MnDOT: Burial recovery finished in Fond du Lac

Next stages include rebuilding cemetery and restarting project to address Mission Creek Bridge.

Workers search for human remains and artifacts Monday next to a Fond du Lac neighborhood cemetery distrubed by a state road project in 2017. Nearby a contractor started work removing one of the recovery efforts’ temporary buildings east of 131st Avenue West. Steve Kuchera /

The burial recovery effort is complete at a historic cemetery in the Fond du Lac neighborhood of Duluth, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said in a news release on Friday.

"The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the Office of the State Archaeologist, in consultation with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, have notified MnDOT that burial recovery efforts at the historic Mission Creek cemetery located in the Fond du Lac neighborhood of Duluth have been completed," MnDOT said.

Work had stopped on the site around mid-September.

"As the work crew neared completion of recovery efforts, concerns were raised about the possibility of negatively impacting areas of the cemetery that were not part of the original disturbance," the MnDOT news release said. "As a result, work was halted so that MIAC and OSA in consultation with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, could reassess the remaining workload and determine how to best move forward. Protecting the cemetery is important to all parties and after careful consideration it has been determined there is no need to conduct further burial recovery."

In May 2017, MnDOT uncovered burial remains in the historic cemetery while excavating to replace the Mission Creek Bridge, a $3.1 million project that was scrubbed following the discovery. The ensuing project to recover human remains, grave goods and other artifacts has totaled $6 million.


"Project partners and contractors have worked together to respectfully complete burial recovery efforts," MnDOT said.

In May 2019, the Fond du Lac Band took the lead on recovery efforts, executing an aggressive work plan and doubling crew size from that of previous contractors, MnDOT said.

The next steps will be to return soils to the central cemetery slope, officially define the cemetery boundaries, and repatriate remains and burial related items, MnDOT said.

The agencies are also working with a landscape architect who will aid in development of the cemetery’s final design. Upon delineation of the final cemetery boundaries, MnDOT said it will restart the project development process to address the Mission Creek Bridge.

Mission Creek burial site.jpg

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