical feature, predating human habitation here, and is the last natural spring of size (90,000 gallons per day) in Hennepin County. We urge designation of the Coldwater property as America’s first Green Museum, a place where the land itself is the museum, the teacher. Special designation would add protection since the surrounding area is highly developed and slated for more development.
After removal of Bureau of Mines buildings and structures, replanting and stabilization of the land, the enduring crucial aspect of “ownership” of this last natural spring in Hennepin County will be to preserve and protect the source water and the underground pathways of that water to the spring outflow.
Unlike other watershed districts in Minnesota, Coldwater's source waters are separated administratively from its outflow and discharge into the Mississippi. Responsibility from source to mouth should be assigned to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the agency that sued MnDOT to force a redesign of the Highway 55/62 interchange that threatened 30-percent of the flow to the spring as measured by dye tests.
Retain the Spring House and reservoir (pond) as-is to "partially reflect more than one period in history." Also since the greatest outflow of spring water is at the northwest corner of the Spring House, removing the Spring House with its shade could damage the outflow.
During the Bureau of Mines period when the property was fenced and closed to the public, Coldwater was used as an emergency drinking water supply for south Minneapolis. “In 1976 after months of drought the city water developed an algae that was putrid and undrinkable by my husband who was very sick at the time. I made trips every other day to Coldwater Spring and stood in line to get the best tasting fresh water. We were so thankful for this vital resource. If it is still not polluted it should be a National Treasure!” (Carolyn K. Lyschik, 13805 Glasier Lane, Little Falls MN 56345, written statement dated 10/21/06, [month and year certain, date hard to read] original included with DEIS comments).
With a worldwide clean drinking water crisis and climate change it would be wise to preserve our county’s last natural spring.
Coldwater Spring has been flowing for 10,000 years, experts say, even under the last glacier. The 27 acre Coldwater campus is located atop the Mississippi River gorge, between Minnehaha Regional Park and Fort Snelling State Park, just above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century and still flows at about 100,000 gallons a day.
Coldwater is the Birthplace of Minnesota, where the soldiers who built Fort Snelling lived (1820-3) and where a civilian community developed to service the fort. Those settlers founded Pig's Eye (later St. Paul), St. Anthony, Minneapolis and Bloomington, setting the stage for Minnesota statehood in 1858.
Before European immigration into what is now Minnesota, the 2.5-mile stretch from Minnehaha Fallsto Coldwaterto the confluence of rivers, was a traditional gathering place for upper Mississippi tribes. Eddie Benton Benais, Grand Chief of the Mdewiwin (Medicine) Society, Anishinabe spiritual elder from Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, gave court-ordered testimony (3/19/99) about the cultural significance of the Coldwater area:
My grandfather who died in 1942...many times he retold how we traveled, how he and his family, he as a small boy traveled by foot, by horse, by canoe to this great place to where there would be these great religious, spiritual events. And that they always camped between the falls and the sacred water place [the spring]... We know that the falls which came to be known as Minnehaha Falls, was a sacred place, a neutral place, a place for many nations to come... And that the spring from which the sacred water should be drawn was not very far...a spring that all nations used to draw the sacred water for the ceremony...How we take care of the water is how it will take care of us... More on the Initiative - click here
Grandmother of Rivers, The Mississippi March 26, 2010
From Allan W. Eckert’s Twilight of Empire, footnote 12:
Indian peoples from as far east as the Hudson Valley and as far west as the Rocky Mountains referred to the Mississippi River as “the Grandmother of Rivers,” but no evidence has been discovered to indicate that they ever called it “the Father of Rivers,” which appears to be an appellation originated by the whites, probably the British. More frequently Indian people referred to it as the Mississippi, meaning “Big River.”
Derivation of Mississippi is traced most specifically to the Ottawa tongue, in which it is Misses Sepe. Variations of this in other dialects are Metha Sepe (Shawnee), Meche Sepe (Kickapoo), Mecha Sapo (Sac), Mecha Sapua (Menominee) and Meze-Zebe (Chippewa).
In these variations, the first word means big or large, the second means river. Oddly enough, the Winnebagoes referred to it as Nekoonts Haktakahagain, the two words meaning Large and River. The Sioux, on the other hand, called it Wapta-Tonga, with the two words once more signifying Big and River.
