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The 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.
This ARCHIVE is chronologically reversed. The newest postings are first.
— 2020 —
Who Owns Coldwater
By Susu Jeffrey
Coldwater Supporters at the Pond and Spring House, December 1991
Photo: Dick Bancroft
In the early 2000s Friends of Coldwater put up a sign to direct people off Highway 55 at the traffic light at 54th Street to Coldwater Springs. Some years later the Minneapolis Park Board repainted the sign their customary brown and white.
 
Recently I emailed the Park Board and asked who is responsible for this sign? “This
sign is the responsibility of the National Park Service,” was the anonymous reply.
 
Not! So I phoned and yes the Park Board did paint that sign and now it looks—ah…tired.
Friends of Coldwater sign celebration November early 2000s
Photo: Dick Bancroft
The sign today, repainted and maintained by the Minneapolis Park Board
Photo: Friends of Coldwater

It is unclear who owns the land under the sign in south Minneapolis. It is probably on MnDOT highway (state) right-of-way. But it is also within the federal land included in the so-called Pike-Dakota treaty of 1805. The larger question is who “owns” the 100,000-acres of land along the Mississippi River gorge including Coldwater? 
 
Birthplace of Minnesota
 
Coldwater is a 10,000-year-old spring that flowed at about 130,000 gallons a day in 1999. It is the last natural spring of size in Hennepin County flowing (as of 5/8/2020) at 67,680 gallons a day—almost half the water volume lost in two decades.
 
The Great Medicine Spring in Theodore Wirth Park and nearby Glenwood Spring were both permanently dewatered with construction of Interstate-394 in the late 1980s.  Everyday 2.5-million gallons of groundwater is syphoned into a pond, piped away and dumped in the Mississippi by the Stone Arch Bridge.

Dred Scott
William-Miller Spring water in Eden Prairie off Flying Cloud Road issues out of a pipe on the downhill side of Spring Road. The National Park Service (NSP) continuously dewaters Coldwater’s 27-acre parkland by draining mini wetlands into pipes to carry groundwater directly down the Mississippi bluff rather than letting it filter and clean naturally by oozing through the ground. 
 
Coldwater furnished water to Fort Snelling 1820-1920. The civilian settlement of Camp Coldwater was the birthplace of the state of Minnesota. Swiss, French, Canadian, Irish, English, African and Native Americans gathered around this abundant and safe water source to supply and service the Fort community. And they intermarried and gave birth to the state of Minnesota.
 
Pioneers built farms, trading posts, steamboat landings, a hotel, blacksmith shops and stables. They distilled whiskey and worked at the Fort as servants, midwives, baby-sitters, interpreters, missionaries and guides.
 
Dred Scott is the most significant person from Minnesota’s pioneer period. Coldwater Springs furnished potable water to Fort Snelling from 1820 to 1920. Scott was stationed at the Fort with his doctor master from 1836-1840.
After leaving the “free” Wisconsin (and Minnesota) territory where slavery was illegal, Scott sued for his freedom in a case begun in 1846 after the doctor’s widow refused to allow him to purchase his freedom. In Scott v. Sandford (1857) the United States Supreme Court found that blacks, whether slave or free "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect" and therefore had no personhood rights in federal court.
 
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. By 1896 the Supreme Court reconsidered its non-personhood stand in Plessey v. Ferguson instituting legal “separate but equal” segregation. Not until 1954 with Brown v. Board of (Topeka, Kansas) Education was segregation finally labelled (on paper) an oxymoron.
 
“We Own Coldwater”
 
National Park Service local Superintendent John Anfinson claims “we” own Coldwater. “We begin history here in 1820,” Anfinson says. "We don't know if Indian people were at Coldwater because they didn't write down their stories."
 
In 2010 NPS was appointed to manage the 27-acre Mississippi blufftop shoestring-shaped park between Minnehaha Regional and Fort Snelling State parks. In addition to removing eleven old Bureau of Mines buildings, the Park Service clearcut the entire acreage claiming to replant only indigenous flora.
National Park Service clearcut the 27-acre Coldwater park atop the Mississippi gorge over Christmas holiday, December 2011. This view shows the limestone Spring House and reservoir built in the 1880s for water pumped to Fort Snelling eliminating water wagons that carried barrels of potable water to the Fort.
Photo: Friends of Coldwater
Environmentalists say trees around springs should never be cut; midwestern springs usually outflow under cottonwood trees. Water attracts trees, shade preserves water.  “Spring water is sacred,” says Dennis Jones of the Department of Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. Coldwater’s guardian tree, according to outstate Dakota women elders, was a giant old willow removed by NPS because it was “dangerous” and not indigenous. 
 
Of course white people are not indigenous here. After the clearcut NPS imported tons of dirt fill to re-sculpt the land from pocket wetlands sloping a quarter mile downhill to the Mississippi, into a “prairie.” Parks planted as prairies are the trend nowadays since it is the fastest, cheapest way to prettify a razed landscape. Wetlands were buried, dewatering pipes were left in place in service while a drainage channel was dug to force spring water uphill and into a created secondary creeklet east of Coldwater Creek.
 
