Mikel B.Classen
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Pentoga Park - Native American Burial Ground - Iron County

Pentoga Park
By Mikel B. Classen

The drums pound out a steady irresistible beat that can be heard across the calm waters of the lake. Long shadows move and mingle with the tall pines and hardwoods. The huge ceremonial fire tinges everything around orange and yellow. The Ojibwa Indians dance in a circle around the fire. The humble village stands silhouetted along the shore where birch bark canoes sit waiting to be taken out on the water for fishing. The ceremony is in honor of one who has passed on to the realm of the Great Spirit. The body had been earlier put to rest in the burial ground on the far ridge. Occasionally mourning wails mingled with the drumbeats.

Pentoga Park is built on the former site of an Ojibwa village. It is a beautiful spot on one of Upper Michigan's nicest inland lakes, Lake Chicagon. The Indians frequently displayed impeccable taste on where they located their homes. This park is on Iron County Road 424, five miles southwest of Crystal Falls. It can also be reached by traveling south from Iron River to Caspain and then south eight miles. The directions are well marked, so it is easy to find.

This is Iron County's finest park. This park is well groomed, very clean, and has everything you would want in a park. Pentoga is fun for everyone. No matter what your preference might be, you'll find a place for it here. There are 104 campsites that are equipped with all of the hookups. They can accommodate anything here. All of the modern facilities such as shower and flush toilets are provided.

There are facilities for all of those great warm weather activities. The lake is well stocked with all of the traditional pan fish from perch to pike. The park has a boat launching ramp and the lake is large enough to provide good water skiing. The park provides a more than ample beach that does have a lifeguard on duty. It is a nice sand beach that comes equipped with the traditional playground toys that every child requires.

On the beach is a brick and stone pavilion. One half of it is a recreation and picnic area with a large stone fireplace. This way you can still picnic in bad weather or have an evening get together. The other half of the building is a concession stand with all of the traditional summer snacks from hot dogs to ice cream and everything in between.

When walking through the park the Native American heritage can be seen everywhere. The ceremonial circle where they danced and celebrated is marked and still intact so the visitor can walk around it and envision its past. The site where the village was is marked too. Former Indian trails are now used for hiking but still exist.

Probably the most striking remains of the former village is the burial ground which is right on the edge of the campground. This eerie yet fascinating look into Indian society will stimulate interest in Native American culture. The graves are unusual because of the custom that this tribe had of building a shelter over each grave. At Pentoga they are all intact so when you walk through the cemetery, they bring home the differences and similarities in our cultures. It can't help but spark an interest. A lot of the questions that will come up can be answered just up the road.

The Iron County Museum is in Caspain. If you stay at the park, a drive here should be on your list. Besides giving an excellent background on the area, the museum is unique in the State of Michigan. It is a museum that is constantly changing, adding on to itself. It has recreated an early mining town on a full scale. Original homesteads from the area have been moved on site along with a schoolhouse, a church, a railroad depot and the house of a former songwriter. A modern building was built on the site that holds displays and artifacts that are plentiful, in depth and interesting. Dioramas of turn of the century shops are packed with antiques arranged so the viewer sees a vision of how things really were during the settling of the area. Local Indian lore, artifacts and history are prominently shown which give insight to the life and customs of the village at Pentoga.

Pentoga is actually the name of the Indian Chief's wife. Literally translated it means Bullhead. It is unknown if the name was hung on her for her attitude or looks but no matter which, she must have been quite a character.

This is one of the most unusual parks I've ever seen. It is also one of the cleanest and most accommodating. This is a family park that will enhance the quality of your vacation. If you don't have a lot of time to spend, they are open to day use also. So no matter what type of schedule you're on, stopping here should be a part of it.

Staying here overnight is inexpensive, but fees have been subject to change. For current costs and further information contact the Crystal Falls Information Center, Junction U.S. 2 and U.S. 141, Crystal Falls, MI 49920 or call 906-265-3979.

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