Fond du Lac Reservation Logo History
It’s been many years since I drew the Fond du Lac Reservation logo. I remember very well, all the thought and meaning that I tried to place inside that circle. I also remember that the actual pen and ink drawing took over a month to conceive and draw on paper. But, to better explain the logo, I should really start from the beginning.
It was during the summer of 1981, the RBC decided that the Reservation needed a logo to place beside the letterheads of every official document that the Reservation sent out. I honestly didn’t even know what a logo was when I first heard about it.
At that time, I was a carpenter for the Indian Action Team, which was really a farce, because…even though I was issued a hammer, I never used it. I had been a mechanical draftsman in Minneapolis, MN; where I learned to use the pen and ink. So, what I did for the Indian Action Team was draw houses and buildings. Even though the pay was terrible ($92.00 every 2 weeks), I loved my work because it allowed me to work with my friends, and…for my people.
There, at work, was where I met Kitty Thomas a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) worker. We hit it off right away because we both were interested in art. Kitty explained what a logo was, and I decided to go for it. Kitty was a professional artist who worked for the Reservation trying to put together an Archive Department. Anyway, she noticed my drawings and took an interest in what I was doing. I used to love to doodle during my lunch hour with my pens. She could never understand how a guy like me could make a drawing so detailed with a pen and ink.
I should also explain that before I worked for the Reservation, in the early 1970’s, I attended school. My original plan was to become a Mechanical Engineer, but…once I got involved in Indian Studies, I never got out of it. I attended school in a number of states, and…the more I learned about Indian Studies, the more I wanted to learn.
Finally, I got tired of being broke all the time, so…I moved back to the Rez. There wasn’t any housing available during that time, so…I lived in a tent. I took just about any job that was available on the Rez . These usually were jobs that none else wanted. I always had an odd way of looking at any job. I figured that as long as I had to work, why not make it fun?
That was my frame of mind when I decided to draw the Fond du Lac Reservation logo. I wanted to give to my people something that I would be proud of, something that I would see every day of my life. I wanted to draw something full of meaning and yet, something that would explain, who we were as a people, where we came from, and…where we are today.
When I look up and see our flag blowing in the wind, my heart soars like an eagle, because I know that I designed it. I just hope that the Fond du Lac people are as proud of it as I am.
The meanings behind the symbols
If you look at our logo, you will notice that the whole design is in a circle. Look closer and you’ll see that it is actually a war shield. Notice the four feathers hanging down, and the two hair ties.
Look at the inner circle and see the four winds design with the arrowhead partially covering it.
Then, look at the arrowhead. Can you see the figure eight? Can you see a map of the Fond du Lac Reservation within the figure eight? Did you notice the flames surrounding the arrowhead?
And then, look at the colors, the black, white, red and yellow. Look at the green and blue surrounding the circle.
All these symbols and colors have meanings. There is not a line in that design that doesn’t mean something. Everything stands for something. A lot of thought went in to that design.
After I tell you what the designs and colors mean, you’ll understand why it took me a whole month to finish the logo.
Everything in nature is a part of a circle, the smallest atom, the earth, the sun, the moon, even the universe. Everything natural comes in a circle. We, the Anishinaabe, know this, we understand this, and we respect this.
Look at the waters of the earth. The rain comes down to become small pools of water. These smaller pools merge to become a part of a bigger pool. These bigger pools come together to eventually form a stream that flows into a bigger stream. These bigger streams flow together, to eventually become a river, which will flow into the sea. The heat from the sun will evaporate the water, and…eventually the evaporated water falls back to earth as rain or snow. This process is repeated over and over again.
The Anishinaabe know this, and…realize that everything in nature is a part of the circle of life.
The War Shield
But, if you’d look closer at the circle in our logo, you’ll notice that it forms a war shield. This war shield symbolizes the continuing fight our ancestors fought ever since we began our migration away from “the moon shaped island, in the fresh water river that flowed into the Great Salt Waters” to where we are today, in the land where the food grows on top of the water.
Inside the outer circle is another circle divided into four equal pieces. These are colored black, white, red and yellow. White is for the north, for the white snow that cleans the earth, and in turn gives us strength. Red is the east, for the sun. Yellow is for the south, for the heat that ripens our staff of life, the corn. And, Black is for the west, towards where we walk when we die.
These colors also stand for the four races of man.
Surrounding the inner circle is an outer circle of blue on top, and green on the bottom. Originally, the border circle was supposed to be green and the rest of the background was supposed to be sky blue. These blue and green colors also represent the Mide’ wiwin, the Grand Medicine Society.
The Eagle Feathers and the Hair-ties
The four eagle feathers are symbolic of the four winds, and…the four directions. The eagle feathers are a very symbolic in Indian Country, because the eagle carries our prayers to the Creator. The two hair-ties stand for Mother Earth and Father Sky, because without their help, this world would not be as we know it.
On top of the inner circle is an arrowhead. This arrowhead (projectile point) symbolizes the hundred-year war that our ancestors fought against the Dakota (Sioux) and their allies, the Fox, for control of this region. This is the region that was talked about in the Prophecies of the Seven Fires as the place where food grows on top of the water. This area was the end of our journey. Also, this area is known today as the Arrowhead Region. I would like to say that I envisioned the arrowhead as being colored a deep blood red to symbolize the blood that was bled, and spilled, along the trail to where the food grows on top of the waters.
The Eighth Fire
If you look inside the arrowhead, you’ll see an eight. If you look around the arrowhead, you’ll see flames. This is a symbolic way of saying the Eighth Fire.
It was said that out of the ashes of the Seventh Fire, the Eighth and final Fire will be lit and a new people will emerge. I don’t know if we are those new people yet, but sometime soon, we will be. We are already actively trying to find those gifts that were left along the trail.
By the way, the flames themselves were my rendition of some of Carl Ray’s artwork. Carl Ray was an artist from the Sandy Lake Cree Reserve in Canada. I still love his style of drawing, and I did have a chance to meet him in person, and I watched him draw, not long before he was called into the Spirit World.
Inside the arrowhead is a rough map of the Fond du Lac Reservation, with each star representing the three Districts, Cloquet being District I, Sawyer being District II, and Brookston being District III.
Established by the Treaty of 1854 is pretty well self-explanatory. The Fond du Lac Reservation, as well as the Grand Portage Reservation and Bois Forte (Net lake) Reservations in Minnesota were established by the Treaty of 1854. The 1854 Treaty laid the ground work that led to the establishment of many of the Chippewa Reservations in Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
According to an old, old letter that I found in our old Archives collection of the early 1980’s, the Fond du Lac Reservation was referred to as Nah-gah-chi-wa-nong. In the Ojibwe Dictionary the word Nagajiwanaag referred to historic, old Fond du Lac. This word Nagajiwanaag was talking about the old Fond du Lac Village area, located beside the St. Louis River (Gitchie gami zibi), below the end of the Grand Portage, at the end of the Lake. But, of course, this could be just the same name in different dialects? Our language dialects are a little different from Rez to Rez. Anyway, the Archive letter was from someone that lived in western Minnesota, sent to someone that lived here on the Fond du Lac Reservation.
Fond du Lac Reservation is pretty much explanatory. Fond du Lac, in French, means the end of the lake.
I would recommend that everybody interested in our history to read the “Prophecies of the Seven Fires,” and…the William Warrens book; “The History of the Ojibwe Nation.”
by Le Roy DeFoe/Obsib biniss
Cultural Resource Specialist
FDL Resource Management