Minneapolis is conducting its first in-depth study of Native American heritage sites after it received two grants from the National Park Service.
The nearly $35,000 in funding will allow Minneapolis to designate and survey sites associated with commonly underrepresented groups, like the city’s Native American, African American and Jewish communities.
Katherine Haun Schuring, advocacy chair at Preserve Minneapolis, said the studies are well overdue and would help residents better understand the culture and history of Minneapolis.
“The history of our community isn’t just rich white men that helped build it,” she said. “It’s many different groups that made up the community.”
The Twin Cities is home to one of the largest urban Native American populations in the U.S. Minnesota sits on the homelands of the Dakota and Ojibwe people, according to the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies Department.
Dakota oral history names the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers as the origin of the people, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.
Senior city planner John Smoley said the first grant would be used to prepare a background history of Native Americans in Minneapolis to identify sites worthy of more research.
The second grant would be used for studies associated with African American and Jewish history in the city, according to a press release.
Properties designated as a historic landmark are protected from changes that obstruct their ability to communicate historical significance, Smoley said.
The research should be completed by the summer of 2016.
Haun Schuring said the city’s study would begin by surveying different parts of the city that had concentrations of underrepresented groups. Prospective sites might then be designated as a landmark and could be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places
“It is critical that we acknowledge the contributions of all residents — as well as the wrongs of our past — in order to understand and honor the full history of our City,” said Elizabeth Glidden, Minneapolis City Council vice president in a press release.
Gail Dubrow, a University professor of architecture said the field of historic preservation has changed to address traditionally under documented groups.
“National organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service are embracing the nation’s diverse heritage leading to studies of sites that were previously overlooked,” she said.
A property is deemed worthy of historical designation if it’s associated with significant events or groups in social history and contains elements associated with neighborhood identity.
Minneapolis designated its first historic landmark, now known as the American Swedish Institute, in 1974. The city now has 15 historic districts and 166 landmarks.
A similar effort last year resulted in the designation of two historic districts and three historic landmarks associated with streetcar-related development.