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An ancient American Indian burial site in MN could soon reopen to the public

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Described as the largest prehistoric structure in the upper Midwest, Grand Mound is a National Historic Landmark – yet for the past eight years, the public wasn't able to access it.

But that could soon change, as the Minnesota Historical Society is considering reopening it, the Duluth News Tribune reports. The paper says the organization's Indian Advisory Committee is on board with the idea, too.

MPR notes the burial site – which is believed to have been built and used by the "mysterious" Laurel Indians near present-day International Falls as early as 200 B.C. – is nearly as tall as a "three story building, and half the length of a football field."

It did enjoy a few decades as a tourism site and "interpretive center," the International Falls Journal reports, but declining attendance (and, in turn, revenue) forced its closure. There were also concerns from local tribal elders about the the appropriateness of its use as a tourist destination.

Now, however, officials are rethinking some of those concerns.

"I think the time has come for it again," Indian Advisory Committee member Jim Jones told the Grand Forks Herald.

According to the paper, many of the concerns about treating the burial site with respect are no longer on the table, and officials see an exciting opportunity to teach Minnesotans about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.

Opening Grand Mound to the public may, in fact, help promote the site's preservation, according to Koochiching County Commissioner Wade Pavlek.

“The one common thing I hear is it needs to be protected,” he told the International Falls Journal. "Providing education and teaching respect for history is the best way to accomplish protection.”

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