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Park and Related History

Indian Heights Park - A Brief History - Document


12,000 BC – 1800’s southeastern Minnesota inhabited by hunter-gatherer peoples.  No written records were created, so this history is determined by artifacts found during digging or construction.

1803 - Louisiana Purchase claimed the land that is now southeastern Minnesota

1849 – Minnesota became a territory

1851-1862 - Dakota's Vast Land (Rochester Post Bulletin)

1854 - 1862 - Native American History
(History of Winona and Olmsted counties: Together with biographical matter, statistics, etc., gathered from matter furnished by interviews with old settlers, county, township and other records, and extracts from files of papers, pamphlets, and such other sources as have been available. (1883). Chicago: H.H. Hill. Pages 637-639.)

1854 - Survey Plat Map - including Indian Heights area

1854 – [Fall] White people started to keep records and recorded two hundred Wahpekute Dakota people arriving and settling for the winter along the Zumbro river.

1854 - [Winter] Four Dakota were buried in the bluffs of Indian Heights Park. James Bucklen bio (he helped bury the four Dakota).

1854 - [December] the remaining Wahpekute Dakota moved to John Bamber’s residence.  Shortly thereafter Chaske died of injuries and was buried in a coffin on the Indian Heights bluffs. 

1856 - Old Rural Mail Carrier (Rochester Post and Record)

1856 - Batholomew Donahue arrived in Rochester, Minnesota and opened the Donahue Quarry. From History of Olmsted County, 1910.

1859 – Minnesota became a state

1859 - Poem "The Indian's Grave" published in Rochester Free Press, August 6, 1859. Newsprint version. Poem text only.

1862 – U.S. and Dakota Conflict

1863 -  Large rewards were provided to White Minnesotans for killing Native Americans.  (The Daily Republican, a newspaper from Winona, Minnesota, dated September 24, 1863 stated: 
“The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.  This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.”)

1883 - The Tornado that Transformed Rochester (Rochester Post-Bulletin, August 24, 2008)

1883 - Native American History including Tornado
(Leonard, J. A. (1910). History of Olmsted County, Minnesota: Together with sketches of many of its pioneers, citizens, families and institutions. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association. Page 23.)

1883 - History of Winona and Olmsted counties
Online version of book from 1883 on the Internet Archive

1883 (and later) - Indian Heights Burial History cited from various sources beginning in 1883

1890 - [June 21st] Interesting Discovery (Rochester Post)

1896 - North Rochester Plat Map - showing land ownership by Donahue and Waldee

1918 -Indian Heights Quarries
Bowles, O., & Minnesota Geological Survey. (1918). The structural and ornamental stones of Minnesota. Washington: Govt. print. off. p. 183-184.

1929 - First Settlers Came Here
Rochester Post-Bulletin, June 7, 1929

1929 - Indian Sacred Burial Ground Here
Rochester Post-Bulletin, June 7, 1929

1967first mention of purchase of Indian Heights Park (Rochester Post Bulletin).  The City and Springer Development remained at an impasse for several years.

1971 - Support letters in acquiring park land

1972 - Park and Rec assorted notes on burial grounds at Indian Heights Park just before purchase.

1973 – Much support to purchase this land and keep it natural.  Land condemned from further residential development. (Document 1) (Document 2)

1973 [Aug] - Letter including extensive list of fauna in consideration of park purchase

1973 City Park Purchase Application. Included are extensive descriptions of the Park including birds, reptiles, mammals and plants. However, despite the extensive descriptions there is no mention of burial grounds as described in the purchase letters.

1974  - Park purchased from Springer and Metro. Taylor stated expect for the possibility of some hiking trails, the park was to be left in its natural state.

1976 - Park Improvement Projects (including proposed for Indian Heights)

1977 [Winter] - Loggers at work (Rochester Post Bulletin) Removing Dead Elms (Rochester Post Bulletin)

1978 – The federal law “AIRFA”  American Indian Religious Freedom Act decriminalized sacred practice of Native Americans such as Talking Circles.

