ST. PAUL, Minn. The National Park Service has added American Indian burial mounds in St. Paul on the National Register of Historic Places after decades of eligibility.
Six burial sites in Indian Mounds Park were recently added to the register, according to the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1zAm31T ). The mounds along the Mississippi River are at least 2,000 years old, and they have been eligible for the register since the early 1980s.
"It's really just a recognition of their historic significance, that they are worthy of preservation," said David Mather, who is the National Register archaeologist with the Minnesota Historical Society. The group has long pursued formal approval for the new status, which gives them federal protection.
The six mounds were part of an original group of 18 and are the last remaining in the Twin Cities. Thousands more burial sites near the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers have been destroyed by early settlers. The mounds have been protected by 1976 state law called the Private Cemeteries Act.
Jim Rock, a Dakota Indian who grew up in St. Paul, said he hopes the designation brings new appreciation for what the mounds mean.
"When we see the mounds, we think of death, but we also think of birth," Rock said. He and his wife, Roxanne Gould, often lead other indigenous people from other countries on tours of them.
St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department landscape architect Ellen Stewart said while the new designation is mostly a symbolic step, the listing could improve access to grant money for park improvements.
"We appreciate the fact that we've got this wonderful historic site in one of our parks," Stewart said. "We want to protect them."