Saving Coldwater
 
• In 1959 government officials briefly considered siting a nuclear reactor at Coldwater Springs.
 
• From 1960-97, Coldwater Springs and 27.3-acres of federal land were fenced by the US Bureau of Mines for Cold War mineral and mining research. There was little news from inside the compound except in the drought summer of 1976 when the gates were opened to the public for drinking water collection during an emergency putrid algae outbreak in south Minneapolis.

• After 1991 when the Soviet empire fell, the Bureau was gradually shut down and became “abandoned federal land.”
 
• On March 19, 1999, Eddie Benton Benais, Grand Chief of the Mdewiwin (Medicine) Society and Anishinabe spiritual elder from Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin, gave court-ordered testimony in the State Office Building of the Minnesota Capitol grounds about the cultural significance of the Coldwater area. He said Coldwater Springs is important to Dakota, Anishinabe, Iowa, Sauk, Fox and Ho Chunk nations and that:
                                                 
The Bible itself is based on oral history….
 
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 [Coldwater]….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.

The Four Oaks Spiritual Encampment, 1999
Photo: Clyde Bellecourt

• On Sunday, December 20,1998, at 4:30 am, a combined 803 militarized police force descended on the Minnehaha Free State and arrested 36 people at a cost of about $35,000 per arrest. Within a week the occupation regrouped at the Four Trees Spiritual Encampment a half mile south. A year later The Four Trees were killed by the state of Minnesota on Saturday, December 11, 1999 in another police show of force with 26 protestors arrested.

• Two new state laws were passed in May 2001: 1) to insure “no diminishment of flow to or from Coldwater Springs,” and 2) to permit the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to purchase the 27-acre Camp Coldwater property for parking.
 
• On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC were attacked by civilian airplanes used as weapons. A recession resulted, airline business dropped, and the MAC cancelled negotiations with the National Park Service for the purchase of Camp Coldwater.
 
• After seven months of secret negotiations the 2002 Minnesota legislature passed an amendment to a transportation housekeeping bill exempting MnDOT from the 2001 Coldwater protection act if it could get Minnehaha Creek Watershed District approval on a new Highway 55/62 interchange plan.
 
• Indian leaders pressed the Watershed to respect federal and sacred claims. A Watershed vs. MnDOT lawsuit forced a redesign of the Highway 55/62 intersection to raise the roadbed 2 ½- feet in order to protect underground source water to Coldwater Springs.
 
• Congressman Martin Sabo secured a $750,000 appropriation in 2003 to convert the old Bureau of Mines to “open green space.” Years of federal planning and paperwork ensued.
 
• After 1991 the buildings deteriorated, fencing was continuously breached and finally removed (2012), the main building became a shooting (drugs) gallery. Animals, homeless folks and Coldwater supporters moved in. Coldwater became a ceremonial site for Native prayer and pipe gatherings, and a sacred, meditative landscape for non-Indians.
 
• Monthly full moon walks were established in 2000 by Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition and later Friends of Coldwater.org. The walks have continued over the years, free and open to the public, each month on the day of the full moon. Coldwater supporters, at the direction of Dakota spiritual elders, remember and return to the Spring to honor the spirits that feed this ancient waterscape.
 
• The University of Minnesota Design Institute published nine Knowledge Maps in 2003, among them a spiritual map of the Twin Cities that included Coldwater Springs in Minneapolis and the burials at Mounds Park in St. Paul. Both Native sites are located atop the Mississippi bluffs but are listed under “nature” rather than “places” which are all buildings, houses of worship. The dominate American culture views manmade, but not nature-made, sites as holy.
 
• Coldwater Springs is a Dakota Tribal Sacred Site and Traditional Cultural Property according to the ethnographic study commissioned by the National Park Service (GSA RFQ NO. 71599, June 2006).

The Labyrinth, 2000-2007
Photo: Friends of Coldwater
• The Coldwater Labyrinth: In December 2000 a seven-circuit labyrinth was outlined in pine boughs for a winter solstice gathering. The following spring labyrinth walkers began adding natural offerings of plants, pieces of wood and rocks. Through the years footprints in the snow showed that more people visited the labyrinth to walk the contemplative path than came to the Spring for water, which is difficult to access.
 
National Park Service officers claimed a non-Indian Minneapolis woman reported that Dakota elder women from another state did not approve of the labyrinth. Coldwater supporters met once with NPS officials in July 2007 to discuss moving the labyrinth to another location within the park. 
 
