The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) stopped construction on a $2.9 million bridge project that began May 15 after human remains were discovered where an access road needed for the Highway 23 project crosses a historic Indian cemetery and settlement of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa near the St. Louis River in Duluth, MPR News reports. State and tribal archaeologists now plan to begin a detailed study of the site.
“The Band is deeply disappointed that these agencies did not uphold their legal obligation to protect a sacred site,” Fond du Lac Band Chairman Kevin Dupuis, Sr., said in a statement to the news agency.
MnDOT project manager Roberta Dwyer told the news agency that the department did not consult directly with the Fond du Lac Band, but had received all the required permits before beginning construction. “Unfortunately, despite all the reviews that were done, this did not show up in any of the studies that were done by the agencies,” she said, adding that the project is on hold until the study is complete. Then, MnDOT will reassess the situation with the band, the city of Duluth, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, before determining its next steps on the.
“We are here to work in the spirit of cooperation to resolve this issue,” Dwyer told the news agency. “Not only to take the appropriate actions at the existing site, but also after that is resolved, to have a lesson learned in this. It is our intent to continue to work together in a cooperative manner so this will never ever happen again.”
“For over 100 years, the Band’s cemeteries and historic sites have been desecrated by poorly planned development,” Dupuis told the news agency, citing railroad construction in the 1800s and when Highway 23 was first constructed in 1937. “It’s still happening today. This is wrong. It needs to stop.”