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Don D. Maronde 1935 to 2018

Way back in 1983, before there were solid roofs on the Oberholtzer cabins and before much was happening as far as “program weeks” on Mallard Island, Don Maronde was introduced to the books in Ober’s collection. Don went on to share his knowledge, muscle, tools and hopes with Mallard Island for nearly 30 years. On October 19, 2018, Don died of congestive heart failure. His was a warm and loving heart, but no heart lasts forever. We can look back and thank Don Maronde for roofs on Cedarbark and Front House and the Library, for a strong south wall on Cook’s House and for the entire 2001 re-build of Artists’ Room, now a coveted individual space near the channel. In 2003, Don also installed the Clivus Multrum composter, a structure that changed all our experiences on Mallard Island and that has made continuous program activity possible each summer. If you’ve been on Mallard, you’ll know that each of these repairs was artistically done and in such a way that it often looked “older and better” after Don got done with it. Don Maronde, since 2004, was also married to Executive Director, Beth Waterhouse, who says that without Don she would never have embraced the job in the way she currently understands it. Don’s quiet ways, dry humor and pie-for-breakfast eating habits will be sorely missed on our favorite isle. A memorial service for Don will be held at Judson Baptist Church in South Minneapolis on Saturday, November 24, 2018 at two o’clock p.m.


Organization Receives Cultural Heritage Grant

In late February, the Oberholtzer Foundation learned that it will receive a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant through the Minnesota Historical Society to update the Oberholtzer photo collection. Specifically, we will be creating a database and expanding upon an inventory of the photo images that was first established by Ray Anderson of International Falls. We have hired, on contract, an Archivist ~ Historian who will help design a collection inventory with standardized fields, help volunteers perform that inventory this summer, and begin the process of improving both organization of and access to the collection of images. Oberholtzer took black and white images and later transferred his skills to colored slide photography. Ober's work was both documentary and artistic in nature. The image of the swimming moose (shown here) was taken by Ober in 1910.

Moose swimming

For this new effort, we have continued and expanded upon our relationship with Ms. Paula DeMars, "Archivist, Historian, Researcher" who manages a small business for herself to do "custom creation, design, and maintenance of document and archive management systems." You have read Paula's words in the last two Mallard Island Newsletters, and she is also writing about history of Indigenous Peoples in the far north. We are eager to continue this professional relationship and to get a better understanding of this part of the archives, held by the Foundation. Ernest Carl Oberholtzer lived a long, interesting and far-reaching life, and he documented and enhanced a great deal of it through his love of photography.

Tim Heinle 1939-2017

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the sad news of the death of our great friend and long-time Treasurer, Timothy M. Heinle of International Falls. Tim died on September 13th, one day shy of his 78th birthday, of various and overlapping health issues. He had been hospitalized in Duluth and died in the Solvay Hospice there. Tim's memorial service was held in International Falls on Monday, September 18 to a standing-room-only group of friends and family.

Tim lived life with a go-getter attitude, and with the strength and will to get jobs done. He loved hard work. He spent decades in a leadership capacity at Camp Koochiching on Rainy Lake, and he left them a far stronger organization. The Oberholtzer Foundation welcomed Tim to its board in 2004, and we can certainly say that he also left us in a stronger and more sophisticated financial position. Plus, he made his mark in so many areas including building and wall maintenance, as a member of the "Inaakonigewin" (Anishinaabe) committee and as chair of the Finance and Fundraising Committee. It's also true that the way that Tim "was" leaves as much of a mark as all the things he accomplished. Here was a man who was always smiling, constantly welcoming, continually cheering us on. "Need any help?" he would always ask. He accepted change, and he gently taught people about conflict resolution. "Tim was as good as they come, and I am forever glad that I got to work all those years with him," said Executive Director, Beth Waterhouse. "He often ended his letters with the phrase, 'seek the joy of being alive,' and I believe he lived that philosophy to the fullest."

Tim's family graciously named The Oberholtzer Foundation as one recipient of memorials in Tim Heinle's name. We are honored to accept them, though we would far, far prefer seeing Tim's smiling face just one more time. There will also be a memorial event for Tim sponsored by the Camping and Education Foundation in Cincinnati in November. And there may well be more ways to celebrate Tim's life, as time goes by. He will surely be missed.

We've Moved!

