There have been several Native American grave disturbances in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood, according to Native history researcher Christine Carlson. I met her at a public meeting this month regarding plans to reconstruct burial grounds at the far-southwestern end of Duluth (“Mission Creek cemetery plans get public review,” Jan. 9).
Disturbances occurred in 1869 during the building of the Lake Superior railroad line, in 1898 when a skull was unearthed during the digging for new trees, in 1921 when the skeletal remains of two children were unearthed during the digging of a walkway, in 1932 when skeletal remains and relics were unearthed during the leveling a berm, in 1937 when a highway steam shovel unearthed bones and artifacts, and in 2017 when whistleblowers photographed a disturbance during the Minnesota Highway 23 bridge replacement project. The bridge project was suspended nine days later.
Three concept designs for the reconstruction this year of the disturbed Native American burial grounds in Fond du Lac were presented at the public meeting by the landscape architect hired by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. All three proposals would correct the disturbance and restore the integrity, spirit, and respect of the cemetery.
Features included were an offering place, a memorial and ceremonial space, stone walls, waterfalls, and overlooks.
Missing from all three proposals, however, was a way to memorialize the interpretive history and the lore of the location and its Native inhabitants. The place is steeped in historical significance.
Whether you are a visiting tourist or a long-time resident, if you want to see physical examples of our Native tribal culture, you have to travel to the Cultural Center and Museum on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation near Carlton.
In far-western Duluth, we should not miss the rare opportunity we have right now to promote and display the proud history of our Native inhabitants. Perhaps a reduced-scale replica of the original Astor Trading Post (later American Fur Company) could be built there to house displays of Native culture and life. It could be a mini cultural center with a topographical model of the mile-long area, showing a bird's eye view of the burial mounds, the main elements of the final design concept, and other historical structures from the area.
We also could include rotating showcase displays of Native photos, documents, art, clothing, weapons, tools, burial artifacts, a birch bark canoe, and other items that could be donated by tribal members or loaned by the museum on the reservation.
Let's not miss this opportunity to highlight the history and culture of our city's Native inhabitants at a sacred site within one of our own Duluth neighborhoods.
Dan Ramlow of Duluth is a disabled Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He served as a combat photographer with the 1st Air Cavalry Division. Retired now, he lives in Central Hillside.