On the weekend of November 10, 2007, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, who were managing the property at the time, hired a party to eliminate the labyrinth by removing all the stones and wood offerings, and cart them off “to be used for erosion control.” 
Site specific dance performance, Marylee Hardenbergh, director, and the great willow, considered the Guardian of the Spring
September 25, 2010
“Coldwater ~ Sacredwater” site-specific dance performance
Photo: Friends of Coldwater

• “Coldwater ~ Sacredwater,” a site-specific dance performance “honoring the beauty and history at Coldwater, a sacred site considered by many to be the birthplace of Minnesota” was performed on Saturday, September 25, 2010. The free outdoor production was conceived by Marylee Hardenbergh, director of Global Site Performance.
 
• City of Minneapolis resolution on Indigenous Peoples Day 2016 “reminds all government agencies to honor both the spirit and the letter of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the 2001 state law relating to the protection and preservation of Coldwater Springs.” The resolution also notes that Coldwater is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Dakota Treaty Rights

(The late) Jim Redsky Anderson led a ceremony for the public reopening of Coldwater Park, September 2012. The National Park Service, after forbidding a pipe ceremony which was held anyway, brought in armed guards.
Photo: Friends of Coldwater
“All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United State, shall be the supreme law of the land,” Article 6, Section 2, Constitution of the United States.
 
Since 1646 there have been hundreds (500-plus) “Indian” treaties. Every one of them has been violated. Some Indigenous people call treaties TP, treaty paper, like toilet paper.
 
In 1805, two years after the Louisiana Purchase, Zebulon Pike treated with two of seven recognized Dakota leaders for land “from below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters [Minnesota River], up the Mississippi, to include the falls of St. Anthony, extending nine miles on each side of the river.” Nobody knows which 100,000 acres of land was included since the boundaries were never specified.
 
This treaty does not appear among those printed in the United States Statutes at Large; however, 25 years later the War Department acted on the treaty as established fact. The purpose of the treaty, which Pike had no authority to negotiate, was to establish military posts. Pike offered $200 worth of gifts and 60 barrels of whiskey at the “treaty” gathering but no payment was mentioned for the land transfer.
The treaty was ratified but never proclaimed and is still in legal limbo because without a proclamation the treaty is not official. The latest of three unsuccessful attempts to adjudicate the treaty in federal court occurred after petty misdemeanor charges in October 2005. Jim Red Sky Anderson, a member of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community (not federally recognized), and Chris Mato Nunpa, enrolled member of the federally recognized Upper Sioux Community on the Minnesota River near Granite Falls, and me (non-Indian), were charged with a misdemeanor, “failure to obey a lawful order.”
 
We were given little pink tickets, like a parking ticket, no handcuffs, no jail, and summoned into federal court.
 
Our famous Indian attorney, the late Larry Leventhal, chuckled when he explained “it wasn’t a ‘legal’ order” because the property didn’t legally belong to the feds. After a year and a half our charges were dismissed. Apparently federal authorities did not want to risk returning Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington, including the Twin Cities International Airport and the Mall of America, to the Dakota oyate (nation).
 
So who “owns” Coldwater, a 10,000-year-old water source that has been flowing five times the age of Christianity? Some would argue that water, like air and a habitable earth, belongs to everything that lives or casts a shadow upon the earth. Now that the future habitability of the earth has come into question, ownership and responsibility are being recalled.
 

Sewer Rebuild Near Coldwater Underground Spring Sources
Winter 2020

The 2-year sewer re-do project is burrowing underground at the (closed) north end of Minnehaha Park—very near some of the underground water veins that furnish water to Coldwater Springs.

Friends of Coldwater objected to the intrusive original plan to lay open the land 45 to 50 feet deep for easier access than delivering workers and reconstruction materials through 3-foot vertical manhole tunnels.
 
Oh, the bitterness of Metropolitan Council engineers with their efficient clear-cut mentality when 10,000-year-old Coldwater Springs took legal precedence over the quick, cheap modern wham-bam get-it-done-fast construction methods currently in practice.
 
Geo-hydrologist Kelton Barr believes Coldwater might have been flowing beneath the last glacier that buried most of Minnesota. That was the Wisconsin glaciation episode lasting from 75,000 to 11,000 years ago.
 
As the ice sheet grew southward it moved tons of glacial till over the land that forms our relatively flat, rich fertile chocolate soil and shoved every earthworm south to the glacial boundary.
 
Minnesota evolved without earthworms that chew up leaf litter faster than our native trees can absorb the nutrients. Earthworms are an invasive species introduced by fisher-people who dumped their bait on the ground.
 
In 2001, during the litigation between Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and MnDOT, the court established a basic Coldwater flow rate of 129,600 gallons per day. The January 30, 2020 measurement at the Spring House was 69,120 gallons per day. Now you know why Friends of Coldwater is so protective of this ancient water site.
 
Coldwater is the last natural spring of size in all of Hennepin County, an acknowledged Dakota sacred site, and was the birthplace of the state of Minnesota, the state named after water, “mni.”

(Here is the link to the National Park Service Coldwater Spring Discharge results. Scroll down to the Excel spreadsheet and convert the gallons per minute to gallons per day: click here »)

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Friends of Coldwater is a Minnesota Nonprofit Corporation