Hudson to Big/Little Farms, Treaty Tree & Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

2007: We have three people on this tour, one from California and two from England for this particular tour of GoNativeAmerican - Great Lakes, entitled Gitchigummi.

Today we started out on the tour of the Great Lakes region of Lake Superior, the tour entitled GitchiGumi, or GitchiGuming translated roughly in Ojibwe as "The shores of the lake are far apart" by entering Wisconsin at Hudson. GitchiGumi is also better know as Chequamegon or other spelling variations.


We are no sooner at Hudson and we stop at the Birkmose Park just off of the Interstate. When you cross the Mississippi bridge on Interstate 94 you are at the bottom of the valley and in the Northeast corner overlooking you can look up to the high ridge and there is a small park up there that contains five conical mounds. We drive to the top of the hill and enter the park, which has a very beautiful view looking Southwest towards the Twin Cities. These burial mound have been worked on this year and have been regroomed and reseeded, perhaps from kids riding bikes up and over them as in other mound parks.

On the way down from Lac Courte Oreilles the day before we had stopped with my son and grandchildren to look at the same site, but have not had time to look into the history of them. It may be some more mounds, like others found in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota left by what some elders call the "ancient ones" who came before the present day, Ojibwe, HoChunk and Dakota of the region. Some speculate, with some evidence at hand like very tall skeletal remains, that these people were associated with the Cahokia Mound building people near St. Louis, Missouri.

Later on this morning, we pull off of Highway 94 to go to the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire campus to find the "Treaty Tree" as I know it. It was located on lower campus behind the library alone a creek that runs behind it, but we find nothing but a volley ball court, picnic tables and grills serving the nearby dorm rooms. The Treaty Tree is no more, and the troubling thing is that there is nothing what-so-ever to mark the spot. I find out later that day by talking to Jeff St. Germaine, that the tree was blown down some time ago and that no marker has been placed there as of yet to mark the spot.

This site, just off the Eau Claire River is where sometime around 1826, I would suspect, (Following the land demarcation Treaty of Praire du Chien in 1825) the Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe met to sign an agreement dividing the territory. To the north would be exclusive Ojibwe country from then on, and to the South and west towards Minnesota the Dakota would have exclusive property rights. The point of the treaty would now no only perhaps solve long-standing conflicts over territory, in part responsible for a couple hundred years of clashes between the two nations, but also allow the U.S. government to now deal exclusively with one tribe of the other as they begin to pressure for land cessions from the tribes. I hope the university moves fast to mark this important spot as it is historic in the relations between the Dakota and Ojibwe that came to that meeting.

We leave Eau Claire a bit disappointed and head north to Chippewa Falls, a city filled with history of the Ojibwe, fur-traders and settlers from the 1700's until now. You can find if you search hard enough, people who are of Ojibwe descent in this city, a city along the Chippewa River that was used as a highway from people coming into and leaving Ojibwe territory -- but many of these people know very little about their Ojibwe culture, and it seem that for a city like this which is referenced very frequently as a site where the Chippewa, settlers and metis half-bloods and breeds lived, there would be more to read about. Some of the families that I know are connected to Chippewa Falls are the Warren, Ermatinger, Isham, Beaudin and Cadotte families. The Cadotte family later homesteaded a little village about 20 miles today named Cadotte, Wisconsin.

Old Abe, the Eagle mascot of the Civil War has his own State Historical Society marker at the McCann homestead site along the Chippewa River going north which reads something like "During the Spring of 1861 a hungry Ojibwe family trading the eagle "Old Abe" for food. Abe was later taken with a company of Union Soldiers into the Civil War. We will find another Historical Society sign on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation where the eagle was first found.

Born around 1861, the eaglet that would later be known as Old Abe was captured from his nest and traded by Ahgamahwegezhig (Chief Big Sky) of the Flambeau Band of the Ojibwe Indians to the McCann family of Chippewa County, Wisconsin. When President Abraham Lincoln called for troops in 1861 to fight the seceding Confederacy, the McCanns sold Abe to the Eau Claire militia for $2.50. The militia traveled to Madison, becoming part of the 8th Regiment of the Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Captain John E. Perkins named Old Abe named after the newly elected President Lincoln.

