A Legend of Spirit Island

Myth? It depends on your beliefs…
Image: Google Maps

Spirit Lake is a widening of the St. Louis River between the Duluth Harbor and Fond du Lac below Spirit Mountain. Within the lake is an island appropriately called Spirit Island. The following is the legend of how they came to be named:

A legend tells of Chaska, the son of a Dakota Chief, who accidentally entered Ojibwe territory while hunting and encountered Wetona, the daughter of Ojibwe Chief Buckado. He was handsome, she beautiful; soon they were in love. They would secretly meet at Manitoushgebik overlooking the St. Louis River—a spot known today as Bardon’s Peak (named for James Bardon, a pioneer of Superior).

The Dakota planned a surprise attack on the Ojibwe, prompting the lovers to flee to a small island on the river. After the battle, Buckado rewarded one of his warriors, Gray Fox, by offering him Wetona’s hand in marriage. When it was discovered that Chaska and Wetona had run off, Buckado became angry, vowing that his daughter would not marry a Dakota. A party of Ojibwe warriors saw a light on the island, paddled over to it, and found Wetona’s canoe beached there.

But there was no trace of the lovers, just two pair of moccasins: Wetona’s puckered Ojibwe footwear and Chaska’s made in the Dakota fashion. They were never found. Loon Feathers, Wetona’s grandmother, said, “I am brave and strong, but now a great fear comes over me. I hear strange sounds like music. This is the voice of the Love Spirit, who has carried the lovers to the Moon of Perpetual Honey in his sky canoe.”

The Love Spirit’s magic was said to be stronger than death, so in order to not anger the spirit, Buckado had his warriors return to their village. Since then the island has been known as Spirit Island—and the lake Spirit Lake, and the hillside nearby Spirit Mountain.

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