How The Environment Has Shaped the State

From Sustenance to Leisure on Minnesota Land

Expert Essay: Associate professor of history Michael J. Lansing, published in Environmental History as well as Ethics, Place, and Environment, highlights the many ways people have made use of Minnesota's flora and fauna over time and reviews the state's more recent efforts at conservation.

Restored stockade at Grand Portage

Restored stockade at Grand Portage

The reconstructed stockade and Great Hall at Grand Portage, 1953. Both the stockade and Great Hall were rebuilt with greater historical accuracy in 1966 and 1974, respectively. At the time of this photo, the site had been named a National Historic Site by the Department of the Interior but had not yet been made a National Monument. Note how the interior of the stockade was used as a visitor parking lot.

Excavation work at Grand Portage

Excavation work at Grand Portage

Archaeological excavations at the Grand Portage depot site. Photograph by Willoughby M. Babcock, 1937. The features in the trench may be part of the foundation walls, which were located during the 1930s excavations.

Grand Portage excavation site

Grand Portage excavation site

The site of archaeological excavations at Grand Portage undertaken by Civilian Conservation Corps Indian Division (CCC-ID) workers, 1937. The excavations uncovered building foundations and stockade post holes that were used to reconstruct the Great Hall and stockade several years later.

Site of Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River

Site of Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River

The site of Fort Charlotte at the western end of the Grand Portage trail on the southern shore of the Pigeon River, 1922. The photograph is looking upstream and was taken from the Canadian (north) shore of the river. Images such as this one helped spark interest in preserving the trail and depot sites in the 1920s.

Ojibwe man on Grand Portage trail

Ojibwe man on Grand Portage trail

An Ojibwe man (possibly Paul LaGarde) standing on the Grand Portage trail on July 10, 1922, during an expedition initiated by Minnesota Historical Society director Solon Buck. The man is identified as a guide who helped MNHS Field Secretary Cecil Shirk and Minneapolis journalist Paul Bliss retrace the trail, which was threatened by private landowners. Publicity from the expedition sparked interest amongst white Minnesotans in preserving the trail and depot sites.

Cecil W. Shirk and Paul LaGarde at the site of Fort Charlotte

Cecil W. Shirk and Paul LaGarde at the site of Fort Charlotte

Minnesota Historical Society Field Secretary Cecil W. Shirk and guide Paul LaGarde (Fond du Lac Ojibwe) stand on the foundations of a building at the site of Fort Charlotte, July 10, 1922. Fort Charlotte was the depot at the western end of the Grand Portage trail, on the south shore of the Pigeon River. Shirk (at right) stands in the remains of a cellar, and LaGarde (left) stands on foundation remains. The image is from a 1922 expedition initiated by MNHS director Solon Buck to retrace and recover the trail, which was threatened by private landowners. Publicity from the expedition sparked interest amongst white Minnesotans in preserving the trail and depot sites.

Grand Portage National Monument

The Grand Portage National Monument in far northeastern Minnesota was established in 1960, after the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) ceded nearly 710 acres of their land to the US government. A unit of the National Park Service (NPS), it consists of the eight-and-a-half-mile Grand Portage trail and two trading depot sites—one on the shoreline of Lake Superior and one inland, at Pigeon River. A partially reconstructed depot sits at the Lake Superior site.

Gunflint Lake scenic overlook

Gunflint Lake scenic overlook

Gunflint Lake scenic overlook inside the Superior National Forest, July 22, 2017. Photograph by Flickr user Tony Webster, September 30, 2017. CC BY-SA 2.0

Vermilion Falls Overlook

Vermilion Falls Overlook

Vermilion Falls Overlook on the Vermilion River inside the Superior National Forest. Photograph by Flickr user Tony Webster, September 30, 2017. CC BY-SA 2.0

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