Hole in the Day’s Bluff and Gravesite is a significant nationally and locally known landmark of great historic and scenic value. The site is located on a forested tract that includes both summits of a glacial moraine marked by knob and kettle typography. These summits offer outstanding scenic vistas of surrounding distant terrain, and are well documented as two historic sites: Chief Hole in the Day Gravesite and the “Lookout Place” of the Ojibway Indians. For 18 years I have independently researched the life of this Chief, and am pleased that the City of Little Falls is working to acquire this property with grant monies for a proposed park.
Hole in the Day or “Pugonakeshig” (Hole in the Sky) was a nationally known Chief of the Ojibway Indians, and was buried on this site at his own request in 1847. Being the first Ojibway chief of that name, Hole in the Day was born around 1801 near Big Sandy Lake, and grew up in the region of Central Minnesota. He assumed joint leadership with his older brother Strong Ground over a vanguard band of Ojibway hunters and warriors located on lands contested with the Dakota Indians in 1825. He soon rose to prominence as a Chief through his adept dealing with whites over often touchy inter-tribal relations, while making substantial success in conquering hunting lands from the Dakota Indians in the 1820s and 1830s. During this time his band occupied several village sites in Morrison County along the Mississippi River. These were located near the Nokasippi, Little Elk, and Swan Rivers.
Hole in the Day was chosen by his nation to be one of its main representatives during the 1837 Treaty negotiations, and was the first chief to sign that treaty. In 1838 and 1839, following several major conflicts with the Dakota, Hole in the Day began to be recognized by whites as the “Head Chief” of the Ojibway Nation, while his people saw him as only one of their more effective and leading statesmen. He was ranked above all other chiefs at the 1842 Treaty at La Pointe. With over 40 eagle feathers to his credit, he was, however, the driving force behind the 1843 Peace Treaty between the Ojibway and Dakota Indians. During the remainder of his life he continued to be the most well known and prominent Ojibway statesman, and was often the subject of nationally known magazine and newspaper articles.
Hole in the Day met an accidental death in May, 1847, but one of his last requests was that he be buried on top of the bluff which has forever since carried his name. A government employee observed an American flag waving over the gravesite in 1848, and the site was noted by geologists in 1852 as the place where the Ojibway people commemorated his memory. The gravesite is still well known to many Ojibway Indians, and has been brought to national attention through several histories written about his people. Regionally, the site has been a well known local landmark that successive generations of Little Fallsians have grown up with. And with this site’s renown, grew the legend that if his grave remained undisturbed, his spirit would protect the area from tornadoes and severe storms. This myth has been current among locals for over 80 years and has foundation in Ojibway religious beliefs. In 1938, the Morrison County Historical Society placed a granite monument on the site of the south summit, while a defaced “1898 Mississippi River Commission” benchmark is still extant on the north summit. The south summit offers scenic vistas of the surrounding area, and the monument–of local black granite–has withstood the wrath of vandals. Incidentally, State and Federal Cemetery Acts supposedly protect these two summits from disturbances and development, but are hard to enforce.
Both summits of the bluff were called the “Lookout Place” by Ojibway Indians. They utilized the site as a vantage point for keeping a lookout for Dakota Indians with whom they were often at war during the early historic period (1736 to 1860). This site is one of the few known or well documented locations in Minnesota that were used and named for this activity. An informal survey of the site revealed a pre-historic presence in the bluffs, hence the site has a long history of human use.
Hole in the Day’s Bluff has long been used for recreational pursuits, with both an old and new network of hiking and skiing trails. The gravesite is located on private property and not accessible to the public without the landowner’s permission. Hopefully, the City will acquire this property for a park. With such well known historic value, Hole in the Day’s Bluff is an outstanding significant landmark which should be preserved for future generations.
Copyright 1994, Morrison County Historical Society