Recovering a Sacred Place
The landscape known as Indian Mounds is a sacred burial place – a cemetery built by ancestors of living people. Over time, it was altered to function as a public park. We collaborated with tribal representatives and city staff to address a difficult challenge: how to change a community’s perspective regarding this landscape to one that is informed, empathetic, and respectful of its ongoing importance to Indigenous peoples.
Our Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan presents a comprehensive framework for acknowledging the site’s sanctity and the Indigenous people whose ancestors are buried there. It envisions the gradual replacement of recreational aspects with features that support contemplation, prayer, and spiritual gatherings by the people for whom the landscape is sacred.
Bottom line, it’s our ancient burial site, it’s our sacred site, we should have control of that.
This Place Is Not a Park
The Indigenous burial ground currently called Indian Mounds Regional Park has been a center of religious practice for over a thousand years. When the City of Saint Paul established a park at this location in 1892, the connections of Indigenous peoples to the sacred site were neither understood nor valued.
Our approach emphasized the inclusion of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers in addition to city staff and neighboring community members. We sought to foster relationships between the people who are culturally connected to the landscape and the city that maintains it.
A Vision for the Future
The plan is guided by Mitákuye Ows’in (We Are All Connected), a worldview reflecting the interconnectedness of people, land, water, sky, animals, and plants. The landscape will provide a place for reverence, remembrance, and healing that protects, honors, and acknowledges the sacredness of the place.
Returning Native Plantings
Blufftops along the Mississippi River were once ecologically rich prairies and forests. Our design converts areas of pavement and mown lawn into native plant communities that will create animal habitat and filter groundwater. We selected plants with cultural meaning for associated tribes.
A Model for Collaboration
Our work at Indian Mounds establishes a platform for the inclusion of Indigenous communities in decision-making about sites that are significant to them. Many sites sacred to Indigenous peoples have suffered similar fates, and tribes must have a say in their future development.