LAKE IDA, Minn. -- It was just a routine walk. Taryn Flolid and her husband, Chuck, took one every day on the west side of Lake Ida. But on one of their walks last summer, a discovery disrupted their routine.
Flolid noticed a strange object peeking out of the dirt. An oblong gray rock lay buried up to its flat surface, a curved notch visible in its side.
“It did not look organic,” Flolid said. “My husband dug it out with his foot, and then I turned it over and I thought, ‘That definitely looks like a worked piece.’”
Flolid took it home and cleaned it up. Crystalline edges sparkled in the scooped cavity where someone might have once tied a rope or attached a branch. It was a Native American axe head.
As she turned the axe head over in her fingers, Flolid said that she felt an energy around it.
“When you hold something like this, you think, ‘Somebody else had it in their hands that long ago and worked it,” she explained.
While trying to unlock the mysteries of the axe head, Flolid called her daughter, who had majored in archeology, albeit Viking archeology.
Her daughter noted that the axe head would be difficult to research because it was found by itself and not among other artifacts.
“I don’t know where it came from really; it came from the middle of the street,” Flolid said. “So there’s no way to document anything.”
But apparently, finding Native American artifacts isn’t such an odd occurrence in Douglas County.
“I’ve talked to different people, and they’ve said there are farmers all over Douglas County who have things that they’ve found in fields,” Flolid said. “My dad grew up between Stony Lake and Lake Cowdry. He said that was a big area for Native Americans at one time, between the two lakes, and he found a grinding stone and arrowheads in the garden.”
Having learned that Native Americans had been numerous in the area, Flolid’s curiosity grew, and she began to research their local history.
Remnants of a culture
In 2011, Flolid retired from her teaching position in Circle Pines and moved with her husband to Alexandria where they both grew up. The next year, she began volunteering at the Douglas County Historical Society. There, she has access to many resources and uncovered some interesting facts.
“When the first settlers came here in 1858, there were still Native Americans living around,” Flolid said. “Douglas County was pretty much right on the line, at that time, between the Ojibwe and the Dakota tribes.”
Aside from the artifacts, some of the most telling signs of Native American inhabitation are the burial mounds scattered throughout the area. These raised mounds range in size, some more than 20 feet long and 5 feet tall, and were used by Native Americans as gravesites for one or more of their kin.
Flolid uncovered maps detailing where many of the mound clusters are found. “Most of the mounds are near the lakes in very scenic areas,” Flolid said. “Once you know where they are, you start to see them, but until then, you don’t.”
Spotting these mounds has become easier for Flolid.
However, finding the axe head, she thinks, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Flolid doesn’t go out with the strict intention of finding artifacts. She’s more interested in learning and discovering than in treasure hunting.
Even so, as she continues to enjoy her routine walks, she makes sure to give an extra glance at the dirt every now and again.