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 of COLDWATER site via email.
Coldwater Journal is chronologically reversed. The newest postings are first.
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Coldwater Journal
Thursday, 11.6.14
Comet Over Coldwater
(Coldwater) It was a cold, bright November full moon. Trees were bare. The ground was bare, between fall and the first snow. The full moon shimmers looking straight at it.
A bright, brighter than the full moon, light appeared to the left of the moon and lower. And then it streaked, really fast, disappearing down to the horizon.
We discussed it. That we saw it made it real in the sense of verifying a miracle.
Seemed like it dove into the Mississippi but Henry said no, it could've been hundreds of miles away. There was no sound.
Remember when Shakopee Dakota spiritual elder Gary Cavender told us to stay with the land? It was during the Minnehaha Free State encampment to save the park and the water from the Highway 55 reroute, in 1998. So 16 years ago, we left for a demonstration at the state capitol and the police raided the camp, we rushed back, a few people locked down to con/de/struction equipment and got arrested.
We had a big meeting in Jimmy Anderson's tipi, maybe a hundred people. We were squashed together and quiet because Gary Cavender didn't raise his voice. He said this is the land you're here to save. Be here.
We've celebrated full moon walks around Coldwater—12 or 13 a year—since 2000. It's a gift to watch the cycle of seasons at a state-recognized "Dakota Tribal Sacred Site" and "Traditional Cultural Property."
But then poof! A light, smaller but stronger than the full moon happens out of the night sky and disappears. A comet over Coldwater is the kind of event that makes your bucket list look like practice.  
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Coldwater Journal
Fall 2014
New Park Superintendent at Coldwater
The National Park Service (NPS) has appointed John Anfinson the new superintendent of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (MNRRA) which includes Coldwater Springs. He began a career in federal administration as an archeology student trainee with the St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980. He joined the National Park Service in 2000 as its Cultural Resources Program Manager and became Chief of Resource Management in 2010.

White-Only History

"We begin history here in 1820," Anfinson said about 10,000-year old Coldwater Springs, the last natural spring in Hennepin County. (See, scroll down the left column to "KFAI, Coldwater Spring, Mni Owe Sni.") Anfinson wrote about limiting interpretation of Indian history around the confluence area to 30 years, from 1820 to 1850, and focusing on "the impact of American expansion on the Dakota and other tribes."

In 1820 European-American troops took over the Coldwater site which furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century, until 1920. In the 9,000-year history of Native American occupation of the b'dota area, the meeting of waters at the Minnesota-Mississippi confluence, many peoples whose names for themselves we do not know have lived here.

Ignoring 9,000 years of local history is a loss to all Minnesotans. Minnesota history is for all Minnesotans, it is our history, the history of our land and the peoples who walked and cast a shadow upon the land we currently occupy. Knowing our history helps us to comprehend where we are and how that shapes who we are. MNRRA holds children's programs focusing on white pioneer history, insects, frogs, native plants and fossils.

MNRRA has a rocky relationship with local the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community who do not have federal recognition although members are descendents of the "friendlies," Indian people who protected whites during the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War. On a Coldwater tour in November 2011, Anfinson said we don't know if Indian people were here "because they didn't write down their stories."

On the other hand the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office does recognize Coldwater as a "Dakota Sacred Site" and "Traditional Cultural Property." It is the vision of Friends of Coldwater that a Dakota woman interpreter at Coldwater would be hired to share Native history, especially for Native children who suffer educationally and economically from the bitter racism after the 1862 Dakota War. Our state offered bounties on Indian scalps into the 20th century when hunters brought in bloody "redskins" to claim their money prize.

Traditionally Indian people consider women to be responsible for water. Anishinabe women have held sacred water ceremonies at Coldwater but at the park's 2012 opening MNRRA declared that a Dakota pipe ceremony would be forbidden and brought in an armed guard when people gathered for the ritual anyway.

