Friday, June 26, 2009

Adopt a Turtle!!!

This morning we talked with Marshall Helmberger, the editor of the Timberjay, a newspaper serving northeastern Minnesota. This week he wrote about a topic near and dear to his heart: TURTLES. Marshall travels on highway 1 over the Pike River on the way to work and as he said, "This year has been awful. Five large snapping turtles that we know of have been killed." He went on to say, "it's upsetting a lot of people - it is always the topic and it's frustrating. The solution is simple: there is no reason a turtle should have to be killed."

Marshall's idea is to have the DOT create a "Adopt a Turtle" program, much like"Adopt a Highway". He said that silk fences (only a foot high) can be put up. It's a technique used all around the country. He's not suggesting that the MnDot find a place in their budget to do this. "Local people know where these problem areas are – all we need is for them to contact DNR/MNDOT." Changes can be made by going to your local government. Marshall himself will be headed to his local township board with a letter in hand, asking them to sign it and let the MnDot know what the community wants.

It takes citizen pressure to make things happen. Let YOUR local government know that you want to adopt a turtle on your road!

Marshall said, "I think it can be done. It's relatively simple and it would get people all across the state involved in not just conservation but public safety."

Check out Marshall's editorial here.

Interested in turtles? Check out this interesting article from the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer! And check this out about the Blanding turtle's campaign to be the Minnesota state reptile.

-Heidi Holtan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Party at the Magic Castle, Psych-Pop will be Provided

by Doug MacRostie

First off, an apology in advance for the sound of my voice; I seem to have Santa's bag behind my nose, but instead of toys for all the girls and's snot. And I've been coughing more and more so yeah, don't sit too close to the radio so you don't get sick :p

This week on Centerstage MN I'm excited to have Jason Edmonds from Bemidji back on the show. He is singer, songwriter and guitarist with The Magic Castles, a psychedelic pop band out of Minneapolis. I had Jason on last year to talk about their debut record "The Lore of Mysticore," and he joins me this time to talk about their excellent follow up, "Dreams of Dreams of Dreams," which takes the band to a whole new level of expirmental music. The band has a very unique style that is all-the-more defined with this new album. And check out that album cover! A perfect match for this creative and artful music, The Magic Castles have local artists design and screen-print their album covers (so yes, they are limited edition). I'll talk w Jason about the album, the cover and the inspiration behind the music (spoiler alert: he likes old-school Syd Barrett Floyd :D).

Also this week I've got new music from Ely musician Aaron Kaercher, his debut (?) release "User Friendly Radio." And we'll hear another song from Matt Ray, who's self-described as 'a fork in a world of soup." His new CD is called 'Old Crow,' and he is an upcoming guest for Centerstage MN.

Speaking of which, my guest next week will be singer/songwriter Faith Boblett from Outing for some conversation and she'll bring her guitar along for some in-studio music! She's a recent highschool grad (I hear she plans to attend the McNally School of Music) and has a BEAUTIFUL singing voice!

Oh, and be sure to click here and check out my conversation with Ian and Teague Alexy of the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank from last week - it was an indepth look at the style and sound that is their experimental limited edition EP 'One for the Time Capsule." As Ian said, "It's almost like a rebellion to spend time on your art...we're not even really taught to do that, which is ridiculous...its a form of rebellion to spend time on art, but I think it's completely necessary..." The Hobo Nephews are one of the four MN bands that we're featuring for the 5th Annual 91.7 KAXE Mississippi River Festival.

Centerstage MN is Thursday evening's at 6, streaming live online at; or 91.7 Grand Rapids, 89.9 Brainerd and 105.3 Bemidji. All interviews are archived at and the show is rebroadcast Sunday mornings at 6.

Peregrine Falcons at MN Power in Cohasset

Last night on Phenology Plus, Scott Hall talked with Bob Anderson with the Raptor Resource project about the peregrine falcons that nest at the MN Power plant in Cohasset.

You can see the falcon on their nesting boxes on a webcam here. You'll have to choose the Cohasset MN Power webcam on the left hand side of the page.

