This month's photo was from among the most historic in the National Park.
Dot Drake writes: "I believe this is Carver's Cave in the Bruce Vento Sanctuary. The Dakota People held Council there and also buried their dead nearby. The Dakota call it Wakan Tipi and consider it sacred. It is named after an English explorer who visited the cave. He described petroglyphs on the walls as appearing ancient. The area surrounding it is much changed and damage to the cave occurred when J.J. Hill's railroad tracks were laid. The Dakota have reclaimed Wakan Tipi and restoration is taking place."
Dave Stack notes: "There will probably be many replies this month due to this photo being online with the Minnesota Historical Society. This is Carver's Cave at Dayton's Bluff and [below] Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul. Railroad construction and landslides have destroyed much of the cave. Early explorers reported that the cave had many Native American rock carvings, and was called Wakon Teebe or Dwelling of the Great Spirit by the Dakota Indians."
Actually, Dave, you were just one of two people to guess this location, so thanks!
Indeed, this is a photo of a place know as Carver's Cave (English name) and Wakân Tibi (American Indian name). The English name for the cave comes from explorer Jonathan Carver, who visited the cave in 1766, where he found an underground cave and underground lake with Native American carvings in the walls. Wakân Tibi translates as "Dwelling of the Great Spirit" as the cave was used for ceremonies and large tribe or council meetings.
The cave is the site at which Carver reported arranging a treaty with the Native Americans forging an alliance between British explorers and local tribes, rather than the French explorers who were also in the area at the time. There is much doubt cast over the significance of Carver's report, and several sources note that any treaty was "never formalized."
This photo is from about 1870. The domed ceiling shown in the cave no longer exists, and numerous natural and human impacts have since degraded the cave. It is believed that the railroads that occupied the spaces just outside the cave for much of the late 19th and 20th centuries cut back the bluff somewhat so that the photographer in the view would be standing much closer to the entrance. However, there is much debate over exactly how much space has been lost. Today, the interior to the cave is secured and inaccessible to the public.
Were the areas outside the cave not overexposed in the photo, one would be looking out westerly along the Mississippi, toward Holman Field Airport and the West Side Flats of St. Paul. Today, you can visit the outside of the cave when you pay a visit to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, just east of Lowertown in St. Paul, but you cannot go in.
More information on the cave is available via FMR's Mississippi River Field Guide
, and a 2009 Ramsey County History article
by underground Twin Cities explorer Greg Brick.
About “Whose view? From where?”
Each month in this section, we feature a photo somewhere along the river corridor in the Twin Cities that is in some way significant or important or just plain scenic. Individuals may then e-mail us and identify the view and explain why they believe it is significant to the community or important to them personally. We’ll publish some of your responses in the next issue of Mississippi Messages, where we will also reveal the correct answer.
To submit your guess and response, e-mail Bob Spaulding, River Advocate, through our contact form. The respondent to provide the first correct identification of the view and hopefully some interesting thoughts about its significance will receive a valuable prize for their effort. All entries must be received by the first day of the following month for consideration.
William Henry Illingworth
Featured Date: 17 October, 2011