Native environmentalists weigh in on Hiawatha Golf’s future.

Native environmentalists weigh in on Hiawatha Golf’s future.


Hiawatha Golf Course, named after the fictional warrior from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, has undergone a major makeover. It will be considered by the park board After several failed attempts to reduce golf to restore the ecosystem of the floodplain in which the course sits.

Now more natives are weighing in, saying their views on the importance of wildlife and clean water have been sidelined over the past eight years in an ongoing dispute between the park board and golf course advocates.

“Honestly, I don’t think people care enough about indigenous peoples,” said Naomi Anwaush, who specializes in tribal historic preservation, including burial sites, wetlands and rice paddies. “A lot of people think we’re dead and gone as a people … and that reinforces not listening to indigenous voices.”

of Hiawatha Golf Course Area Master Plan It calls for redesigning the course, which sits 4 feet below the level of Lake Hiawatha in the historic Minnehaha Creek floodplain, so that floodwaters will naturally flow through the grounds as the climate changes. The fixes include a storm drain and garbage collection system in the northwest corner of the site, along with water purification green infrastructure such as stormwater installations and tree gutters. The plan proposes the strategic removal of golf course fences to allow greater accessibility for non-golfers.

Golf course advocates have blocked the master plan for years because it calls for reducing the 18-hole regulation course to nine holes. That’s a non-starter for some because Hiawatha Golf Course is one of the first five racecourses in the Minneapolis Park System. It continues to be the home course for many black golfers.

The area’s environmental problems remain unresolved as there is no plan to reduce the excess groundwater needed to keep the course dry and stop the amount of waste reaching Lake Hiawatha.

Lake Hiawatha — carved from the former Bde Psin, or Rice Lake — is sacred to the Dakota, who consider the region around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers the genesis of their people, under an 1805 treaty with fishing and rice rights, Anwaush said. In the year Around 1930, park planners took over the lake – destroying the wild rice growing there – to create a fenced golf course.

“Because of the garbage, the pesticides — most of it coming from the golf course — we can’t even practice our traditional ways with that lake,” Anwausch said.

The Park Board invited Chris Mato Nunpa, a genocide scholar and PhD activist who has challenged treaty rights. Cedar LakeTo provide Indigenous perspectives on the Hiawatha area and golf course planning process.

“Guided by our traditional Dakota values: animals and deliberate and sometimes hateful and deadly indifference to Dakota issues and concerns, especially the Dakota people’s history of not being consulted over the centuries, I am pure and clean water.” Mato Nunapa. he said.. “Between golf courses and fun and games, when it comes to choosing a clean and healthy environment for animals, birds and fish, I, as an 82-year-old Dakota man, choose to keep a clean lake. Fish people and a healthy environment for the survival of animals and birds – our relatives.”

Also speaking at the meeting were Native American community clinician Anthony Staley, who asked park commissioners to add more green space at Lake Hiawatha Park where Native people could run and play, and Marissa Anwausch praised the master plan as necessary. Making a compromise between those who want to preserve 18 holes at Hiawatha and those who want golf to disappear.

“Elected officials, what we want you to do is vote for the Hiawatha Master Plan to hold the Park Board accountable for the pollution it knowingly allows. Look at the superintendents who have kept this land and water clean for thousands of people for years to come,” Nicole Cavender, who lives near Lake Hiawatha, said in a letter to commissioners. “It’s evidence that the water that flows under this golf course will restore the area west of the lake to its natural state: wetlands. That’s what we’re here for. And you can’t legally dump on that. It’s a floodplain.”

The last time the park board asked for input from native park users was on the golf course planning process. February 2019.

The park board has ordered a public hearing on the master plan. In the year It is expected to take place on August 17, but has not yet been officially scheduled.

Commissioners Billy Mentz, Alicia D. Smith and Becca Thompson said they ultimately oppose the plan.

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