Homeschooling is the norm at this unusual point in state education history. Kitchen tables double as school desks, and parents step up as instructors.

Here’s an idea. How about a history lesson for the whole family, located where the actual events happened? A good-sized slice of American Indian history -- as well as frontier life -- is located at Crow Wing State Park near Brainerd.

The park, tucked into the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers, is about a two-hour drive from the metro area. Amenities include camping, picnic areas, fishing, 18 miles of hiking trails, and of course, a perspective on state history that would be impossible to glean through a YouTube video, worksheet or book.

“Crow Wing State Park is like a hidden gem with a big story to tell,” said Park Supervisor Barry Osborne. “It would make a perfect day trip from the Twin Cities, and give both adults and children a few lessons on state history that they could learn no other way.”

Historical attractions include a significant 1768 Dakota/Ojibwe battle site, a fur trading post, a Chippewa outlook over the river, an ox cart route, old cemeteries, and the site of historian William W. Warren’s home.

Warren, one of the state’s more well-known Native American historians, wrote “History of the Ojibway People.” (1885) The book is still in print and though frequently outdated in language and viewpoint, serves as a jumping off place for a family discussion.

Before seeing the site, it’s worth the trouble to read Warren’s rendition of the 1768 battle with its realistic portrayal of the decades-long antagonism between the two tribes. The battle took place near the fur trading post on the Mississippi River where the Ojibwe hid in freshly-dug ditches, awaiting the Dakota who had recently attacked an Ojibwe village. The description is quite graphic and perhaps too violent for young children, but it will bring a depth of meaning to adults who read the history before seeing the site.

Visitors will also enjoy a walk to the 1800s Crow Wing village site, once home to more than 500 people employed by the fur trade industry. A post office, stores and taverns contributed to the bustling town that today contains only the white frame Beaulieu home built in 1849. Plaques denote the location of a well or former structure. The town was abandoned following the addition of a railroad in Brainerd. In 1868, the Ojibwe at Crow Wing were relocated to the White Earth Reservation. 

The park is very walkable; bring water and insect spray and go to the park’s website for any visitor alerts before leaving. A vehicle day pass is $7, and can be purchased online and placed inside your car on the dashboard. 

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