MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Mississippi River at Stone Arch Bridge
Honoring Sacred Sites: (From the Invitation to the Performance)
What are sacred sites? Why are there so many along the Mississippi River? How did the Dakota nation honor these sites? Come find out!
Sacred Pipe-Carrier Jeff Grundtner will lead a progressive ceremony on Thursday, June 21, starting downriver at the site of the mounds at Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul at 1 PM. Here, at least 19 burial mounds originally sat on the high bluff, with some dating back over 2,000 years.
At 4:30 PM, continuing upriver to where “the two waters meet” a second ceremony will honor the scared site at Pilot Knob. Pilot Knob, known to Dakota people as Oheyawahi, has been sacred to Dakota people since long before white settlement. The nearby mouth of the Minnesota River — Mdote Minisota — was considered to be the center of the world by the Dakota, and the hill was used as a burial place and a place for ceremonies.
Then at 8 PM, the sacred site ceremony will be woven in to the annual Solstice River dance performance. Come celebrate this site at the Mississippi River on the longest day of the year. From the beloved Stone Arch Bridge at the Falls of St. Anthony we can see another place along the Mississippi River that was held in reverence as a Sacred Site by the Dakota Nation. This year’s annual performance will focus on creating beauty at the site, and honoring the sacred land. Stand over the moving water and watch the whole river basin come to life. This event weaves together the manmade wonders of Downtown Minneapolis with the world of nature. In addition to honoring the connection between the sacred places of the Dakota, there will be dancers on the dike of the lock, the banks and mooring cells, high up on grain silos, and on the rooftops of other buildings in the downtown skyline. By the end of the performance, dancers and fabric make a panoramic splash. A bevy of kayaks will pirouette for the audience. Music will be simulcast over KBEM 88.5 FM.
At the conclusion of the performance, the audience is invited to participate in the “Blue Highway”, during which a 1200-foot length of blue fabric is unfurled across the Stone Arch Bridge by a Park Board jeep.
This is the 11th annual Solstice River performance – a site-specific dance choreographed by Marylee Hardenbergh, Artist-in-Residence at Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education. The music, written especially for the dance at the site, was composed by J. David Moore. Jeffery Grundtner of Earth Spirit Environments is consulting about the sacred Dakota sites. Solstice River XI is presented by the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, and is held in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Minnesota’s Hydrology Laboratory, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theater.
ABOUT THE SACRED SITES
In two of the Indian mounds were 8 stone cists about 7 inches high and made of thin limestone slabs set upright. Human bones were found in each cist and were accompanied by grave offerings, including shells, perforated bear teeth, copper ornaments, and a piece of hammered sheet copper, as well as the usual number of projectile points. Among the more startling discoveries was a skull covered with red clay producing the image of the original face. Nothing similar to this “death mask” had ever been found by archaeologists in mounds or ancient graves. The mask was removed intact during that excavation.
Location:Earl St. & Mounds Blvd. in St. Paul, atop the bluff along Mounds Blvd off of Hwy 94.
Oheyawahi, “a hill much visited,” is the prominent hill located at the east end of the Mendota Bridge; consisting of the 79-acre Acacia Park Cemetery and the surrounding 30 acres of open space, it is a place of distinctive historical and environmental importance, a sacred site, a burial place. Europeans named it Pilot Knob or Pilot Hill because the site was prominent landmark used by steamboat captains and travelers. Early visitors described the hill, its use by the Dakota, and the impressive view of the surrounding country. In 1851, U.S. government officials negotiated a treaty with Dakota people on the slopes of Pilot Knob, purchasing title to 35 million acres of land in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.
Location:Pilot Knob can be reached from the junction of Highways 55 and 13. Follow Highway 13 south one block to the junction with Pilot Knob Road. Turn north on Pilot Knob Road to reach the cemetery at the corner of Pilot Knob Road and Acacia Boulevard or proceed north from there to the overlook at the end of the Pilot Knob Road.
The Upper St. Anthony Falls:
The Upper St. Anthony Falls were a place revered by the Dakota for thousands of years. One legend has it that women came to Spirit island to give birth. Written history tell us that the people made their sacred offerings and prayers and tied them to the trees at the falls.
Location: The Stone Arch bridge is approached from the downtown Minneapolis side at River Road and Portland Avenue; from the east side of the river, the approach is from 6th Avenue SE and Main Street.