Historical Bike Adventure To Discover Real Story of Chippewa Flowage

It was time for a historical bike adventure.

We’ve been coming to northern Wisconsin as a family for decades, the last 20 to my mom’s cabin near Stone Lake, WI.

Despite knowing a little about American Indian history in Wisconsin, I never knew that the Chippewa Flowage was created when a power company, without approval from the Ojibwe tribe, built a dam on the Chippewa River and flooded thousands of acres of tribal land. 

The project, approved by the federal government, flooded the Ojibwe village of Pahquahwong in 1923. 

And despite promises, the power company did not fully build the new town of New Post, did not move graves, and did not restock fish or the wild rice beds that were flooded. 

I had read some of the history of Pahquawong and the dam before setting out on the historical bike adventure. 

In 1971, members of the Ojibwe tribe and of the American Indian Movement took over the dam and eventually were granted rights to its operation, along with land owned by the power company.

The Historical Bike Adventure Ride

My first stop on the historical bike adventure was New Post. 

I visited this beautiful cemetery, where many gravesites were covered by spirit houses. 

Each spirit house has a shelf for the offerings the deceased needs for the journey, and one opening at the end for the spirit to depart. 

There is also what I assume is a stunning old stone school house in New Post that is no longer needed after the tribe built a new K-12 and community college educational complex. 

I rode down a gravel road, the Polish road, which was maybe ironic, County G, then up Dam Road on the west side of the Chippewa River to the dam. 

Contrary to the maps, I wasn’t able to cross the dam.

Since I wasn’t able to get across the dam, and I was already a bit tired, I elected to back track and take Highway 27/70 back to the cabin. 

The highway was actually not very busy, and I had a bright blinky light. 

Still I was a bit nervous when I heard a truck behind me! 

Learning the Real Story

Most of the time, my bike adventures are about personal challenges or exploring parts of the world I haven’t seen before. 

This historical bike adventure one was more about seeing history in my backyard I hadn’t known about. There’s so much history, even in the local places. 

This is a part of our country’s history that may not put white Americans in the best light, but are still a critical part of our nation’s history. 

The Ojibwe Indians took back the dam, but they were never able to replace all that was lost when thousands of acres of land, much of it reservation land, was flooded.

The effects of the flooding are still evident in 2021.