Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Little Spirit Cedar Tree

I've been thinking about sacred spaces again and how they influence people's lives. This time, the sacred place I am thinking about is here in Minnesota and it is one that I've been intrigued by for many years. Maybe you've heard of it as it is fairly well-known in Minnesota. It's called the Little Spirit Cedar Tree (even though most non-Native Americans call it the Witch Tree).

This tree is said to be either over 300 or 400 years old (depending on the source) and seemingly grows out of rock on a ledge overlooking Lake Superior on Hat Point. It is a special tree as it is the traditional place where the Ojibwe placed offerings of tobacco and other things to ask the Gods for a safe passage before they were to journey on the lake.

While tourists used to be able to walk right up to it, due to many years of abuse of the area and damage done to the tree, the area is now protected. People who want to view the tree need to have permission from the Grand Portage Reservation. I think that it is for the best, especially after I read this account from a website on the tribal uses of Juniper:

The only time I went there, with a family from Nett Lake to pray for their
brother, we were actually photographed and pointed at by repulsive, noisy
tourists. I never went back, it was somehow spoiled for me. When I think of that
tree, I can't help but feel it is spiritually dead, because for us it was killed
spiritually by those tourists, their silly babble, their cameras.

(scroll down to the 4th section of the page)

To have a sacred spot ruined by the inconsiderate actions of onlookers is just heartbreaking.

Here is more information regarding the tree that I found:

A beautiful story of how the tree came to be.
A picture and article about the tree and the land around it.
Grand Portage article


ColoradoCelt said...

This is one of the main reasons for keeping sacred places a secret, it protects them. The Ute indians here in Colorado are very secretive about power places, and I understand completely.

Sojourner said...

You make a good point.

This place however, was probably very difficult to keep a secret based on it being right on the lake, which would have been used as a major travel route back in the day. The uniqueness of the tree and it's location makes it a prime target. While you can no longer walk up to it, I do believe that there are tours, both by motorized boat or by kayak, that take you close to the tree. So, even with the land being protected, it is still put on display.