From Paul Durand’s Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet:
Misi Zibi [Ojibwe, a.k.a Chippewa, Anishinabeg] “River-Everywhere-Or-All-Over, the Mississippi becomes so below the junction of Leech Lake River, not Itasca, as so designated by the whites. This is the archaic designation, as in later times it was more commonly called KITCHI [great] ZIBI [river]. (p. 131)
“Rivers follow the general rule of taking the name of their immediate source lake. When reaching Lake Bemidji, Cass, and Winnibigoshish, this stream changed its name three more times and not until the outlet of Leech Lake is reached does it become the Mississippi.”Jos. A. Gilfillan (p. 15)
Following this rule the source of the Mississippi, with its wealth of tourism, would be within Leech Lake Indian Reservation two counties east of Lake Itasca. (S.J.)... (continued - click here)
Coldwater is a 10,000-year-old spring that flowed at a pre Highway 55 construction rate of 100,000-144,000 gallons a day.
In addition to being a living geological museum, Coldwater was a traditional gathering place for Native American tribes of the upper Mississippi that used spring water for specific ceremonies requiring sacred water in a sacred landscape.
The powerful Dakota god of waters and the underworld is said to dwell at Coldwater Spring.
Coldwater is also the birthplace of Minnesota, where the soldiers lived who built Fort Snelling and site of the pioneer settlement whose citizens founded St. Paul and Minneapolis. Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling for 100 years.
Minnehaha Falls is about a mile north of Coldwater Spring. Both are on the Mississippi River bluff that forms the only true river gorge on the entire 2,350-mile length of the Mississippi. The gorge runs 9 miles from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers to the cataract now called the Falls of St. Anthony... (continued - click here >>)
Coldwater Journal is a record of personal observations and reflections from visits to the Coldwater campus.
Please feel free to submit your thoughts and reflections about Coldwater for posting here on the FRIENDS site via email.
Before it was a historic site,
Coldwater was a sacred site.
: : :
The Trees of Coldwater
(National Park Service planners of Coldwater Park hold a purist vision for the 27-acresno (indigenous) cottonwood trees, no (invasive) buckthorn.
The concept of no cottonwood trees at a Minnesota Big Woods spring site is a plan only people in offices could draw up, on paper. There are hundreds of sprouting cottonwood and buckthorn trees on the property and thousands in the surrounding land.
Alan Robbins-Fenger, NPS Coldwater manager, said no-cottonwoods is a rule from the airport since the land is in a runway flight path. To put it another way, Coldwater is a crash zone, nevertheless other trees are okay. Tell it to the cottonwood seeds that will soon be floating everywhere in a summer snowstorm.
When nearby Wabun Park was burned to rid it of invasives and then hydro-sprayed with indigenous seeds I asked the workmen if they could keep out buckthorn. No. Buckthorn is "planted" by birds that eat the berries and poop.
Gallons of poison and constant, expensive, labor intensive attention would be required to keep Coldwater an island of non-invasive purity. The irony of non-indigenous people who introduced and now want to eliminate non-indigenous plants should not be lost.
Four federally recognized Dakota tribes that applied to manage the Coldwater property were turned away because they failed to submit a single plan, nor have they been invited to suggest how the park should look and function.
NPS re-designed part of the spring flow into a secondary stream so that less than half of what's left of the 130,000 gallons a day measured in 1999 still follows its pre-construction path. (27,500 gallons a day was lost to the Hwy 55/62 interchange.)
Extensive erosion at Coldwater during this wet spring shows clearly that nature bats last. In the end the water will find its own path and the cottonwoods will grow.
: : :
The Three Million Dollar Dog Park
(Coldwater Springs) It's a lonely place. Today is the first 70-degree Saturday of 2013. It's just past noon. Cars are parked bumper to bumper on the frontage road but no one is at Coldwater. The rutted, dirt parking lot has been closed for more than a month. A plethora of no parking signs adorn the entrance. Clearly visitors are not welcome.
The National Park Service (NPS) estimated as many as 100,000 Coldwater visitors a year. The land was not ready for the public when the park "opened" September 1, 2012. NPS superintendent Paul Labovitz brought in an armed guard in a flak jacket when local Dakota people held a pipe ceremony on opening day.
The land hardly looks ready now. NPS clearcut the area in 2010-11, imported tons of stoney construction fill, and bulldozed, flattened this Mississippi bluff land into a "prairie." Atop the fill, the dirt was sprayed, "hydro-seeded," with a prairie mix. It looked like bare dirt spray-painted green; it's the corporate eco-engineering model. Unfortunately, the drought last fall may have killed the seeds.
