Up North for Good

The Up North for Good tagline is a double entendre. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, but my mom was from Park Falls. As a child, most of our family vacations were “Up North.” Later in life, work travels and there were Up Northe vacations with my wife and daughter. After Liz and I retired, we sold our home in Milwaukee and bought property in Seeley, finally moving Up North for good where we hope to volunteer and give back a little.

I have always believed in doing fun, sometimes difficult, things for good and important reasons. While enjoying life in the Northwoods will be the focus of this website and our events, the events will have a foundation in philanthropy, equity or environmentalism. This is not a manifesto, just a way of life for someone who has been blessed and wants to try to give back.

Stay tuned for more as we work to curate a map of amazing bicycle routes and organize a small portfolio of fun but challenging events that help people to explore this beautiful area and enjoy what nature and our close-knit communities have to offer.

We will also feature stories about the great local cafes, restaurants, taverns, and bike shops and other businesses that make this part of the Northwoods special. While I am not a bike mechanic or super bike techie person by nature, I have landed on some things that I think make riding more enjoyable and a bunch of camping products that I use on bikepacking trips and like. So expect to see some short reviews here.

This isn’t a job for me, but I am passionate about it. Check back regularly for updates.

History of the land where we ride

Life Above 8 Productions acknowledges that our events and trails exist on the ancestral and contemporary lands of Indigenous people. Our closest neighbors are the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe near Hayward, which is one of the six Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians who were compelled by military force and political pressure to enter into treaties ceding their land to the United States in the early 1800s. ​While there is some general public understanding of these facts, most of us were not taught the critical details of our US and Wisconsin history. Reading books over the last year, I learned this very abbreviated account of how the colonization process shaped the Wisconsin Northwoods I now call home.

Since my wife and I moved to Seeley, WI, I have enjoyed reading local history books and talking to neighbors to learn more about the small rural community we now call home. I started with the history of how Gary Penman built the network of ski trails around our neighborhood that he developed and then built the Sawmill Saloon out of several unoccupied buildings in an effort to grow a community of silent sports enthusiasts in an unincorporated town that nobody knows how it got its name (I am working on a short history and timeline of the Penman developments and trails in Seeley, so stay tuned for that).

I then started reading books about the earlier history of logging in the area, and how harvesting the rich old-growth pineries here fueled development across the rest of the country. This led to reading the diaries of and books about the French Voyageurs who explored the area before the logging in the 1600s and began trading furs with the Ojibwe people who, based on ancient burial mounds, may have lived in this area as far back as 500 B.C. 

Reading books about the history between the Voyageurs and the loggers I learned more about how colonization led to the area becoming a state, about battles with the indigenous tribes, moving the six bands of the Chippewa to reservations, the history of broken treaties, forced boarding schools, and Indigenous erasure. I am just now learning a little more about my current neighbors at the LCO Tribe. 

I say all that to try to explain that I felt it important to share this land statement not to be politically correct, but because it seemed the right thing to do as I learned more about the community where I live, met more community members, and started to volunteer where my neighbors have needed some help. I write this for the same reasons I tell all my friends and family who visit me about the history of how the DIY additions to the original log cabin became the wacky home we live in, and how Gary Penman built our neighborhood trails. I write this for the same reason I helped pour concrete at the Cable Pump Track, donate to the Cable Food Shelf, fill in at the local pizza place when friends who work there are out of town, or even simple little things like dog sitting for a neighbor when he had an all-day doctor’s appointment.

Those comparisons about the history of our house, volunteering and being neighborly certainly minimize the great injustices suffered by the Ojibwe people, but at this point they are honestly the only way I can explain why I feel it is important to write this. Perhaps as I live here longer, learn more and get more feedback, I can explain things better, buy I felt compelled to do something now.

Until then, in the same way that I hope to do more for the community I now call home as I meet more neighbors and see where I can help, I hope I will learn more about how I can be a better ally with those of my neighbors who are also members of the LCO Tribe. I honestly don’t really know yet how I can be a better neighbor with the tribe, but it seems a small first step to share some of what I have learned about the history of the land where I live and ride. 

The 1830 Indian Removal Act and two major secession treaties signed in 1837 and 1842 were the initial efforts by the United States government to push all the Ojibwe out of Wisconsin to the western side of the Mississippi River. Despite these treaties, some Ojibwe remained in Northern Wisconsin. 

More extensive removal policies affected the Ojibwe of the Wisconsin Northwoods in 1850 when President Zachary Taylor signed an order to remove Wisconsin Ojibwe to Minnesota Territory. In order to force Ojibwe to relocate, the government announced that their annual annuity payments guaranteed by treaty would no longer be paid at La Pointe, Madeline Island, but instead at distant Sandy Lake, Minnesota. When some 3,000 Ojibwe men, women, and children made the journey to Sandy Lake in the fall of 1850, a government representative notified them that their payments had not been appropriated by the government. No living accommodations or food was provided and the Ojibwe had no money to purchase any because they did not get their promised annuity payments. Starvation, disease, and inadequate conditions led many Ojibwe to grow sick and die, and others perished in their desperate mid-winter attempt to return to Wisconsin. An estimated 400 Ojibwe people died as a result of the bungled policy, which has been known as the “Sandy Lake Tragedy.”

In 1852, in the aftermath of this tragedy, La Pointe Chief Buffalo, his adopted son Benjamin Armstrong (interpreter) and some fellow Ojibwe leaders traveled to Washington D.C., where they met with President Millard Fillmore and convinced him to rescind his predecessor’s removal order. In the Treaty of La Pointe of 1854, the Lake Superior Chippewa were able to negotiate four separate reservations at Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac du Flambeau, and Lac Courte Oreilles. While the Ojibwe did agree to cede the vast majority of their ancestral land, they were able to remain on their sacred ancestral grounds (albeit in small reservations) and would retain their rights to fish, hunt, and gather on all ceded lands, a dignity denied most other tribes during the era.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and of course for riding with us. The events now managed by Life Above 8 Productions were started to promote riding in this beautiful area and give profits back to the community. Your participation helps fund our donations to area trails and efforts to increase equity and diversity in the sport we love. We hope to learn more about what else we can do as individuals and how our events can help us better ally with our tribal neighbors who continue to advocate for the sovereignty of Indigenous nations today.

References

  1. https://www.lcotribe.com/our-history
  2. https://canoe.csumc.wisc.edu/LdFCanoe_subpage_East_History_2.html
  3. Treaty with the Chippewa, 1854
  4. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, Wisconsin Native American Boarding Schools, 8/19/2021 
  5. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS4380
  6. https://chequamegonhistory.wordpress.com/tag/chief-buffalo-of-la-pointe/
  7. The Hayward Indian School: Realities of an Off-Reservation Boarding School
  8. https://www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-110
  9. https://www.mnhs.org/fortsnelling/learn/native-americans/ojibwe-people
  10. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4929
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