Cornel's Indian Burial Ground, Trading Post and hotel along the Chippewa River going north were you find only a small marker put up by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1930's. I have some photo copies of some lodging guest sign-in sheets which I need to find and look at again. Some distant relatives of mine, Allen and William Morrison, Michael Cadotte and others which I will list stayed there. All famous settlers or their descendants. Tim from the Hyrdo plant later sends me a map by email showing an old map from explorers of the Chippewa Trail(s) coming out of Chippewa falls north to Flambeau Farms. Checking the site near Cornel, Wisconsin is the notation, "Jim Brunett's Trading Post."

gna turkeys.jpg About twenty years ago in Wisconsin you would not see a single turkey. I remember seeing my first one about ten years ago. Now, you find turkeys walking across the road like they own it. Thank god for Thanksgiving I guess, but will I give up my Butterball?

Perkinstown Cemetary site of Paul Whitefish' burial site in Taylor County. Whitefish refused to remove to Kansas or Oklahoma, or from the Big Farm/Little Farm community made up of Potawatomie, Ojibwe, HoChunk and Sioux Indians.

Big Farm/Little Farm site in Taylor County at the confluence of the trail going northwest to Lac Courte Oreilles, northeast to Lac du Flambeau and south to the Potawatomie living at Skunk Hill near Wisconsin Rapids. The 1902 small pox burial ground of this community is desecrated during the 1960's for somebody looking for artifacts, and viewing it is difficult as there has to have been 20-30 graves that are still open and dirt piled high around them. We spend over an hour walking the 5-10 acre site looking at test pits or places that somebody has dug into looking for artifacts. There is evidence of other people being here this summer and hopefully that will help protect it as well as other relatives and tribal members checking on it. Whoever was there, had a key to the gate at the front of the road that was erected after the desecration of the other graves in the 1960's. I later express my feeling that some day somebody should return to the Big Farm site and regroom the open burials there, but am told that some of the relatives of those buried there had the same feeling, but came to the consensus that it needs to be left as it now is as evidence of how some non-Native people choose to show their disrespect to the burials of our ancestors.

One of the nicer things we find, is that at the site of the old Big Drum dance ring, still visible to the eye, how beautiful the entire site is, now surrounded by Sage, a plant that is not common to the region. The sage appears to spiral out from the Dance Ring area in larger circles and cover approximately an acre of the Big Farm site. The site is very spectacular and hopefully we can get one to the photos inputted here, as the green/silver sage contrasts against the ground ferns that were turning brown from the recent frost.

We spent a considerable amount of time locating small markers and areas that you can tell were disturbed by human activity. A large foundation, hard to see until you find the corners and all of a sudden, the small 2-3 inch wide, and high berm that formed the foundation of a fairly large house on one of the highest points of the community can be seen. We looked at sites of other housing, dumping sites, garden sites and other activity, some of it historic, some of it more recent, (like a pit and a birch tree growing out of the side which appears to date it about 10-15 years ago).

There are articles and photos from the State Historical Society that document both Paul Whitefish at Little Farm, and the other group at Big Farm under the leadership of the Potawatomi John Young who had migrated north from Illinois in the 1850s or 60s because of the encroachment on their traditional lands. Young allegedly had ties to an Oklahoma reservation as well, or rumors abounded that he had access to some kind of an oil royalty payment. Other members of the present day Skunk Hill Potawatomi, or the Wisconsin Rapids group as some people call them, now headed up by Joe Young and his mother Dorothy are affiliated with the Praire Band of Potawatomi located in Kansas, rather than the Citizens Band of Potawatomi found in Oklahoma.

PS: We harvested one great big Puffball Mushroom today. We left a small offering of tobacco.

gna ldf marker.jpg

Lac du Flambeau - We end up at Lac du Flambeau where this group spends two days touring the reservation and learning the history of Dakota/Ojibwe battle of Strawberry Island, tour the historic village site of Keeshkemin (Sharpened Knife) who brought his band to, and established the Ojibwe presence at Lac du Flambeau, visit Nick Hocking's Waswagoning Village site, and get to meet some of the locals who toured the Old Village where the "traditionals" of the community formed when they moved west of the present day Lac du Flambeau village proper. They resided at Lake Flambeau on the mouth of the Bear River and now-days the tribe has it annual pow-wow. But historically this area was known as a site where members of the Grand Medicine Lodge (or Midewiwin) held their ceremonies. Accross from the entrance to the Bear River pow wow site, sits a round house that has been used by members of the two active Big Drum societies at Lac du Flambeau, the Ackley, and the Mitchell Drums.