Wakan Tipi Cave

October 12, 2020 is Indigenous Peoples Day (Federally recognized as Columbus Day). It is a good time to consider the names of things in Imnizaska (the Dakota name for Saint Paul, describing the white rock bluffs), because words matter. So many of the names of local streets and parks are recognizing the first European men to claim ownership here and laydown the city grid. Seeing the name Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) restored in Minneapolis gives me hope for the efforts for Wakan Tipi (Carver’s Cave). Interesting story in the Pioneer Press last week:

The 1875 picture of the Cave illustrates how much has changed over the last nearly 150 years. The mouth of the Cave was higher up along the cliff, until the railroads sought to take over the marshy ground where Phalen Creek meets the Mississippi. Landfill was brought in, the white cliffs were dynamited away, and the railroads brought streams of settlers to Saint Paul. When the railroads declined, the area around the Cave served as an unofficial dump.

Wakan Tipi Cave (Carver’s Cave) 1875 (MNHS)

Over the years, the Wakan Tipi Cave has been covered by natural debris falling from the cliffs above and/or man-made activities to change the landscape, and then “rediscovered”. Each time, the hope of petroglyphs and miles of tunnels capture the public’s imagination. In 1977, two hundred years after Jonathon Carver visited the Cave and met with the Dakota people, the Cave was uncovered and a steel door was placed at the mouth. Fresh water continues to stream out from under the door. What remained of the Cave rests waiting for its next chapter in the history of Imnizaska.

In 2005, the area around the Cave was rehabilitated with the creation of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. It was this video of Jim Rock, Dakota scholar and educator, that inspired me to add a medallion to my map drawing of Phalen Creek and Trout Brook (Swede Hollow).

Wakan Tipi translates to “dwelling place of the sacred.” Very excited to watch the progress of the Wakan Tipi Center. https://www.lowerphalencreek.org/wakantipicenter

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