Lac Courte Oreilles (Odawasagiaganing/Ottawa Lake), Puffballs, The Flowage, & New Post

2007: We are back at the Ojibwe Cultural Center.The tour group heads into the woods with their guide as I saute a small portion of the Puffball and eat it. It tastes great -- but if its poisonous the tour group will have to figure where to go next on their own. As I write this, it has been about an hours since I ate one slice of the Puffball to try it out. and all I can think of it, "I want another piece." it was great tasting and I have not seen anything that wasn't actually there so far. We will see. I am checking in about two hours afterwards before we hit the road again, I am still alive, and now I want to cook up some more and see who I can share the sauteed slices with? Who is it that will join me at the mushroom table today.

Ahh.. yes. One of the guests, Tony dug right into the morsels like he trusted my mushroom knowledge completely, though I think they were wondering if I might not start describing things in beautiful colors very soon. Another guest tried just one small piece and announced it superb!, and the third seemed to want to avoid the whole thing, preferring to watch what might happen from the sidelines. (Actually avoiding eating things from out of the woods or discos you are unsure of is very safe/good advice) We have now located several educational items and recipes for Puffballs and will for-ever be on the look-out for the side-dish.

Maryellen has taken the guests into the woods for a walk to identify many common medicines and foods, and when I later return to check on them they are busy making a dream catcher.

A tribal elder later this week reminds me of the medicine that the puffball can be used for, and requests that if I see another one while on the journey that I keep his request and knowledge in mind. I will harvest one if we come across another.

Making Dream Catchers. You can find dream catchers of all kinds in Indian Country, and Maryellen always likes to show people the use of Red Willow in her dream catcher demonstration. They are simple, and simple is a nice things for much of Indian Country that at times over does pomp and circumstance. The Dream Catcher can be found in small version hanging from a Dikanagan or Cradle board with other personal items donated from the family to keep a child from having bad dreams. There are many styles of dream catchers, ones that have horse hair, or a piece of turquoise, or double dream catchers that cross each other, spiral, have many colors, and rock. They all do the same thing, keep the bad dreams from coming into your bedroom or house.

We visit The Dakota/Chippewa battle site rock. We visit this site starting with the upper river historic sign, looking down the Chippewa river and the area where the battle took place in 1790 according to the sign. The water is up very high from recent rains as compared to earlier this year when you might have been able to leap frog rocks to get to the other side. The River looks powerful now and it is hard to imagine how a fleet of canoes could have been paddled up stream. Pictures of the site and narrative can be clicked to get a feel for the full story, and why it is important to Ojibwe people. The story and site was almost lost to history in a way. I am not sure if any Dakota people remember it at all since I have never read about it, or heard anything about it from Dakota people.

gna chip flowage sign.jpg

The Landing and Chippewa Flowage. "How the LCO Ojibwe lost 30,000 pounds of rice annually." The 1921 damming of the Chippewa River created a nice flowage but deprived the Ojibwe people of Lac Courte Oreilles of an estimated 25,000-30,000 pounds of wild rice annually. This according to the documents of the Minnesota Power and Light Company themselves which I would guess would try to estimate the lowest level of damage they had inflicted upon the LCO people who overwhelming opposed the dam. They also flooded the village of Post, the jail, a church site and several modern and ancient burial grounds and forced people to move inland to the new village of New Post. The power company paid several families $25 a piece in order for the families to find someone to go dig up and move their relatives to the new village. The rest lay under the water. A recent student project at Lac Courte Oreilles reservation and the University of Wisconsin helped teach students how to use new media in order to help tell the stories of their relatives. The students focused on stories about the Chippewa Flowage .

Old Post view. From New Post looking northeast, perhaps in the fall and winter when not as much obstructs your view, you can see a wagon well rut out on an Island which marks sort of an entry on the south end of what was "Post" before the flooding of the flowage.

New Post and the cemetery where the Old Post people now rest. We stop briefly at the established cemetery for New Post, where at the furthest place in the back, people that were dug up and removed from the flowage are buried. At this cemetery, there is a mix between monuments, Catholic crosses, Spirit Houses for the traditionals, and I suppose a few visitors who came and never left.


gna quarry pit.jpg
Our guest, for the camera helps size an entrance to a Native quarry pit, one of several located at this site. Unlike the open quarries elsewhere, Ojibwe people would close the quarry pit in order to keep the stone below moist, and many pits are difficult to find after many years.

The Pipestone Quarry, the other one. We are not going to share a lot of information on this site. You have to be there to appreciate it, and this site doesn't exist anyway. If you want to go to the world's only red Pipestone quarry you have to go about 350 miles southwest to Pipestone, Minnesota and the quarry that is open to the public and worked by many of the country's pipe makers. There are also some old quarry sites to the southwest along the old Chippewa trial to Rice Lake that are well know to tribal people and the stories that go with them are very interesting.

Pipe Mustache, used to tell a story about working the quarry with his grandfather and other relatives of Lac Courte Oreilles, working alongside some HoChunk visitors by the name of Blackdeer and Kingswan, when a group of Indians on horseback from Connecticut arrived. The year was about 1914 or 1915. and Pipe, a young man at the time, said he did remember a whole lot about the foursome other than the leader, arriving on a big white stallion, was the first time he had ever seen an Afro-Native American. The "blackest" Indian he had ever seen he told me some years ago with his universal chuckle. He said the foursome worked the quarry with them for a couple of days, and headed back east.

According to Pipe, the site he was working was well known to many of the relative tribes of the Ojibwe because nobody would go to lower Minnesota where the quarry was overseen by their historical enemies the Dakota Sioux and their allies.



The old Odawa (Ottawa) village site, more desecration of graves, Ancient Mounds, the next door neighbor. On the way back from the quarry we stop not far from Reserve on the old Peninsula called Thorough-fare Road. This site is well know to only a few people despite it being one of the more historical sites on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. It seem to hold the record for the number of explorers and fur-traders that talked and wrote about it.

When French explorers Radisonn and Groseilers came through in first came to the area in the 1600s, a village of Odawa (Ottawa) were living on the site and the region is marked with mounds, burial sites, rock formations, trails, agricultural geographical markers. It was also the area for one of the better know LCO Ojibwe Chiefs, Akewenzie or the "Old Man" a famous orator and signer of the many treaties in the 1800s. While the attitude about Indian burial sites seem to changing, ie: One of the local neighbors spots us walking the region and comes out to greet us saying to me, "I think I have met you before." Yes, we have -- a couple of times as I was walking through their yard checking the mounds and burial sites out each year, spring and fall or when ever I get the feeling.

gna porch in mound.jpg gna odawa penninsula pit.jpg

A back porch extension is dug into the adjoining mound.

A pit is left where somebody excavated one of the Odawa burials.

She says that I must have heard what happened when they dug a new well by the house and I had. What I liked about all of that is, here is one person who when they dug up some remains she called the tribe and several people to ask how to proceed. The tribe responded by finding somebody to talk for a small offering to remove and rebury what they had uncovered and life went on. Thing is there is many more marked and marked burials sites and sacred elements through-out the neighborhood and so we went to look at some of them.

It was not always this way with cooperative neighbors calling the tribe. During the 1960s from what we can tell several people from the Peninsula actively mined the old Odawa site and removed artifacts at their leisure, there were no laws against it. Some of the nearby conical and effigy mounds were destroyed for all practical purposes by a group of researchers interested in putting up a display for the 1910 New York Worlds Fair. Pipe Mustache said despite inquiries, they could not find out what had happened to the items taken from the burial mounds of what he called "The Ancient Ones." I am still looking.