Political News

Legislators seek to yank funding for historic Bismarck site

Posted March 15

— North Dakota legislators are looking to cut funding needed to repair a historical site where thousands of American Indians once gathered to trade along the Missouri River.

The state House voted last month to withdraw a $1.25 million loan authorized last session to help restore the fast-eroding Double Ditch Indian Village Historic Site, where graves had been exposed because of the damage.

"With our current budget situation, that is not what we consider a priority now," said Republican Rep. Jeff Delzer, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "We'd much rather have the money go to vulnerable adults, K-12 funding, protection and public safety."

The bill is now before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which may choose to reinstate the funds. Republican Sen. Karen Krebsbach said there is interest from the committee to "see that the project is taken care of as we had planned in the previous session."

The state historical society was promised the estimated $3.5 million that it would take to stop the erosion in 2015. At least 16 graves had been exposed because of erosion. Members of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation reburied the exposed graves last year.

"I'd seen a skull of my ancestor among the bones. That was the first time I'd seen a complete skull," said Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation tribal historic preservation officer Calvin Grinnell. "It really impressed upon me that this is definitely a place that needs to be preserved."

Fern Swenson, director of the archaeology and historic preservation division at the State Historical Society of North Dakota, said the plan to halt the erosion would involve building a rock trench to stabilize the bottom and placing pipe pilings along the side to stop the dirt from falling out.

North Dakota has owned the site since 1936. The site began eroding during floods in 2011.

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