Grand Portage Musings
Trip Start May 15, 2006
2Trip End Sep 04, 2006
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Our second year of volunteering at the Grand Portage National Monument was one of continued growth, excitement, and renewed friendships. At the beginning of the year Tim Cocherane, the Superintendent of the Monument, said that this was going to be a year of flexibility and adaptability. The Heritage Center was scheduled for the Grand Opening on August 10, 2007 during Rendezvous Days. Few of us thought that this most probably would not happen, having gone through other construction projects. Tim, the eternal optimist, felt certain that it would be done. Because of his hard work, both physically and motivationally, he jumped through many hoops to make this happen. We now have a beautiful Heritage and Visitor Center with soon to be state of the art interactive exhibits. This will be a destination for many people, rather than a pass through for tourists circling Lake Superior.
The summer went by very quickly. The three months, which we worked, seemed to be three weeks. The staff at the monument was outstanding, everyone pitching in and becoming contortionists in their flexibility.
This was a year of learning for both Maggie and myself. Maggie learned how to finger weave and find creative uses for the weed purslane. I learned how to use the draw knife, which has become one of my favorite tools. I also learned the art of birch bark basket making and have had some success with it. I also directed the Pelley Band. Our visitors were coerced nicely into joining the group. They played the drum, rasp, uni-string slap bass, and other rhythm instruments, while I played the Native Flute, tin whistle, or clay whistle. This was all part of a program named "Music from the Past". The bands actually sounded pretty good.
Our bonds with the community grew tighter this year. We volunteered for different events which the community put on. When we said that we would not return next year, many were very disappointed. We promised that we would return in 2009 for the entire summer.
Of course, the highlight of the summer is the Rendezvous, always held on the second weekend in August.
More than 350 reenactors descend on Grand Portage to celebrate the fur trade in the late eighteenth century. Friday through Sunday are filled with games for both adults and children, demonstrations and lectures about various aspects of life during that time period, and classes in many different crafts, such as tin smithing, blacksmithing, dorsett button making, husk doll making, etc.
In conjunction with the Rendezvous is the Grand Portage Pow Wow. This year there were almost thirty drumming groups, and over three hundred dancers. Naturally, food abounds with fish nuggets, elk and moose burgers, Indian Taco salad and many other tempting victuals.
I encourage everyone to take the trip to Grand Portage. The ride along the coast of Lake Superior is one of the beautiful drives in the world. The only difference between this road and the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is fresh water verses salt water. Make plans for the summer of 2009. Maggie and I would be happy to give the cooks tour to you. Accommodations are plentiful most of the time. The Grand Portage Lodge has spacious rooms, pool, sauna and a very good restaurant. Near by is the Hollow Creek Resort, also operated by the Grand Portage Band. Seven miles north is Ryden's truck stop and motel. The rooms are clean, but small, with few amenities. About twenty miles South is Naniboujou Resort, built in the 1920s. Camping for both RVs and tenters is available at the Grand Portage Lodge, Rydens, and Judge Magney State Park.
Where I stayed