A major overhaul of the Hiawatha golf course, named after a fictional warrior from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is again under consideration by the park board after several failed attempts to curtail the golf course in order to restore the ecology of the floodplain where the course is located. .
Now, more Indigenous residents are speaking out, saying their views on the importance of wildlife and clean water have been brushed aside during the past eight years of controversy between the park board and conservationists. golf field.
“Frankly, I don’t think people care enough about natives,” said Naomi Anywaush, who has a background in tribal historic preservation, including protecting burial grounds, wild waters and rice paddies. “I think a lot of people think we’re dead and gone as a people…and that reinforces not listening to Indigenous voices.”
The Hiawatha Golf Course Area Master Plan calls for a redesign of the course, which sits 4 feet below the level of Hiawatha Lake in the historic Minnehaha Creek floodplain, so that stormwater can flow more naturally through through the field in the midst of climate change. The changes would allow for a storm sewer diversion and garbage collection system in the northwest corner of the site, as well as green water-cleaning infrastructure such as rainwater planters and tree trenches. The plan also proposes the strategic removal of the golf course fence to allow better access for non-golfers.
Golf course advocates have successfully stalled the master plan for years as it calls for reducing the regulation 18-hole course to nine holes. It’s a miss for some, as the Hiawatha Golf Course was among the first five racially integrated courses in the Minneapolis park system. It continues to be the playground of many black golfers.
Without a plan to reduce the excessive pumping of groundwater needed to keep the course dry and stop the constant flow of waste into Lake Hiawatha, the area’s environmental issues remain unresolved.
Lake Hiawatha – crafted from ancient Bde Psin, or Rice Lake – is sacred to the Anishinaabe and Dakota people, who regard the area around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers as the genesis of their people, subject to rights of fish and rice under the 1805 treaty, Anywaush said. Around 1930, park planners dredged the lake – destroying the wild rice that grew there – to create a fenced golf course.
“Because it’s been so polluted with litter, pesticides – a lot of it comes from the golf course – we can’t even practice our traditional ways with this lake,” Anywaush said.
The park board invited Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa, a genocide scholar and activist who tested treaty rights on Cedar Lake, to present Indigenous perspectives on the Hiawatha region and the land planning process. golf.
“Guided by our traditional Dakota values regarding animals and by a history of willful, and at times hostile and deadly neglect of our Dakota issues and concerns, particularly the history of failure to consult with the people of Dakota over the centuries , I am for a clear and clean position on water,” said Mato Nunpa. “If it comes to choosing between a golf course and ‘entertainment and games’ and a clean and healthy environment for animals , birds, and fish, so I, as an 82-winter Dakota, choose to preserve a clean lake for anglers and a healthy environment for the survival of our animals and our birds — our parents. »
Also speaking at the meeting, Dr. Antony Stately of the Native American Community Clinic, who asked park commissioners to increase green space in Lake Hiawatha Park, where Native children are allowed to run and play, and Marisa Anywaush, who hailed the master plan as a necessary compromise between those who want to preserve the 18 holes at Hiawatha and those who want golf gone.
“What we need you elected officials to do is vote for the Hiawatha Master Plan so the park board can finally take responsibility for the pollution they knowingly allow. Look at the original stewards who have kept this land and water clean for thousands of years for your answers,” said Nicole Cavender, who lives near Lake Hiawatha, in a letter to the commissioners. “The water seeping under this golf course is the evidence that the water is returning the area west of the lake to its natural state: wetlands. That’s why we are here. And you can’t legally throw dirt on it. It is a flood plain. .”
The last time the park board solicited input from Indigenous park users on the golf course planning process was in February 2019.
The Park Board ordered a public hearing on the management plan. It should take place on August 17, but has not yet been officially scheduled.
Commissioners Billy Menz, Alicia D. Smith and Becka Thompson said they would ultimately vote against the plan.
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