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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Indians spent summers in the Paynesville area
Yes, believe it or not, Indians did choose to live and settle in the Paynesville area. They came in early April and left in early October to go south.

They came here because of our beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams. This, of course, means that there were plenty of fish, beavers, and turtles to eat. Not only was our water rich with food, but so was our land. It was covered with trees, fruit bushes, and other edible plants. There were also many deer, buffalo, elk, moose, bear, fox, rabbits, geese, and ducks in the area.

We know the Indians were in the Paynesville area until the early 1920s. We also know there were three Indian camps in the Lake Koronis area: the Behr farm area on the south end of Lake Koronis; the Schultz farmland which is between Lake Koronis and Rice Lake; and on the golf course hill that was extended south to Lake Koronis.

We had two tribes of Indians here in our city of Paynesville. They were the Ojibwa, which were also known as the Chippewa, and the Sioux.

The Ojibwa (oh-jib'-way) are a tribe of Algonquian speaking Indians from the upper Great Lakes. The name Ojibwa is used most commonly in the United States and the name Chippewa is used in Canada. When the Ojibwa were first encountered in the 1600s, their small bands lived in tiny, self-governing villages without tribal organization.

By the late 18th century, the Ojibwa moved into western Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota, driving away the powerful Santee Sioux after a long war.

In the 19th century, the Ojibwa communities existed in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. They generally were located in areas remote from English and American frontier settlements. These Indians managed to maintain many of their traditional cultural traits, such as skills in woodcraft and the usage of birch bark canoes.

The Sioux are a group of North American Indian tribes of the great plains. The Sioux Indians were actually the first inhabitants in Minnesota. Their language is spoken in various dialects by tribes all across the United States. There are three main Sioux tribes and they are the Lakota to the west, the Dakota to the east, and Nakota, which are between them.

All of the Sioux Indians were outstanding warriors. To them, fighting was in many ways a game based on bravery. Their culture is characterized by mobility on horseback, vision quests, and soldier societies. These have all been tactics important to their tribe.

After the Sioux massacre at "Wounded Knee," (1890) they remained on reservations in the states of Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana, and Manitoba and Saskatchewan of Canada. In 1989, the number of Sioux Indians in the United States was about 70,000.

Both of these tribes of Indians have a lot of significance to us, the residents of Paynesville. Philip Behr was a farmer on the south side of Lake Koronis. He believed the Indians came to Koronis in the early summer and camped on the field that Behr plowed. They fished, hunted, and dried the meat over the campfires on this level land. This meat was then stored and brought to Mankato or further south of Paynesville for their winter food.

We, here at the Paynesville Historical Museum, have on display some really interesting Indian artifacts. They include arrows, stone mauls, knives, and pottery that were found on the Behr field.

Behr also said that the Indians were of the Dakota tribe and spent the winter in Mankato and in the spring they would send one group from their tribe to Lake Koronis. Then year after year they returned to Koronis because of its abundance.

The way of life for the Sioux-Dakota
The Sioux name means friend or ally. The Sioux lived off of buffalo. There was always a mass of meat that was used. The flesh of buffalo was their main food, but their hides were also used as ropes, tepees, and bull boats. They also ate wild roots, nuts, berries, prairie chickens, and other wild birds, meat, and some corn. For clothing they used the skins of animals, but mostly buffalo for robes.

The way of life for the Ojibwa-Chippewa
These Indians ate fish and other water animals, such as beavers and turtles. They also ate deer, fowl, nuts, roots, and berries. They made their clothing out of rabbit furs, deer skins, and other skins.

For these Indians, the winters were warmer further south so they packed up their camps, left for the winter and came back to our wonderful community each spring. They returned when hunting, fishing, fruits, and berries were plentiful. The town of Paynesville, in the area around Lake Koronis, was full with life for the Indians.

The Indians were very conservative and at the same time helpful. The Indians taught the white man about valuable medicines, food, and other important every day usages. They also taught the white man about the usage of corn, tobacco, peanuts, cotton, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, maple syrup, chickens and turkeys, rubber hammocks, canoes, snowshoes, and many other things.