He Mni Can

Former Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse (left) and Tribal Council President Shelley Buck shake hands in front of Art Owen at the base of He Mni Can. 

The Prairie Island Indian Community and city of Red Wing are working to create a memorandum of understanding; which will be the basis for future partnerships between the two municipalities. 

The draft MOU was brought before the City Council on Monday, Feb. 14. However, work on this document began long before Monday’s meeting. 

The memorandum of understanding was born from the work the city of Red Wing and the Prairie Island Indian Community did on He Mni Can (Barn Bluff). 

The city explained, "More than three years ago, Prairie Island Indian Community and the city of Red Wing City began to build a stronger relationship through the He Mni Can (Barn Bluff) project – a project that started by halting graffiti on the bluff, then partnering to move trails away from archeological sites and collaborating on a new cultural plaza at the base of the landmark."

Michelle Leise, the city’s community engagement facilitator, told the council that “it was about two years ago… that Franky and Noah White approached the city with this idea for a memorandum of agreement.”

Franky Jackson is the compliance officer for the Prairie Island Indian Community. He told the City Council on Monday, “In the spirit of strengthening relationships between the city and the tribe, during one of our previous projects, we identified the interest to protect archeological and cultural resource sites within the greater Red Wing area. And to our surprise, several of the city staff also showed an interest of wanting to protect and be good stewards to the sites.” 

Jackson added, “This document has been in the works for a little over two years, closer to three really. And so it's taken an extreme amount of focus and patience to bring us to this point right now.”

The MOU includes eight main areas of focus: 

  • Government-to-government relationship: This section plans for regular meetings between staff members of the city and Prairie Island Indian Community, and between members of both councils.

  • Cultural and archeological protections and education: This section identifies the intention to develop more policies and practices around protecting archeological resources and finding ways to partner on educational programs.

  • Environmental protections and productive use: This section pledges to find ways to work together to identify and develop projects, as feasible, that assist in protecting natural and cultural resources.

  • Voluntary information sharing: This section defines when and how the parties will notify each other of pertinent information.

  • Notice and mitigation recommendations: This section describes when and how the parties will share concerns and discuss mitigation options.

  • Acknowledgement of tribal consultants: This section states the city will seek out consultants who have tribal affiliation and knowledge of the Dakota culture when working on projects related to this MOU, when possible and as permissible by law.

  • Economic development activities and projects: This section declares both parties will cooperate on land and infrastructure projects, among others, when appropriate.

  • Conflict Resolution: This section offers a framework for working through potential conflicts.

The document has not been approved by the two councils, but it is already changing how the communities do business. 

City Engineer Jay Owens helped create the MOU. Monday he said that he was able to participate in “a little bit of a pilot project.” 

Owens explained that the city is working on updating the road, sewer and water on Hewitt Boulevard and Red Wing Avenue. Jackson and White attended pre-construction meetings to hear the contractor’s schedule and find when the project work would be closest to sensitive areas. 

With this information, Jackson and White will be able to work with Owens and monitor the excavations when close to sensitive areas. 

Owens concluded, “I think we're at a good point here to be bringing this forward, maybe with some final look through the MOU, but it's basically put together and it's been a partnership to get to this point.”

City Council members voiced support for the MOU and the document’s wording. Council President Becky Norton stated, “What I think is most important between any two groups is just effective and good communication. And I think that this MOU really highlights that; it’s a process for that.”

Council Vice President Evan Brown said, “I was particularly excited to see… the educational aspects, and also environmental protection aspects that were included in the documents. So it's not just about looking for sights, but also communicating and taking care of, and looking forward into the future.”

The MOU will be presented to the City Council and Tribal Council for final approval at future meetings. 

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