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Pine Point School has plenty of Native American spirituality

The old Pine Point School has been used as a gathering place for the area for many years and that includes a stop for those who have passed on towards their final resting place.

The Circle area at the Pine Point School has plenty of sacred meanings to natives of the area, and that is why the room is used as a place to hold funerals, which includes all the religions in Pine Point and Ponsford.

"To the Ojibwe people, the circle has significant meaning in life," said Pine Point Community Council Chairman Mike Swan, who is also the spiritual advisor. "A circle is represents the cycle of life. We have our ceremonies in circles, our ancestors lived in Round Houses, as well, and that's what the Circle (at Pine Point) was fashioned after."

The Circle at the Pine Point School was constructed in 1978. After the new school was built seven years ago and classes were moved there, the Circle is still being used as a Community Center and the headquarters for the Boys and Girls Club.

But the significance of the Circle can be seen when loved ones gather to say goodbye to their relatives or friends that have passed on.

Over the decades, there have been many stories of paranormal activity, especially in the Circle. People seeing loved ones who have died has been reported a number of times throughout the decades.

Recently, the Midwest Paranormal Files research group conducted two investigations inside the old Pine Point School and evidence recovered backs up these claims.

Much of the evidence collected by MPF did revolve around the Circle, in the form of several electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), as well as video.

These pieces of evidence can be found at and look under "investigations" and the Pine Point evidence.

"It just reinforces what we already knew," Swan said of the evidence which was presented to the Council by MPF. "It's what we've already heard before."

The spiritual world plays a big role in Ojibwe culture.

And those spiritual convictions are strong in the Circle, since it is one of the last places a passed one will be with their loved ones.

Swan, who is Pine Point's spiritual advisor, knows this first-hand, and performs sacred ceremonies in the Circle for families of those who have passed away.

But as Swan explained, spirits that have passed are not necessarily staying behind because they want to, instead, it's their loved ones that are holding on to them.

"Some spirits are here too many times because (living) loved ones don't want to let go of them," Swan said. "I was taught to let them go and finish their journey. Mourning is the start of healing. I believe the spirit wants to move on, but they are kind of stuck in a limbo when someone here is still holding onto to them, no matter what religion they practice."

One sacred ceremony Swan performs for families and in the Circle is called "smudging."

The ceremony involves four sacred items -- sage (smudge sticks), sweet grass, cedar and tobacco.

The sage is started on fire to a smolder, which purifies the sacred items.

Sweet grass takes away the anger, grief and bad problems which may still linger.

Cedar purifies and the tobacco takes the prayers up to the spirits.

"During the ceremony, I ask the Creator for help and ask for the bad spirits to leave," Swan explains. "If there are good spirits alone, then they can stay. Smudging is the start of purifying yourself, it cleanses the mind, body, soul and spirit."

Swan performs the smudging ceremony just in the Circle, where the funerals are performed, while leaving the back area alone.

"If we were having people complain of bad things happening, then I would perform the smudging ceremony there, too," Swan added. "But there hasn't been anything bad which has ever happened here."

All the evidence MPF collected during its investigations enforces Swan's belief that there isn't anything dark or malevolent residing in Pine Point School.

"We believe there are spirits all around us and they are not here to harm us," Swan said. "They are asking for help or are being held here because people they leave behind don't want to let go."

The sacred beliefs which are held by Native Americans are strong and no matter which religion one follows, losing a loved one to death is hard.

But allowing them to finish their journey and letting go of them is a way to believe they are moving on to a better place, as well as bringing peace to the ones they have left behind.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.