Discovery Of Indigenous Human Remains Stops Work On Duluth’s Twin Ports Interchange Project
The path forward for perhaps the largest road construction project in Twin Ports history is uncertain as state, tribal, and law enforcement continue their research into the indigenous remains that were found at the work site on February 14. That discovery halted the work in the immediate area, pending the investigation.
According to a variety of news sources, the Duluth Police Department arrived on the scene an area in Lincoln Park - which is part of the larger Twin Ports Interchange Project - where an investigation was already in progress. Mattie Hjelseth, a Spokesperson with the department offered:
"An archaeologist was on scene when officers arrived and the archaeologist stated the bone is a partial jaw bone. The medical examiner's office was consulted. The Fond du Lac Band was advised and collected the bone."
Immediately, the Minnesota Department of Transportation initiated their plans they have for such discoveries. Duane Hill - the District Engineer with MNDOT - said that the agency implemented their Unanticipated Discovery Plan - which happens when "sensitive cultural material" is found at a road construction work site.
There have been no prior discoveries of human remains at the site - indigenous or other. MNDOT also offered that during all of the work in prior years in that area (the Blatnik Bridge, Interstate 35, etc) there have never been any other similar discoveries.
However, the agency is remaining "intentionally vague" about what was found at the Lincoln Park work site and what that could mean for the future of the Twin Ports Interchange Project - especially it's progress. MNDOT suggests that their vagueness is dictated by "state and federal laws". When announcing the the discovery to media sources, the agency offered that "culturally-sensitive material has been found.....as a result of a MNDOT-related project" and that that in turn "triggered Minnesota's Private Cemeteries Act and the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act".
So what happens next?
The conditions of MNDOT's Unanticipated Discovery Plan have shut down work on the project in the specific area. That shut down occurs to "avoid additional burial disturbances". The plan is also what dictated the immediate contact to the proper tribal nations.
During the investigation, no work will occur near the site where the remains were discovered. All work crews from that area have been transferred to other parts of the sprawling, multi-year Twin Ports Interchange Project.
There is no official word from MNDOT on whether or not the discovery will alter the final timeline for the project.