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Indian Burial Grounds: Rest In Peace

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Author Topic: Indian Burial Grounds: Rest In Peace  (Read 381 times)
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« on: July 19, 2009, 08:42:04 am »

One of Biorn's neighbors is in court over mounds on his land. When he tried to expand his garage, he discovered it is built into the side of a burial mound. He had to abandon his plans and has sued a title company over his purchase of the property in 2005. He declined an interview while the matter is in court.

State Archaeologist Scott Anfinson said that while lawsuits are not common, clashes between development and burial sites consume virtually all of his time. It's his job to authenticate unplatted burial grounds more than 50 years old, then set buffer zones around them. He juggles 20 live cases at a time, many of them around Red Wing and Lake Minnetonka.

"A big part of my job is disappointing people," Anfinson said. "If you have graves on your property, you are done."

If a gravesite is Indian, Anfinson turns the issue over to Jones and the Indian Affairs Council, as required by state law. Jones makes a recommendation to the relevant tribal council for a final decision. Intact burial mounds are not moved or altered.

But up until the 1970s, people did what they wanted with the mounds. In the early 1900s, tourists visiting resorts and hotels near Mound "came out with pickaxes and just dug for sport," said Mound City Manager Kandis Hanson. The Wayzata public library was built on a mound site in the 1930s. Science digs of Minnesota mounds didn't end until 1974.

In 1978, when Anfinson was a highway archaeologist, Indian burials were uncovered during excavation for fill dirt near construction of the new Hwy. 77 bridge over the Minnesota River. The private landowner who was selling the fill dirt refused to stop the excavation, Anfinson said. He and a colleague hurriedly removed the remains of apparently Christianized Indians who had been buried in coffins as well as an older interment of what appeared to be a medicine man. The bodies were reburied on Lower Sioux Community land.

Such digging and construction have taken a toll on the burial sites. In the 1880s around Lake Minnetonka, 524 mounds were mapped at 48 sites. Today, about 40 mounds remain at 12 sites near the lake.
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