As you may know, the winter headquarters of the Oberholtzer Foundation share a household with Beth Waterhouse and Don Maronde. Beth and Don have recently (mid-April) moved to a condo in Edina, in part to be closer to friends and community in the city. The move, of course, helps get everything organized at once, and it has helped with a more dedicated office for the Foundation. Everything is close at hand, and services such as a copy center and office supply store have been sought out and found nearby. Needless to say, all is well with the Foundation office. Oh, and mail is being forwarded for a good, long, time, so never fear if you have recently used the old Excelsior address. Meanwhile, phone numbers and email contact information all stay exactly the same as before.

Spring came to the city and then it snowed again. Such is life. We hear that the Rainy Lakers were even fooled a little, and some lakeshore owners already had their water lines in, only to be met with snow. But, in the end, we trust in the tilt of the planet, and spring will come to stay-- or it will turn quickly into the warm days of summer. Mallard Island weeks are nearly all full, and thus each summer Sunday, boatloads of happy people will find their way past Grassy Island and on out to the Review Islands for a six-day stay. Some dreams come true.


Oberholtzer Foundation Board Expands to Fourteen

The Foundation’s board of directors encourages three 5-year terms for its board members, and believe it or not, most members carry those terms out fully. Last summer, we witnessed the retirement of five long-standing members and replaced them with two new members. This winter, the board recruited and nominated another three members. See the new board list by clicking on “Foundation.” This board renewal is crucial to the development of any organization, and our strategic plan named this as a major goal. New energy, skills, and knowledge are welcomed, while the orientation to the depth and detail of Mallard Island, Ober’s stories and the archives come together in a process that is long and deep. We thank the new chairman of our Board Development Committee, Bob Norbie of Great Falls, Montana, for his extra work in this area, this past year.


Mallard's Contribution to the World

Summer 2016 again brings abundant hopes for unencumbered times on Mallard Island.  If you haven't read it lately, please go to this web site under "Oberholtzer" and then "Biography" and read the beautiful article written back in 1983 for theMinneapolis Star Tribune by Ober's friend, Ted Hall. How interesting to re-read Ted's words as he explains how friends on Rainy Lake saw the use of Mallard Island, and, knowing Ernest Oberholtzer as they did, their advice is excellent. Here is Ted quoting others:  
"...And they offer good memories and good suggestions: Try to keep it the interesting “mix” of people who came there with Ober as their host, Winston Schmidt said. Use it, but use it the way Ober used it, he adds. Bud Schlick suggests that its use to help the Indian might be balanced by its use to help the white man learn from the Indian, a two-way street, and Jim Banks, one of Ober's many younger Indian friends and travel companions, agrees… Keep it small and uninstitutional, we heard, and stay out of the involuntary restaurant-and-hotel role … perpetuate the magic spell of Ober's Island and make that its contribution to a rattling world." 

Our world is definitely rattling, and tiny Mallard Island will do its best to stay "uninstitutional." It will always stay small, and as we recall from 2014, some summers smaller than others! In summer 2016, we know we welcome a very interesting mix of people, coming from several states and Minnesota. And we step into our summer with great intentions about learning from the Anishinaabe.  As for the magic, that always takes care of itself.  -- Beth Waterhouse, Executive Director.  


Ober Board Strengthens Mission

For some time, members of the Oberholtzer Foundation board of directors have been looking back at Oberholtzer’s “Declaration of Trust” and considering its important message. In 1962, when his foundation was first formed, Ober wrote, “The main purpose of this Trust is to help bridge the gap, both economic and cultural, between aboriginal Indians of the continent and… white inhabitants of the present day…” He also clearly articulated one relationship in a message that was ahead of its time—the relationship of indigenous wisdom and the land. “Out of the wilderness sprang the Indians. They are an integral part of it. They were its custodians for untold centuries. Today they offer a main hope for its future—one that lies above all within the scope of their genius and traditions. Their very mode of life was as creative as the wilderness itself.” He imagined Universities of the Wilderness, where “the Indians themselves, with their centuries of primitive wisdom, might well qualify for the faculty.”

These are strong words, and upon deeply re-visiting them, board members were not satisfied with the current mission of the organization. In a unanimous vote on Saturday, October 24th, they adopted this new statement of mission:

The Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation maintains Ober’s legacy and North Woods island home as a source of inspiration, renewal and connection to Indigenous Peoples, kindred spirits, and the natural world.

The board members are not shirking their care of four islands nor immediately changing what we do there, but in this statement they are putting Indigenous Peoples back into the center of the picture, once again. It is exciting to consider how this will begin to show up in various ways as we go forward with new intention.


Current Newsletter

Note: All newsletters are Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) files; they open in a new browser window. For previous newsletters, click Archive.

