Indian Mound Wall (Guest Post by Bruce Danielson)

The Indian Mound Wall being discussed is a little known and never discussed art piece in Sioux Falls. For those who do not know the area or significance, the burial mound in Sherman Park is the stable hill between the Zoo and Minnehaha Country Club between the Sioux Fiver and Kiwanis Avenue. West 18th Street changes to Indian Mound Drive heading toward the river and the country clubs. The mound is actually what we now call a cemetery from ancient times.

The north face of the mound was trimmed in quartzite block for many years before Porter Williams and others received permission to build the 160’ stack stone wall with stone pictographs of the sacred buffalo hunt. This wall honors the heritage of the original occupiers of the place we call South Dakota and Sioux Falls.

The side of the mound is hard, undisturbed, stable earth. The mound’s north face has not been harmed or weakened by this wall or its construction. The art was placed feet from the face of the original mound with a fill of quartzite between the art and dirt on top of a 6’ deep by 4’ wide trench of quartzite fill to create a frost footing. How do I know this? I was there for a great deal of the construction.

Stack Stone walls and buildings are based on ancient methods of mortar-less construction or in other words, no concrete to fill the gaps. There are walls and building around the world dating back thousands of years still standing. I have personally been to many, years ago. I have been in the Gallarus Oratory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallarus_Oratory. My cousins live within feet of this building, helping maintain the structure and the tall stack stone walls surrounding it. The Greeks also built beautiful buildings and walls which still stand without the use of mortar. Every civilization on earth has used this method for centuries.

The parks department plan is for an ugly monster block wall. While monster or keystone block have a purpose, often it is a temporary solution. The effect in the end is an ugly concrete wall. Of course they now are willing to dye it dark to hide the normal gray color. Wow, that sounds permanent, thanks? Do you know there is actually no reason to even have a retaining wall on the spot?

Think about this, there never was a retaining wall there before the road went in. The original wall of quartzite stone was put in for art’s sake and the Sacred Buffalo Wall was put in front of mound also for art’s sake. Is the plan for a monster block project only a make work project?

The parks director has never made maintaining or protecting this wall since arrival in Sioux Falls a priority. Is the director now in a position to destroy all vestiges of it?

Nothing has been done since it was built to keep people off the wall. Why did the park department never stop people from using it as a climbing wall? The police have been called on many occasions to stop others from being on it, dislodging stones to throw from it? I know these incidents because I personally called to report them. Could the climbers have accidently dislodged the stone to cause failure?

Why did the parks department NEVER do anything to protect it? Why has there never been a structured yearly program to verify wall stability? This reminds me of the mosaic flood wall downtown. The past mayor wanted the flood wall gone, so no basic care was taken to protect it. The answer to the disintegrating mosaic wall was simple, remove it. The community fought back and saved the mosaic (and the downtown from future flooding).

Why does it appear the “engineers” from two different companies wrote reports and contracts to do what the parks department wanted done? Why are contracts and consultant reports purchased by the parks department with what appears to be predetermined results? Was this another one of those projects? It doesn’t look any different from what we have learned from the department’s past history.

The consultants wrote a report to tear this wall down so they could build something they understand. Watch the meeting: https://youtu.be/DBzGYwOKYIo?t=2660 Listen for the consultant to tell us he does not understand how these walls are built or survive. It is not conventional in this part of the world today, so we must destroy it.

The plan as presented so far is not for cladding the monster block wall with any of the original stone. In fact, cladding would be the most expense answer. Cladding would require an unnecessary wall to be built behind the stack stone. There has been talk of using mortar to lock the stack stone, the mortar would break down over time and cause a bigger mess.

One option is to have someone paint an image on the monster block. Oh boy this could be good, in a few years as the paint falls off the concrete block, the city will be “forced” blast the remnants off or spray paint it to cover it. Gosh, maybe we can have a yearly art exhibit something like the Jesus plows?

Another option being discussed is having insert boxes ready to place new reliefs or an image. It is still an ugly concrete monster block wall with maybe some part of the original art. The ability to have special monster block insert boxes large enough for the current stone images would be interesting to watch come together.

The longest lasting and least expensive answer is repairing the current wall. It could be repaired with a change of a few pieces of stone replaced, to recreate the design. The artist and builder of the wall have tried to present this option to the park department but it conflicts with the director’s long-range plan for this art to disappear. In fact I do agree with some recommendations in the consultant’s report, an engineer should be involved for strength factoring and designing a yearly maintenance program.

Consider this Terrace Park fans, destroying this wall is similar to the attempt to “fix up” your park a few years ago, by destroying it with concrete. For those who have difficulty getting to the Japanese Garden, thank the ugly chain link fence installed by the park department to keep us out.

Why was the lighting never installed as promised, to highlight the images. Two high intensity flood lights didn’t do anything to allow viewers to catch the beauty of this wall.

If our parks department actually cared about children or art, programs would be created to explain why we have to care about the Sacred Buffalo Wall and the history behind it. Repair the wall with oversight and a maintenance program. Finally, create the lighting program promised years ago to highlight the art.

It’s simple. Art like this is only created in the minds and by the hands of the creators. We will never see this wall recreated once it is torn down. Using concrete is a desecration of this land and is an insult to those buried in the earth behind the memorial called the Sacred Buffalo Wall.



1 comment so far ↓

#1 D@ily Spin on 02.28.19 at 4:51 pm

This is sounding more like another Wounded Knee. A Native American encampment will get national attention and fill hotel rooms with FBI. It’ll become a sacred event such that you can smoke pot legally if you join the religious peace pipe ceremonies.

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