LDF Rice/Corn, the Musuem and on to Lac Courte Oreilles (Lake of the Short Earts)

2007: Only those who have previously toured Brian Poupart's garage would know what I am talking about, but it is one of the more spectacular garages around because it contains so much cultural and intellectual information. Lets just start with Drums. Brian is one of the few people in the Great Lakes region who repairs and builds traditional style powwow drums. There are others who can do this, but Brian has broad spread recognition in part because over the last two decades or more he has either made or repaired literally hundreds of drums. I can go to a pow wow and recognize Brian Poupart drums amongst several groups.


Ricing, cooking, thrashing and popping wild rice. In several barrels Brian has rice at several stages. He reaches into one bucket and peels the chafe off to reveal the color of green rice coming off the nearby lakes before it is dried and browned by scorching it in a kettle over the fire or some other more modern method such as some contraption in his back yard made up of parts from several other contraptions that have been retired. In another barrel, he pulls out a few more kernels and shows us the difference between rice from two lakes. They are plainly different and the discussion leads to speculation about the different kinds of rice there is, including river rice, gravel and sand rice, lake rice and the proverbial long grained rice that used to come from the Kakagon Sloughs of Bad River each year.


ldf mandamin.jpg
Mandamin (The Great Seed) or as other people call it "Indian Corn." Brian says if your summer crop doesn't come thru you can always to a farmer's summer crop stand and get some for next to nothing. "They sell their cobs of Indian corn to tourists to sit on a table and look at it. I ask for the broken stuff.

Indian Corn, Brian says while this year's crop didn't produce very well he can also count on farmers who grow the corn for aesthetic reasons who have broken cobbs to get rid of at reasonable prices. After soaking the corn in wood ash to soften and open the kernels up and prepare them for freezing or adding to other ingredients and canning, he likes to eat the corn, now called hominy fresh off the cloth after the initial soaking. He says, "kind of like eating popcorn in a way," as he chuckled. I can almost imagine that scolding the kids or grandchildren for eating them like that would be standard fair, but grandpa needs to test each batch to make sure it was done properly.

Snowshoes, hanging on the walls, several styles for several different important uses, like being able to turn around in a brush and forested region as compared to running across an open field. Maneuverability vs Speed. He has several different styles hanging on the wall. One pair has some rubber straps to the shoes, showing how people have incorporated modern elements into a traditional style snowshoe. These smaller rounded shoes were very small and rounded and used in for areas like marshes and heavily brushed forest.


ldf museum canoe0001.jpg
A dug-out canoe found near Strawberry Island is on display in the Lac du Flambeau museum.

The LDF Museum Tour, The Lac du Flambeau Museum is filled with gems. Since the last time I was there a few years back the number of items they have acquired has greatly increased, and the displays are broken down in highly explainable and displayed areas. I found it very informable and the items on display from present to historic times include many elements you don't see very often, like a collection of locally made fishing lures, and a small traditional fishing shack made of pine bows on the flooring of the ice, a few sticks overhead like a very small tepee and then this is covered by blankets or a small tarp in order to keep the light out of the fishing hole, and the area around, lit up by light flowing through the ice so you can see what is going on through the ice hole.

Butternut Lake spearfishing site. This became a cornerstone location for the Chippewa during the 1980's when anti-treaty protesters predicted that they would prevent Native fishers from getting on the lake to spear Walleye as part of the hunting and fishing rights reserved in their treaties. It didn't happen that way because as they announced their intent, every Native person, Chippewa and otherwise decided to head in the same direction.

That night in 1985 or 86, one of those years - was a tenuous one as a long caravan of fishers left the Lac du Flambeau Reservation to go to Butternut Lake. As required under the state/tribal notification process, the tribe had made notice to the state DNR their selections of lake for the evening, and the news media did their job at giving the anti-treaty coalition, and their racist friends, the heads up on where to go that night. Little did they know, that some 800-1,000 supporters were gathering on the reservation to follow the tribal boats to the same site.

Menominees, led by Apesanakwat, or AP as some call him, Oneidas, HoChunks, members of the American Indian Movement, and even the members of the Dakota Sioux, the historic enemy of the Chippewa showed up to lend their support.

The caravan wound through the back roads of Northern Wisconsin to the site, approximately 30 miles away. The presence of county sheriffs, state patrol and DNR vehicle along the site attested to the potential of the night. It was now a matter of honor, of principle, and courage that the Chippewa were going to go to Butternut Lake and if they only harvested one walleye, it would be considered a success.

