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Cultural Stories May Protect Island Near Duluth

Posted at: 01/18/2013 5:31 PM
Updated at: 01/18/2013 6:26 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Spirit Island is sacred to the Fond du Lac Band. Officials are gathering stories about the island with hopes that it can be protected for future generations.

Spirit Island is tied to the Fond du Lac Band's cultural roots. LeRoy Defoe is the band's historical preservation officer. He said it started when the Anishinaabe, or “original people” came here from the East Coast hundreds of years ago.

“We had a series of prophets that came and spoke to us, and they said if we stayed there we were going to be destroyed so we migrated,” Defoe said.

Some Anishinaabe stopped at Spirit Island, and since then it has been sacred to them. The band purchased the island from a Duluth resident in August of 2011.

Now Defoe hopes stories passed down through the generations can get it on a federal registry of historic places. He said that would grant it protections similar to a state park.

“You can't even take a leaf of grass or a leaf from a tree. Everything is protected,” Defoe said. “Well that's pretty much what we'd like to have for Spirit Island too.”

Defoe made a questionnaire to help people share their stories. One of those people is Jeff Savage, director of the band's cultural center and museum.

“My grandfather used to always mention Spirit Mountain and Spirit Island. He'd point out the fact that Spirit Island was where the Fond du Lac Reservation was supposed to start according to my elders,” Savage said.

These men want to secure the island for future generations. Not just for Anishanaabe, but for all people.

“It's to show the respect and the reverence held by all citizens in this area. This isn't just our land anymore it's all of our land,” Savage said.

The band made the questionnaire available online for anyone wishing to share their stories. You can find it by clicking here.