MANKATO — A circular canopy/arbor and bleachers to provide seating for 500 should be in place at Land of Memories Park in time for next month’s Mahkato Wacipi Pow Wow after the City Council approved $172,000 in funding for unexpected foundation work.
The cost and push for a quick completion of the project led Council members Dennis Dieken and Jessica Hatanpa to vote against the funds, which will come from the city’s local sales tax revenues. The five remaining members approved it.
The Mahkato Wacipi Pow Wow Committee has raised $160,000 for the project. The structure and bleachers have been purchased for nearly $98,000, with the remaining $62,000 earmarked for installation of the structure.
But Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms said the increasingly wet weather, which closed the park twice this year, leaves the pow wow area soggy and soil unstable, leading engineers to design a more robust concrete foundation to keep the structure stable.
The city sought bids on the work and received just one, for $212,437, from Global Specialty Contractors of Eagan.
“So, about three times what we originally estimated,” Zelms said.
Hatanpa argued for delaying the project until next year and seeking a new bid. Dieken, too, said he thought they were being rushed to do the project. “I’m not convinced next year will be more expensive.”
But Zelms said the cost would likely be about the same or higher next year as the work is specialized and the same company would likely be the sole bidder.
City Manager Pat Hentges said it seems clear that extreme rainfall is gong to be more frequent and the soils at the park will shift.
“We have to build this a different way than we anticipated,” he said.
Dave Braveheart, of Mankato, who has been involved in the project for years, said they are continuing to raise funds for it. Any additional funds raised will be reimbursed to the city, which would lower the city’s cost on the project.
Among the donors to the project were the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which contributed $120,000; the Prairie Island Sioux Community, which donated $20,000; and the Mankato Area Foundation, which added $15,000.
The circular canopies are common at pow wow sites. Traditionally in western states, the canopies are made from logs and pine boughs collected from the forest. While the Mankato arbor will be steel, the design is full of symbolic meaning and reflective of Dakota beliefs with its four quadrants and sacred colors.
The new canopy follows nearly 50 years of initiatives aimed at healing. Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history when 38 Dakota were hanged on Dec. 26, 1862, following the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. It was 110 years later that Amos Owen of the Prairie Island Sioux Community, Jim Buckley of the Mankato YMCA and local businessman Bud Lawrence organized the first pow wow in Mankato.
The pow wows have continued and grown, now attracting more than 4,000 spectators and about 400 registered dancers and 20 drum groups plus numerous craft and food vendors.
The city is now the focal point of an annual commemoration on Dec. 26 of the 38 Dakota who were executed. Dakota runners travel from Fort Snelling to Mankato starting on Christmas Day and dozens of Dakota ride horses, coming together on Riverfront Drive at the site of the execution.
In 1997, Reconciliation Park was dedicated at the site, where a sculpture of a white buffalo was placed. On the 150th anniversary of the hanging in 2012, a monument with a poem focused on forgiveness was added.