The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) will make a decision about reopening
Grand Mound historic site this fall, after meeting with Native American
communities this summer. So far, 17 communities across the Midwest have
provided feedback with two more meetings scheduled. In 2017, MNHS expanded
outreach efforts to Native people who may have ancestors buried at the mounds
Their input will be considered alongside feedback gathered from local
business, civic, educational and cultural leaders to make a decision about
access at the site.
“We have to approach this work with the utmost respect,” said Joe Horse
Capture, director of Native American Initiatives at MNHS. “There are thousands
of human remains buried at the site, and because the site predates the Ojibwe
people who live in the area now, it is critical that we speak with as many
descendants of the people buried at the mounds as possible to determine its
“After speaking directly with people from more than a dozen
communities—including Ojibwe and Dakota in Minnesota, North Dakota, South
Dakota, Nebraska and other tribal groups in Canada—it has become increasingly
clear that Native people today have strong feelings about this site as a sacred
place,” said Mattie Harper, program and outreach manager in the Native American
Initiatives department. “Their connections to this place cannot be denied. We
need to find a way to be respectful of this place as a burial ground and sacred
site. We also want to work with Native partners to find the best ways to share
the history of the site with the people of Minnesota through interpretation.”
Once all feedback is gathered, MNHS will make a decision about reopening the
site. The decision will also take into account the state of the current visitor
center, which is in significant disrepair, and the expected number of annual
While much work has been done, meeting with additional Native Americans who
have ancestral ties to the site, including all seven Ojibwe and four Dakota
tribes in Minnesota, is crucial in order to have a full understanding of the
importance of this sacred place.
MNHS closed the site to the public in 2002 due to budget cuts, but has
continued to preserve and care for the historic mounds.
Located 17 miles west of International Falls, the Grand Mound Historic Site
comprises five sacred burial mounds, ancient villages and sturgeon fishing
sites developed approximately 2,000 years ago. The site’s biggest burial mound
is the largest earthwork mound in the upper Midwest. The Grand Mound Historic
Site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.
About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural
institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story
of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections,
historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of
history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories
and connects people with history. Visit us at mnhs.org.
The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners:
Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.