Place of the Iroquois Bones

“The battle of Iroquois Point was not a minor skirmish, it was a turning point in Ojibway history … it was to them what Waterloo was to the nations who stopped the encroachments of Napoleon” – Chase and Stellanova Osborn, 1944

“They were the first to defeat the Iroquois, who to the number of a hundred warriors came to take possession of one of their villages. Hearing of the enemy’s march, fifty Sauuteur (Ojibwe band) went to meet them. Under the cover of a very dense fog, they entirely defeated them. They had for arms only arrows and tomahawks, while the Iroquois relied much upon their firearms.” – LaPotherie, 1753

Iroquois Point and the lighthouse that sits on it today were named after a battle that was fought on the spot in 1662. The victors, as is usually the case, chose the name for this battle, instead of naming the battle after its locale, as is the western tradition, they chose the name of the vanquished as the name for the battle that subsequently also became the name for the location. According to Henry Schoolcraft, in their language, the Ojibwe called Point Iroquois “Nau-do-we-e-gun-ing,” which means “Place of the Iroquois Bones”. A fur trader from Sault Ste. Marie observed human bones and skulls still visible on the beach at Point Iroquois in the late 1700s.

“They united and formed a circle around the camp of the Iroquois… They entered the camp during a shower of rain, near dawn. Not a soul was awake to give the alarm; and every Iroquois was put to death except two. The two saved were furnished a canoe, and told to go and inform their relatives of the result, and to tell them never again to venture into the Chippewa country.” – Excerpt from Oz-ha-gus-co-day-way-quay’s account (from Schoolcraft, 1827)

The preceding text was from a new interpretive sign at the lighthouse. It was erected as part of the new Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway. I imagine that stimulus money went into this project, which includes new signage and roadwork. In truth, I don’t know all that it entails, since I only explored the eastern most terminus of this byway. I drove to the Dancing Crane on Thursday, instead of cycling. It was a beach day and I could not coax Anne onto the bike. Her reason overcame my desire and instead of biking I drove to the Dancing Crane, just to save time, after all it was a beach day. There I met the [Finnlayson] girls and spent enough time in gab that I would have spent on the bike, but still much better spent. As Anne pointed out, in three days time we will be back in Saint Louis. There is no beach in Saint Louis (except for Times Beach), but there is a beach here. So we chose to enjoy the beach while we can and if tomorrow is a beach day, we will do it again, training be damned.

I should have stopped writing in the last paragraph, but… Like the lighthouse photo, the other photos portray outward signs of government on Lake Superior. The naval vessel that passed up lake and then back down again is exhibit one. The three plane aerobatic team that was practicing over the lake, I enter as exhibit two. I suspect that they were Canadians exercising for this weekend’s air show at Selfridge. What was not pictured, because I did not get the shot, was a C-17 taking off from Soo, Ontario. All of this military activity in just one afternoon. It is almost like bringing my work on vacation.


5 thoughts on “Place of the Iroquois Bones

  1. my ojibwa grandmother used to tell us about the battle of iroqois point and that the key to victory was the ojibwa braves paddled quietly with their hands at night accross the lake from gros cap on the canadian side to the point and surprised the iroqois who had consumed much firewater as they celebrated their pending victory…george

  2. There is no historical evidence or proof that this battle ever happened, and definitely not cause to say the Iroquous were destroyed as was made in some other claims. This is heresy.
    The Jesuits Relations of 1666-1671 never mention the Ojibwe as the Iroquois most hated enemy and not at all.

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