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Walking the Old Road

The St. Francis Xavier Church in Chippewa City, photo courtesy of the Cook County Historical Society.

Walking the Old Road: The Story of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Chippewa is a monthly series told through the words and stories of the people who lived in Chippewa City.  By recording the history of Chippewa City, it's our intent to honor the people who came before by sharing the views, stories and life experiences of those most often marginalized within the context of American history.
The series is produced by Staci Lola Drouillard, a Grand Marais native of Grand Marais Chippewa descent. While attending college in 1987, Staci interviewed Ojibwe artist George Morrison at Grand Portage. It was at this time that Staci first began to unravel the story of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Chippewa. Staci’s journey resulted in a Master’s thesis titled, “The Village of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Chippewa: A Study in Place and Identity, 1850-1950.”   
Photos for this series are courtesy of the Cook County Historical Society and portions of some achieved interviews courtesy of the Grand Portage National Monument.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 30

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October 30, 2020    
The northland and the universe bid October good bye under the brilliance of a “blue moon.” The Anishinaabe Band has a name for this 13th lunar happening of the year. For 2020, this celestial experience is between October’s “Falling Leaves” and the November “Freezing Over” renditions. Number thirteen is a “Big Spirit Moon”, chi manidoo giizis.                                         

 Our Indigenous neighbors proclaim the “blue moon” as a time of re-birth and healing. This “Big Spirit” couldn’t shine down on us at a more appropriate time!                                                

Since the falling leaves at this end of the Trail are a few weeks past, this weekend’s “Big Spirit” is a closer cousin to the “Freezing Over” moniker, with many smaller lakes having taken on the hard water look, although the actual full November moon is still thirty days away.                                                                      

As the big orb will be lighting up our night time life on Saturday evening, we may be able to set our clocks back to real time by the light, of the silvery moon. Yes, it’s time to regain our sense of reality as we “fall back” in our twice a year attempt to manipulate the natural world. One might as well make the timing move before retiring so an extra hour of slumber can be enjoyed Sunday morning.                                                                                                                                                                       

Gunflint Trail weather over the past seven days has lost the aroma of autumn. In fact, the essence is a frozen memory. Being traded for the scent of wood smoke, winter freshness has a familiar sting when one exits into the out-of-doors. While not bitter yet, we’re adjusting to the cold mode.                                                                                                                               

Some areas of the lower to mid-Trail got a good dose of snow, but the upper territory just received several lighter reps. Nevertheless, it has been enough to bring on some shoveling, driveway ploughing and some animal tracking. Although early, it surely looks the season, and if it hangs on until May, like last year in this neighborhood, it could be an eight month journey.  

There is likely some human grumbling about this early winter hit, but the cold and snow has likely convinced the “Bruno” population to crawl into winter quarters for a long winters nap, thus solving some problems. Let’s hope so, because I commenced with delighting the avian flocks by opening the deck side cafeteria. Arriving flights seem busy as it was when the hummingbirds were vying for sweet nectar.                                                                                                                                                                                

While those menacing bears may be out of our hair, another un-welcome visitor was up to some larceny down the road recently. A report came to me about a masked bandit, breaking into a place along Gunflint Lake’s south shore. An occasional raccoon rambles through the area, and this one is described as being larger than would fit in a large live trap, a real pig.                                 

 I’m told the Daniel Boone Hat look-a-like gained entry to a place, unlatched some cabinetry, made a mess and pilfered some goodies. How it was observed, I don’t know, but the furry thug is still on the loose. As these ring-tail critters are invasive, perhaps the local wolf pack might find this troublesome animal a menu alternative.                                                                                         
And speaking of wolves, with the fresh snow one day last week, I tracked one down the Mile O Pine during a run to the mail box. So the raccoon had better be looking back over its shoulder.                                                                                                                                                         
Glory be to the family of WTIP members, for the overwhelming showing of support during the “Phone a Friend” autumn fund drive. Congratulations to all who renewed their support, gave added donations as sustaining members and to 57 new members, a huge welcome. The family is well over thirteen hundred strong!                                                                            

WTIP is so grateful for your undying friendship, especially during what is a difficult time for so many people in our world of listeners. It is great to have friends like you, and we are so happy to be here for you! Thanks so much!                                                                                             
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail where every day is great in the woods, as we try to make sense of these troubling times. Keep on hangin’ on!