History That Is Not Told

The National Park Service under the Department of the Interior (DOI) is notoriously biased in favor of white men employees and interpretation. Less than three-percent of National Historic Landmarks honor American minorities former DOI Secretary Ken Salazar noted 2/27/12 on The Takeaway, a national morning radio news program. Salazar spoke of (the Department of the) Interior as "being custodian of America's resources and also of America's history."

Salazar also spoke of the dearth of landmarks honoring women. "People look at their history and their heritage and a person's self-esteem and their connection to this country comes from that," Salazar said. He spoke of history "that is not told."

Indian tourism, particularly among German and Japanese visitors, has never been seriously considered here. Foreign guests to Minnesota seeking Indian experiences are confined to casinos and local pow wows.

White-only history at Coldwater even excludes Dred Scott whose infamous 1857 Supreme Court case for freedom from slavery was based in part on his residency at Fort Snelling between 1836 to 1840, in the "free" then-Wisconsin Territory.

Trees and Water

In May, former Superintendent Paul Labovitz began a new superintendency for the NPS at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan east of Gary. Politically astute and ambitious, Labovitz headed MNRRA since 2007 in his stepping stone career.

In 2011 MNRRA was charged with the administration of Coldwater Springs. Labovitz over saw the razing of 11 old Bureau of Mines buildings and restructuring the 27-acre landscape with thousands of tons of dirt fill to create an almost flat mini prairie at the top of the Mississippi gorge. Curiously for a B.S. graduate in Forest Service, the superintendent authorized a clear cut at Coldwater and then organized a replanting project with a mostly burr oak mono crop.

While NPS spokesmen called the tree planting an effort to replace the "original" vegetation, historically Coldwater was part of the Big Woods, an area actually dominated by deciduous elm, basswood, sugar maple and red oak. Native agriculture included extensive tree nut and fruit groves rather than the old world practice of labor intensive clearing and planting the land. In fact Native agricultural science developed 60-percent of the foods eaten in the world today. (See Jack Weatherford's INDIAN GIVERS: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World.)

Every climate change expert advises "plant trees" when answering the what-can-I-do question. Trees not only clean the air (carbon vacuums) they are about 90-percent water. Trees suck up water, provide shade, act as wind breaks, increase property value, provide wildlife habitat and have a bona fide calming effect on people.

During Labovitz's reign at MNRRA a third of the remaining water flowing into Coldwater reservoir was diverted to a secondary creek. What began as a measured 130,000 gallons per day flow before the Highway 55 reroute construction in 1998 has been reduced to 60,000 gallons per day.

Another way to look at Coldwater is at-least-it's-still-flowing since it is the last natural spring in our county and at one point was considered for a parking and warehouse complex for the Twin Cities International Airport. During the summer MNRRA put out a garbage box for the plastic bags of dog waste since park users are overwhelmingly dog walkers. Still the song of the water can be heard, insects buzz around recent prairie plantings and the great cottonwoods and oaks just outside NPS boundaries frame this ancient peaceful landscape.
—FoC 9/14
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Coldwater Journal
Summer 2014
On 6/7/14 John Anfinson, head of Natural & Cultural Resources, wrote:
I am acting superintendent through June, and then they will bring in Chris Stein, who is the superintendent at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  He will be acting until the [National Park Service, Omaha NE] Regional Office selects the new superintendent.  We may not know until mid to late July or even early August.
On 6/11/14 Alan Robbins-Fenger, Resource Management, Planning and Land Use Specialist wrote:
Planning for the springhouse/reservoir is put on hold due to budget shortfalls in our Regional planning budget. Planning for the Coldwater Spring Unit is also on hold for the same reason. We will continue this summer removing invasive[s] on the Coldwater and northern adjacent VA property [between Minnehaha Park and Coldwater]. We will also do some buckthorn removal on the adjacent [state owned] MHS property. We are continuing to coordinate with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board regarding their off-leash dog park and off-leash dogs on adjacent properties. We will continue general upkeep of facilities installed during the Bureau of Mines demolition.
So for the most part, this summer activities will look a lot like last summer.
[Buckthorn is an invasive European understory tree with berries used medicinally to ameliorate constipation. Birds eat the multitudinous berries and squirt out viable seeds everywhere. Buckthorn also shades out indigenous vegetation causing erosion on slopes.]

