Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Ethnography Study Highlights Duluth’s Rich American Indian History

Detail from 1883 panoramic map of burial ground and wigwams on Minnesota Point.

Detail from 1883 panoramic map of burial ground and
wigwams on Minnesota Point.

Two ACHF grants allowed the Duluth Indigenous Commission to prepare and conduct an enthogaphic study of indigenous contributions to the area. "The Duluth Ethnography Project led by consultant Bruce White is the first documentation project of its kind at this scale," said David Grabitske, state history services manager. "The City of Duluth through its Indigenous People's Commission has created a model for other municipalities to preserve all historically significant places."

In the report, published in July 2015, researchers compiled historical information on indigenous place names, significant local sites and historic figures, and native archaeological sites in the Duluth area. Researchers noted information on known archaeological sites, including Roussain Cemetery and several vistas along Lake Superior, and offered recommendations for future preservation. They also identified several potential undiscovered archaeological sites, including Minnesota Point, the Fond du Lac neighborhood and along the former shoreline of Glacial Lake Duluth.

The study includes oral histories with 12 American Indian community members, who discussed several topics, including local indigenous organizations and issues of racism. The report recommends that additional oral histories be conducted to continue to document the community.

The city hopes to use the study to inform planning and decision-making work with American Indian communities and for public information and interpretation projects that increase awareness of Duluth’s indigenous heritage. As a first project, the Indigenous Commission used the study to create a digital interactive map exploring important local American Indian sites at www.duluthmn.gov/community-planning/ethnographic-study/.

This site is updated regularly with descriptions and data related to Legacy projects funded through the Minnesota Historical Society by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF).
Further information about the use and impact of all Legacy Funds can be found on the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission's Minnesota's Legacy site.