News

West Pope islands no longer unnamed

Rhonda Silence


Off in the distance, a mother and calf can be seen near one of two islands on West Pope Lake that have served as a safe haven for decades. Until recently the islands were unnamed, but this summer Tom Bettenhausen set out to change that; to recognize the importance of the islands to the moose of the Gunflint Trail. On Tuesday, August 26 the island names became official. 
Photo courtesy of Tom and Cindy Bettenhausen Off in the distance, a mother and calf can be seen near one of two islands on West Pope Lake that have served as a safe haven for decades. Until recently the islands were unnamed, but this summer Tom Bettenhausen set out to change that; to recognize the importance of the islands to the moose of the Gunflint Trail. On Tuesday, August 26 the island names became official. Photo courtesy of Tom and Cindy Bettenhausen A public hearing was held on Tuesday, August 26 and unlike many public meetings there was not a voice of discord. The county board had heard only positive comments on a proposal brought forward by a number of Gunflint Trail residents to give names to two unnamed islands on West Pope Lake. The only person at the public hearing was the man who had spearheaded the efforts to name the two federally-owned islands, Tom Bettenhausen.

Bettenhausen gave a quick recap of the process to reach the public meeting stage explaining why he and his family felt it was important that the islands have names. He said in the 20-plus years his family has been coming to their property on West Pope Lake, they have seen numerous pregnant moose cows swim to the islands. They have counted the days and then had the pleasure of watching the calves appear. They have enjoyed their growth and watching the mother nudging them into the water to teach them to swim.

He said his family discussed possible names and eventually thought of a name honoring all the moose that had been born there, in what he said was “sort of a moose maternity ward.” The family also decided that the names should be in the native language of the original inhabitants of the Gunflint Trail.

Bettenhausen expressed appreciation to Allen Aubid of Grand Portage who helped him find Ojibwe names that were fitting.

The name chosen for Island 1, the smaller of the two is “Moozoogitaanesing,” which translates into “Garden for young moose to be born.” The second island’s name is “Moozoogitagaaning,” which means “Big garden for young moose to be safe from danger.”

Bettenhausen said, “I know a lot of people are still going to call them ‘Big Island’ and ‘Little Island.’ But they do have names now.”

Auditor Braidy Powers said Bettenhausen had taken all the required steps and had the number of required signatures on a petition. The public hearing was a final step. If a resolution passed, it would need to be sent to the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.

A unanimous motion passed to name the two islands, with Commissioner Garry Gamble stressing that the resolution should record that the island names are in the Ojibwe language.

Reached by phone after the hearing, Bettenhausen was delighted that the process was complete. He reiterated thanks to Allen Aubid and added thanks to Peter Boulay of the DNR’s Division of Ecological Services and Water Resources who assisted with the paperwork. He also said thanks to the Gunflint Trail residents who signed the petition—they had to be registered voters, so many seasonal residents signed but were not tallied.

Everyone appreciates the idea, said Bettenhausen. “There wasn’t one person I talked to who was opposed to it,” he said.


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