During the 1840s, a virulent epidemic of smallpox ravaged the northern Great Plains. The people at Turtle Mountain were especially hard hit. Many people died on the route between Turtle Mountain and Devils Lake. Rather than bury the people in the ground, the people placed the bodies of the dead in tree scaffolds on the many small islands in the middle of Lake Alice.
It was hoped that by placing the bodies on these islands it would protect people from further smallpox outbreaks. After this, the people called Lake Alice the "Lake of the Dead", and the little islands were the "Le petit isles de mort" the Little Islands of the Dead.
Lake Alice is now a National Wildlife Refuge maintained by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
From: Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of North Dakota
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities