|Written by Ricey Wild,
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Last month I ended my column talking
about the removal of my ancestors’ – and many others of my tribal
nation – remains from a cemetery dating to the 17th century, to a
burial ground in a Catholic cemetery. What is so awful about that you
ask? Well, I’m gonna tell you.
A village once thrived on Wisconsin
Point inhabited by Indians. It was and still is a remarkably
beautiful and peaceful place; it had everything. Plenty of manoomin
(wild rice), and all sorts of delicious and nutritious animals,
vegetables and berries were in abundance. To me it sounds like what
is now called an eco-friendly, sustainable resort town. However, it
was home for many generations of families who buried their loved ones
in a sacred cemetery.
Then in 1908 the United States
government began proceedings to condemn a portion of Wisconsin Point
for “development” (I despise that word) by U.S. Steel. The
objective was to construct docks for railroads to make easier the
cargoes of minerals from northeast Minnesota mines.
I know this sounds like a grade school
history essay thus far but believe me that is not my intent. To
further understand why I think this is so important is because the
entire story of Wisconsin Point is personal for me. I have been
grabbed by the spirits of my ancestors to bring awareness, light and
humanity to what happened not so long ago; the desecration of Indian
graves and the consequences of that action.
During the past 13 years of my
residence here in Rezberry, I have questioned why am I here? The
number one answer is my beloved Gramma Rose and I thought that was it
cuz I still don’t fit in. So rewind to the 1980s when I lived in
Duluth, Minn. for a bit. One night after bar closing I went with some
friends to Wisconsin Point to continue the party. All I really
remember about that night is the soft lap of the waves on the shore
of the bayside. I knew nothing of the point’s history at the time
so I wasn’t aware of the tragic events that had taken place there.
Fast forward to the year 2001 and the
trip my Gramma and I made to Wisconsin Point after my having been
told stories of what transpired there. Long story short, when I drove
past the original cemetery I waved out the window and said, “I’ll
be back.” Then Rose said, “Did you see those people? They waved
back at you.” I looked at her puzzled, and she went on to say,
“They were wearing brown (clothing).” I’ve never forgotten
that, I never will.
See now, a lot of the women in my
family are psychic, or sensitive, which is how I describe my own
intuitive feelings. Therefore I have no doubt whatsoever that Gramma
had seen what she saw; nor have I denied my own experiences since
then as anything but real. Just this past June while I was learning
how to be a nature-knower, the class visited Wisconsin Point on a
field trip. When I stepped out of the van I immediately felt extreme
pressure in my ears, I can only describe it like when I go down a
hill or up in an airplane. I put tobacco down and the sensation eased
a bit, but I was left with a question “what do ‘they’ want from
A few days later, while not even
thinking of that, it came to me that I am supposed to write about it!
To write about what happened there! I was like, whoa! I also felt
that my purpose was not to do a clinical chronological narrative but
bring compassionate humanity to what happened at the time, for me to
tell their personal stories as best I can.
Then, as if I had any lingering doubt
in my mind this happened; SMH. My friend Christine Carlson,
researcher extraordinaire, loaned me a huge binder of her painstaking
research about Wisconsin Point. I know, right? I had been wondering
how to even begin to write their story and everything I needed was
given me. Wow!
If you are wondering how I’m doing
(and I like to pretend yooz do) my life is still mostly cartoonish
and full of absurdities. A refresher: I re-named my kitten “Purrince”
and Mitzi’s kitten THE RZA. FYI: two of my other cats have musical
superstar names too. Pink is the mother of the kits and Tupac thinks
he’s still a kitten, albeit an enormous one. My friend Melissa
asked me once why I named my cat Tupac. I shrugged and answered that
I just like shouting Tupac!
In other news my van’s wiring is
shorting out, I lost most of my check at a casino, and The Mitz is
nursing kittens. So yeah, it ain’t easy being Indian.
Ricey Wild can be reached at