About the Author
Father Baraga appeared to my mother and myself in September of 2020. I do not say this lightly! I knew someone was in the room and when turning to my mother in wonderment as to what was transpiring she was looking to the left of me and said, "It's Father Baraga." I yelled in response, "What is Father Baraga doing in our room!?" This started the journey of writing the entirety of this website.
What you need to know is this...my mother and I had just stepped off the Superior Hiking Trail a few days before. For 260 miles on the SHT (both as weekend warrior and as a through hike) we were performing the Algonquin (Anishinaabe) Water Ceremony. After stepping off the trail due to her injury we decided to stop off to see a little sign that had intrigued us each time we passed it called "Father Baraga's Cross". This site prompted my brief research of this missionary and a scathing through a few of his pictures. Two days later I was talking about two priests that I knew and was trying to find a way on how to tell others about knowing that they were priests (as we met a priest at Father Baraga's Cross the day that we went there) and in the middle of this conversation...that's when Father Baraga appeared.
His appearance led me to two questions that has provoked the entirety of my research: "Why did Father Baraga appear" and "Why me?" My mom has been my trusty sidekick through the whole of this journey.
Myself at Father Baraga's Cross in 2022 two years after my initial visit in 2020.
So now you may be wondering who I am. I was not raised Catholic and have very little history with the Catholic Church other that my time spent at the Catholic Church in my area in my quest to answer the former question, "Why did Father Baraga appear?" However Christianity has made an indelible mark on my soul. In my early twenties I spent significant time reading my scriptures and praying to my loving Heavenly Father. During this time I gained a personal testimony of the gospel of Christ. Chris's life meant the world to me as I learned about his travels throughout his region healing those that were sick, caring for those who were afflicted, and in the end sacrificing his life. I had gained so much of a testimony that I had made it my personal mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those that surrounded me. And then when I was 28 years old I went on a completely different journey.
During this timeframe I was brought to work with the Native traditions. During this timeframe I learned primarily about the Ojibwe and Dakota traditions. I had participated in countless sweat lodges with elders who were both Ojibwe and Dakota although I had began my journey even as a firekeeper for these lodges. I had also gone on an hanbleceya (vision quest) for four years with this same OJibwe elder. During this vision quest is when my mother and I began our journey on the Superior Hiking Trail. The Algonquin Water Ceremony was taught to me by an Algonquin Grandmother who lived on the north side of Lake Superior. I had also carved my own pipe which is a story that I will share via youtube in the future.
Due to this work in the Native world I was offered a position in Pipestone, MN to work with the Native pipes just before going on the Superior Hiking Trail. Then Father Baraga appeared. So shortly after stepping off the trail I went to Pipestone, MN to work with the Native pipes. While I was in Pipestone I was learning about Father Baraga and the Native Histories1 in the morning and then teaching the Native histories in the afternoon to the visitor's that came in while putting together the research that I had done on Father Baraga in the morning on this site.
Myself, Bud and Rona from the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers who would later become the Fiscal Sponsor for Healing Wounds.
During this time of research I was sharing with the store owner about what I was learning. I remember one significant day when I was telling him about a book I was reading by an author called William Warren. I will always remember his response. "Yeah, I know him." I said, "Wait. You know him? How do you know him?" He responded calmly, "He's my relative." I said, "Wait...so how many people that I'm researching are your relatives!?" He then went through the list and my mouth just dropped. Somehow I was now working with a man who was a direct descendent of so many of the people that Father Baraga knew. It was incredible.
It is also important to note that on one of my vision quests I was gifted a knife that would altar my course in this world. At one point and time I was offered a interview with a Catholic School. I remember audibly not wanting to take the position with my representative due to what I had heard about the Catholic Church's position in the boarding school histories however I decided it wouldn't hurt to do an interview. I remember being in the waiting room prior to the interview and then looking up and there was a statement that was read on the wall, "How are you a Pioneer?" That, in all irony, was the inscription on the knife that was gifted at the vision quest: The Pioneer Woman. In that moment I knew I had the job...and I did. That day I was escorted around the school to see where everything was. I then wondered what I was there for.
Fortunately there was a chaplain there that kept the chapel doors open after hours so I had the ability to go in with his permission. One day in general I remember the confusion that I felt at the journey that I was being led on. I brought my pipe in that day in the pipe bag (as I didn't feel comfortable bringing it out), I sat in the middle of the floor and I just prayed. I prayed to as many angels and to as many saints as I knew the names of at that point. I prayed that they would bless the pipe. I prayed that there would be healing. I prayed that I might know and understand the journey that I was on. One year later Father Baraga appeared. Two years after that in disbelief I would watch the Native populations be welcomed to the Vatican by Pope Francis and they had brought their pipe with them. They said their prayers to the directions just as I had learned. I just cried. I knew that this journey wasn't an accident. Somehow Father Baraga knew that all of this was to take place. This website was written just in time.
The work that I am doing is relatively unknown given that the Catholic histories and the Native histories don't talk to each other. When I read the Catholic research there is nothing about the Native histories there. When I read the Native histories there are no Catholic histories there. My job, as I understood it as I was brought on this journey, was to bring the two histories together. I was to determine the context of Father Baraga's life and ministry. I was to understand what the Ojibwe endured at that time. When I put these puzzle pieces together I knew I was greeted by a Saint that day through and through. Was he perfect? No. But was he superhuman? Absolutely. I am stunned and amazed at all I have learned and just pray that I have the capability of conveying all that I have learned so that others have the ability to be inspired as I have.
After researching Father Baraga though I knew that I couldn't just stop at that. Due to his influence I have also started on non-profit on behalf of Father Baraga and his work as I literally try to follow in his footsteps. The name of the nonprofit it called Healing Wounds and is based on the four pillars of Bishop Baraga's legacy which included:
Preserving the Native language: That was not Father Baraga's intent at the time when writing the largest Ojibwe dictionary but later on his dictionary would serve as a way to help preserve the Ojibwe language. The Native populations are attempting to help rehabilitate their languages based on what transpired in the boarding schools.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation: After seeing the harmful consequences of "fire water" otherwise known as alcohol among the Native populations, Father Baraga would abstain entirely from alcohol himself and would require the Native population to do so as well before he would teach them. He helped many to become sober which in turn helped their connection to one another
Help with food, shelter and clothing: Father Baraga worked to ensure that Ojibwe had a place to stay, food and clothing. During a time when fur traders were doing all that they could to take advantage of the Ojibwe (after the entrance of John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company), Father Baraga ensured that they were able to keep their traditions of maple syrup harvesting, collecting treaty payments, etc. He also helped them in creating lodging. He wanted to ensure that they had their base needs covered to be successful in life. He saw them as "little children of the forest" and he loved them dearly.
Land and Water Rights: During a time when the Natives were expected to be removed from their land Father Baraga even went as far as purchasing land and then gifting it over to the chief after it was safe to do so. We are still seeing the Native population struggle to be able to have their basic land and water rights. Water is a big issue especially for the Ojibwe around Lake Superior as they struggle to keep up with the pollution of the worlds largest freshwater lake by shoreline in the world.