1979 - Constructed parking lot at 1800 Terracewood NW.

1980 - Graded and surfaced nature trails.

1981 - Developed hiking trails.

1983 - Planted grass on slopes.

1988 - Amenities of Parks (including Indian Heights)

1989 - Installed additional parking curbs, Improved access to trail, added additional regulatory signage.

1990 [July 2nd - Park Board Record] - Hiking Trails article Quarry Hill Park, Irresponsible Bikers Quarry Hill Park, Moutain Biking issues discussed at Park Board meeting

1991 [November] Mountain Bike Report - In a compromise for Mountain Biking Problems at Quarry Hill, it is proposed that Mountain Bikers are directed to Indian Heights and Eastwood for a three month trial period to start Memorial Day and stop Labor Day, 1992.

1991 [December] Park Board allows Mountain Biking Activity on a trial basis in Indian Heights Park to end in 1992.

2002 [March 29] - "On Thursday, Rochester firefighters were called to Indian Heights Park in Northwest Rochester where some branches were on fire.  On Wednesday, he said they were out to two or three minor grass fires.” (Rochester Post Bulletin)

2006-2008 Birds identified in Indian Heights Park

2009 [October 6] Park Board direction to find native plants in Indian Heights Park

2009 [November] Signed City contract with Rochester Active Sports Club for Mountain Bike Trails in Indian Heights Park.

2010 [May 17] St. Paul contractor rare plant search

2010 [May 20] - Community meeting over proposed trail expansion

2010 [July] – State Archeologist indicates to Park Board there can be no development without a survey

2010 [September] FOIH Core group briefly presents to the Park Board the FOIH mission and charter. An invitation made to the city to partner on a DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) Conservation Partners Legacy grant to enhance several acres of rare Burr Oak habitat. Recorded under IHP Steering Committee September Park Board Minutes

2010 [Oct 27] At the park's entrance Jim Wilson, chair of Native American Center of South East Minnesota, led 15 people in a Native American prayer including the ceremonial tobacco offering of thanks, and for support and guidance. The group then walked through the park with guest Dr. Arzigian, an archeologist.

2010-2011 [November – November] - Indian Heights Steering Committee meets

May 16-21, 2011 Celebrate Dakota Week Volunteers and wide-ranging community members were very busy helping with Celebrat Dakota Week. A very special thanks to Betty Smith, Shirley Greising, and Valerie Guimaraes, (of Dakota descent), Jim Wilson of NACSM, Janet Timmerman and Tom Garcia (of the History Center of Olmsted County) and Mayor Brede for proclaiming May 16 - May 21st Celebrate Dakota Week! Proclamation. FOIH co-sponsored events with the Rochester Public Library, Mayo Clinic Diversity Networking Group "Celebrate Dakota!", Riverside Elementary School, the History Center of Olmsted County, and the Native American Center of Southeastern Minnesota.

August 2, 2011 National Night Out - Neighborhood get together near Indian Heights Park.

November 1, 2011 Long term plan for the Park Approved by Park Board - The Rochester Park Board passes all of the recommendations from the Indian Heights Park Steering committee unanimously at their November 1st, 2011 meeting.

KAAL-TV has a story called "Rochester Parks Board Votes to Protect Local Park" (Nov 2nd) on their website.

February 19th, 2012 The Twin Cities newspaper, The Circle - Native American News and Arts published an article about Indian Heights Park entitled: Indian Heights Park Recognized as a Dakota Burial Ground.

March 25th, 2012 The Wasi Oju presentation called "Olmsted' County's First Residents" at the Rochester Public Library was a full house with about 100 attendees (who ate Dakota treats thanks to CD!). The presentation by Dr. C. Arzigian (Archaeologist) produced a front page article in the Rochester Post Bulletin. We (along with our community partners) hope to resume the Wasi Oju lectures next fall.

April 24, 2012 Dakota blessing and Homecoming Dakota gathering at the park for a blessing and healing ceremony. Read the Post-Bulletin story about it