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  • Writer's pictureBecky Norton

He Mni Can - Barn Bluff

September 10, 2018

I’ve been following the issue as a resident for years and of course dove deeper into it as I started running for city council. Most of the residents I spoke with felt two main things first was following up with the original deed of the land and that it was to be used as a park and not defaced and how did our current Prairie Island Indian Community feel about it today? And second they valued the natural beauty of the our bluffs over the graffiti and felt like that was the space was no longer the correct spot for the graffiti. Most of the residents I spoke with and most at the city council’s public forum have spoken eloquently asking us to uphold the ordinance and restore the bluff. Three commissions have approached it from three different angles and held other public forums and PIIC representatives have also supported the restoration of the bluff. I agree first and foremost that we need to correct this negligence out of cultural respect. When you know better you do better.


Change is hard and nostalgia is strong. I know it has a lot of meaning for many, even for myself and very close friends of mine. I’ve walked out to that ledge myself when I was in need of some grit. And I appreciate the democratic process and know that there is a group who has begun the initiative process. I’m not sure where that process will go but respect that exercise in democracy. It’s another valuable tool our democracy has for people to have a voice. In the meantime, tho a lot of time and effort had been put into this topic and I believed it was time to act.


As of right now, we as a community are being asked by many groups and individuals to respect the natural and historical significance of He Mni Can - Barn Bluff. I’m optimistic that Red Wing will respect the voice of the community and will discontinue the spraying of any form on He Mni Can - Barn Bluff for any reason. Once we respect the decision we will no longer be spending any time or money on the issue or putting public works employees at risk. Instead we can channel that time and energy into other forums to celebrate, honor, and share what’s important to us.

Once we as a community respect and


First and foremost it was deeded to us for the use as a park and without any defacing or damage or modifications other than for park purposes PIIC representatives are affirming that it is a sacred space with cultural significance and are asking that it be free of graffiti (and not be a community bulletin board).


Residents and commissions have held open forums and workshops and considered it from many angles all supported restoring it.


PIIC biologists are interested in working with Red Wing to replant native plants and repair damage

Just because it’s always been done…

First it hasn’t always been done, there’s a longer history of it not being painted than painted.

Second isn’t an excuse to continue something that shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place


Another excuse for continuing I've heard is the time and money to “catch the graffiti” sprayers. In contrast, there is also the time in handling complaints, determining what is protected speech, public works up there to remove infractions. For example, we could get a complaint about the flag being painted up there as it’s not in keeping with proper respect to the flag. Allowing it to continue will continue to cost the city. And the cost in time evaluating freedom of speech violations and in sending public works employees who are not volunteering to paint it to restore it. These expenses can be eliminated by allowing the city to restore it and ending the graffiti. Period.


We cannot go back to the way it was: just look the other way and only respond on a complaint basis. And it is our time to correct this error in turning a blind eye to the damage of public property and a sacred space.


With the passing of the vote, we as a community are being asked by many groups and individuals to respect the natural and historical significance of He Mni Can - Barn Bluff. A few have talked about the time and cost of this issue, I am asking the community of Red Wing to please respect the vote and to discontinue the graffiti of any form on He Mni Can - Barn Bluff for any reason. And to instead channel that time and energy into engage in other forums to celebrate, honor, and share what’s important to us.


The bluff itself is the rock of our community.

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