Breck Student Grant Two Bulls Eatonville
Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune
Breck Student Grant Two Bulls has garnered accolades with his ecological study of Lake Calhoun, in Minnesota.

Oglala Lakota Teen’s Research Combines Science and History


Grant Two Bulls, an 18-year-old student at Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, has combined science and history to connect to his Indian heritage.

He’s been analyzing 200-year-old pollen samples from an early 19th-century Mdewakanton Dakota village on Lake Calhoun, also known as Eatonville or Cloud Man Village, reports the Star Tribune. His work studying the ecological effect of the village on the lake has created a new look at the American Indian village, which had about 300 Dakota living there at its peak.

“It’s kind of a historical anomaly. It was sedentary and agricultural, which was not what the Dakota were about at all,” he told the Tribune. “At one time, they were producing a thousand bushels of corn a year. So, I knew their impact would be significant on the lake.”

His work focuses on pollen, which he took from a core sample of sediment from the bottom of Lake Calhoun. He counted pollen before and during the time the village was used, between 1830 and 1840.

“I did initial count of pollen and I found an extreme prevalence of oak pollen, but I also found ragweed and grass pollen,” he said on MPR News with Tom Weber. “Then I kind of zoomed in on those three pollen types: Oak because it was the most prevalent pollen type and ragweed and grass because they are pollen types that are indicative of human disturbance in an area. So if an area is cleared of its natural vegetation, then ragweed tends to grow. If corn production increases, then grass pollen tends to increase as well.”

Two Bulls has said the work is tedious, but it’s been garnering him accolades. He won the regional American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s competition and placed fourth in its national competition. The next one he hopes to qualify for is the International Science and Engineering Fair—the high school equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

“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,” Matthew Beckman, a molecular biologist from Augsburg College who served as Two Bulls’ adviser, told the Tribune. “Grant is truly an exceptional kid.”

His data has shown the first documented existence of ragweed around Lake Calhoun, that land was cleared for the settlement. He told MPR News that if you were to see what it looked like then there would be structures along the lake, which served as homes, cattle and lots of corn.

According to the Tribune, Two Bulls plans to continue his research into the area’s Native people, and has been accepted at Dartmouth College, where he will start classes next fall.

“I’m thinking about government, economics and probably incorporate some Native studies along the way,” he told the Tribune. “I can really see myself being of service to my tribe, but I really have no idea what arena that might be in.”

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