Photos: A rendezvous with the past at Grand Portage


Claire Sparling walks past the monument wall.
1 Claire Sparling walks past the wall outside the Grand Portage National Monument last Friday during Rendezvous Days in Grand Portage, Minn.

The three-day event celebrates and recreates the intersection of Ojibwe people and the North West Company and their people, explorers and traders during its heyday in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Sparling, a Winnipeg native, dressed in period costume as a tailor, but made it clear that women of that profession were not common fixtures at the site. "Women in my profession would not normally be at a place like Grand Portage in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but rather in some place like Quebec," Sparling said.
 
Grand Portage National Monument
2 The Grand Portage National Monument, its dock and Grand Portage Island (top right) played host to Rendezvous Days Friday, Aug. 12.

The fort was built to facilitate trade between Europeans and Ojibwe people while also allowing the shipment of thousands of tons of fur from the northwest onto ships in Lake Superior.

From this location, a canoe "can reach the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico with no portage longer than 12 miles," according to the National Park Service.
 
David Logan performs a drum ceremony.
3 David Logan, a member of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, performs a drum ceremony Friday outside the Grand Portage National Monument.

"I'm cheating a little," Logan said, squeezing his throat and vocal cords. "We just started singing so it takes awhile to really get that umph from the bottom of your stomach that you need to get going."

Logan is a member of the Stonebridge Singers, which consists of 11 young men from Grand Portage.

"It's really awesome I can come out and do this," he said, "getting together with my buddies and singing."
 
High Falls on the Pigeon River.
4 The Grand Portage exists because of the Pigeon River's High Falls.

Grand Portage, or the Great Carrying Place, was an important 18th century connection between the Pigeon River and Lake Superior. As the power of the North West Company grew and the fur trade exploded, this link grew in importance and saw thousands of tons of fur and other goods carried the 8.5 miles between the un-navigable waters of the Pigeon River and Lake Superior.

While the portage became a new and important route for European traders in the late 18th century, the trail had been traveled for centuries by Native Americans.
 
Making haggis
5 Marvin Woody, Phil Palzkill and Paul Shipman make haggis during Rendezvous Days at the Grand Portage National Monument.

Haggis is made from chopped-up bits of sheep's heart, liver, muscle, lungs and other organs mixed with onions, Scottish pin oats and whatever else the people making it feel like adding. Herbs and spices are added to taste, then mixed together and tossed into a sheep's stomach, which is then tied off and boiled for hours until it's ready to eat.

"Haggis is delicious," Shipman, who spent his time dicing the onions to mix with the sheep's innards, said.
 
Children laugh during an 18th-century puppet show.
6 Children laugh during an 18th century puppet show Friday during Rendezvous Days. 
Jeff Reiswig bakes bread in a stone hearth.
7 Jeff Reiswig bakes bread in a stone hearth during Rendezvous Days in Grand Portage.

"This is my first year as an interpreter during Rendezvous Days," said Reiswig, who hails from Cottage Grove, Minn. "I just love the history of this place."
 
Chris Cheney and Maggie Nelson, 5, make haggis.
8 Chris Cheney and five-year old Maggie Nelson stuff a sheep's stomach to make haggis during Rendezvous Days.

In the 10 minutes before she helped stuff the sheep's stomach, Nelson bounced all over the camp, shouting "Haggis!" with glee. When the time came to stuff the sheep's stomach with the sheep's own innards and assorted vegetables and spices, she reached into the bowl almost elbow deep and begin tossing the mix into the stomach.

"I can't wait for haggis!" a jubilant Nelson exclaimed as she began filling the stomach.

(When asked what she likes better, cookies or haggis, Nelson said she likes both just as well.)
 
Aspen Tesdahl and Lily Walters dance.
9 Aspen Tesdahl and Lily Walters dance to the drumming and singing of the Stonebridge Singers Friday during Rendezvous Days outside the Grand Portage National Monument.

Tesdahl and Walters hail from southern and central Wisconsin and have been attending Rendezvous Days for years.

"We love to come dress up and dance," Walters said.
 
Reenactors in period costumes approach the docks.
10 Reenactors in period costumes approach the docks at Grand Portage National Monument Friday.

An awning in the middle of the canoe protects two men as they read a book and take in the scenery on their way to the fort as part of Rendezvous Days, a three-day celebration that recreates the intersection of Ojibwe people and the North West Company in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
 
The top of the wall surrounding the Great Hall.
11 The top of the wall surrounding the Great Hall and other interior buildings at the Grand Portage National Monument is covered in moss and other vegetation.

The wall is not original to the fort, but a replica rebuilt to show what the area looked like during its heyday in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

With the permission of local Ojibwe bands, the North West Company operated an outpost at Grand Portage from 1778 until 1802. The spot hosted an annual rendezvous of Ojibwe and European peoples, trading and more. The fort and that annual rendezvous are inspiration for today's Rendezvous Days.
 
Grand Portage National Monument seen from Superior
12 Grand Portage National Monument is seen from the waters of Lake Superior Aug. 12 during Rendezvous Days.

Dozens of reenactors gathered to celebrate the history of the area and lived for the weekend as the original settlers of the fort did, 200-plus years ago.
 
Rendezvous Days re-enactors chat during a break.
13 Rendezvous Days reenactors, who dressed in period costumes and performed demonstrations ranging from bread-making to tinsmithing, chat during a break Friday. 
Ella Halverson works on a corn husk doll.
14 Ella Halverson of Taylor, Wis., works on a corn husk doll during Rendezvous Days.

A corn husk doll is a Native American toy made out of the dried leaves of a corn cob. Early settlers of the United States adopted the practice of making corn husk dolls from Native Americans. It is generally seen as a cultural link between native people and Europeans.
 
The Stonebridge Singers perform for the crowd.
15 The Stonebridge Singers perform for the crowd outside the Great Hall at the Grand Portage National Monument Friday.

The Stonebridge Singers are a group of 11 men from Grand Portage who sing all over northern Minnesota. As Rendezvous Days celebrates the gathering of Europeans and Native Americans at Grand Portage during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Stonebridge Singers channel Ojibwe songs and music to kick off the festivities.
 
The Mist of Avalon sits anchored offshore.
16 The Canadian-flagged Mist of Avalon tall ship sits anchored offshore from the Grand Portage National Monument Friday.

Originally built in 1967 as the Liverpool Bay, then abandoned from 1987 until 1992, the ship was reborn the Mist of Avalon in 1997 and has appeared at numerous festivals and in many feature films.

During the 2016 Rendezvous Days, visitors could tour the vessel to see what ships of the late 1700s and early 1800s looked like.
 
People in costume carry water back to camp.
17 People in period costumes carry water back to camp during Rendezvous Days at the Grand Portage National Monument. Despite the participants' best efforts to live as people in the late 1700s and early 1800s did, water had to be collected from potable sources. 
The rebuilt wall surrounding the monument.
18 The rebuilt wall surrounding the Grand Portage National Monument is seen through two open doors of the Great Hall Friday.

The Great Hall served as the Grand Portage fort's main building, and was one of 17 buildings within the stockade. Originally built in 1785, it would regularly host more than 100 employees of the North West Company for meals -- and was also home to business meetings by company partners.
 
Fresh bread cools off outside a stone hearth.
19 Fresh bread cools outside a stone hearth Friday during Rendezvous Days at the Grand Portage National Monument.