Now the land is gray, streaked with erosion rivulets. Dozens of newly planted toothpick trees and hundreds of tree stumps dot the view. Huge chunks of rock placed around the park hide metal sewer grates that siphon rainwater into pipes that empty further down the bluff. Labeling NPS land plans at Coldwater a "restoration" to the early 1800s is fantasy. continued »
Coldwater: Sacred Site or Military Monument? By Susu Jeffrey
The National Park Service (NPS) is imposing its vision of Coldwater Springs by recreating the landscape and the history of the place.
"Spring water is sacred," says Anishinabe teacher Dennis Jones. In 2006, the Lower Sioux of Morton declared Coldwater "and the land that surrounds it" to be a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) and "sacred." NPS limits TCP designation to that one Dakota tribe, not all Dakota.
Collecting water at Coldwater is a humbling experience. You want to fill your jug at the precise place where the water exits out of bedrock. First, leave an offering, then bend over double, and just below your feet feel the water gushing out.... continued
Coldwater: The new history By Susu Jeffrey, September, 2012
“We begin history here in 1820,” John Anfinson said in a KFAI radio interview.
Chief of natural and cultural resources for the National Park Service (NPS), Anfinson is the architect of the Coldwater Park redux. In 1820, U.S. soldiers took possession of Coldwater Springs and harvested limestone out of the Mississippi gorge to build Fort Snelling. They harvested oaks for firewood.
Jim Redsky Anderson, chairman of the Mendota Dakota Community, speaking at the opening of Coldwater Park.
Dakota people showed Mni Owe Sni (water-spring-cold) to Lt. Col. Henry Leavenworth, who had lost 20% of his troops the previous winter due to unsanitary practices at their camp on the Minnesota side of the confluence.
The Dakota welcomed soldiers who would buffer Anishinabe threats and allow Dakota people to trade for guns and other European goods. “It’s like bringing Walmart in,” a Dakota man said. Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century, from 1820 to 1920.
By the late 1830s, the army was forcibly evicting Swiss, French, Canadian, Irish, English and African pioneers, as well as Native Americans from the fort in order to preserve firewood and game. The Whiskey Wars and settler pressure were threatening fur trade profits.
We don’t know if Indian people were at Coldwater “because they didn’t write down their stories,” Anfinson told a Coldwater tour group in November 2011. The following month NPS contractors clear cut most of Coldwater... continued
Coldwater Spring debuts with a new look Tom Meersman, September 3, 2012
A major landscape restoration project drastically changed the historic spring area, which reopens this week. Not all are pleased.
Nine months ago, one of Minnesota's most historic sites was littered with glass, trashed buildings, invasive buckthorn trees and crumbling asphalt roads.
This week, as Coldwater Spring in south Minneapolis reopens to the public, the 29-acre site between Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Park has been transformed to a natural park with oak trees and open vistas.
So far the $2.2 million makeover -- directed by the National Park Service, which owns the land -- is getting mixed reviews.
To Susu Jeffrey, an author and advocate of preserving the area, the Park Service has devastated the land.
"It's been toxified and clear-cut and then leveled," she said, adding that it now looks like a corporate, suburban "McPark." continued
Links to Coldwater restoration plans
National Park Service drawings of Coldwater Land Restoration plans posted the week of August 29, (the plans are dated July 28). Concurring parties were not notified; Friends of Coldwater was alerted by an email from Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition. click here
Link to the State Historical Preservation Office and the Memorandum of Agreement on Bruce White’s website:
To: Michael Reynolds, Regional Director
Midwest National Park Service Headquarters
From: Susu Jeffrey
for Friends of Coldwater
September 27, 2011
We don't know the names of the Native American peoples who lived around Coldwater Spring after the last glacier melt 10,000-years-ago. The Dakota people were there when soldiers camped at the Spring while building Fort Snelling (1820-3) above the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
The Spring furnished water to the Fort 1820-1920 and still flows at a reduced rate of about 80,000 gallons per day. During the drought summer of 1976 when city water tasted putrid, Coldwater was an emergency drinking water supply for south Minneapolis.
Friends of Coldwater (FoC) was founded in 2001, on the shoulders of Park and River Alliance, Stop the RerouteSave the Park, and Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition as the movement to save this historic land and waterscape changed with passing time. In January 2010 the National Park Service/Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (NPS/MNRRA) began managing the 27-acre Coldwater property.
Friends of Coldwater is one of the consulting parties to the NPS/MNRRA Memorandum of Agreement to transition the property from industrial research campus to open parkland. Since February 2011 we have been asking, repeatedly, to see the plans before plans are finalized.