2nd Annual KAXE Programming Survey

If you are one of the 197 people who completed KAXE’s second annual programming survey, THANKS!

This survey will be used to assess whether KAXE’s programming meets the policy outcomes established by Northern Community Radio’s board of directors.

All of the responses, taken together, provide a valuable statistical basis for the board’s evaluation. In addition, survey participants provided thoughtful and constructive comments based on their personal ideas and experience. KAXE appears to be achieving the board’s programming wishes!

Here are some of the things we learned:
71% of respondents listen to the Morning Show often; 23% listen sometimes.
41% of respondents listen to Phenology Plus often; 31% listen sometimes.

85% feel that KAXE’s public affairs programs achieve the goal of being regional. 85% also feel that KAXE’s public affairs programs do a good job of representing our region geographically. Just 5% feel the station is too focused on Grand Rapids, and 1% said they do not believe KAXE’s public affairs programming achieves a regional focus.

83% of survey respondents believe KAXE’s public affairs programs are informative. 90% said they learn about community events and services on KAXE. 88% said KAXE’s public affairs programs contained information that is useful to them, and 87% said they learn things they don’t learn elsewhere. 83% said KAXE’s public affairs programming is interesting.

92% said they feel welcome to call, write or email KAXE about its public affairs programs. 79% agree that KAXE is “2-way radio.” 43% of respondents have been on the air. 16% have suggested topics or helped produce programs. 71% said that KAXE’s public affairs programs have a strong emphasis on listener interaction.

92% said they get a distinct impression of northern MN “place” when they listen to KAXE’s public affairs programs. 70% said the station is inclusive of many communities and groups in northern MN; 11% said we are missing input from certain groups that would allow the shows to represent our area better. 86% said the Morning Show and Phenology Plus do portray issues and events in ways that represent our northern MN perspectives.

Participants rated the entertainment value of the Morning Show and Phenology Plus on a 0-10 scale. The Morning Show average was 8.52; Phenology Plus was 8.21. For both programs, the most often occurring rating was 10. 98% of respondents believed KAXE’s public affairs programs are entertaining.

KAXE’s most popular music program is On the River, followed by Currents. 55% of respondents listen to On the River often, and 41.3% listen to Currents often. World Café is third most popular, followed by Centerstage MN and Backporch Harmony. 52% of respondents said they listened to Backporch Harmony seldom or never. If “never” is zero, and “often” is 3, here are how the programs averaged:
On the River 2.4
Currents 2.1
World Café 2
Centerstage MN 1.8
Backporch Harmony 1.4

91% of survey takers said they had diverse, eclectic music taste. Of those, 86% can tell right away if their radios are tuned to KAXE. 69% consider KAXE’s music programming to be high quality, and 79% say the music on KAXE is authentic. 5% said KAXE’s music was to narrowly focused and another 5% preferred music that is not played on KAXE often. 70% said their diverse, eclectic musical tastes are satisfied by KAXE and 7% said their taste was not satisfied. 33% stated a preference for certain music programmers on KAXE. 72% felt it was important to be able to listen to local musicians on KAXE.

Of those who said they did not have eclectic musical taste, 50% said they prefer folk music and 44% said they prefer to listen to spoken word on the radio. 31% liked big band music; 31% like quieter, more contemplative music than what they generally hear on KAXE, and 31% like older music than what they hear on KAXE. Just 6% of this group liked rock and none expressed a preference for blues.

-Maggie Montgomery

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MN author Spike Carlsen

His book is called "A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers and Baseball Bats". He features all kinds of wood in there, including the Kauri wood. Here's a picture of the world's largest slab of wood.

Spike is speaking at the GR Area Library for the Men's Reading Group on Wednesday June 23 - he'll also talk on Thursday June 24th at 7pm. Both events are free and open to the public.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

By Golly, The Stanley Cup is Coming to Northern MN! (Again)

by Scott Hall

The Stanley Cup is coming to Grand Rapids.

