Spirit Little Cedar Tree (aka the “Witch Tree”)

From Greetings from the Arrowhead: The North Shore & Canoe Country, A Postcard Perspective of Historic Northeastern Minnesota, copyright © 2007, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota. Image: © Kent Alriich and the Nomadic Press.

The Spirit Little Cedar Tree (Minido Geezhigans in Ojibwe; also known disrespectfully as the “Witch Tree” or “Witch’s Tree”) is a cedar monarch that sprouted from seemingly barren rock on the Hat Point prominence some four hundred years ago. (Erosion actually wore away the soil in which the tree first took seed, and its roots have grown beyond what has been worn away, giving the appearance of a tree growing from rock.) For generations the Ojibwe left offerings of tobacco at the tree for safe passage on the big lake. When they encountered Grand Portage, French voyageurs respected the tradition and left offerings of their own. Reports conflict as to how it came to be called the “Witch Tree.” Some say it was given that name by the voyageurs and other early European explorers; others give credit to Dewey Albinson, one of many artists drawn to draw the tree. (St. Paul artist Kent Aldrich carved the woodblock of the Spirit Little Cedar Tree seen here.)

Unfortunately, vandals have caused the local band of Grand Portage Ojibwe, who now own the land near Grand Portage where the tree is found, to close off public access to the Spirit Little Cedar Tree.

Over the years, ignorant visitors have carved their initials in the tree or have cut away portions of it for souvenirs. Today those wishing to see the Spirit Little Cedar Tree must arrange a tour with a member of the band. For a distant view, you can take the MV Wenonah from Grand Portage to Isle Royale; it passes by Hat Point to give passengers a view of the tree.