Children at Chippewa City, Courtesy of the Cook County Historical Society

Walking the Old Road: Return Home

ReturnHome-Mixdown.mp39.16 MB

Though the Village of Chippewa City is now gone, the people of the village still consider it to be their home. While many changes to the
landscape have taken place, the cultural identity of place remains strong in the hearts and minds of the Chippewa City people.


Walking the Old Road: The Decline

TheDecline-Mixdown.mp36.42 MB

The final decline of Chippewa City can be attributed to many factors, including the expansion of Highway 61 north to Canada. In this segment, those who remember Chippewa City as a once thriving village, recall its heyday and reflect on the decline.

Kate Frost and family on the porch in Chippewa City (Jim Wipson lower right)/photo courtesy of Jim Wipson

Walking the Old Road: Katie's Point

KatiesPoint_WTOR_20101204.mp36.87 MB

In this segment, the land history of “Katie's Point” along the bay in Chippewa City illustrates how questionable land transactions and county taxation policies significantly contributed to the final decline of the Chippewa City community.

"Trapper's Cabin" c. Cook County Historical Society

Walking the Old Road: Four Seasons of Work

FourSeasonsofWorkFINAL.mp36.41 MB

 In spite of pressure to adapt to mainstream ways of making aliving, the Chippewa City people fiercely retained their traditional ways of hunting, fishing and gathering in order to survive the four seasons on theNorth Shore of Lake Superior. 

Chippewa Church Burial Courtesy of the Cook County Historical Society

Walking the Old Road: Chippewa City Cemetery

Finalcut_WTOR_bjedit.mp36.41 MB

The Chippewa City Cemetery lies one-half mile east of St. Francis XavierCatholic Church.  The cemetery is divided into two sections, the "Old Cemetery" and the "New Cemetery". Though many of the oldest graves areunmarked, the site ties the families of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Chippewa people to their recent and ancestral past.


Walking the Old Road: Making A Living

Making A Living.mp312.82 MB

Making a living was often a struggle for the people of Chippewa City who retained a close connection to the land yet were forced to assimilate to mainstream ways of making a living. As more tourists began to visit the area, the demand for Indian culture created a niche for people who made hand crafted souvenirs, beadwork and baskets.


Walking the Old Road: Summer at Philamene's

Summer in Grand Portage-Mixdown.mp312.85 MB

When he was a young boy, Francis Drouillard of Grand Marais, spent several summers at a family friend's home in Mineral Center, close to the Canadian Border. Philamene Evans lived alone the rest of the year but needed help in the summers running her household and managing her souvenir stand. Francis tells the story of spending summers at Philamene's where he learned many valuable lessons about traditional hunting and fishing and how to live off the land.

WTIP and Staci Lola Drouillard


Walking the Old Road: Community Divisions

CommunityDivisions-Mixdown.mp310.43 MB

As more and more Europeans moved into the area, the Indian people living at Grand Marais and Chippewa City would begin to experience discrimination from some of their white neighbors. The Native community was often divided between the Indian people living in town and those who lived on the Grand Portage Reservation, 40 miles to the east. Listen to the segment by clicking on the audio attachment. Check out past segments in this series.

WTIP and Staci Lola Drouillard


Walking the Old Road: The Old Road to Grand Marais

TheOldRoadToGrandMarais_20100603.mp39.62 MB

The people of Chippewa City would regularly visit the town of Grand Marais, walking the "Old Road" along the rocky cliffs of Lake Superior. Because many Grand Marais Chippewa people had relatives in Chippewa City, the path was well used to and from town. As the white population grew, the town of Grand Marais became a hub of activity for people from all over Cook County.

Airdate: June 3, 2010

 WTIP and Staci Lola Drouillard