Natural Features & Ecosystems

Hammerstones were used to extract copper from the bedrock.
This is the first season of my life that father has taken me to the floating island called Minong. The trip across Kitchi Gummi (Lake Superior) was calm. The last snows of winter have all but melted. We pull our canoes made of birch bark ashore on the rocky beach. Shesheeb (ducks) float nearby. Many in our party gather large round stones. They carry the stones over the jagged ridges away from the craggy shore and into the forest. I notice something shimmering beneath the waters. It is bright and blinds me when the sun hits it through the rippling waves. I reach for it through the water. I grasp it tightly. It is cold, heavy, and solid, yet nothing like the jagged stones around it. My father rejoices when he see's what I've found . He holds it to the sky shouts in the air "miskwabik!" (The red metal).

Lake Superior has shaped Isle Royale's rugged rocky shore and created its isolation. Crossing the lake was not easy for the island's first visitors. They were hunter-gatherers that came for copper, maple sugar, game, fish, and berries for thousands of years. North Shore Ojibway not only utilized the island's resources in prehistoric time, but were part of fishing and mining booms of the 1800s as well. Although the establishment of a national park in the 1930s brought about modern ties to the state of Michigan, historic bonds were to the north, and many descendants of Isle Royale's original Ojibway visitors still reside in the Grand Portage and Thunder Bay areas today.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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