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 May 30, 2003

Our last update was way back in December leading up to the winter meeting. Much has happened since then and I will try to update everyone on recent events. Our meeting occurred last winter in Minneapolis. At the meeting we had a total of 35 families and friends. Our discussion was focused and many important decisions were made after spirited discussion. After our meeting we all gathered together for dinner. We were able to watch some great old film provided by Roy Snell and a presentation by Dave Stokes award winning photo journalist from KDLH television in Duluth about how a documentary could be made about our shared history. We were also honored to have Jim Marshall of Lake Superior Magazine  with us for the day. Jim made some great contributions to our meeting. Below I have summarized some of the decisions that were made at our meeting as well as  the follow up that has occurred since we elected a Board of Directors in April.

1.. To formally select a board of directors, who then would choose officer of our group from that board. An election was held in April and board members were selected for a term of one year. The board held a teleconference in May and elected the officers. Below is a list of board members and officers.

  • David Barnum Board Member, President

  • Grant Merritt Board Member, Vice President

  • Carla Anderson Board Member, Secretary

  • Sally Orsborn Board Member, Assistant Secretary

  • Todd Strom Board Member, Treasurer

  • Stuart Sivertson Board Member

  • Brian  Merritt Bergson, Board Member

2. To incorporate, and possibly apply for 501c3 status. Grant is working on this right now.

3. Come up with a name change. The main concerns related to the "Original" and the lack of inclusiveness related to the use of only "Families. As there are many who care as much as we do about the history and heritage of Isle Royale, but who have never had a family history of owning property on the island.  A committee was formed and worked on coming up with a name more reflective of who we are and what our goals are. The committee decided on  the Isle Royale Families and Friends Association. This name reflects the fact that we are not an exclusionary group, but inclusive of any one who shares our passion for the preservation of the rich culture, history and heritage of Isle Royale and don't want to see it lost forever, but rather preserved for present and future generations.

4. Review the mission statement. The board approved a slightly revised mission statement which can be seen below.

5. The board has selected a date for the Summer meeting. It will be on Barnum Island on Sunday August 3rd. For those of you on the eastern or central part of the island transportation can be arranged via the Voyageur II. You will need to plan to staying over night and return Monday morning on the Voyageur II. Limited indoors accommodations will be available, so many of you will need to bring a tent. A snack and dinner will be provided. You should plan on bringing  a lunch for Sunday and breakfast for Monday. More detail will soon follow.

Summer Meeting Merritt Island 2003

Last winter a writer to our message board indicated that our effort was self-serving and "laughable". I was sorry that the writer did not choose to leave his real name as I would like to engage in a dialog with him or her. I have been told by NPS personnel that our efforts will have to fly with the public in order to be successful. I agree with that. I believe, and yes I do have a bias, that my family history and all the other family histories are worth preserving. I also believe that the best way to do that is to allow these families to maintain their traditional use on Isle Royale in a way that benefits NPS and the public. IRFFA has to make the case that our presence is valuable. We have had a great deal of encouragement from many individuals in in the National Park Service and the public who we have talked to over the years. We are greatly encouraged by new and enlightened policies towards families that have many generations of history in National Parks. The report from the National Park Service Advisory Board "Rethinking National Parks in the 21st Century is a great example. Click on the link above and you can read about what is says about the importance of maintaining the ancestral connections. Some have suggested that the term "ancestral connections" only refers to Native Americans. That is incorrect. I have spoken to the author of the section on culture in this report and she stated emphatically that although Native Americans have an important cultural heritage worth preserving that European Americans do as well and are not excluded in this area.

The Cultural Resource Management guideline states "The goal of NPS is to allow traditionally associated peoples to exercise traditional cultural practices in the parks to the extent allowable by law.... Again I want to emphasize that our goal is not to be in conflict with NPS or the public. If our group can provide a tangible benefit to both through our history, heritage and  maintenance of historic dwellings then we should be permitted to stay. If not, we will not argue the time has come for all of our families to leave Isle Royale forever, and allow the erasure of any evidence of the over 100 years our family history on Isle Royale.

Finally, I want to mention a great article that was sent to me be John Snell. It is about the Apostle Islands and the reasons why "wilderness" designation should not conflict with preserving the cultural heritage of those Lake Superior Islands. The author, William Cronon points out that "the Apostle Islands also have a deep human history that has profoundly altered the "untouched" nature that visitors find here."  He continue by saying that "most parts of these islands have been substantially altered by past human activities, they have also gradually been undergoing a process that James Feldman, an environmental historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is writing a book about the islands, has evocatively called "rewilding." The Apostles are thus a superb example of a wilderness in which natural and human histories are intimately intermingled. To acknowledge past human impacts upon these islands is not to call into question their wildness; it is rather to celebrate, along with the human past, the robust ability of wild nature to sustain itself when people give it the freedom it needs to flourish in their midst." Mr. Cronon states the problem succinctly "the riddle we need to answer is how to manage the Apostle Islands as a historical wilderness, in which we commit ourselves not to erasing human marks on the land, but rather to interpreting them so that visitors can understand just how intricate and profound this process of rewilding truly is."

My grandfather, George G. Barnum II first came to Isle Royale when he was about 6 years old on the boat the Picket. He spent the rest of his life, until he passed away in 1959 operating boats around the island and generally around Lake Superior. I have always wondered about his relationship was with his father George G. Barnum I who first purchased Barnum Island, Beaver Island, Grace Island and Laura Island. My great grandfather fought in the Civil War, worked on the railroad, built a modest grain empire and was one of the original citizens of Duluth Minnesota. I came across the following story that my grandfather wrote about his father.

"My most vivid recollection of Father is of his great energy. When he got into action, things were liable to happen. In a short sketch of his army career which appeared in the annals of the one hundredth New Your Regiment, the writer made the statement that Father was accustomed to do the work of three men. There must have some truth in this statement because I can hardly remember of anyone who ever worked for Father, especially outside the office, who did quite as much in a given time as Father thought was possible. When I was ordered around for this or that purpose, I used to think that he really believed that the job should be done almost simultaneously with the command, and preferably a little sooner. I think most people who worked for him had a similar impression

To the stories that Father has told of the early days in Duluth, I might add a couple of occurrences which illustrate his activity and energy. We sat before the fire in the cottage at Isle Royale one evening. The fishing had been good, and Father was in an expansive mood. He told me of the time he was timekeeper and paymaster on the old St. Paul & Duluth Railroad. It appeared that the men were paid off in the second story of frame structure in Duluth access to the room in which they were paid being gained by a flight of iron steps on the outside of the building. The men came up the steps and passed before counter where Father sat and checked the time and made the payments. One sturdy individual who had been doing a little drinking was not satisfied with his time check and accused Father of being crooked in his figuring. This evidently wasn't quite the thing to do, as the next thing he knew, Father was over the counter, grabbed him by his beard with his left  hand, back him against the wall, and struck him in face with his right hand, and the result was that the man's jaw was broken and his face cut open. In the next instant, he was out at the top of the iron stairway, being heaved vigorously down. Even in the rather rough days of early Duluth this was a little bit too much apparently for the townspeople, and Father was arrested, but nothing very serious came of it. In telling me of this instance, he thought it would be interesting to illustrate it so we got up, and grabbed me by the shirt where  a beard should have been, slammed me into the door of the cottage, and explained just what he did. I think he was about seventy years old at this time. The next day I got the door pretty well straightened up, and in a week my shoulder was all right. I always thought it might be a mistake to accuse Father of being crooked."

                            Our Mission Statement

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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Last modified: June 28, 2007