An overhaul of Hiawatha Golf Course, named after a fictional warrior from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, has been brought back for consideration by the Park Board after several failed attempts to reduce golf in order to restore the environment in the floodplain where the course sits.
Now more Aboriginals are studying, saying that their views on the importance of wildlife and clean water have been sidelined throughout the past eight years of controversy between Parkboard and advocates for the golf course.
“Frankly, I don’t think people care enough about the indigenous people,” said Naomi Anyoosh, who has a background in tribal history preservation, including protecting cemeteries, wild waters and rice basins. “I think a lot of people think we’re dead and gone as a people… and that reinforces not listening to indigenous voices.”
The master plan for the Hiawatha Golf Course precinct calls for the course, located 4 feet below the level of Lake Hiawatha in the historic Minnehaha Creek floodplain, to be redesigned so that stormwater can naturally flow through the grounds as climate changes. The modifications will allow diversion of storm sewers and a garbage collection system in the northwest corner of the site, along with green water cleaning infrastructure such as rainwater drainage farms and tree ditches. The plan also proposes to strategically remove the golf course fencing to allow greater access for non-golfers.
Golf advocates have been blocking the master plan for years because it advocates reducing the 18-hole regulation cycle to nine. That’s not a start for some because Hiawatha Golf Course was among the first five integrated race courses in the Minneapolis park system. This grass is still home to many black golfers.
Because there is no plan to reduce the excessive groundwater pumping required to keep the track dry and stop the continuous flow of waste into Lake Hiawatha, the area’s environmental problems remain unresolved.
Lake Hiawatha — engineered from Bde Psin, or Rice Lake — is a lake sacred to the Dakotas, who regard the area around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers as the genesis of their people, and are subject to fishing rights and wealth under the 1,805 treaty, Anywaush said. In about 1930, park planners bulldozed the lake—and destroyed what wild rice had grown in—to create a fenced golf course.
“Because it is so heavily contaminated with litter and pesticides – many of which come from the golf course – we are not even able to practice our traditional ways with that lake,” Anyoosh said.
Park Board invited Chris Matu Nonpa, a Ph.D. genocidal scientist and activist who has tested treaty rights at Cedar Lake, to provide Indigenous perspectives on the Hiawatha region and the golf course planning process.
“Guided by our traditional Dakota values: animals and with a history of willful, sometimes hostile, and murderous neglect of our Dakota issues and concerns, particularly a history of not consulting Dakota people over the centuries, I support clean and pure water if it comes to choosing between a playground,” said Matto Nonba. golf, fun, and games versus a clean, healthy environment for animals, birds, and fish, then, as an 82-year-old Dakota guy in winter, choosing to maintain a clean lake for the fish people, and a healthy environment for the survival of our animals and birds—our relatives.”
Also speaking at the meeting were Anthony Stetley of the Native American Community Clinic, who asked park commissioners to increase green space at Hiawatha Lake Park where Native children are allowed to run and play, and Marisa Anyush, who praised the master plan as a necessary compromise among those who want to keep the 18 holes In Hiawatha and those who want a game of golf.
“What we need you to do, elected officials, is vote for the Hiawatha master plan so the Park Board can finally take responsibility for the pollution it is knowingly allowing. Look at the original stewards who kept this land and water clean for thousands of people,” said Nicole Cavender. who lives near Lake Hiawatha, in a letter to the commissioners “Years for Your Answers.” “Water seeping from under this golf course is evidence of the water returning to the area west of the lake to its natural state: the wetlands. That’s why we’re here. And you can’t legally dump dirt on this. It is a flood plain. “
The last time the Park Board solicited Indigenous park user feedback on the golf course planning process was in February 2019.
The Park Board ordered a public hearing on the master plan. It is expected to take place on August 17, but its date has not yet been officially set.
Commissioners Billy Means and Alicia D. Smith and Becca Thompson said they would eventually vote against the plan.