January 30, 2010

Mural commemorates Ojibwe rescuer

The Hero of Hinckley

By Leif EngerA new mural commemorating the great Hinckley Fire of 1894 has been unveiled at the Hinckley Community Center. The fire produced a firestorm which incinerated hundreds of square miles and killed more than 400 people. The mural, by Ojibwe artist Steve Premo shows the historic rescue of a family by a young Ojibwe woman, whose identity has only recently been discovered.Identifying the rescuer:Coffee: It was a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. But through census records, through some documentation at the government center in Mille Lacs, we not only found her but found out who her mother and father were. We know she was a Mille Lacs Band member. She was an only child. Her full name was Mahkahdaygwon. Her English name was Katherine Wadena McDonnell.What the painting shows:The painting shows two young women, four blanketed children--McDonnell had two of her own. Scared, determined, they stand in the black waters of Grindstone Lake under incandescent clouds. McDonell is shielding Frank Patrick, the smallest of the children. Steve Premo, himself Ojibwe, calls it a story of racial unity right for contemporary times.Comment:  Steve Premo was the artist on A HERO'S VOICE and DREAMS OF LOOKING UP, the two Ojibwe comics I often mention. I haven't heard much about him since he drew the comics, so it's good to see his other projects.

Below:  "Premo's work is darkly radiant, almost stifling. Looking at it makes you loosen your collar."

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