Manajiwin – Snag Island – Five Mile Rock
Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water – the essence of our planet. Cultures have been celebrating these elements for centuries. None more so than the Native Americans along the North Shore of Lake Superior. They would travel out to a rock island in the lake and celebrate their oneness with the earth and its people.
In 1891 the lore of the sacred rock grew when three fishermen were stranded for three days. It is said their rescuers had to coax them off the rock. They went only because they had run out of beer. No one gave much thought to the three stranded fishermen until Life Magazine mentioned them in an article. You see the men were Alvah Roebuck (Sears and Roebuck), Arthur Davidson (Harley Davidson), and William Thompson (Chicago mayor for 12 years).
Once again, the rock was viewed as sacred and the lore continued. People from all over would come to view it and even camp on the rock. This practice was eventually banned for safety reasons.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Rock was used for navigation in the area. But in 1934 the Coast Guard and the Civilian Conservation Corps decided the rock should be moved 2.1 miles due east. This would make it exactly five miles from Grand Marais, MN and more valuable as a navigation point and to check visibility during foggy conditions. When the rock was no longer visible from Coast Guard Point in Grand Marais, the foghorn would sound meaning visibility was less than five miles. The move took over three months to complete and used various vessels including a modified dredge and tugs.
Not only was the island moved, the name was also changed along the island’s journey. Originally named Manajiwin (respect) by the natives, then Snag Island by locals, and finally Five Mile Rock in 1959.
Today, access to the rock is prohibited. The rock still garners Manajiwin (respect) – and to show their respect, people toss leaves upon the water at the shoreline near the rock.