Sacred Sites Tour: Critical MN History

On April 21st, 2018, I participated in a sacred sites tour led by Jim Bear Jacobs and Sanctuary Covenant Church. What follows is my summary of the day, but I must say upfront that there’s no substitute for living the experience, the stories, the space, the place, of the tour itself. Gleaning some parts of it and plugging it into the web is important though, because this is real life Minnesota history, and has a real life impact on us today.

On a personal level, I see  that it’s my history, too. Literally. Thanks to my Grandmother’s genealogy skills, I know that I’m descended from German/ Russian-German steamboat captains that piloted along the Mississippi into what was then known as St. Paul’s Landing. I can drive and walk to an exact tombstone of my ancestor overlooking the River in South Saint Paul. Saint Paul’s Landing by way of steam boat was the main entrance for white settlers. Many of which of German heritage, their pioneering was the Western frontier in the 1850’s. This is me, my ancestors, my literal genetic unfolding. It’s our responsibility as Minnesotans to know and grapple with.

Where do we start? At the Dakota place of Genesis. If you’d rather skim the written version, there’s a great website from the MN History Center with resources, photos, and videos.

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Wading in Water History: San Francisco, Drought, and Hetch Hetchy


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SAN FRANCISCO– The reality of the California drought is a stark contrast from the lush upper Midwest. While one chooses between ground or surface sources for municipal water and need not stop to think about lush green grass underfoot, the other dons signs along the road reading “pray for rain”. While Minnesota and Wisconsin thrive in a culture of river and lake recreation, California has a website for the drought, featuring Lady Gaga chiming in to get the attention of the masses. Not only are the communities of the Bay area strained by the drought, but a key fertile agricultural land in our national economy is strained, too. Wine, fruit, and especially almonds from Northern California make their way around the country and the world. While the region had built an infrastructure to cope with such water scarcities, the current drought has the reservoirs at record lows. The drought reaches beyond the capabilities infrastructure and now calls on personal water use. Reflecting on our history in water resources, are we really ready for such a responsibility?

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Beauty and History in the Sylvania Wilderness

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MICHIGAN U.P.– On a recent canoe trip with Conserve School students and staff, we trekked into the UP’s Sylvania Wilderness Area. Being a beautiful vacation destination for hundreds of campers, canoers, and fishing enthusiasts alike, Conserve School is lucky to have such a place practically out its back door. For 5 nights and 6 days we paddled, camped, swatted mosquitoes, and escaped them with refreshing dips in the stunning clear lakes.

Beyond the beauty though, a fascinating history is nestled under the canopy of old-growth hemlocks and maples. Over a hundred years ago, the Ojibwe came to the area from out East, migrating from a prophecy to travel to where food grew on the water. They came and found wild rice, which currently grows in Sylvania, forming magical wildlife hotpots bustling with activity. Sylvania as it exists today became possible through the Michigan Wilderness Act in 1987, which put the area into the 9.1 million acre wilderness system that was previously created by the 1964 Wilderness Act . Before this at the turn of the 1900’s, Sylvania’s early development consisted of individual property-buyers purchasing land around Clark Lake, eventually forming a private fishing and hunting club.

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The Natural and Not-So-Natural History of House Plants

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When learning about plant ecology and plant natural history we often focus our attention outdoors. Well, that’s obvious! But how about our indoor habitats and the plants that help compose them? The lobby, coffee shop, and library plants we stroll past daily all have their own natural histories. These plants bring life to our indoor spaces, and get us through long wretched winters. But what’s more, lets take a look at how the stories behind these plants can inform and enhance our indoor living spaces.They are our living history.

Here’s three common house plants you may see around town this Winter:

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Glorious Landscape & Rich History in Copper Country

Standing atop the pile of mine refuse tailings at Old Victoria.

MICHIGAN U.P.– Over the past week I had the amazing opportunity to trek across the North Country Trail for 6 days, covering about 50 miles from Trout Creek to the Trap Hills near Berglund.

The immensity of the Ottawa National Forest and the beauty of these forests are still leaving their impression on me days after my return to a bed. My legs miss the hills, my eyes miss the grand views, and my ears miss the haunting, wild calls of the coyotes and wolves. Compared to the Porcupine Mountains and Minnesota’s Superior North Shore, this is unfortunately a less-traveled segment of the North Country Trail. This segment, which is the Peter Wolfe Chapter, holds so much for both adventure seekers and history buffs alike.

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