An Archeological Survey of Development Projects Within Grand Portage National Monument, Cook County, Minnesota
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Chapter 6

The week-long survey of several proposed development projects within Grand Portage National Monument provided new information on three large land parcels, as well as a lengthy tract of lakeshore east of Grand Portage Creek. Two smaller project areas also received scrutiny by the archeological team in 1988.

Investigation of the land parcels identified as possible construction sites for a visitor/administration building and a maintenance facility produced the only new evidence of cultural resources within the Monument. Maintenance Alternate #1 yielded numerous artifacts indicating the presence of an apparent early Historic period archeological site, probably contemporary with active use of the trading post at Grand Portage. In addition, survey of the proposed visitor/administration facility location revealed the presence of a late nineteenth-early twentieth-century refuse dump, which appears to be quite extensive.

Although it was not within the scope of the 1988 survey to evaluate the significance of any sites inventoried, it is clear that the Maintenance Alternate #1 site is potentially very important. The site, which contains abundant late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century materials, seems to be relatively undisturbed and may contain intact early Historic period cultural features. Not only is its research potential high, the site relates directly to the GRPO interpretive mission.

If Maintenance Alternate #1 is selected for construction of the new facility, steps must be taken in order to mitigate any adverse effects of the development. It is conceivable that the archeological site could be avoided by construction, given its small size and nearness to the gravel lakefront road. However, if disturbance of the area cannot be avoided, further investigation of the site should be undertaken. Continued excavations at the site should be designed to collect a representative sample of archeological data from the zone of potential ground disturbance.

The turn-of-the-century dump found within the proposed visitor/administration center parking area should be considered an archeologically sensitive area. Although the dump was not tested, surface materials include a high proportion of artifacts that pre-date the twentieth century. Those, of course, do not relate to the period specifically designated for interpretation at Grand Portage National Monument, but they may be informative about life on the Indian reservation nearly 100 years ago. Therefore, the deposit may possess significant research potential.

Given the fact that the dump is located away from what seems to be the centerline of the visitor/administration facility parking loop, it seems likely that the feature could be avoided during construction of the facility and its associated elements. Should that be the case, additional steps may be necessary to insure its preservation. Covering the dump with sterile fill would accomplish that end, while removing the unsightly deposit from public view. If it cannot be avoided, however, the dump merits further examination and, perhaps, collection.

No new cultural resources were encountered during survey of the shoreline tract scheduled for stabilization. Nevertheless, the lands immediately adjacent to that shore line are known to contain several early Historic period activity areas, including an Ojibway burial ground. Therefore, the contractor should take care not to cause undue disturbance of the area when establishing temporary haul roads.

Monitoring of the overflow parking lot gate installation revealed no evidence of the presence of cultural resources. This should not be interpreted, however, as confirming that no such resources exist in the parking lot or other neighboring areas. Indeed, given its proximity to the trading post site, it seems probable that this general area would have been subject to intensive use during the early Historic period. Therefore, should any additional development be contemplated in this vicinity, an archeological survey will be required prior to the start of construction.

The 1988 archeological survey produced information that should alert planners to the existence of cultural resources that may affect proposed construction activities. Once firm plans have been made, communication between planners and MWAC personnel will be required to determine the extent of potential impacts on the two sensitive areas. Options for mitigation of adverse effects, if deemed appropriate, can then be explored. Further, should plans change to include other possible construction areas not surveyed as part of the 1988 investigations, additional research at Grand Portage National Monument may be necessary.

Planners should also keep the Midwest Archeological Center apprised of locations for utility lines that will service the new facilities. It is certain that water, sewerage, telephone, and electrical lines will be connected to the facilities from existing lines. Further, it is possible that such connections will entail trenching across areas not yet subject to archeological survey or through areas containing known cultural resources. Therefore, once the paths of various new utility lines are determined, survey or archeological monitoring may be required.

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Last Updated: 15-Jul-2009