Former Grand Rapids High School and University of MN hockey star, Alex Goligoski, played for the Stanley Cup Champion Pitsburgh Penguins this year. The 23 year-old defenseman played in 45 games for the Penguins during the regular season, scored 20 ponits on 6 goals and 14 assists. Golly saw limited playing time durong the playoffs, but just signed a 3-year contract extension with the Penguins last week. The Penguins GM Ray Shero expects Goligoski to be a key member of the Pittsburgh blue line next season.

Stanley Cup tradition allows for every member of the championship team to bring the cup to his home town for a brief visit. Former Greenway Raider, Mike Peluso, was the last Iron Ranger to bring the Cup home. That was in 1995 when he was with the New Jersey Devils. We don't know now when the Cup will be here, but we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hobnobbin' w the Hobo Nephews

by Doug MacRostie

This Thursday night at 6 on Centerstage MN I have an exclusive interview with Ian and Teague Alexy of The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank about their limited edition EP 'One for the Time Capsule.' This will be an extended conversation ranging from making music to the best Dylan album ever... The Hobo Nephews will be performing at the 5th Annual 91.7 KAXE Mississippi River Festival on July 18th. Having established a foundation of roots music to build on, the Hobo Nephews spent some time experimenting with 'One for the Time Capsule' and it's sure to be an interesting conversation. Oh, and yes - they are brothers, and they do have an Uncle Frank back in Jersey...

I'll also be talking with Grace Opal-Saxon. From Bemidji, she is a founding member of The Blue Ox Cooperative, a recently formed group working to establish a dedicated working space for area and traveling musicians and artists not only to perform, but potentially for practice space, lessons, workshops, PR/Marketing and other potential uses. They first major fundraiser is coming up Fri. June 26th starting at 2 at the Wild Rose Theater in Bemidji and Grace will tell us more about that.

If you missed it, last week my guest was Take Cover, pop-rockers out of Minneapolis (their bassist Chad Snell grew up in Marcell) and they performed a live acoustic set and you can here it by clicking here (plus a debut of a song off their new CD).

Next week my guest will be Jason Edmonds from Bemidji. He's songwriter, singer and guitarist w The Magic Castles, a psychedelic rock band out of the Twin Cities that is truly independent; they do their own album covers with screen prints and recorded the music themselves...very cool!

Centerstage MN is Thursday evening's at 6, streaming live online at; or 91.7 Grand Rapids, 89.9 Brainerd and 105.3 Bemidji. All interviews are archived at and the show is rebroadcast Sunday mornings at 6.

following the Governor Pawlenty's unallotment plans

Check out the Minnesota Budget Bites from the Minnesota Budget Project to keep up-to-date on the Governor's plans. Like:

Some of the major components of the unallotment proposal include:
  • K-12 education – shifts $1.8 billion in payments to school districts
  • Higher education – $50 million cut to University of Minnesota and another $50 million cut to MnSCU
  • Local government aid – $300 million in reductions to cities, counties and townships
  • Renters’ credit – $51 million in reductions, a 27% cut
  • State government – $33 million in cuts to state agency operating budgets

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


by Maggie Montgomery, Master Squisher

Cutworms. I hate them - and I’m someone who hates to hate anything!

The cutworms have been rampant in my garden for the last two years, attacking the tender, young plants. Cutworms can topple hopeful rows of young onions or carrots, beets or spinach, leaving short, dead stubble in their wake. They eat at night, hide out under the soil surface by day, and are especially active during cool, wet spring weather. They are fairly small when young, but lately I’ve seen some an inch and a half long.

I find them near newly-beheaded plants. I dig around with my fingers, sifting the soil. Digging, sifting…sometimes I find the worm, and sometimes not. When I do, I calmly and smugly squish the thing to death between two rocks, or with my gloved fingers, or between a rock and a stick. Once this year I found half a dozen large cutworms in one row of young onions! Only half the onions are still alive, but it could have been worse!

Most people protect bedding plants from cutworms by wrapping the stems with aluminum foil, or cutting the bottom out of a paper cup or part of a milk carton, burying the bottom under the soil, and planting inside the protective barrier. It is not true that the worm wraps itself around a stem to cut it. Cutworms chew through plants, so putting nails or other partial barriers near plants might not help.

