On Monday the city council of Lake City voted unanimously to adopt a decision to return 3 acres of land containing 11 burial mounds back to the Prairie Island Indian Community. The mounds are located within city limits near a residential district surrounded by houses.
“We learned a lot about our neighbors, and I think the whole process was very positive and educational and has improved relations, which were good before but now they're even better,” Lake City Mayor Mark Nichols said, after the vote. “I hope as we move through this process that we'll be able to experience their relation with their history of respect for their elders and members of their community that have passed away. I understand there could be potentially ceremonies on the site.”
Katie Himanga — a Lake City resident and former mayor — helped spearhead the land transfer.
“I feel just tremendous gratitude. I'm grateful to tribal leadership for trusting us to move forward with this. I am grateful to leadership in my own community for trusting that this could be done and then done well,” Himanga said. “This was something that took a lot of trust all the way around to accomplish.”
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The vote capped off a process that began in October of 2022 when the city’s heritage preservation commission sought an appropriate Dakota name for the site to use on a nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places.
Himanga is a member of the commission. She said after posing the question to other members in the group, support was overwhelming. From there, the commission took their recommendation to the city council and they, too, agreed with the idea.
Then Lake City community members, including Himanga, traveled to Prairie Island and presented their idea to the tribal council seeking their consent, which took a few months for them to agree with.
After that the legal process started, which meant getting the planning commission’s approval before moving on to the city council’s final two-step approval process.
“It seemed apparent to me that there was a great deal of support for this in our community,” Himanga said. “From what I've been told this is a step in the right direction, and I'm grateful to have been part of it.”
Now all that remains is for the city’s attorney to prepare the deed for signing by Prairie Island leadership, making everything official.
Representatives from the Prairie Island Indian Community haven't yet returned a request for comment.