Kinnickinnic – Put That In Your Pipe and Smoke It

Drawing from Schoolcrafts Journal of his expedition, 1820-1821 -

Du Luth (1680), Carver, (1766-68), Pike (1805) and Schoolcraft (1820, 1832) are just four of the many who paddled the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers.  Fortunately, each recorded their adventures  – some more accurately than others – and we can read their words today.  “Search” those names in Paddlin’ Madeline for more postings on those gentlemen.  I left you last Wednesday with a bit on Du Luth, Pike and the Native American legend of Lower St. Croix Lake.  Today, I’ve got more on the “Fish” legend, Schoolcraft’s impressions, and brief tour of the St. Croix for those first 3o miles or so stopping briefly at one of Pierce County’s principal streams. And don’t forget last Friday’s Mystery Photo.  You still have time to enter.  The drawing to the upper-right is of the “Ontonogan Boulder” in Michigan – not on the St. Croix – sketched during an earlier part of Schoolcraft’s 1820 expedition (Ontonagon Boulder – Copper).

Since this post concerns both “Catfish” and the “river”, here’s a musical diversion for you.  It goes out to my friend, Gary, who celebrates a birthday today and who once caught a particularly snarly looking, channel cat on the Apple river near its confluence with the St. Croix.  And yes, there was a light and a mulberry tree but I’m not so sure about the angels.

Schoolcraft Passes the Confluence

(that’s gotta hurt)

August, 3rd, 1820 – having left St. Peter (present day Mendota) the day before with an overnight camp on the Mississippi short of present day Hastings.

We embarked (this camp) at 5:00.  On descending the river six miles, we passed the mouth of the river St. Croix which enters on the east shore by a channel of one hundred yards in width.  It is connected by a portage of two pauses with the Bois Brule river of Lake Superior and in its whole extent is not interrupted by a single fall or rapid (he would find out some years later just how wrong this “intelligence” was). It is said to be the most practicable, easy, and expeditious water communication between the Mississippi river and Lake Superior.  About five hundred yards above its mouth it expands into a lake called Lake St. Croix which is thirty six miles long and one to three in breadth.  Sixty miles above the head of this lake the southwest company have an establishment (Henry Rowe Schoolcraft\’s Journal /Travels – 1820 ). (pgs. 320-321)

As you head up river and north along St. Croix Lake you encounter a sand bar.  That bar and the lake have origins in Native American legend.  In  Upham\’s Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia he credits this legend to the Ojibwe. Last week’s legend was from the Dakota. (Dakota Legend – Last Wed. Post).  Here’s Upham –

“A minor feature of the St. Croix Lake is Catfish Bar, near the middle of the length of the lake, reaching into it from the far-east shore, named in allusion to a legend of the Ojibwe, whence their name for this lake is “Gigo-shugumot, Floating Fish Lake,” as noted by Rev. Joseph A Gilfillan. (pg. 621)

Modern County Map - Wisconsin

When you enlarge the map, you’ll see the Mississippi joining the St. Croix at the upper corner of Pierce County, WI.  Above Pierce you see St. Croix and Polk.  On the Minnesota side, Washington County long and lean, shadows all of St. Croix County and part of the other two. For a better look at Lake St. Croix “click on” Boater\’s Guide Maps – St. Croix – Prescott to Taylor\’s Falls and scroll to page 54.  You won’t find Catfish Bar here.  It’s further north.  As a matter of fact, the Minnesota town of Afton was called Catfish Bar in an earlier time.  Head up to page 50 and you’ll find it jutting out from the Wisconsin side of the river just across from town.  Now, scroll to page 53 and you’ll find the Kinnickinnic river delta and another bar formed by those waters meeting the St. Croix.  Yikes.  Kinnickinnic.  Say that three times fast. Okay, need some help.  Listen to \”Kinnickinnic\” There, was that better?  Well, I leave off with some botany and some history on the meaning of this term.  In an upcoming post we’ll rejoin Schoolcraft in his own words and find out more about that stretch of St. Croix between Prescott at Mile 1 and Taylor’s Falls at Mile 52.2.  So much cool stuff, so little time before May 1st.  Sit back, grab your corn-cob pipe and enjoy Ms. Wythe  and Mr. Schoolcraft.  Until next time, keep that paddle of yours in the water. Corey

A plant much beloved by humans, the animals, birds, and even the hoary elfin butterfly, which lays its eggs on the foliage.  It is pronounced KINNY-kin-ICK, or Kinn-ICK-innick, and comes from the aboriginal – most scholars say the Alonquin – meaning “smoking mixture.”  Although the plant was native here, it seems to have been the fur traders’ employees who brought the name west with them.  Its other common name, Bear Berry, comes from its genus ARCTOSTAPHYLOS, from the Greek word for bear – Arktos and staphylos – a bunch of grapes, which its berries resemble.  The species name of “uva-ursi” is apparently from the Latin “uva” (grape) and “ursus” (bear) – Kinnikinnic Native Plant Society

Kinnickinnic “A La Schoolcraft” – A blend

The English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word is usually translated as “tobacco,” but in fact typically meaning a blend of tobacco with local bark or grasses. Sometimes written as “kinickinick”.

Schoocraft Journal of his 1820 Expedition …we here first noticed a creeping plant called kinni-kinick by the Indians, which is used as a substitute for tobacco. This plant appears to have escaped the notice of the indefatigable Pursh nor do I find any description of it in Michaux, or Eaton  [19th-c. botanists]. It is a creeping evergreen with an ovate leaf, of a deep green colour, and velvet-like appearance, and is common to sandy soils. I suspect it to be a new variety of chimaphila. The Indians prepare it by drying the leaf over a moderate fire, and bruising it between the fingers so that it, in some degree, resembles cut tobacco. In this state it is smoked, and is very mild and pleasant. They, however, prefer mixing it with a portion of the common tobacco (nicotiana tobacum) or perhaps it is done with a view to economy. As the kinnikinick only flourishes on sandy grounds, it is not always to be procured, in which case they employ other substances, the most common of which is the bark scraped off the small red twigs of the acer spicatum, or maple bush. Certain species of willows are also resorted to.

[Source: Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Narrative Journal of …the expedition under Governor Cass in the year 1820 (Albany : E. & E. Hosford, 1821) (I found this at Dictionary of Wisconsin History )

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