National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express announced on November 10, 2011, that Historic Pilot Knob will receive a Partners in Preservation grant for $75,000 to help restore the natural landscape of the hill. The money will be used to remove utility poles and powerlines that bisect the site. This restoration work will be managed by the City of Mendota Heights, which maintains the land as a public open space site.
It is not anticipated that any of the original soil of Oheyawahi will be disturbed. Utility poles and lines that brought electricity to houses formerly on the hill will be removed. Lines that feed the lights on state Highway 55 will be buried 2-3 feet deep under the road that was once paved and is now vacated. The lines will be laid in aggregate material brought in when the road was constructed, and will run parallel to the water main under the old road bed. Removal of the power lines will be done in 2012.
Twenty-five historic sites in the Twin Cities metro area competed for a portion of the $1,000,000 grant from American Express. A voting competition was held on Facebook for three weeks earlier this fall. In addition to the voting results, an advisory panel of civic leaders and preservationists considered a site’s needs and role in its community. Twelve other historic sites received significant funding for restoration.
The Pilot Knob Preservation Association’s new Pocket Guide to Oheyawahi/Pilot Knob has been published and an interactive, digital version is available on this website. Work and expenses for the pocket guide were supported by a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society earlier this year. The small brochure will introduce the cultural, historical, spiritual and ecological importance of this Dakota County landmark.
Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants are made possible by the Minnesota Legislature from the Arts and cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. The fund was created with passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in November 2008. The grants are awarded to support projects of enduring value for the cause of history and historic preservation across the state. PKPA also thanks the City of Mendota Heights and Dakota County for their support.
A pdf version of the guide, which can be viewed or printed in Adobe Acrobat Reader, is available here. Paper copies of the guide can be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.
PKPA received the grant from the Minnesota Historical Society in the spring of 2010. Through the summer and fall project director Chris Soutter, historian Bruce White, and other members of PKPA worked together to gather the information and write the guide. Below (from left to right) PKPA members Cher Fields and Jeanne Hollingsworth discuss the guide, onsite, with Chris Soutter.
As vegetation is restored on Oheyawahi, the hill provides opportunities to see many beautiful sites, which were documented by PKPA during the summer of 2010. In July an admiral butterfly perched in a field filled with wild bergamot and black-eyed susan.
Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, led a pipe ceremony on Pilot Knob on October 3, 2009. Chief Lookinghorse has spent his life working for religious freedom, protection of sacred sites, and cultural survival. He was aided by Sheldon Wolfchild from Lower Sioux, Chris Leith from Prairie Island, Melvin Grey Owl from Crow Creek, and Melvin Lee from Santee, who all spoke about the importance of preserving Dakota sacred sites. Chief Looking Horse stated that sacred sites are the “power points, the grid,” for Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota peoples. After the ceremony there was a feast/lunch and wopida (a “thank you” giveaway) in which the speakers and visitors were honored. It was a cloudy day, but at various times the sun shone brightly on those gathered and two eagles flew overhead.
Pilot Knob, October 3, 2009, including from left to right, Sheldon Wolfchild, Chris Leith, Arvol Looking Horse, Melvin Grey Owl, and Melvin Lee. At the time the picture was taken, Melvin Lee was speaking eloquently about the effort that it had taken to prevent development on Pilot Knob and the need to do the same for other sacred places.
Dear Friend of Pilot Knob/Oheyawahi,
We are filled with wonder at the accomplishments since the Pilot Knob Preservation Association was formed six years ago:
–a proposal for building 157 townhomes on the hill was defeated;
–the 25 acre development site is now open to the public and owned by the City of Mendota Heights;
–the ten-year site restoration to an oak savannah ecosystem is underway with thousands of flowers in bloom, eleven oaks and 2,000 acorns planted;
–two interpretive signs tell the story, in Dakota and English, of the unique history and sacred significance of Pilot Knob/Oheyawahi;
–an overlook that recognizes the seven council fires of Dakota people will soon be installed by the City of Mendota Heights and Great River Greening.
When Chief Lookinghorse was last on Pilot Knob, he and Chris Leith gave the hill a new name: Wotakuye Paha, the hill of all the relatives. Please join the relatives in celebration and thanksgiving for the remarkable events that you have contributed to.
Gail Lewellan and Linda Brown