Early Inhabitants

The first inhabitants of White Bear Township were Native Americans known as the Dakota, or Sioux, who lived in tipis on the shores of the Township’s many lakes. They moved their villages as the seasons changed and the game migrated. The Dakota’s enemy, the Ojibwe, or Chippewa, lived in birch bark wigwams near Taylors Falls, northeast of the Township. Territorial conflicts arose between the tribes on a regular basis.

“There is hardly a foot of soil around White Bear Lake that has not been ensanguined by the blood of these hereditary foes,” wrote Historian J. Fletcher Williams. “Spirit Island (Manitou Island) seems to have been the most hotly contested ground, and to this day the remains of rifle pits, redoubts and earthworks are there to be found, while its soil was enriched by the innumerable warriors who were slain.”

An infamous battle between these tribes took place in 1855 when a hunting party of Dakota happened upon a group of Ojibwe near Lake Oneka, north of the Township. The Dakota killed and scalped an Ojibwe warrior during the battle and later lost two of their own that had been wounded.
The scene that followed terrified white settlers living in log cabins in Cottage Park. For two days and nights the Dakota held a scalp dance on the shores of Goose Lake in which they sang, danced and shook the scalp of their enemy above their heads. It would not be the last time the two cultures would clash.

During the nineteenth century, a number of treaties were signed between the various Indian nations in the region and the United States government. These treaties provided for Native Americans to cede their land claims in Minnesota and open the area to settlement by immigrants.

Source: "White Bear: A History," by Catherine Carey, 2008