Grand Portage, Minnesota

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Grand Portage is an unorganized territory in Cook County, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, at the northeast corner of the state near the border with northwestern Ontario. The population was 557 at the 2000 census. The town of Grand Portage lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation.

The adjacent Grand Portage National Monument celebrates traditional Ojibwe lifeways and the history of the Canadian North West Company fur trading post, Fort Charlotte, that was located there.

Grand Portage is the home of the dock for the Wenonah and Voyageur II passenger boats. They convey tourists and campers to Isle Royale National Park.

Contents

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the unorganized territory has a total area of 192.5 square miles (498.7 km²), of which, 74.2 square miles (192.2 km²) of it is land and 118.3 square miles (306.5 km²) of it (61.46%) is water.

Minnesota Highway 61 serves as a main route in the community.

History

Beginning in the 17th century Grand Portage became a major center of the fur trade. It was at the point where a major canoe fur trade route left the great lakes. It was so named because the route began with a huge 16 mile portage. A portage is a place where the canoes and equipment are carried over land. The French established this trade with the Native Americans until the British took it over in the 18th century after the Seven Years War. The North West Company established the area as its regional headquarters. Soon Grand Portage became one of Britain's four main fur trading posts, along with Niagara, Detroit, and Michilimackinac.[1] The British built Fort Charlotte nearby to protect this lucrative trade, as well as the Native American and European settlements in the area that supported it. Even after the American Revolutionary War and victory by the rebellious colonists, the British continued to operate in the area. Under the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Britain had to cede former territory to the United States, including this area.

Finally with the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1796 defining the northern border between Canada and the US, British traders planned to move from Grand Portage. They wanted to avoid the taxes the US put on their operations, in its effort to encourage American traders instead. In 1802 the traders planned to move north to create a new center, what they called Fort William. In 1803 following the Louisiana Purchase, in which the U.S. acquired the lands to the west of Grand Portage, the British finally withdrew from Fort Charlotte as well.[2] The North West Company moved its headquarters northward to what they named Fort William. After British fur traders abandoned the area, it rapidly declined economically.

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