The springhouse/reservoir planning Alan refers to is a decision among four alternatives:
1) Removal the limestone tower and pond completely
2) Allow the limestone structures to remain in place as is and to continue weathering and aging
3) Stabilize the springhouse and reservoir to permit no further structural deterioration
4) Return the site to the 1880s Fort Snelling military-industrial waterworks look but without the pump house, fuel building, engineer's residence, and water towers
Also on hold for budget reasons is the plan to level and re-vegetate the field adjacent to the springhouse where pipe ceremonies and other gatherings used to be held. This is where the Spirit Tree reigned, where a cottonwood grove burst out of the old Bureau of Mines volleyball court, and where the labyrinth drew more visitors and was more accessible than Coldwater Spring water.
One of the installations requiring upkeep since the Bureau of Mines demolition is the created wetland in the former library building basement surrounded by hundreds of new wetland plants.
Another land change is the "earth mound" south of the reservoir with thousands of gallons of groundwater redirected from a formerly downhill northward flow into the reservoir, to an excavated slow stream forming a secondary creek down the bluff.
Coldwater Park currently functions predominantly as a dog park with free parking (unlike parking at Minnehaha Park). The Minneapolis Park Board sells off-leash dog permits to city and non-city residents whose pets leap out of cars, defecate beside the parking lot and rush joyfully down through state parkland to the Mississippi island that is actually "owned" by the National Park Service.   
Coldwater Park smells good with alfalfa and looks pretty with yellow, pink, blue and white flowers singing in the wind. Alfalfa, a European hay crop, is as foreign to this "original" land plan as the flowered meadow which originally was part of the Big Woods elm, basswood, sugar maple and red oak province of Minnesota.
But thank goodness Coldwater is an airport emergency crash site because if it were not under the flight path we wouldn't have the flowers, dogs and spring water that sooths our souls.
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Coldwater Journal
Celebrate the Mississippi on Solstice Eve
Solstice River: A Site-Specific Performance at the Mississippi River
Saturday, June 21, 2014 / 8:00 PM
Stone Arch Bridge, Historic Minneapolis Milling District, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Best viewing spots are right on the bridge. Performers will be on, under, and around the bridge, on the banks of the river, and on the rooftops of riverside buildings.
Free & Open to the Public

Hardenbergh's site specific performance at Coldwater, September 2010.
(click image for bigger view)
The 18th annual Solstice River performance, honoring the Mississippi River on the longest day of the year, is your yearly opportunity to see the familiar expanse of the Mississippi River punctuated with extravagant color and movement.

Solstice River is created by Minneapolis-based choreographer Marylee Hardenbergh, with an original score by composer J. David Moore.

For the finale of the performance, audiences are invited to remain on the bridge and participate in the “Blue Highway” with simple movements led by bridge captains. Audience members will line the metaphorical banks of the river of blue fabric that symbolizes the Mississippi along the length of the Stone Arch Bridge.

The event is held with the cooperation of the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Minneapolis Park and Recreation department, the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theater, which all sport dancers on their buildings.

Choreographer Marylee Hardenbergh is a pioneer artist in the field of site-specific dance. She is currently Artist-in-Residence at The Center for Global Environmental Education. Hardenbergh’s work incorporates the existing elements of a site into her performances. She has choreographed on dancers, as well as on kayaks, seaplanes, cherry pickers, barges, in-line skaters, and construction cranes. Her vision is to make sites come alive so that audiences see the world around them in a new way.

FFI: Kate Iverson at or 612-296-1811 or Marylee Hardenbergh at
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Coldwater Journal
April 2014
Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month film presentation of the "Doctrine of Discovery"
The month of April is designated Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in recognition of the desire of the state of Minnesota to combat all acts of genocide and all human rights atrocities.

