In the fall of 1890 the Sioux in South Dakota, had become tired of reservation life and were planning open hostilities under the Ghost Dance. Although the Sioux “revolt” was put down, the incident caused widespread uneasiness among the settlers across the region. Rumors spread throughout northern Minnesota that a Sioux chief had visited the Ojibwe of Red Lake to incite them to revolt, and that the Ojibwe had purchased all the powder and lead available in Thief River Falls. Other terrifying stories also were told—including the possibility of the Ojibwe at Roseau Lake planning an attack.
It is believed that the rumor of an attack by the Roseau lake Ojibwe was precipitated by one (or more) ill-intentioned settlers who wanted to stir up trouble. Louis Enstrom and Ole Holm, two early settlers, testified that an individual named Mrs. Marshall, played a large part in fomenting the rumors of an Indian attack. She was a mixed-blood Ojibwe who resented the intrusion of white settlers and hoped to drive some away by spreading rumors of unrest. Her initial rumors led to more panic, which spread like wildfire—leading to even more panicked stories being spread from farm to farm. In one case, it was reported that “three hundred Indians in full war paint had passed Sprague's lumber camp, just across the line in Manitoba”. When the rumor mill caught wind of this, the number quickly grew to three thousand! Later investigation revealed that three Indians actually had passed the camp!
By January, 1891, fear of an impending massacre swept the region. The Ojibwe living at the Warroad village were said to be dancing the ghost dance with visitors from Red Lake and other places in the vicinity. The panic climaxed with a series of wild stories spread by two men who rode from farm to farm, claiming that “Indians in war paint were descending upon the area”. In confusion and panic, settlers loaded their household goods on carts and headed west. Those who were determined to stay prepared to defend themselves. Some of the locals who were on good terms with the Ojibwe held their ground, because they doubted the story of an uprising by their friends, so they sent scouts to Warroad to see what the Ojibwe were actually doing.
In the meantime, a general evacuation of the valley continued. One settler, Erick Holm, noted that he had met about sixty groups of refugees travelling on the sand ridge road going west. They were in a most miserable plight due to the harsh cold of January. The scouts who went to Warroad reported that the Ojibwe there were friendly and were only indulging in social dancing. Moreover, when Chief Maypuck and his band learned of the scare, they were almost as frightened as the settlers because they were worried that they would be attacked for something they were innocent of. Chief Maypuck and Ka-Kay-Geesick immediately journeyed to Roseau to learn more about the matter.
Ironically, the friendly aid of the Roseau Lake Ojibwe helped to prevent the settlers from losing everything they had. Mickinock, having also heard of the settler’s panic went looking to help quell the rumor. He found that all the whites had left their farms and that their livestock was almost perishing for lack of food and water. He joined with Ka-Kay-Geesick to water and feed all of the abandoned cattle on his way from his camp to town. He then told some of his people to send word to those who had fled to return, as he “…could not take care of their stock all winter”.
This story (or variations of it) is found in oral history and in several published articles. The most detailed account is found in The Early History of the Roseau Valley (Chapin 1943). Grace Landin (1972) also recorded this story during her discussions with the Warroad Ojibwe.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities