No one’s really sure how the road between U.S. Highways 2/53 and Dutchman’s Creek got its name.
Long known as Moccasin Mike Road, councilor Jenny Van Sickle is hoping to change that after the Winterfest Medallion Hunt was canceled this year when those searching for the prize disturbed the Indigenous burial ground on Wisconsin Point.
“This kind of mockery leads to an absence of respect and knowledge,” Van Sickle said of the name of the road that leads to Wisconsin Point.
To honor the sacred space, a newly recognized Wisconsin historical site, she said it’s time to change the name of the only road leading to Wisconsin Point.
Van Sickle consulted former Douglas County Board supervisor Terry White and conducted research into the name's history. She’s not convinced “Moccasin Mike” was Indigenous, she said.
According to records compiled by the Works Progress Administration and interpreted by the Chequamegon History blog, the Douglas County Board and city of Superior saw the need for a year-round road to Lake Superior and Wisconsin Point in the early 1890s. Douglas County Board member Michael S. Bright Jr., son of “Moccasin Mike” S. Bright Sr., was active in building the road on the site of the old Osaugie Trail, named for Chief Joseph Osaugie. The younger Bright inherited his father’s nickname, and the Douglas County Board designated the new road as the Moccasin Mike Trail.
The name stuck.
Van Sickle said she doesn’t have a particular name in mind for the road, but had considered offering Wisconsin Point Road, an extension of the road that traverses the point.
Renaming it for Osaugie might be confusing, she said. Superior’s waterfront trail along the bays was named for the chief who signed the Treaty of 1854 at La Pointe on behalf of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Jason Serck, Superior's economic development, port and planning director, said he has just begun researching the process for renaming roads, and he discovered a portion of unplatted city-county road was platted as Coolidge Drive.
Changing the road's name is something Van Sickle said she thought about doing for a long time, but events surrounding the medallion hunt “illuminated” the need to make it a priority.
“Whoever Mike was, he’s held this designation for a long time, and we’ve got to get it right,” Van Sickle said.
Midwest Communications canceled its Winterfest Medallion Hunt on Feb. 12 after receiving word of “damage and disrespect” at the burial grounds on Wisconsin Point.
Mayor Jim Paine said there was no permanent damage done to the site, and he’s not aware of anything being unearthed despite rakes and shovels being used to find the medallion. The issue prompted the mayor to send police to the site that afternoon, and they stayed until well after dark, he said.
“It was a lot of people trancing around the burial ground, not there to visit the burial ground,” Paine said.
The proposal will go before the Mayor’s Commission on Communities of Color at 5 p.m. March 8. Van Sickle also wants members of the Wisconsin Point Committee to weigh in. Their next scheduled meeting is at 5 p.m. May 11.
Ultimately, it would be the city's Plan Commission that would rename the road officially.