Burial Ground to Remain Closed with Limited Access for Native Americans
Last updated 11/24/2018 at 4:50pm
ST. PAUL, Minn.-The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has announced that it will keep the Grand Mound Historic Site closed to the general public, following the wishes of Native Americans whose ancestors are buried at the site. The site will be accessible to Native Americans for ceremonial and educational purposes.
"This site is foremost a burial ground with thousands of human remains still interred there," said Joe Horse Capture, director of Native American Initiatives at MNHS. "This decision honors Native ancestors and ensures respect for Native American culture and history."
MNHS will continue to preserve the mounds while working toward a long-range plan that may include transferring the site to Native American tribes. Meanwhile, MNHS will work with Native and non-Native stakeholders to share the history of Grand Mound with the general public.
"Grand Mound is part of an interconnected line of burial mounds that runs for 90 miles along the Canadian and U.S. sides of the Rainy River," said Kent Whitworth, MNHS director and CEO. "We must protect it and provide education while ensuring that Native people can care for the place where their ancestors lie."
Located 17 miles west of International Falls, the Grand Mound Historic Site comprises five sacred burial mounds estimated to be 2000 years old and an ancient sturgeon fishing village estimated at 5,000 years old. The site's biggest burial mound is the largest earthwork mound in the upper Midwest, measuring 25 feet in height and 140 feet in length. It is part of a network of mounds, sturgeon fishing sites and seasonal villages stretching 90 miles along the Rainy River in Canada and the U.S.
MNHS acquired Grand Mound in 1970, opened a visitor center in 1976, and operated it as a publicly accessible historic site until 2002 when budget cuts forced its closure. MNHS continued to maintain, preserve, and secure the site.
The site became a National Historic Landmark in 2011, and in 2014, MNHS began to discuss the site's future with business, civic, educational and cultural leaders from International Falls and Koochiching County as well as Native American and Canadian First Nations peoples. In 2017, MNHS expanded Native American engagement to include all seven Ojibwe and four Dakota tribes in Minnesota, as well as exiled communities and Native Americans outside the state who have a cultural connection to Grand Mound. Stakeholders expressed the importance of educating the public about Grand Mound and preserving the site. MNHS also recently accepted responsibility for the nearby McKinstry Mound site and will develop a mound management plan for both sites.