Row crops are hard to protect. Besides obsessively hunting cutworms in the morning, we’ve tried sprinkling the rows with crushed eggshells and diatomaceous earth. The eggshells didn’t work at all. The diatomaceous earth only works on dry ground. The “earth” feels soft, but is actually made of tiny sharp skeletal remains of sea creatures. When the worms crawl over it, it cuts their bodies and dehydrates them. It’s not a pretty thought. There are problems keeping diatomaceous earth dry, but I think it works a little bit.

I’ve recently researched cutworm control. Cutworms are the larvae of moths that lay their eggs in grassy areas. To limit their population in the long term, we have to keep weeds and vegetation out of the garden. We have to till the soil in the fall, and again in the spring. I should surround the garden with mulched flowerbeds, or install walkways to keep the grass away from the edges. If we expand the garden into a grassy or weedy area, there will be more cutworms in the new space. The worst cutworm infestations generally occur where grassy areas have recently been broken up to create a new bed. Some garden professionals recommend treating affected areas with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki. Btk is a naturally occurring bacterial insecticide specific to caterpillars but harmless to humans and the cutworm’s natural enemies. I have never used it. Yet.

This sounds like a lot of work, but we’ll try it in the hope that it will save a lot of cutworm hunting and seed replanting in the future. If we can get this set up and make it part of our gardening routine, the onions should survive better next year!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Muskies, Turkey Vultures and a New Name For Ironworld on the Monday Morning Show

by Scott Hall

DNR Fisheries Biologist, Kris Kavanaugh, tells us how his crew is using genetic testing to help them try to restore a native strain of Muskie in Moose Lake in Itasca County.

Laura Erickson talks about Turkey Vultures on For The Birds Monday morning. You may not want to be eating your breakfast during her comments, but it's a fascinating bird.

Aaron Brown (left) reports on the closing of the Schneiderman's furniture store in Meadowlands and the controversial name change at Ironworld, now known as The Minnesota Discovery Center. Those features plus the Binary Boys Video Game Review, Tornado Bob analyzes the mighty winds of our weather, and NPR news.

Ask and Ye shall receive!

Ye sure did receive! Thanks to everyone for the advice on my poison ivy that I've talked about it though, my psychosomatic side is feeling itchy everywhere. Here's some of the ideas people gave me, for dealing with Poison Ivy.

TecNu - kind of expensive I'm told, but it will actually take the oils of poison ivy off.... one caller from Hackensack told me to go out in the sun and apply it and watch the oil come off, but to be careful it doesn't get on other parts of me.

fels naptha soap
- people swear by this! If you think you've been exposed, wash with this. It won't necessarily help me since I've already got this bubbling mess on my face, but in the future...

jewelweed oil - barbara from outing sent me an email about this.... she said it relieves itching and promotes healing....

Domeboro - Nicole called from the hospital and had asked around there for a remedy for my itching, red face due to poison ivy. They suggested Dome boro - a powder that you mix with warm water and dip cloth in it and wrap around the affected area. Glad I'm not running for Mrs. America tonight or anything!

Thanks for all your help! I'll keep you posted on how it goes from here....


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Take Cover! Live Music Comin' @ YA!!!

by Doug MacRostie

This Thursday night at 6 on Centerstage MN I'll be joined in-studio by pop rockers Take Cover for an acoustic set of music! It'll be 4 guys, 3 guitars and 3-part harmonies!!! Out of Minneapolis, they are having a CD release party at the Ground Floor in Grand Rapids that night for their new EP "The Last Word." Their bass player, Chad Snell, grew up in Marcell and Grand Rapids and it is going to be a lot of fun having these guys in-studio tomorrow! Most of the time w them will be spent playing some tunes, but we'll also talk a bit about the band and what draws them to making music. Do you have anything you'd like me to ask?

After that I'll be featuring The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, Clawthroat and Sick of Sarah - those band, along with Hans Blix and the Weapon Inspectors are the line-up for the 5th Annual 91.7 KAXE Mississippi River Festival, which is going to ROCK! I hope to see you there!

Also, new music from The Magic Castles latest "Dreams of Dreams of Dreams," and singer, songwriter and guitarist Jason Edmonds will be my guest (again) in a few weeks on Centerstage MN.

