University of Minnesota


On pages 2 and 3 of Timothy Smith's essay, the following statements briefly touch on the Native American population present in the area that became known as the "Iron Range":

"The entire country was then a wilderness, only recently opened up for logging operations. Neither passable roads nor railroads yet existed, and the only inhabitants besides scouts, surveyors, and lumberjacks in logging camps were a few scattered Indians." (p.2)

"The unoccupied timber lands, moreover, nurtured the European immigrant's dream of a farm in America."

Without trying to address in detail the questions of how scattered or what "few" and "unoccupied" means, a few selected images may serve here to represent the native inhabitants of the land that attracted so many immigrants after 1880. The interaction between the native population and the immigrants is, of course, another problematic issue.

Indian life in the 1880s. Shown are both a round top and a pointed top tipi made of birch bark. In theforeground Chief Beargrease and his wife are working on a birch bark canoe. A.S. James, a druggist, and his wife can be seen standing in front of the first tipi.
An Indian chief's grave near what is now Ely.
Burntside Lake Indians in full medicine dress.
Chippewa Indians on Burtnside Lake. An Indian mother begins a weaving project while her baby sleeps. 1895.

All images and captions on this web page come from "Pioneer Life in Ely" by Lee Brownell, published by the Iron Range Historical Society, Virginia, Minnesota, 1981, pp. 1-3 (as found in the IHRC's print holdings).

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