SCSU’s uncovering history in Little Falls
St. Cloud State is getting their hands dirt in Little Falls to uncover the history of Minnesota’s first Christian mission. Ojibwe Chief Hole in the Day invited European missionaries to build Little Elk River Mission. And they lived it from 1839 to 1841.
Rob Mann, SCSU Ast. Anthropology Professor, says, “We are actually seeing if we can pinpoint the location of some of the structures on that missionary complex. So we’re here to see if we could locate where the mission house stood and what was life like here in 1839 and 1841.”
Past excavators used soil-probing devices to find anomalies underneath the surface. The current excavating team used this past research to begin their dig to uncover the history.
Mann says, “We believe that there was a structure situated somewhere right behind us here. And we’re finding pretty good evidence that in fact yes there was a structure. And so we think we’re either right on top of it or very very close.”
The dig allows the students to get out of the classroom and have a hands on learning experience while uncovering the history of the area.
Mann says, “We’re teaching the students the different techniques, the different methods for doing archeological excavation, so they’re getting a well-rounded hands on experience on how do you properly excavate an archeological site.”
Sophomore anthropology student, Brianna Balsemo, explains to us the proper technique of digging at the site. Balsemo says, “You reach your target depth. And then you kind of scrap it until it’s completely flat. And we’ll take the soil over to the water screens once we put it into buckets.
Jacob Fritz, a SCSU grad student and field assistant, showed us how to look for artifacts using the water screen. Fritz says, “And by doing this we’re able to see the really small things like the lead shot and the trading beads you saw earlier. Without this process we wouldn’t be able to get down to that small of detail.”
The students say it was the history that drew them to spend the first part of their summer vacation digging along the Mississippi River.
Fritz says, “I just knew that this would be an interesting area to study. It would have a lot going on. A multicomponent site, as they would call it. Many layers of history stacked on top of each other here. And I didn’t want to miss out on it.”
Balsemo, “It’s the history that kind of makes it. I really like kind of confirming it almost. Like finding the evidence of the history instead of reading about it.”
The students will be able to dig for another week at the Little Elk River Mission site before their five-week study is over.