Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 30, 2000 - Issue 26


Group Returns Land to Chippewa Band

by Dennis Lien, Saint Paul Pioneer Press


High Falls
Grand Portage State Park

GRAND PORTAGE, MINNESOTA -- When a 300-acre parcel that included the highest waterfall in Minnesota was put up for sale more than a decade ago, it could have been scooped up and developed as a resort or closed off entirely.

But that didn't happen, thanks to a nonprofit parks organization that stepped in to buy it and a coalition of Indian and public agencies that helped convert it into Grand Portage State Park in 1994.

Today (December 14, 2000), in the final step of a complicated deal to preserve the falls and the land around it for public use, the property is being returned to the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, which had lost it long ago in a tax forfeiture.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the band will sign a trust agreement in Grand Portage giving the property to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in trust for the band. Under the agreement, the band will lease the land, which lies within its reservation, back to the DNR for a dollar a year as a state park.
This will make the park the first and only Minnesota state park not owned by the state and the only state park in the country jointly managed by a state and an American Indian band.

"I think this is one of those things that's a win-win for everybody,'' said Norman Deschampe, the band's tribal council chairman.

The 120-foot High Falls on the Pigeon River on the Canadian border in extreme Northeastern Minnesota has been a landmark for centuries. Indians, as well as French explorers and fur traders, had to traverse a nine-mile portage around the thundering falls and the numerous rapids along the lower Pigeon River to get to and from the Boundary Waters area.

The band lost the property more than a half-century ago, and it was owned privately until what is now the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota bought it in 1988. All along the objective was to sell the land to the state and convert it into a state park, an approach approved by the Legislature in 1989. The final step was to return the property to the band, which would operate the park jointly with the state.

Since the park opened, it has emphasized Indian culture and has relied extensively on band members as employees, according to Jim Willford, the DNR's regional parks manager.

"Red Totem" by George Morrison
Grand Portage Ojibwe


Grand Portage State Park




Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.