AND, when the Brothers Burn Mountain came in last week for a live performance (which was AWESOME, btw - if you missed it, you can listen to it here, it was definitely one of my top experiences bringing bands in the studio) they dropped off a copy of their first CD which came out in 2005 called "The Blood of a Thousand Clouds," and we'll hear a song off of that.

Centerstage MN is Thursday evening's at 6, streaming live online at; or 91.7 Grand Rapids, 89.9 Brainerd and 105.3 Bemidji. All interviews are archived at and the show is rebroadcast Sunday mornings at 6.

Too Late for Morels? Maybe Not...

The reports we've had from morel mushroom hunters this Spring indicate it has been a relatively small harvest. Was it the dry May or too cool weather? Steph from Angora called to say she is still finding some black morels. She sent this picture.
Steph writes:

"You have to look harder now because because other plants are growing fast, especially those big leafed asters. I started carrying a pocket thermometer with me this year. I believe the soil temp 2-4" below the soil surface needs to be at least 52 degrees for the morels to fruit. I checked in a few areas that haven't produced yet this year and yesterday the temp was BARELY 52. So I'm still optimistic that some will pop up after the nice rain Monday."

From KAXE Listener, Sandy Roggencamp

On "For The Birds" today, Laura Erickson talked about the Peregrine Falcon watch in Duluth. Sandy Roggencamp sent this follow-up.

"Here’s the link to the Duluth Peregrine Falcon Watch. Michael Furtman has some incredible photos here (click the link and scroll about halfway down his page…it’s on the left). The coordinator Julie O’Connor is an amazing woman who, when she is not putting all her energies into the Peregrine program is the Volunteer Coordinator for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Squeak Here, a Groan There—A Thought From a Morning Walk in The Northwoods.

by John Zasada

On a late spring walk with my dogs I stopped to listen to the early
morning sounds in the mixed aspen/birch/maple forest that the Alder Pond
trail winds through. The bird sounds dominated all others—the calls and
songs of common birds that are here year around, and those of the much
appreciated summer visitors and the rat-a-tat-tat of woodpeckers and
drumbeating of the ruffed grouse.

But as I listened with my eyes closed there was a squeak here, a
scratch there, and a deep-throated groan to name just a few of the
quieter, occasional sounds in the woods that morning. Some I thought
might be a bird’s off-key voice or an interruption in the middle of a
song. But there was no familiar repeat of the song or answer from afar
as often seems to occur when birds are talking. The quantity and quality
of the occasional moans, groans, creeks, squeaks and squawks rose then
fell in volume. They were there for a moment and gone as quickly.

I opened my eyes and searched to identify the source and location of the
sounds. The hardwood forest around me was the only possible source of
the sounds. The tree crowns waving in the light wind, aspen leaves
trembling, and tree boles swaying. But these living trees with new
leaves ready to soak up the suns energy were not the source of the
squeaks and groans.

Then I spotted a dead tree clinging to a living neighbor. As the live
tree swayed in the wind, it rubbed against the branches and trunk of the
dead tree creating a deep groan. When the wind died the sound stopped
and when a strong gust moved through the forest the sound returned.

I thought “the dead trees are speaking to me”. What were they saying? It
was definitely a one way conversation that I had to interpret. Most
simply they told when the wind was blowing. But there was more to the
message. “Don’t forget us! We are an important part of the forest.
Though we no longer capture the sun’s energy, that which we captured and
turned to physical structure is the home for creatures large and small
and the source of energy to valuable lives. We are a critical part of the
diverse life of this northern forest! Don’t forget us!”

A question sometimes asked in jest “if a trees falls in the forest and
there is no one there does it still make a sound?” Still standing dead
trees are always speaking—we just have to take time to listen and
understand their message.

John Zasada is a retired forester and birch bark artist from Grand Rapids

Sandy Roggenkamp's Rhubarb Pie recipe

Sandy Roggenkamp was in last Friday answering phones on our final day on the raft for the "Staying Afloat" KAXE fundraiser. Not only that, but she brought pie! Judging by how within an hour it was completely consumed, it was a winner.