The walleye at the ceremonial feast table the next day attested to that.

But I can remember the dozen or so cars, of which I was driving one, that pulled in right behind the boat trailers before the police intervened and stopped the majority of the support caravan from getting close to the landing. As we went to the landing, on the side for spectators the crowd was already jeering those unloading their fishing boats. We we through the crowd of 555-600 protesters to get as close to the landing as possible, but strategically, that put us at the bottom of the hill leading down to the landing, and below the crowd. The crowd made us of that on the 25-30 people from this group and spit, threw rocks, cans and other things at us. The police looked alarmed but did not intervene, though stationed in groups and lines surrounding the fishers.

After about five minutes, I and others encouraged our group to retreat and that met with a great applause as people had the impression they where forcing our retreat -- but what I was listening too as well, was the faint sound of drum somewhere in the dark, down the road as people disembarked and gathered to make the march up to the landing. The sound of the drum in the distance was like nothing I can ever describe, because if anyone ever said they weren't afraid of the large crowd at least a bit, they were lying. There were some pretty crazy people there that night, and I am sure, that some of them had weapons nearby and would use them in the near future, shooting at the those on the lake, who with their mining hats, had lights mounted on them as the probed the waters in front of their boats to find a walleye. On the other hand, I have to admit a few on our side were packing it pretty heavy that night as well.

So now, as we made our way back to the road from this landing, suddenly a cameraman's light lit up from a distance down the road and all I could see were dark bodies of people (and one smiling tooth of a Menominee, sook) making their way up, and not too soon. A few of the anti-treaty supporters thought getting us off the landing was not enough and were gathering close-by with taunts of "Timber Niggers go home" and the such. When the news lights illuminated the crowd coming down the road a few minutes later much closer -- these courageous racists disappeared shortly after.

You might find a number of stories, maps and resource data about the Chippewa Treaty Rights at the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission including pictures of the boat landing protests. Our visitors will go there later in this trip.

LCO Hydro Dam at Ojibwe, more stories about the Chippewa Trail, Old Abe and Big Farm/Little Farm from Tim. Tim watches all the gauges at the Hydro Plant, now overseen by the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe after negotiation in 1971 for a license renewal to operate the dam. Tim has lots of time to skate around on the web, ask questions and search for history. And he has a lot of it.


Reserve, Wisconsin and the Trading Post. Reserve, Wisconsin at one time was a very lively place with a hotel, railroad station and turn-around, several government agency buildings and a larger population then that of today. It was the site of the first inland Trading Post established by John Baptiste Corbine under the guidance of Michael Cadotte (Mejen in Ojibwe) whose many descendants can be found today throughout Ojibwe Country. Corbine, who it is said was a Catholic, but some how was married to more than one Indian wife at the same time, was chased by LCO warriors from this trading post to the shores of Lake Superior for beating one of his wives, the daughter of an LCO Chief. The stories of him fleeing in haste also led to stories of a lot of silver being buried in haste, and still today, people poke around the old site with metal detectors in hope of finding it.

gna st. franceis sign reserve.jpg


Reserve is also the site of the St. Francis Solanus Catholic Church, one of the earliest Catholic churches in the region and overseen at some point by the Reverend Phillip Gordon a Chippewa. Gordon actually had a small community of Native catholics located at Gordon, Wisconsin about 20 minutes south of Duluth, MN., and a dozen or more graves with Ojibwe names on them can still be found in the local cemetery in the oldest section. Father Gordon and others may have been encouraged to bring the Ojibwe into the reservation -- general orders for all government sanctioned officials after the reservations were established in the 1870's and 80's. If you read the sign here, it says Lac Courte Oreilles was granted a ten acre site to erect a church and school. Since the site is on the reservation and was already owned by the tribe, it is more likely the government granted a plot of LCO land, and gave it to the mission for the church. I think the sign is misleading and will take this up with the Pope the next time I talk to him.


meb cultural center.jpggna meb center.jpg


Maryellen Bakers Ojibwe Cultural Center - what a great traditional dinner of Deer meat, wild rice and fresh vegetables. My one pound Puffball is examined and we decide to go online to look at everything we can to make sure it is safe to eat and to consult with the local mushroom expert. Tomorrow, we will saute it if we determine it won't kill us. Maryellen is the author of the Healing Blanket, and focuses her work on education and fighting alcohol and drug abuse.