Located in northern Minnesota near the US/Canadian border, Mickinock’s Village was one of the most prominent Ojibwe settlements in the vast swamplands of the region.
A minor ‘chief’, Mickinock was related to Ka‐Kay‐Geesick and the other Ojibwe who resided at the Warroad Villages, Red Lake, and Buffalo Point. He was considered friendly to traders and early settlers to the region, freely offering his assistance and goodwill to them despite their encroachment into his traditional hunting grounds.
One story tells of an incident that demonstrated his kindliness. It relates as follows:
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.
There was also a legend of a Windigo—a cannibalistic “monster”—associated with Mickinock’s Village. The Windigo was said to haunt the swampy areas around Roseau Lake and its appearance was supposed to foretell the death of someone at the village. One story, collected by WPA researchers, takes the account of white settler Jesse Nelson, who claimed to have seen the “ghost” Windigo several times. Nelson recounted:
“I was in the yard at the Mickinock house about mid‐afternoon, looking south I saw that apparition rise by the side of the muskeg and start walking westward; it stumbled and nearly fell; then it started to run and several times stumbled, but each time it recovered and ran on for about a quarter of a mile. Finally it went out of sight behind the east end of the grove on the small ridge on Bertilrud’s homestead. The apparition was about fifteen feet tall, dressed in some material that looked like white lace. Whatever it may have been it was not a hallucination of superstitious fears in the dark, for I saw it in broad daylight. Mrs. Mickinock died the following morning”.
Mickinock’s village was not inordinately populous, but it did serve a prominent place in the region due to its proximity to both the prairies to the west, Lake of the Woods to the east, and the rich forests to the south. In 1887, it was reported that about 19 individuals were living at the village. A photograph taken at the village shows Mickinock, Chief Cobenais (probably visiting from his nearby village) with two of his wives, Billy McGillis—a Pembina half‐breed who served as camp interpreter—and other men, women, children and babies posed for this photograph. A bark lodge and a canvas tipi are visible, as is a Red River cart.
Mickinock eventually sold his village area to an individual named Theodore Thompson before retiring to Red Lake.
Federal Writers’ Project. (1938). The WPA Guide to Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.
Chapin, E.V. (1943). The Early History of the Roseau Valley: Minnesota Historical Society Notes. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.
Landin, G. (1972). A Study of Three Chippewa Families at Warroad, Minnesota and Their Historical and Cultural Contributions (Thesis). Moorhead State College.