Fall 2018

  • Zhaa-bo-da-waan: Teaching Lodge
  • Dear Readers - Beth Waterhouse
  • “POOR LITTLE HARRY” - Debbie Dietrich Smith
  • A Summer of Renewal - Photos
  • Foundation Board Considers Alcohol Ban
  • Letter from the Treasurer - Michael Reid


Mark Your Calendars

Join all who love Mallard Island at a gathering in Minneapolis, Saturday, October 24th 2-6 PM.  This is our 16th Annual Fall Gathering, bringing together many who have (ever) spent a week on the island/s with those who may one day wish to do so.  Our practice is to come together informally, share art that was created on or about the island, and perform in (or enjoy) a small impromptu talent show.  It's always fun and a lot of laughs.  

Books and cards, some artwork, and other small items will be for sale. Light refreshments will be served.  The location is Judson Church, 4101 Harriet Avenue South, Minneapolis, 55409.  Street parking.  

New photo notecards will again be crafted from this year's images.  To submit photos for the notecard project, email up to five images to Beth Waterhouse < > and see if your images are chosen for this year's cards.  A small group of Rainy Lake islands inspires an infinite number of possibilities for angle, light, color, or shadow.  Images must be "recognizably Mallard Island or surrounding Review Islands."  Call with questions, 952-401-0591.  


Wannigan Raised Fourteen Inches in Late May

In true Ober style, the community again came together to improve his island holdings.  The Wannigan kitchen boat, purchased by Ernest Oberholtzer in the mid 1920s so that his mother, Rosa, would have a place to cook, is now stronger than ever, level on solid cribs about five times the size of a month ago, and fourteen and one half inches higher than it was. You'd never know it, driving by or walking up to the kitchen boat-- workers have done such a good job, and the boat looks beautiful, inviting, and as natural as can be in its location perched on the south side of the spine of Mallard Island.  

We had the assistance of Jamie Schaak Construction of International Falls, and he knows his jacks and how to raise or move heavy buildings, but Jamie was quick to say that he was in awe of our volunteer crew.  What a fine and serendipitous mix of daring carpentry skills along with an architectural eye, a welder's hand, an electrician's mind, and huge hearts-- every single one of them.  In the May 27th photo here, you see Jamie Schaak and Craig Fernholz with Michael Reid's smiling face over Jamie's left shoulder.  Three huge tamarack timbers were supplied by Leo Karsnia and his mill, and the complicated "raising" happened successfully during the last week of May.  Good weather, low water levels, and what a crew!   Special thanks to Michael Reid and David Donisch who engineered this plan and lost some sleep over it all winter long.  It is now a job well done.
Wannigan construction

During that week, a few others of us finished the floor in Cedarbark House, and that houseboat space is now back in use as an historic spot for a week-long stay on the Mallard.  Called "Mother's House" by Oberholtzer, this was where Rosa Oberholtzer spent several summers in the 1920s.  Her piano is there-- and back down on the floor where it belongs!  

Harry Hytrek (photo), Shane Pasche and their crew, Corey and Tristan, meanwhile were repairing several broken places in the rock walls that protect Mallard Island and, in fact, extend its tiny acreage as was Ober's plan.  Hytrek Masonry came to the rescue, again taking advantage of a low-water spring, and their rock wall repairs will add to the beauty of Mallard Island for decades to come.  We have the Rainy Lake Anishinaabe to thank for many of these walls, built in the 1920s through 1950s, and we thank Harry and his great team for helping to not only hold them together but make them solid and beautiful after last year's flood.  We have several new sacred spots on Mallard!  

rock work

Second work week volunteers took after the gardens, as always, but the crew that week also completed several exterior walls on the Wannigan, making it welcoming and beautiful.  One group put the Cedarbark House back together, and of course the gardeners, led by the Canadian sisters, Mary Alice Smith and Peggy Anne Smith of Thunder Bay, improved most of the gardens on the 1100-foot island.  Yes, we lost a rose garden to last year's flood, but I have no doubt that this group will design another option for that scallop near Japanese House.  The Oberholtzer Foundation cannot extend warm enough thanks to all the volunteers in these first two hard-working weeks this year.  

In further good news, the program weeks have now begun to roll out as planned on Mallard Island this summer.  Given fair weather and a lake staying within its banks, we are eager to welcome artists, historians, book care workers, songwriters, screenwriters, Ojibwe language students and so many more to Mallard this summer.  Here we go!  