Here's her mom's recipe for Rhubarb Custard Pie

2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. sugar
2 c. diced rhubarb
Melt butter, add sugar and rhubarb, cook and stir mixture until rhubarb is tender.
Mix together:
¼ c. sugar ¼ c. cream
2 tbsp. cornstarch 2 well beaten egg yolks
Pinch of salt
Add to rhubarb mixture and cook until thick. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill.
You are welcome ANYTIME at the KAXE studios in Grand Rapids, but especially if you bring pie!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grand Rapids Before the Dams

by Molly Macgregor

Joseph Nicollet visited the Headwaters four years after Schoolcraft, and in his journal he recorded the falls at Pokegema, which now are inundated by the dams near Highway 2 and at the Blandin Dam.

“The falls of the Mississippi represent a drop of nine feet over a stretch of 260 or eighty-six yards of river. The falls form three tiers. The first one is a five-foot drop stretched over an incline twenty to twenty-five feet long. The other four feet dived the remaining distance into two sections, each one dropping another two feet. “These falls are a lovely prelude to the Falls of St. Anthony, five hundred miles downstream. They have the additional advantage of giving the traveler the sensation one feels only in mountains, this in a region where there are none. One’s imagination, dulled by a monotonous and tiring navigation over so many slow winding rivers, is enlivened by the sight of the impetuous torrent.”

There is an outcropping of bedrock above the first dam. It is part of the western terminus of the Mesabi Iron Range, and the only bedrock visible in the river corridor. The geological formation of the range reaches almost to Longville. In this whole area, springs percolate to the river, and its tributaries the Vermillion and Prairie; many of the springs are stained orange and red by iron.

Rivers are meant to flood, to dry up and to meander. When a river floods, it spreads out on its flood plain and that becomes a place for pike to spawn, for ducks to build nests, for plants to grow. When it dries, the upland mammals move in to eat or loaf.

The Mississippi’s delta in the Gulf of Mexico was created by the sediment the river carried with it and dumped when it hit the ocean. The river’s course was changed, so it doesn’t dump dirt there, and coastal Louisiana lost its barrier islands and protection against fierce hurricanes.

We want to live on rivers, but we aren’t very good at living with them. Today, people are taking dams out and letting rivers meander; that brings back habitat for fish and fowl, and it will ultimately keep our rivers clean and healthy.

Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years. She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook".

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Kimono Seasons" Monday on KAXE

Katie Carter interviews Minnesota artist, Emily Chesley, Monday on KAXE's Morning Show. Chesley's "Kimono Seasons" is the current exhibit at the Fleur-de-Lis Gallery in Bemidji.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More On Flatmouth

by Scott Hall

Our Headwaters guide, Molly MacGregor, has sent along more information about the powerful and influential Anishinaabe leader, Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay, also known as Flatmouth to the French and English explorers between 1805 and 1860. This information comes from various sources.

Molly: The translation I have of his name – Without Fear – comes to me from Mike Swan, who is the Natural Resources Director at White Earth. The name is spelled many ways, and I am no expert.

Flatmouth is one of two Indians with busts in the US senate (the other is of Besheekee or Buffalo). I’ve attached a photo from the US Senate website of the bust.

In looking for this photo, I found the following – which is interesting. I was aware of the relocation. It is a pretty huge event in American-Ojibwe relations.

"A powerful Ojibwa, or Chippewa, chief in the Leech Lake area of present-day Minnesota, Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay, or Flat Mouth, visited the nation's capital in 1855 as a member of the Indian delegation from the Midwest. The tribal leaders were brought to Washington to negotiate land treaties. Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay spoke on behalf of his people in negotiating the cession of more than ten million acres in north-central Minnesota—a land package that included the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The Native Americans received more than one million dollars in funds and services, but aspects of this cession and others in the region continued to figure in government discussions with Native Americans for the next hundred years.

Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay (other English spellings are also known) means "bird with the green bill" in the Ojibwa language. "Flat Mouth" did not derive from this native name but was instead an English translation of the nickname "Gueule Platte," applied by early French traders. In 1911 Smithsonian Institution ethnologist James Moody characterized the great leader as "probably the most prominent Ojibwa chief of the upper Mississippi region from at least 1806, when he held council with Lieutenant [Zebulon] Pike...probably to his death, which seems to have occurred about 1860."

