honored for science project that illuminates American Indian history.
senior Grant Two Bulls won the American Indian Science Fair
with his project assessing the impact of an early Indian encampment
on Lake Calhoun. (photo by Glen Stubbe - Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Grant Two Bulls' work analyzing 200-year-old pollen samples
is creating a new and fascinating snapshot of an American Indian
encampment on Lake Calhoun and launching the high school student's
research to national prominence.
The project became a melding of Two Bulls' passion for science
and history with his desire for more connection to his Indian heritage.
"Here's a high school senior doing pretty high-level research
and then taking that data and speaking to national audiences about
it in a really impressive way," said Matthew Beckman, a molecular
biologist from Augsburg College who served as Two Bulls' adviser.
"Grant is truly an exceptional kid."
The 18-year-old senior from Breck School spent most of last
summer counting ragweed and grass in sediment samples taken from
Lake Calhoun to study the ecological impact of a former Indian encampment.
He admits the work was tedious, but the project is racking up accolades
on the national science fair scene.
A member of the Oglala-Lakota tribe, Two Bulls won the regional
American Indian Science and Engineering Society's competition and
placed fourth in the national competition. In coming weeks, he hopes
to qualify for the International Science and Engineering Fair. Winning
it would be the high school equivalent of picking up the Nobel Prize.
The research has also pulled Two Bulls closer to his Indian
His grandfather and namesake lives on the Pine Ridge reservation
in South Dakota, as did his father, Robert, an Episcopalian minister
who leads the All Saints Indian Mission in Minneapolis. There, the
Two Bulls family runs the First Nations Kitchen for local native
people, serving almost 100 every Sunday.
The Two Bulls family is one of the largest on the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation. The family name is derived from a relative's
account of an ancestor who killed two buffalo bulls in a single
"We always visit my grandfather's house, right on the edge of
the Badlands, so it's a very scenic, special place," Two Bulls said.
Two Bulls' work on the project was initiated through Breck's
advanced science research curriculum. Students apply for the program,
which requires them to put in more than 300 hours of summer research
followed by a yearlong seminar. Students are paired with professional
mentors who serve as sounding boards for the research.
Two Bulls was drawn to the idea of exploring the ecological
effect on Lake Calhoun of an early 19th-century Mdewakanton Dakota
agricultural village known as Eatonville. The village is also commonly
referred to as Cloud Man Village, named after its leader.
To learn all that he could about Eatonville, Two Bulls pored
over documents at several local libraries and interviewed historians
familiar with Cloud Man and the settlement.
"It's kind of a historical anomaly. It was sedentary and agricultural,
which was not what the Dakota were about at all," he said.
At the settlement's peak, about 300 Dakota lived on the southeastern
shore of Lake Calhoun.
"It was a short time, but it was brilliant," Two Bulls said.
"At one time, they were producing a thousand bushels of corn
a year. So, I knew their impact would be significant on the lake."
Initially, Two Bulls thought he could study the impact
by looking at the ancient eggs of Daphnia, a water flea, and the
subject of Beckman's work. But the work proved to be riddled with
complexities and Two Bulls had to switch gears about a month into
his work, deciding to focus on pollen instead.
Pollen would provide evidence of human disturbance, so Two Bulls,
with the help of researchers from the University of Minnesota's
Limnological Research Center, took core samples from the lake. He
then spent hours counting pollen, documenting a buildup that occurred
exactly at the same time of Eatonville.
"It's really not fun," Two Bulls said of counting pollen. "There's
no automated way to do it. You have to do it with your eyes, sitting
at a microscope for hours."
Nonetheless, Two Bulls' research provides baseline data for
the first documented existence of ragweed in the Lake Calhoun area.
Since the time of Eatonville, pollen counts have only continued
Once the research was done, Two Bulls spent the next few months
perfecting his presentation, while juggling classes, playing defensive
end for Breck's football team and serving as an editor of the Bugle,
the school's newspaper.
"What a cool project," said Lois Fruen, the head of Breck's
science department and the advanced science research program adviser.
"He has become kind of model for kids in our school because he's
taken advantage of the community resources in a way that no other
student has done in the past."
Two Bulls, who has shown himself to be something of a perfectionist,
is critical of some of his early presentations too much detail
packed in the beginning. Since the national competition, he's made
several changes and feels good about his chances in upcoming competitions.
Either way, Two Bulls plans to continue to keep exploring the
history of the region's native people. He has been accepted at Dartmouth
College and plans to begin classes next fall.
"I'm thinking about government, economics and probably incorporate
some native studies along the way," he said. "I can really see myself
being of service to my tribe, but I really have no idea what arena
that might be in."