“Mikwendaagoziwag” Kayaking & Moving On

Since my last journal entry a lot has gone on. I have moved on to my new home & new camp host job in southern MN. I am now at Great River Bluffs State Park overlooking the Mississippi River near Winona, MN, it is nice park with 31 drive in sites, (that most of will accommodate large RV’s) there are no hookups or dumpsite at this park also there are 4 cart in tent sites. As host I do have electric and the showers are near my site. Here is my new home for the next five weeks.


This part of the region of the Upper Midwest is known as the “driftless area” meaning no Glaciers had covered this area in the last million years. Hence, no drift or glacial debris – rocks, boulders, gravel, or soil – was deposited by the glaciers. The region includes parts of Winona & Houston counties in Minnesota, and extends into areas of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Glaciers made Minnesota what it is today. These ice sheets, up to two-miles thick, made lakes, filled in valleys, created hills, and moved millions of tons of rock and soil. Most of bluffland area of southeastern Minnesota displays no glacial drift from any of the four major glaciers. Since glaciers covered most of Minnesota during the last million years, the driftless area show what Minnesota was like in pre-glacial times. Below are some photos high on the bluffs that were not touched by the glaciers, looking out over the Mississippi River. Maxine checking out the views from the road going back to the campground.20160801_14032420160801_140331Even though the driftless area was not covered by glaciers, it was affected by them. Meltwater from glaciers to the west rushed downstream to the east and emptied into the already swollen Mississippi River. These rushing waters carved through hundreds of feet of sand-stone and limestone that are exposed today in the cliffs all though the area. A short hike from my campsite to west on the bluff that the campground is on, will bring you to an overlook of some of the bluffs & valleys. Here is Maxine leading the way on the trail.20160805_103713

Views from the overlook to the west of the tree covered bluffs.


And if you head a short ways to the East Overlook you get these great views of the river valley and beyond to Wisconsin.20160805_10584720160805_11054920160805_110517As my time here at the park goes on I will be doing more exploring of the area to share with you all. 

On the Wednesday before I left Sandy Lake, there was ceremony held at the park by the local Native American Indians (The Ojibwe’s). You see there is a memorial in the park called “Mikwendaagoziwag” that means “we remember them” in the Ojibwe language.


In the winter of 1850 into 1851 injustice known as the Sandy Lake Tragedy took place near here.

Here is the story of what took place.

The Memorial on this glacial mound remembers about 400 Ojibwe Indians who died and thousands of others who suffered during what is known as the Sandy Lake Tragedy. Constructed by Ojibwe Tribes from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, the Memorial was completed in 2001. It is a sacred remembrance of the many sufferings endured to preserve the Ojibwe’s homelands and way of life.

Mikwendaagoziwag means “we remember them” in the Ojibwe language. At least 400 grandfather stones are embedded in the Memorial to represent those who died.

The tragedy unfolded when U.S. government officials attempted to illegally relocate a number of Ojibwe Bands from their homes in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to northern Minnesota. In late autumn of 1850, thousands of Ojibwes had assembled at Sandy Lake for their annual treaty annuity payments. As the Ojibwe waited nearly six weeks for the payments, they suffered from illness, hunger and exposure. Many died from dysentery and measles. The promised annuities were never fully paid and, after the last of the meager provisions were distributed on December 2, the Ojibwes began an arduous journey home. Harsh winter conditions had already set in, and many more died along the way.

The outer circle of plaques on the Memorial commemorates the 19 Ojibwe Bands whose treaty annuities were to be paid at Sandy Lake in 1850. Today, these 19 Bands are succeeded by the 12 federally-recognized Ojibwe Tribes who built this Memorial and are commemorated by the inner circle of plaques.

So each year they come to the area to remember them. The ceremony starts on the far side of the Lake with prays and a presentation to remember the suffering and loss of life. Then some of the participants will canoe or kayak across the lake to the park & the Memorial. “No small accomplishment on a good day” but on that day it was raining hard most of the crossing. In the meantime there were many more people back at the park preparing a luncheon they had fish, fried bread, wild rice and many more traditional dishes. All were invited to join the celebration. Out of respect, I did not take photos of any of the doing put here are some close-ups of the Memorial. From the front.


The back side, see name of the Bands & Tribes on the plaques.


The sign at the bottom of the mound telling the story in English and Ojibwe.



The last weekend that I was at Sandy Lake my sister Bonnie came to visit so that we could do some planning of our upcoming trip to United Kingdom this Sept. and do some Kayaking. We worked at the planning at night and when I was free from my duties at the campground. We got things more or less all set for our trip. We also did some sightseeing and got some kayaking in. On Friday afternoon we did an eight miles round trip up a channel that connects Sandy Lake to Aitkin Lake. It goes through the Wild Rice that is abundant here at Sandy Lake. Here we head out to the channel.


A close-up of Bonnie


Taking a water brake close to the Wild Rice.


Heading up the channel to Aitkin Lake.


As it open back up at Aitkin Lake.


It was a perfect day for kayaking.

On Sunday morning before we both had to head out we did one more short trip out on the main lake, it was a three and half mile round trip. Here we head out on the back bay, it was nice and calm.


But when we got out on the open lake we had to work a little harder with the wind coming right at us.


We went out around one of the many inlands on the lake and headed back to the park with the wind at our backs.


It made for a second great time on the water, what a nice way to finish my stay at Big Sandy Lake.


One more thing I checked on the Bat House before I left and there were a couple of bats in it that is a good sign.


Till next time best to you all. Rick



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