The quote below indicates how angry and betrayed many Anishinaabe felt in their dealings with the Federal government well before Minnesota statehood.

“Tell him I blame him for the children we have lost, for the sickness we have suffered, and for the hunger we have endured. The fault rests on his shoulders.” —Flat Mouth, Leech Lake Ojibwe speaking of Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey

Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years.
She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook",
and will be our guide as we go down the River.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2: Dams and Damages

by Molly MacGregor

Cass and Winnie lie in a plain of sand, created when glaciers dropped ice blocks, and then melted around the blocks. The shape is uniform and the lakes are shallow. It’s a wide open space, paralleling the big wide sky.

People have lived around the lakes for thousands of years. The lakes provided a living, and the living sustained a culture. The parts of the living – land for homes, gardens and cemeteries, wild rice, fish, fowl, animals – can be priced, but today’s lesson is that the value of place in culture can’t be priced like a commodity.

Since the Civil War the American government had been working to gather Native Americans in a single location. In Minnesota, the Ojbiwe had been moved closer and closer to the headwaters lakes. Many advocated a single large reservation, but the Ojibwe resisted, recognizing that doing so would disrupt their lifestyle and their culture. “Every year what supports us grows on this place. If this dam is built we will all be scattered, we will have nothing to live on,” said Sturgeon Man at a council at Leech Lake on the matter.

The headwaters lakes had been awarded to the Ojibwe through treaties in 1855 and 1863; in order to build the dams, the U.S. Government had to find a way to take the land back. The Ojibwe understood their rights under the treaties and objected – consistently and through a long, hard campaign.

The Mississippi often ran dry in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The lumberman at St. Anthony wanted a steady flow for their mills. In order to take back the land from the Ojibwe, the Congress had to find a public purpose for building dams. Navigation below Minneapolis was the chosen public purpose. Construction of the Winnie dam was approved in 1880, but the U.S. Attorney General ruled it could not proceed, since doing so would have dispossessed the Ojibwe unfairly. The remedy was to compensate the Ojibwe, but the 1881 Congress limited the award to 10 percent of the cost of the dam. A commission was appointed to make a formal recommendation, and they recommended even less - $15,000 – be awarded as compensated.

The Ojibwe, led by the Pillagers at Leech Lake, were furious. They refused to accept the offer, having already determined that any award would have to be at least $250,000. The anger was so intense that the Minnesota politicians and churchmen asked the U.S. Government to hold a commission with the Ojibwe.

“The Chippewas hold their present lands under the guarantee of the Government. They are poor, have always been our friends..A visit to Washington of the chiefs…will settle this whole question…Highly as I do esteem some of the gentlemen who were connected with the commission last fall, I believe they failed to place before you the Indian side of the question, and the Indians did not accept their offers,” Bishop Benjamin Whipple wrote to the head of the Indian Claims Commission.

White Cloud was a leader from White Earth who had first counseled patience, but demanded action as construction of the dams proceeded without addressing the Indian claims, “In Washington is an understanding, a strong one…that a white man should take nothing from those reservations…We could not and did not give assent to the damming of the river.”

The Pillagers insisted that the representatives of the claims commission swear, with hands upheld, to resolve the matter, and placed on honor guard on them to keep them attentive to the business at hand. But, the settlement of the claims dragged on, and the dams were built and operations began. In this angry climate, the government then added the condition of removal of the Indians from the headwaters lakes to the settlement of the claim for compensation.

Within 10 years, there was an uprising at Leech Lake: the Battle of Sugar Point. The historical record tends to trivialize the cause of the battle, focusing on the steamboat of soldiers putting across Leech Lake. But, taken in context of the relationships with the Ojibwe and the American government, the deep lines of resentment that boiled over in October 1898, were hardened as the dams were built at Winnie and Leech. And, the irony is that the dams probably don’t serve their stated purpose. About two-thirds of the water entering the river from the headwaters lakes evaporates before it hits the Twin Cities.

