Map of Minnesota

The Ojibwe name for Pine Point is “Niizhiigwakokang”. The Ojibwe knew this place as “Nii (point) zhiigwa (white pine) oka (full of) wadjiw (mountain) because of the hills three miles south of the village, known today as Smoky Hills.

No one really knows the actual history of the Pine Point Community. There are probably different versions; one from the Ojibwe people that live in Pine Point and one from the White people who live mainly in Ponsford. Many of the elders whom knew the history have long gone from this world now. The Ojibwe people relied on oral history, not written history. It was passed down from generation to generation.

In oral Ojibwe history, it tells the story of a great migration over 1500 years ago. The story tells how the Ojibwe migrated from the east along the Great Lakes, from present day Maine to Montreal to James Bay, before any white man set foot on this land. Stories were told of the Light skin People were coming to this continent and that if we were to survive as Ojibwe, we needed to move west. This migration took over 500 years. The Ojibwe battled and pushed other tribes out of this area for land and resources.

Before Minnesota became a state, it was said that the Pine Point area was the camp headquarters for the Ojibwe in their warfare against the Dakota people for land and resources. A battle took place near Flat Lake which is located on the Tamarack National Wildlife Refuge, 10 miles west of Pine Point. You can see the mounds of the Dakota where their warriors had fallen and are now buried. The Ojibwe carried their wounded and dead back to the Pine Point area. They were then taken home and buried. The battle of Flat Lake was over manomen (wild rice).

The White Earth Reservation was established in 1867. With 824,000 acres set aside for the Ojibwe. The early Ojibwe came in three groups: The Mississippi Band, the Pembina Band and Ottertail Pillager Band. The Pembina Band settled in the extreme southwest. Many of the Mississippi Band settled around White Earth. And the Ottertail Pillager Band clustered around the village of Pine Point.

Many Ojibwe made their livelihood almost completely in the traditional way. They followed the seasons by making maple sugar in the spring, picking berries in the summer, gathering wild rice in the fall, and hunting and trapping in the winter. Others adopted the white society life. Living in houses, wearing manufactured clothing, they even sent their children to school, and earned a living at farming or trading. Between these two extremes, there were many Ojibwe who combined the two ways of life.

The first white man settled in this area in 1880. Ojibwe people lived in Pine Point and White people lived mainly in Ponsford. In 1881, a small trading post was set up about three miles east of Pine Point. It was operated by Ignatius Broker and supplies were coming from other small town in the region. It soon failed. In 1890, a new trading post was opened up near Big Rush Lake, northwest of Pine Point. It later moved to an area across from the Catholic mission. It catered to both Ojibwe and whites. People wanted the Indian name of Pine Point to be given to the town, but there already was a post office in the state with that name.

In 1889, more Ojibwe were moved to the White Earth Reservation from around Minnesota. Many of the Leech Lake Ojibwe moved to the Pine Point area.

The Pine Point Mission School was first run by the Episcopalian Church. The government took over the school in 1894. Two churches were constructed, 1888 the Breck Memorial Episcopal Church and in 1917 St Theodore Catholic Church. There was Midewiwin religion, also called the Grand Medicine Society, present in the community.

By 1910, the White Earth Reservation lost over 80 percent of its land to Lumber Companies and to the county as well as to non-Indians.

During World War I, since the Ojibwe were not recognized as citizens of the United States, many volunteered for the military. In 1924, Government passed the Indian Citizenship act so Indians could be drafted into the military. Today, over 300 Ojibwe men and women served in the military from the Pine Point area.

Pine Point-Ponsford area started to grow and was a booming thriving town prior to World War II. There was three grocery stores, a hardware store, four taverns, post office, two gas stations, two garages, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, two cafes, a pool hall, a bank, and a sawmill, mainly in Ponsford. Many of the Ojibwe worked as loggers or laborers.

In the 30’s and 40’s, Pine Point had a good baseball team and beautiful ballpark with a large wooden structure grandstand. Team the consisted of Tommy Smith, George Norcross, Ben Ellis, Harry Rock, Tom Moulton, Tom Fairbanks, Bruce Hurr, Stubb Nunn, Van Goodman and Manager Charley Bungo. More players in the 50’s and 60’s were Badboys, Henry, TeJohn, Jones, Basswood, Buckanaga and many others.

After World War II, the community population and the economy gradually diminished. Most returning veterans left the area to urban areas to seek better job opportunities. A government programs assisted people in relocating to urban areas around the country. It was estimated that the population was around 1,500 Ojibwe. Today, it is less then 600.