Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Repost Pt6: The Witch Tree

While we were in Grand Marais, we ran into a stand with with a bunch stumbled upon a post card with a silhouette of a twisted old tree on it. It's called The Witch Tree. (but also goes by the name "Little Spirit Cedar Tree". ) The Witch Tree, located in Grand Portage, MN is sacred among the Chippewa tribe. The earliest documentation of the tree dates back to the year 1731. It is a small, gnarled and twisted tree growing out of a rock, sitting alone on a small cliff above the water's edge. Tribal members would visit the tree to have their fishing and hunting expeditions on the lake blessed with safety. They would offer tobacco to the four winds.

Nobody knows for sure what type of tree this is, or exactly how old it is, as they don't want to damage it by taking bore samples. Several years ago the land around the tree was purchased for the tribe, and walking within 20 feet of the tree was prohibited.

And so we continued on our way up to Grand Portage. Scharlett felt that, given our previous day that included falling down and a couple other minor events, AND that we were in the Chippewa nation, AND the entire area just feels wouldn't be a bad idea to have the rest of our trip blessed by the tree. When we got to the old fort, Scharlett and Bev went into the visitor center to find out how to get to the Witch Tree.

While she was doing that, Tink and I went look'in around. (we're not much for standing around asking questions. We're more the "Lets go find it!" type. LOL) As we'd been riding up to the fort, you could see this WEIRD fog moving in off the lake. Well, it probably isn't weird to those that live there, but to me, it was almost eerie. I tried to get a video of it, but it just doesn't capture how it felt OR how the fog was moving. I went and stood on this v-e-r-y long dock and shot video.

At the very end of the video, what you don't see when I come back around to the shoreline is that Tink is there and scared the crap out of me. LOL

Then we went inside the old fort and saw...well...old fort stuff. It was very interesting, and the people were dressed in period clothes and "living the part".

Some of the tents, just outside the fort. I didn't get to ask who stayed in them, but I think mostly traders and stuff.
There is an Indian woman sitting inside this lean to, cooking fish on the fire.

She didn't actually HAVE a baby with her, but here's a papoose thingy that a baby would be carried in. The Chippewa have a specific name, but I don't remember what she said it was.
The guy on the right is getting ready to leave in his birch bark canoe. He's a trader, and has just brought in all of his furs to trade for staples and more pine tar which is used to waterproof the canoes. (the woman on the left is a tourist.)

I stuck my head inside a teepee, but it was so bright outside, and so dark inside that I couldn't see a thing. So, I stuck my camera in and this is the picture it snapped. There is a sleeping mat in back, a red blanket to the left of it, and some firewood to the right.
I wanted to ask more questions, but Tink was thinking we needed to get back to Scharlett.

When we were coming to the end of the trail, there was Scharlett, flagging us down. She was so excited, and in SUCH a hurry! Here's what she told us:

I went inside and asked the woman behind the counter how to get to the Witch Tree. She said, "Nobody goes to the Witch Tree. It's a sacred place, and only those who've been approved by the Tribal Council are allowed to go there. " I explained to her WHY we wanted to go there, but I understood why we couldn't. I'm sure my disappointment showed, so she said, "We do have pictures of it over there, if that helps." I told her thanks, thinking the picture just wasn't the same thing. Oh well... And then a young woman came to the desk and asked, "You wanted to see the Witch Tree?" I told her yes, and why. She said, "I'll be right back" and disappeared. She came back a few minutes later and said, "I'll take you there. We'll have to go by car so you'll need to follow me." It seems her mother's land adjoins the tree, and after hearing WHY we wanted to visit the tree, she made a phone call and got our visit approved.

And so we made a run for our bikes so we could follow Terri to the tree. The ride out there was SURREAL! It's a couple mile drive, and as we neared the area where the tree stands (only we didn't know how close we were) this fog swept over us. Almost sucking us in. The moisture from it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was almost as if the Indian Spirits were guiding us in...welcoming us...that's the only way I know how to explain it. We drove down what felt like a deserted road, with the lake to our right and dense woods to our left, then pulled into what looked like an small gravel rest area that hadn't been used in years. We dismounted our bikes, and headed down the trail.

we stopped to read this sign:

Then continued on...

Terri had brought along tobacco (I was really tempted to ask what KIND of tobacco it was, but figured that would be kinda rude. LOL) As Tink was blowing her tobacco to the four winds, she became very emotional. As a little girl she and her dad would sail along the north shore, and would stop here so her dad could visit the tree while she played on the shoreline. As a child she never understood the significance of the tree. But now, as a grown woman, making her own journey, the image of her dad leaning on the tree (because you could do that 40 years ago) was a very moving experience for her.

Here's the picture I got of the Witch Tree, which doesn't do it justice at all.

Here is Terri, our guide. What a lovely young lady she is.

And Terri took this, which is one of only a couple pictures of all four of us together. Notice the Witch Tree is right in the middle of us! (and don't we look lovely with all our gear and helmet hair! LOL)

When we'd walked back to our bikes, and said goodbye to Terri, we all agreed this was a sidetrack well made. Next stop: Marathon, Ontario Canada!

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