Protecting Native American Heritage Sites in MN

St. Paul, Minn. 4/7/2007: The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization has donated 15.3 acres of land which will be added to the Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota. Additionally, on March 30, 2007, TPL acquired Wolf Island in Wolf Bay of Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota to hold for eventual conveyance to the Superior National Forest.

“For centuries, Native Americans have come to this sacred place to take the pipestone rock from here and turn it into pipes which we have used in our ceremonies,” said Chuck Sams, Director of TPL’s Tribal & Native Lands program. “This gift of land is a significant addition to a place which is important to many Native Americans.”

In March 2007, TPL acquired the land from a local school district, which had been seeking to put it on the market. TPL has donated the 15.3 acres to the National Park Service.

The monument was created in 1937 to protect the unique site of quarries, which Native peoples have used for thousands of years as the source of a unique rock, which was turned into pipes used for ceremonial purposes, and continues to be quarried today.

“We are deeply appreciative of this gift from TPL,” said Jim LaRock, Superintendent of Pipestone National Monument. “The addition of this land removes the possibility of development immediately adjacent to one of the park’s key resources, Winnewissa Falls. This addition also represents a one-time opportunity to unite science, education and learning as a by-product of restoring a tallgrass prairie that once totally covered the Coteau de Prairie in the early to mid 1800s.”

“TPL is proud to work with the Park Service, and contribute to strengthening the integrity of this important cultural, historic and ecological site,” added Stacy McMahon, TPL Regional Director of Projects.

The National Monument is held sacred by many American Indians and due to the long-history of the property, relatively little of it has seen cultivation or development. The Monument site contains a number of important Native American spiritual and archeological sites.

This new, additional acreage may also contain significant archeological resources, given its close proximity to the known site of a prehistoric workshop. It will also aid in the preservation of a globally rare and significant plant community including the Northern Mesic Tallgrass Prairie/Sioux Quartzite Prairie.

A National Pipe Ceremony and dedication ceremony is being planned for later this year.

TPL is also working on three other Native American projects in the upper Midwest, Sams noted.

Wolf Island: Preserving wilderness access

On March 30, 2007, TPL acquired Wolf Island in Wolf Bay of Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota to hold for eventual conveyance to the Superior National Forest.

Wolf Island, also known as Knott’s Island is a 60-acre island in northern Minnesota’s Lake Vermilion. Wolf Island was at risk of being lost to development because of its beauty and proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Lake Vermilion, 24 miles long, is Minnesota’s fifth-largest lake and is home to walleye, northern, muskie, bass and bluegill populations, and was once named by National Geographic as one of the nation’s ten most scenic lakes.

It is the intention of the previous landowners, TPL and Wolf Island donors to add the property to Superior National Forest and have it be available for public use. Because Wolf Island is of historical and cultural significance, TPL is working with the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa during TPL’s holding period to seek the Band’s input on interim management of the property.

Local area resort and landowners feel very upbeat about the conveyance.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Ed Tausk, owner of Vermilion Dam Lodge for more than 10 years. “As a guide to the lake and someone who has seen a lot of resorts close, being able to offer one more destination for travelers is a huge plus. It’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone when there is access to explore an island with a great history and natural wildlife. It would be a shame to see it sub-divided and developed for private use.”

Wolf Island’s history was documented by John Jaeger, a prominent Minneapolis architect who homesteaded the island after first visiting it in 1906. TPL has raised about half of the $1.5 million purchase price and is seeking additional donations to the Northwoods Land Protection Fund for the balance of the purchase price to hold the island for permanent protection by Superior National Forest.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has helped to protect more than two million acres across the country and the Tribal & Native Lands program has completed Native lands projects of 126,531 acres, Fair Market Value (FMV) of $124,504,715.00; optioned and potential projects: 102,269 acres, FMV of $33,195,000. Totals include conveyances to native entities, government agencies or non-profits stewards.