Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's old is new again

Grand Portage is one of the oldest settlements in Minnesota, with Ojibway people living there for at least 500 years and a fascinating blend of European and native cultures since the 1700s. Visitors this summer will enjoy some new and meaningful ways to experience this history.

The National Monument has totally reoriented their entrance. The old parking lot on the northeast side of the stockade is blocked off and is regrowing native vegetation. The new entrance is on the west side of the stockade, and goes through the new heritage center.

The new Heritage Center at Grand Portage appears to be a tremendous new interpretive resource. I say "appears to be," because after a brutal hike to Mt. Josephine, we lost our energy to explore the facility. But I could see into the exhibit area and it looked terrific. You do have to pay the Monument entry fee to take in the exhibits.

One super cool new option this summer is a guided tour of the Spirit Little Cedar Tree, or "Witch Tree." Access to this North Shore landmark has been tightly controlled by the band and the community. Now, every Saturday and Sunday, you can sign up for a free 3:00 tour. Sign up by 2:30 at the Heritage Center. I recommend doing it now, before the program gets changed.

Go next weekend (August 8-10) for the annual Rendezvous Days. This is a combination of Grand Portage's annual Pow Wow and a big fur trade encampment at the Monument grounds.

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