After medallion hunters damage Indigenous burial grounds on Wisconsin Point, radio station cancels contest

Midwest Communications has canceled its annual Winterfest Medallion Hunt after the disruption of burial grounds.
A sign marks the burial ground on Wisconsin Point. (Jed Carlson / 2020 file / Superior Telegram)

People searching in a radio station’s medallion hunt disturbed an Indigenous burial ground in Superior, causing organizers to cancel the annual contest.

In a Facebook post Friday afternoon, Mayor Jim Paine said the searchers had “disturbed” and caused “damage” to the burial area on Wisconsin Point. The site, which was added to the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places last year, is well-known as burial grounds and is marked by several signs and memorials.

“I learned today that some people have been searching for the radio contest medallion on Wisconsin Point and have disturbed the indigenous burial ground,” Paine said in his post. “While much of the damage and violation may have been unintentional, it is still unacceptable and must cease immediately. This is a sacred space and we have a duty to treat it as such.”

Midwest Communications’ annual Winterfest Medallion Hunt was underway with clues posted online each day. Friday’s clue suggested the medallion was on a trail near the Humane Society of Douglas County, which is at the turn motorists take from U.S. Highway 53 to reach Wisconsin Point.

Shortly after Paine’s Facebook post, Midwest Communications, owner of several Duluth-area radio stations and organizer of the annual Twin Ports Winterfest, announced the immediate cancellation of the medallion hunt in a separate Facebook post.

“It is with great disappointment that Midwest Communications has made the decision to immediately CANCEL the Winterfest Medallion Hunt … because of damage and disrespect being done to public property,” the radio station said.

Paine said the medallion was not buried and did not require any digging.

“The wilderness space between the beach and the road is an ecologically and culturally sensitive place, especially north of the first parking lot,” Paine said.

Wisconsin Point was a campsite and burial place for Native Americans until the 20th century, when U.S. Steel had a plan to build an ore dock on the sandy point off Allouez Bay.

The people were forced to leave, and the remains of their ancestors were disinterred and placed in a mass grave at the St. Francis cemetery in Superior. According to the Diocese of Superior, only about 180 of the most recognized graves were interred at St. Francis.

It was only later determined that Wisconsin Point was too sandy to construct an ore dock.

“I will direct the police department to protect the burial ground today but if disturbances continue, the medallion hunt may be cancelled,” Paine said in the post.

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