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Time to talk about He Mni Can

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A master plan for Barn Bluff is nearing the end of the drafting process, including issues of safety, natural habitat management, trail erosion and improved parking.2 / 2

After social media turmoil erupted in the wake of the Red Wing Public Works department painting over a Prince tribute painted on Barn Bluff, the City Council was confronted with what seems like an ongoing question regarding the landmark: Who decides what’s painted on Barn Bluff?

While establishing long-term policy may take more time and discussion, the decision will rest with Council President Dean Hove and Mayor Dan Bender — for now. According to the council’s new interim policy regarding bluff decoration, paintings will only be covered up if Hove and Bender deem them profane. Political messages, which are illegal on city-owned property, also will be covered.

“Our City Council is very aware of this matter,” Planning Director Brian Peterson said during a Q&A segment of Thursday’s packed Barn Bluff Master Plan public meeting. “They are very interested in developing policy long term about this. We want to get the public involved, we want to get you all back and help us figure out how this policy should be developed going forward.”

Though the city plans to continue the painting discussion in a series of public meetings throughout the summer, Thursday’s meeting fostered a broad focus on the city’s master plan for Barn Bluff, which is nearing the end of the drafting process.

Representatives from a variety of entities were present at the meeting, including city staff, police, school district, Prairie Island Indian Community and architect firms Loam LLC. and Hoisington Koegler, both of which have been involved with the project’s design.

Many of the topics discussed during the meeting’s formal presentation related to safety and accessibility on the bluff. The plan also addresses issues from natural habitat management to trail erosion to improved parking.

A proposed addition for the adjacent pump house could facilitate restrooms and an interpretive center for the site.

The plan offers trails compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including routes to the Carlson Kiln and a proposed memorial to the Mdewakanton Dakota, for whom the bluff served as an outpost, burial site and sacred location.

“With my position, Brian and I will work as closely as we can,” said Art Owen, tribal historian with the Prairie Island Indian Community and preservation officer with the project.

Recognition of the bluff’s cultural and historical importance to the Dakota will include the memorial and incorporating the Mdewakanton name for the bluff, He Mni Can, which means “hill water wood.”

“He Mni Can means that you’re a very vibrant person — it relates to a working person who likes to supply to their family, with much generosity and abundance to that,” Owen said. “When we relate to projects like this, we are going to help the Dakota people in the area to understand that Red Wing is now offering a cultural awareness to their project. Not just the Prairie Island people, but the Dakota around this area that utilize that site for sentry and outpost positions.”