As part of Minnesota’s inaugural “Genocide Awareness Month,” Dakota filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild previews his documentary film, “Doctrine of Discovery.”
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Time: 12:30 and 2:15 in the afternoon
Place: Pepitos Parkway Theatre, Chicago at 48th St., Minneapolis (They have really good popcorn.)
Donations appreciated.
There will be a post film discussion with speakers:
Sheldon Wolfchild, Dakota filmmaker, former chair Lower Sioux Indian Community
Steven Newcomb, founder of the Indigenous Law Institute
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Time: Show at 7 pm, doors open at 6:30
Place: Sundin Music Hall, Hamline University, 1531 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul
Admission: Free & open to the public. 
There will be a post film discussion with speakers:
Sheldon Wolfchild, Dakota filmmaker, former chair Lower Sioux Indian Community
Steven Newcomb, founder of the Indigenous Law Institute
Howard Vogel, Professor Emeritus, Hamline University

Last year, at the urging of the group World Without Genocide, Minnesota passed a law declaring April “Genocide Awareness Month.” Wolfchild’s film focuses on the little discussed Doctrine of Christian Discovery, the religious justification early explorers used to claim lands from indigenous nations. Based on papal bulls (edicts), the Doctrine allowed explorers to claim dominion over lands that were not already occupied by Christians. It saw native people as less than human and created the justification for killing them.

The Doctrine remains a standing legal principal in U.S. case law. Wolfchild appeared as an actor in a number of films and television shows. Vogel is trained both in law and theology, and has written on the Doctrine of Discovery.

Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community | MIGIZI Communications | World Without Genocide | United Theological Seminary | Cherokee Park United Church | Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center | Grace Lutheran Church of Apple Valley | Minneapolis Area Interfaith Initiative | Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at University of St. Thomas | Department of Indian Work | Saint Paul Area Council of Churches | Dream of Wild Health | Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches | The Wesley Center for Spirituality, Service and Social Justice at Hamline University.
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Coldwater Journal
January 2014
It's Official!
Coldwater is a Recognized Dakota Sacred Site and Traditional Cultural Property
The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) affirmed Coldwater Springs as a Dakota Sacred Site and a Traditional Cultural Property during review for a utility construction project in late 2013.
Coldwater, atop the Mississippi bluff, is a mile upstream of the Minnesota-Mississippi confluence, is at least 10,000-years old, and still flows at about 90,000 gallons per day. The Spring furnished water to Fort Snelling for a century, 1820-1920, and was home to the first civilian community in the state earning the title Birthplace of Minnesota.
Previous to Euro-American settlement the Spring was mapped as part of the emergence landscape of the Dakota people. Coldwater is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    
The National Park Service (NPS), which currently manages the property, does not recognize Coldwater as a Dakota sacred site or Traditional Cultural Property. Ironically the federal park service solicited, paid for, and then rejected a 2006 study which runs about 200 pages and found the area both sacred and culturally significant.
SHPO, using the same study, acknowledges Coldwater's native sacred and traditional status:
"Our office recognizes Camp Coldwater Springs as a Dakota tribal sacred site and we have made a previous determination that the site meets the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property (TCP), wrote State Historic Preservation Government Programs and Compliance Manager, Sarah J. Beimers.
"We appreciate the fact that CenterPoint [gas utility] has consulted with the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community (MMDC) on this project." The MMDC is the closest Dakota group to Coldwater and has been vocal about protection and preservation of the ancient water source. The NPS does not consult with the Mendota Dakota Community because it lacks federal recognition.
Shortly after the NPS assumed control of Coldwater Park in 2011, it clear cut the 27 acre property and filled the top of the steep bluff with more than $60,000 of dirt fill to level the landscape into a mini-prairie.
During utility construction the NPS monitored the Coldwater Springs outflow daily but did not measure possible silting of the spring water. Federal park officials have posted DO NOT DRINK signs around the Spring. The water is gathered and used for drinking and ceremonies by Indian people and others.
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