Now that it has an Indigenous Peoples Day, Minneapolis will focus some of its historic preservation efforts on better understanding its American Indian past.

The city’s historic preservation staff will oversee the study of native people in the area both before and since white exploration and settlement. It plans to complete a background study by the summer of 2016 that is expected to lead to local designation of historic districts and properties. That study will be used to identify areas, buildings, structures, objects, sites and cultural landscapes worthy of further research.

It’s the city’s first real look at native history within its borders from a preservation standpoint. The city is the birthplace of the American Indian Movement, and Lake Calhoun was the 19th-century site of a 10-year federally backed effort by Dakota people to intensify farming practices as a response to diminishing wild game.

The city is also planning to evaluate for historic designation several local areas and properties associated with black and Jewish history. Both studies will be funded by a $35,000 National Park Service grant that will double the city’s budget for them.

Those areas to be studied for potential historic designation are the Homewood subdivision of the Willard-Hay neighborhood and the Tilsenbilt Homes area, an early nonsegregated development of lots in the Bryant and Regina neighborhoods.

The properties to be studied are the Arthur and Edith Lee house in the Field neighborhood, the subject of massive white protest against a black homeowner in 1931, and the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in the Shingle Creek neighborhood, the anchor of a pioneering black community in the Camden area.

Local historic designation gives properties greater protection against demolition or alterations, according to John Smoley, a city planner.


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