Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger’s assassination altered history

The assassination of Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger occurred on June 27, 1868, or 154 years ago to the day on Monday the 27th. Hole-in-the-Day the Younger became chief of the Mississippi band of Ojibwe after the death of his father, Bagone-giizhig the Elder.

Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger (Bagone-giizhiig in Ojibwe)
Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger (Bagone-giizhiig in Ojibwe) poses for an undated albumen print photo. Reputed as both a formidable negotiator and polarizing leader of the Ojibwe, Hole-in-the-Day's life and death played a large part in shaping the Brainerd lakes area.
Contributed / Crow Wing County Historical Society

BRAINERD — It’s an event many Americans may not know of, but a tragic one some cannot forget.

Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was assassinated 154 years ago on June 27 in the Brainerd lakes area, and his killing arguably set back race relations between whites and Native Americans.

Jeremy Jackson, a historic investigator and researcher, drew attention to the anniversary of the assassination, which was covered in the newspapers of the day.

"On Saturday last, between two and three o’clock in the afternoon, three Chippewas, called Leech Lake or Pillager Indians, called at his house and asked where he was. His women replied that he had gone to Crow Wing,” according to the July 29, 1868, edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was gunned down in the road near the current site of the Fisherman’s Bridge off Gull Lake. The chieftain left his Gull Lake home to renegotiate the treaty terms regarding a new reservation at White Earth.


“The Indians appropriated three of his guns and went to Gull River, a short distance above Crow Wing. They saw him and another Indian coming, riding in a buggy, and hid in the bushes on a knoll by the roadside,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger (Bagone-giizhig) succeeded his father as the chief of the Mississippi Ojibwe, which included the Gull Lake Band, in 1847. He was considered highly intelligent, charismatic, shrewd and eager for power, according to a 2018 article Jackson wrote for the Lake Country Journal.

Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger assassination site on map
Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was gunned down in the road near the current site of the Fisherman’s Bridge off Gull Lake.
Contributed / Jeremy Jackson

“His definitive goal was to become the head chief to all Minnesota Ojibwe; always aspiring to improve the conditions of the Ojibwe people,” Jackson stated. “Some perceived that he also had his own interests in mind.”

Anton Treuer is a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University who belongs to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Treuer is attempting to make a major motion picture based on his work.

“Hole-in-the-Day was a really important historical figure who changed the trajectory of not just local or Minnesota but national history,” Treuer earlier said about the film project.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was “a charismatic and influential leader who played a key role in relations between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government in Minnesota,” according to Andrew B. Stone, a Minnesota Historical Society writer.

“His powerful influence during Ojibwe treaty negotiations would not only cost him his life, his murder was a defining moment which altered the regional landscape,” Jackson wrote.

“His loss hastened the abandonment of Crow Wing Village, an important settlement on the Minnesota frontier. By the early 1870s, it was a ghost town.”


Little is left of Old Crow Wing Village at Crow Wing State Park, but once it was a vibrant commercial outpost that eventually gave birth to Brainerd as a community.

“The town died when the railroad chose to cross the river at Brainerd,” according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website about the park and the village.

According to the state park’s website, the fur trade-era brought the Voyageurs of the Northwest and American Fur companies. Not long after, traders established posts along the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers, and a branch of the Red River Trail brought ox carts through the area.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger owned a residence, ferry crossing and farm just north of Old Crow Wing Village, according to Jackson.

“Hole-in-the-Day’s house and barn, near the village, were intentionally destroyed by arsonists in 1862, following Hole-in-the-Day’s alleged attempted alliance with the Dakota Indians during the U.S.-Dakota War,” Jackson wrote in his article.

Hole-in-the-Day the Younger became chief of the Mississippi band of Ojibwe after the death of his father, Bagone-giizhig the Elder. Like his father, the younger Hole-in-the-Day wanted to be chief of all Ojibwe in Minnesota, according to Stone, but was killed in his early 40s.

“Afterwards, you had nonnative Indian agents kind of running the lives of native people, and they pulled most of the natives out of the Brainerd lakes area and sent them off to White Earth, so it really changed the history of the area,” Treuer said last year.

The final treaty signed by Hole-in-the-Day established the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota in 1867 and led to the removal of the Mississippi Ojibwe, including the Gull Lake band, according to Jackson.


Clement Beaulieu took over operations of the American Fur Co. in 1847 in what is now Crow Wing State Park and built a stately mansion in the former frontier village.

“For years after the assassination, numerous theories regarding the motive for the murder of Hole-in-the-Day were rumored and circulated. The identity of the Ojibwe assassins from Leech Lake was known but none were ever charged,” Jackson wrote in his 2018 article.

It was revealed later the killers allegedly were hired by a group of co-conspirators led by Beaulieu, which included other mixed-blood traders from Crow Wing.

“No one was ever arrested for the murder of Hole-in-the-Day, but many of the named co-conspirators had relocated to White Earth,” Jackson wrote.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
What To Read Next
Get Local