Read more about "Dams and Damages" and the "Rhetoric of Reservoirs"...

Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years.
She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook",
and will be our guide as we go down the River.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1: Flatmouth and the Headwaters Lakes

by Molly MacGregor

From Bemidji to Grand Rapids, the Mississippi rolls through three large lakes, Bemidji, Cass, and Winnibigoshish; and picks up a tributary from a fourth, Leech - four of Minnesota’s most beautiful lakes. They lie in a bed of sand, which Henry Schoolcraft called “the great marine district”. This white sand is visible at the river’s outlet from Winnibigoshish. It was laid down by wind during the altithermal, a period of dry temperatures more than 4,000 years ago that turned northern Minnesota into a vast prairie. The sands can always be seen in the sand dunes that remain west of the river south of Brainerd.

Bands of Ojibwe people lived in villages around these lakes, on Star Island in Cass Lake, at several locations on Winnie, on Leech’s Ottertail point and Bear Island. Flatmouth was a leader of the people living at Ottertail Point. All the explorers met him: Zebulon Pike in January 1806; then Schoolcraft, Beltrami and Nicollet. Schoolcraft described him as “both a warrior and a counsellor, and these distinctions he holds, not from any hereditary right, for he is a self-made man, but from the force of his own character.”

Flatmouth, or the French, Guelle Plat, was a nickname. His Ojibwe name was Esh-ke-bug-e-coshe, which means “without fear” according to a White Earth elder. He lived that name, as a charismatic leader devoted to his people’s well-being in a time of huge changes and conflict for them. If history had been written from another point of view, we’d all have memorized his speeches and seek to live up to his lessons.

When Pike met him in 1806, he persuaded Flatmouth to give his allegiance to the Americans, important economically for the young nation, not too long after the Indian wars before the revolution and the war with Britain that erupted in 1812. It was the U.S. Department of War that funded Schoolcraft’s journey to the Mississippi’s headwaters in 1832. He promised to help resolve the conflicts between the Ojibwe and Dakota. Twenty years after the last war, the British retained an economic presence in the region, and the American government needed Indian support to make the American fur trade and trading posts successful.

On July 17, 1832, Flatmouth invited Schoolcraft and his party to breakfast and to make his case for American support in the Ojibwe war against the Sioux. Reverend Boutwell spoke Ojibway and he recorded the speeches: “He had before heard the Americans say peace, peace! But he thought their advice resembled a rushing wind. It was strong and went soon. It did not abide long enough to choke up the road… He then lifted up four silver medals, attached by a string of wampum, and smeared with vermilion. Take notice, he said, they are bloody. I wish you to wipe off the blood. I am unable to do it. I find myself irretrievably involved in a war with the Sioux.”

Schoolcraft was funded by the U.S. government, but, unlike Flatmouth, had no authority. Perhaps, like Beltrami, he was frightened by the emotional power of Flatmouth’s appeal. In any case, there’s no record of his response. He did strike camp early and left Ottertail Point at night – a choice which suggests the desire to get away.

Flatmouth attended their late departure. Reverend Boutwell wrote that Flatmouth changed from his “native costume…to a uniform of blue military frock coat, with red collar and cuffs, with white underclothes, a linen ruffled shirt, shoes and stockings, and a neat citizen’s hat.” Boutwell recorded Flatmouth’s gesture as one of respect. But I think it was one of alliance: offering renewed allegiance to the Americans that needed his support for its own economic success. If so, then Flatmouth recognized that aligning similar objectives builds strength. Unfortunately, Schoolcraft paddled away, and we are left with the power of the moment, and the anguish of an opportunity squandered

Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years. She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook", and will be our guide as we go down the River.

Cape May Warbler by Marshall Helmberger

A Cape May Warbler takes a break from feeding in a balsam fir near Tower. This spectacular bird is just one of more than two dozen species of warbler that can be found in the North Country right now. Photo by Marshall Helmberger from the Timberjay newspaper in NE Minnesota.

Tune in to KAXE's Morning Show every Friday at 7:20 for Marshall's "Border News Roundup".

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