Day 41 — Fosston to Grand Rapids
July 23, 2021. This morning Todd drove me back from his place to Hwy 2. Just east of Fosston I rode over the continental divide, out of the Hudson Bay Watershed, where the Red River flows, and into the Mississippi Watershed.
Much of this part of the ride went through the White Earth Indian Reservation (Ojibwe: Gaa-waabaabiganikaag, lit. “Where there is an abundance of white clay”) the home to the White Earth Band, and the largest Indian reservation in Minnesota by land area.
Community members often prefer to identify as Anishinaabe or Ojibwe rather than Chippewa, a corruption of Ojibwe that came to be used by European etters. The population was 9,192 as of the 2000 census. The reservation is one of six bands that make up the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, their overall governing body.
Much of the community’s land was illegally sold or seized by outside interests, including the federal government, in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Much of this happened under the pretense of the Dawes Act of 1887, which allotted communal tribal to individual households, for subsistence farming. The remainder was declared surplus and available for sale to non-Native Americans. In 1989, Winona LaDuke formed the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which has slowly been acquiring land privately held to add back to the value of the non-profit to be used for collateral. At that time, less than 10% of the land within the reservation boundaries was owned by tribal members.
My original plan was to ride about 75 miles, through the reservation to Bemidji, and then to the town of Cass Lake. But mercifully, there was no wind! This was the first day since I crossed the continental divide in Western Montana that I wasn’t fighting a wind. This meant I could make great time with less effort. it was glorious riding!
When I got to Bemidji I rode through Bemidji State University, which is a lovely campus on the shores of Lake Bemidji, crossed the Mississippi River, and then took the bike path around the lake before joining Highway 2 again.
When I got to Cass Lake it was still early and I was feeling good. So I decided to continue on the the Grand Rapids area. I came upon a few miles of additional bike trail past Cass Lake, which was a nice relief from the din of the highway traffic.
I also passed this big fish, which was quite impressive.
Along the way I called my friend Bob Jones to see if I could show up at his place a day early. He said sure, he had some business in Deer River anyway, and could pick me up afterward somewhere on Highway 2.
So I kept riding east on Highway 2 in the wonderful windless conditions to the town of Bena, located on the Leech Lake Reservation(Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag in the Ojibwe language) home of of the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe. The Leech Lake Reservation has the highest population of any reservation in Minnesota, with a resident population of 10,660 as of the 2010 census. About one-fourth of the reservation is covered by lakes, which the band uses for the production of wild rice.
I thought about these things as I rested up in the shade of a big spruce tree next to the Big Winnie (short for Winnibigoshish, the lake just to the north) General Store.
Not more than 20 minutes after I got there Bob pulled in. We loaded up my bike and gear, and headed up to his cabin on Bello Lake, just minutes or so to the north.
Overall it was a great day of windless riding, and it’s great to spend the last two nights of my trip with Bob, which I’ll write about in the next blog post.