It is the frustration of arbitrary tree removal, toxic chemical application and recent land damage that leads us to the extraordinary step of writing to the regional director of the NPS. continued
A Land Vision for Coldwater Park
Friends of Coldwater envisions Coldwater Park as an 80-acre urban wilderness, from the top of the Mississippi gorge to the riverAmerica’s first Green Museuma place where the land is the legacy, the museum, the teacher and the future.
• Coldwater Spring is at least 10,000-years old. It is the last major natural spring in Hennepin County.
• Where Coldwater Creek and waterfall empty into the Mississippi River the sandstone bedrock is 451-million years old.
• At the top of the bluff where Coldwater Spring flows out of bedrock fractures, the limestone is 438-million years old. Everything after that time was scraped south by glaciers (which is why there are no native earthworms).
• Mni Owe Sni (Dakota: water-spring-cold) located above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, was a traditional gathering place for Upper Mississippi Indian peoples including Dakota, Anishinabe, Ho Chunk, Iowa, Sauk and Fox (within historic memory). Particularly blessed by water and considered sacred was the 2.5-mile stretch from (what is now called) Minnehaha Falls through Coldwater to the b’dota, the meeting of waters (confluence).
• Coldwater became the Birthplace of Minnesota when army troops camped around the spring (1820-23) and mined limestone bluffs to build Fort Snelling. Pioneers built cabins at “Camp” Coldwater to service the fort with meat, trade goods, whiskey, translators, guides, wives, domestic workers and missionaries. Coldwater furnished water to the fort from 1820-1920.
• From the 1880s to 1950 “Coldwater Park” was labeled on area maps.
• The Bureau of Mines built a Cold War facility to research metallurgy and mining on 27-acres around Coldwater, 1950-95.
• In 1988 the US Congress established the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, under the National Park Service. MNRRA is a 72-mile long spaghetti-shaped parcel of critical habitat along the Mississippi River through the greater Twin Cities from Dayton to below Hastings. Coldwater could become the jewel of MNRRA.
• Coldwater still flows at about 80,000 gallons a day.
Coldwater and the Mississippi River Gorge by Susu Jeffrey and Alan Olson
The Mississippi River gorge is the only true river gorge on the entire 2,350-mile length of the river. The gorge runs between the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, northward to the Falls of St. Anthony and is 1,273-feet deep according to a sign in Minnehaha Park. But it's invisible to us, filled with glacial debris and under water because dams keep the river level artificially high enough for barge traffic9-feet deep in the shipping channel.
The old stories of being able to walk across the Mississippi meant that in low water periods, people could cross the rocky river course atop 1,273 feet of rocks deposited by the glacial melt about 10,000-years ago. The rocks that fill the gorge were brought south by glaciers that dropped their loads in the melt outwash. The glaciers ground up and pushed granite rock from the Canadian shield in (what is now) northern Minnesota southward, mixed with any other bedrock the ice mountain could scour.
A truck load of Mississippi River bottom pebbles, from dredging to keep the barge lane clear, was dumped in a friend's yard for their rock circle. The rocks are free, truck delivery is the only charge. In their circle are the tumbled remains of the earth history of this area: black granite, red stones rich in iron, white-ish limestone, milky quartz, a few pieces of sandstone, an occasional agate, and many composites. Each small stone is as individual as a person.
Rock wise, the river bottom doesn't look like the great, steep bluffs carved by the Mississippi. This is the "upper" Mississippi, the river is still on top of bedrockconsidered a young river. Further south, the Mississippi meanders through layers of silt, an old river characteristic. From Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio empties into the Mississippi, down to New Orleans, the river meanders through a sediment-filled valley 40-70 miles wide that used to be an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico.
Coldwater Spring is on top the Mississippi bluff, half way between Minnehaha Falls and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The spring is estimated to be 10,000 years old, flowing at about 100,000 gallons a day. The Mississippi bluff below Coldwater is 451-million years oldonly 451-million years old. (The earth is estimated to be 4 ½-billion years old.) Between 451- and 438-million years ago, in just 13-million years, the entire bluff we see today was formed. The rock sandwich of limestone, sandstone and shale was laid down under a series of great inland seas of various depths...
(continued - click here)
Coldwater Video by Dan Wittenburg
Before it was a historic site, Coldwater was a sacred site. : : : Friends of Coldwater A Minnesota Nonprofit Educational Corporation