Our Mission is: "To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history."

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Update of May 2002

Our Mission Statement
The purpose of Isle Royale Original Families Association (IROFA) is to continue the over 100-year presence of our families on Isle Royale; preserve our culture, heritage and traditions; and enhance the experience of both park visitors and NPS staff by serving as an authentic link to Isle Royale's rich human history.

Isle Royale Original Families Association
Special Update

Stanley Sivertson, July 4th, 1965

Message from David C. Barnum:

The creation of this web site has its origins from the efforts of Grant Merritt to link the Original Families together through the Isle Royale Original Families Association (IROFA). I look at this site as a place where those who care about Isle Royale can share their history and love of the island as well as a tool to organize and make our case to NPS. Is there a blatantly selfish motivation for the site? Yes, I want to maintain my heritage that now goes back 5 generations to the late 1800’s of the Barnums on Barnum Island, Isle Royale. Does that negate the positive contribution I can make to the park if NPS were to rethink the 70 year old doctrine of removing the families from the island, to allowing them to stay under suitable conditions to all parties? Of course not. The picture of Stanley Sivertson, illustrates this point. Many people don't remember who he is and what role he played on Isle Royale . Yet just about any Original Family member could tell you a unique story about Stan that reflects the history and culture of the last 100 years on Isle Royale. An NPS "interpretive" program cannot provide that kind of rich texture to the island history. Our site offers the opportunity to discuss these ideas and to share our experiences on the island.

I have not met our new superintendent Phyllis Green. Everything I have heard is very positive. Her actions to date indicate someone who wants to listen first, and then form her own opinions. This is wise. She has offered some of us a two-year extension on the Special Use Permit, and in one case extended it to 5 years. I know these are difficult decisions not made in a vacuum. All of the Original Families know that there are limits to what can be done. However, we have all seen that the Superintendent has the authority to allow families to continue to maintain their history, heritage and culture on Isle Royale. It is our commitment to provide this Superintendent the justification to make that choice. I look forward to being on the island this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sunset Cottage on Barnum Island. I invite participation on this site by anyone who cares about Isle Royale. Please contact me if you want to know more about the Isle Royale Original Families Association.

Jim Marshall, the chairman of Lake Superior Magazine and the writer of the popular Lake Superior Journal wrote a column featuring the Isle Royale Original Families in the current July edition of Lake Superior Magazine. You can link to the magazine by clicking the images next to this text. You must purchase a copy of the magazine to read the article. Jim is one of the foremost experts on Lake Superior and has been to Isle Royale many times and personally knows most of the Original Families. Letters to the editor regarding your thoughts on this issue would be welcome.

Below you can read the title  section from the National Park System Advisory Boards report which came out last summer and helps to make the case that the Original Families are making. Click on the link to read the entire report. Some may argue that as “summer” residents that we do not meet the right standard. This is a question that needs to be given some thoughtful consideration and it would be useful to hear discussion on this question or on the larger questions raised in this fascinating report on the message board. Those arguing against us should consider that once a family is removed from the island that this “irreplaceable connection” is lost forever. A question to the National Park Service personnel is whether you feel Original Family members have benefited your experience and the experiences of visitors on Isle Royale? Would you like to see those who follow you to benefit in the same way?                                                                                                             

V. Nurturing Living Cultures and Communities

  • The National Park Service should help conserve the irreplaceable connections that ancestral and indigenous people have with the parks. These connections should be nurtured for future generations.
  • Parks should become sanctuaries for expressing and reclaiming ancient feelings of place.
  • Efforts should be made to connect these peoples with parks and other areas of special significance to strengthen their living cultures.

Last summer the word filter into Washington Harbor that NPS, in partnership with Michigan Tech were forming a new entity, the Isle Royale Institute (IRI). We heard various rumors, the most persistent being that IRI would be headquartered on Barnum Island, and that all 4 families would be removed and replaced with institute personnel and their guests at the beginning of 2002. A meeting was arranged with NPS, and IRI on Barnum Island the end of July. Families from Barnum Island, Johns Island and Washington Island were on hand to meet with a group headed by Betsy Rossini of NPS and Bruce Rafert of IRI. A constructive discussion that lasted  several hours ensued on Enar and Betty Strom’s porch (see below pictures). Many members of the Original Families had an opportunity, for the first time, to express our feelings as group. As a result NPS and IRI decided to hold off on making a final decision on the disposition of Barnum Island. We were told for the first time that we would be allowed to return next year. The Original Families who attended the meeting felt that all parties involved came away with a new perspective on the situation. Certainly IRI learned that they would not be moving into vacant buildings, as it appeared they believed. The Original Families at the meeting expressed a desire to be of assistance to IRI as it defines its mission and seeks to put together programs to educate people about Isle Royale.  Subsequent conversation with the IRI indicates a possible mutual interest in working together.

 Click on the icon  above and check out some of the courses being offered this summer by IRI.


KDLH, the CBS affliate in Duluth, recently aired a segment during the 10:00 News on Barnum Island and our efforts to work with the NPS in order for the families of Washington Harbor to maintain their history and heritage on Isle Royale. I apologize that I was not able to provide advance notice, but if this segment is run again I will try to get that information on the web site. Last summer Rob Heverling, KDLH News Director, and Dave Stokes, cameraman came to Barnum Island and stayed overnight. Dave shot a lot of film and Rob  interviewed just about everyone including Clara Sivertson and Enar and Betty Strom. We shared a traditional planked fish dinner with them. Rob tells me that they have hours of great footage and that they may use some of it in future stories on Isle Royale. I am curious if anyone has any ideas about how some of this footage could be used by IROFA and NPS to connect the visitors to the families. It would also be nice to get some feed back from those of you who saw the segment.


Phyllis Green (L) - new superintendent Isle Royale
and Betsy Rossini (R) - formerly acting superintendent
Barnum Island - Isle Royale - Fall 2001

click picture for larger image

Letter to Phyllis Green from Enar and Betty Strom

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