Burnsville, Minnesota Native American History and Burial Mounds

November 10, 2016

Burnsville, Minnesota Native American History and Burial Mounds

Before the arrival of the white man, Native Americans had thriving cultures that much of the world had never seen. Regarding the burial mounds that were seen by the arriving people, the lack of artifacts in some burial mounds was thought to indicate ancient burial grounds. Since the early Native Americans had insufficient tools for digging graves in the frozen earth, they devised an alternative of securing the dead bodies to scaffolding high above the ground so that wild animals could not get to them. In the spring, mass burial took place. Shallow graves were made by scraping the earth off to the sides of the bodies as the bodies were interred. With primitive tools they were covered and sometimes surrounded with post fences, which in turn decayed making the mound higher. It was important to the Indians to choose elevated places (pahas) for the burials so they could be seen soon after.

The History of Dakota and Goodhue Counties states that there are mounds on the west side of the Credit River between Savage and Minnesota River. It's possible that these were the graves of Good Road's village which was at the mouth of Nine Mile Creek on the Bloomington side of the river. It is known that Good Road's village also inhabited the south side of the Minnesota River opposite Nine mile Creek. It is believed there were mounds fifty feet above Crystal Lake on the north shore, as well as seven mounds on the east shore of Early Lake, which would have been the area of the Walsh homestead southeast of the Dakota County Library.

Early Lake in Burnsville,  Minnesota

There are three known Indian grounds in Burnsville. The one unearthed in River Hills must have been very old because there were no artifacts found. The one unearthed in 1943 on the Tom Kenneally farm yielded four graves of more recent origin. /the field reports of this discovery said it indicated some sort of Christian burial. Apparently each body was buried in a wooden box with glass panes. Objects found with the bones were glass beads (trade items with white traders), steel scissors wrapped in a quantity of red cloth, a copper object (indicating trade with the Michigan area), a catlinite pipe, a long ornament of the type worn in breast plates, umbrella ribs inserted in copper sockets. Glass beads were found around the neck and the clavicle area, three open rings of trade brass on one forearm, and black hair which had been preserved under a copper clasp. It is certain that this burial took place between 1834 and 1856 when the Pond brothers made wooden coffins for their Indian friends. In 1856 all of Black Dog's village was moved to the reservation near Morton, Minnesota.

The third burial site is Teepee Hill located south of a bluff east of the Credit River. When gravel was taken from the pit in that area for the road to Archie McColl's home, Indian remains were found. Before St. John's cemetery was consecrated, some white settlers were buried in the Indian burial mound.

Black Dog's village was on the isthmus of land between Black Dog Lake and the Minnesota River, the present site of the Black Dog Power Plant. There were perhaps as many as 250 Indians living there when the first white man came. Black Dog's people belonged to the Mdewankanton band of the Sioux, also known as the Dakota Indians. It is believed that this band moved from the Mille Lacs area around 1750. This piece of land appeared to be a wise choice since it provided water for drinking, travel, fish, water fowl, and other game animals. Black Dog's band was often referred to as "the people who didn't eat geese", because they found such a good market for geese at Fort Snelling. They also found a ready market for fish caught in Black Dog Lake among the Irish roman Catholic settlers who were the first Europeans to settle in the area. They were most anxious to trade the fish for fresh pork which was a staple among the Irish.

Indian Trails well worn from this village south toward the Red Wing village at the mouth of the Cannon on the Mississippi River and west to Good Road's village at the mouth of Bloomington's Nine Mile Creek. The trail continued to Shakpay's village from which Shakopee derives its name.

Catlin, the fine painter of the early 1800's said Black Dog, sometimes called Big Eagle, was an old man when he painted his picture in 1834. This picture hangs in the Smithsonian Institute. Undoubtedly the stone from which peace pipes were made was called catlinite because of associations with the painter, Catlin. Old Black Dog became a grandfather when little Black Dog bas born in 1827 to Grey Iron, sometimes called "My Headaches".

Indian treaties dealing with Minnesota are on display in the Archives in Washington D.C. However, the treaty with Zebulon Pike, giving nine square miles at the mouth of the Minnesota River for the building of Fort Snelling was not officially recorded. Part of this is in Eagan Township. It is interesting to note that the Prairie du Chien treaty of 1825 was signed by Black Dog, Good Road, Shakpay, and Eagle Head. It is possible that Eagle Head, whose name so often appears on treaties, resided near the mounds on Teepee Hill. By 1836 Grey Iron was the chief because he signed the Mendota Treaty along with Big Eagle and Good Road whereby the Indians relinquished the land north of the Missouri River to the southern part of Minnesota. Perhaps the most important treaties were made in 1851. In July, at Traverse des Sioux on the Minnesota River near St. Peter, the land east of Red River was relinquished, signed by Grey Iron with Governor Ramsey, Luke Lea, and General Le Duc in attendance.

Another treaty was signed in 1852 which amended the original, and was signed at the Sibley House. It said that the Indians could be moved in detachments in 1852. No wonder Grey Iron came to be called "My Headaches". He died in 1857, five years after the signing away of their very subsistence for 12 cents an acre for a total of $3,520,000 to be held in trust by the government. It seemed like a fair amount of money at that time, but most of the cash was designated to pay for farm implements, teachers, especially to teach farming, schools, and even to pay excessive claims of the traders for debts of Indians long dead. No wonder the Indians were disgruntled.

Hazen Mooers, who was married to an Indian, was hired to teach Black Dog's village farming. When the band moved out, Hazen's son-in-law, J.W. Brown, moved in and preempted the land. Young Black Dog, also called Great War Eagle, moved to the reservation with his father and his people. Under pressure from warriors he helped in the 1862 uprising, but was pardoned by Lincoln. He lived out his life as a farmer on the reservation near Granite Falls. More important, he dictated a book in 1894, titled The History of the Sioux War written from the viewpoint of the Indians. It is now in possession of the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Indians played a prominent role in the history of Burnsville and the eventual settlement of the area.

by Bea Nordstrom
Source: http://www.oocities.org/heartland/acres/6038/Indian_History_of_Burnsville.html