Johnson, Lucas Pier. 2013. A Historical Geography of Sand Island 1870-1944. M.A. Thesis University of Nebraska-Lincoln


This thesis examines the settlement of Sand Island, one of two permanent colonies included within Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands archipelago. Following the introduction and literature review, a summary of Sand Island’s geology, climate and biological features is presented, serving to construct a baseline upon which to build a discussion of the island’s communal life. This foundation gives context to the seventy-four year struggle faced by the predominantly Norwegian immigrants adapting to that environment. It also serves to assist future scholars in studying wilderness recovery after what today is nearly an eighty year absence of the farmer’s plow. Chapter Four includes a description of the pre-colonial exploration and land use, linking the native population with the incoming Europeans. It continues with the discussion of the Sand Island settlers, those who colonized and developed the island from a seasonal fish camp to a place of permanent residence. Much detail about each family is presented. In Chapter Five the study explores the islanders’ cultural landscape as they moved from fishing shacks to family homes. Chapter Six details the community’s livelihoods, predominantly those of fishing, farming, and lumbering. Chapter Seven describes the routine aspects of daily life, a life isolated at times by cultural traditions and intermittently by an impassable body of water. The final chapter includes an examination of this property managed by the Department of the Interior. As the National Park Service missions are refined or redefined, the land management plans for this park have evolved in a process that continues to assess the cultural significance of Sand Island.