Article by Beth Waterhouse



Save the Boundary Waters Logo

OBER’s Name Joins National Organizing for BWCAW

Oberholtzer Board member, Diane Crawford Tessari, reports, “The Oberholtzer Foundation board members voted unanimously at our February board meeting to endorse the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters from the impact of copper/sulfide mining.  We have officially become a partner and in this campaign.

With this move, we hope to take a more active role in this national effort to prevent copper/sulfide mining near the BWCAW. The campaign is supported by sixteen organizations agreeing to oppose sulfide-ore copper mining in the Rainy River Drainage Basin. We agree to work together on media and strategies such as public events and presentations, education of our legislatures or work with the media.

In April and May, the Voyageur Outward Bound School is the lead organization for a five-week bike tour starting in Winona (April 2) and winding through the state to Ely (May 10) via small towns, colleges and university campuses. Watch for it to roll through your area.

The Campaign, with offices in Ely and Minneapolis, has a staff of seven who support the groups that belong to the campaign. Doug Niemala is the national campaign manager. The supporting organization in Ely is NE Minnesotans for Wilderness.

Coalition members include American Rivers * Center for Biological Diversity * Boundary Waters Trust * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthworks * Environment Minnesota * Friends of the Boundary Waters * Izaak Walton League * Minnesota Conservation Federation * National Wildlife Federation * Natural Resources Defense Council * NE Minnesotans for Wilderness * Ernest C. Oberholtzer Foundation * Sierra Club * The Wilderness Society * Wilderness Watch.


** The BWCA is the most visited wilderness area in the US.
** One hundred percent of all copper/sulfide mines in the world have created acid mine drainage. No technology exists to prevent it.
** Forty percent of copper is now recycled in the US, and we can do better.
** Sulfide ore is always toxic, and this is the worst place in the world to mine it.

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Thanks to all who attended the fall event in late October and to those who have donated toward flood restoration.  We have exceeded our goal for the event, and we will hold strictly to your designation and make sure your gift is focused on that restoration work in the coming year.  There is much left to be done. Or you can donate through at any time during the year.  Thank you!  


Other Current News

Bound for the Barrens


Bound for the Barrens will be the topic of readings and celebration in a book event on Thursday, June 7, 2012, at the Ranier Community Center. Jean Replinger (editor) will be reading, and other Oberholtzer friends and board members will be speaking. The event is co-sponsored by the Koochiching County Museum, and Mr. Ed Oerichbauer. Limited Edition prints from the 1912 journey will be on sale -- a rare occurrence. Books on sale! Photos on sale! Please join us! Time: 7:00 PM to about 9:00 PM. Event is free but bring your checkbook for books or prints.

This year, we are marking the centennial of the Ernest Oberholtzer/Billy Magee canoe journey to Hudson Bay and back. One hundred years ago, these two men in one canoe paddled an unbelievable 2,000 miles in one short season-- from late June to early November. They returned not only in good health but bringing with them six journals full of Ober's notes from the venture and about 150 photographs.

Now you can read Ober's day-by-day journals of that epic canoe journey. Our new book is entitled BOUND FOR THE BARRENS, edited by Jean Sanford Replinger with Nancy Paddock. Bound for the Barrens brings you 268 pages of excellent reading including those journals themselves-- more of Ober's writing than you have yet found in any one place. This book also publishes dozens of Ober's photographs plus excellent footnotes and afterword material to expand upon the story.

Bound for the Barrens can now be ordered on line, at

And for our northerly web-browsers, please mark your calendars for the evening of Thursday, June 7th-- a book launch in Ranier, Minnesota. Time: 7:00 PM, at the Ranier Community Center. This event is co-sponsored by the Koochiching County Museum.


Bob Hilke and Les Oystryk return from their Tour in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Stay tuned for stories of the return to the Barrens.


Mallard Island Loon Hatches Successfully in June

Just a few weeks after ice-out, someone noticed that there was a loon nest on Mallard Island this year, not far from the stone steps down to the swimming beach. Don Maronde, who was caretaking that first work week, asked people to be very quiet near there and installed a "loon nesting site" sign on the trail. Shortly after seeing the nest, folks noticed that where there were two eggs, now there was only one. The loons grew fairly neutral about our quiet comings and goings down that trail to Japanese House. Each week of program people watched it closely and hoped (prayed, meditated, sang...) for a successful hatch.

Finally, on the windy Sunday morning of June 19, Jim Fitzpatrick thought that the loon looked a little ajar and fluffed up on her nest. He even related that he had heard a special call the night before. The next morning, a Mallard artist and photographer, Margie Weaver, reported spying a baby loon. Below, you'll see one of Margie's photographs.

Since that time, the loon chick has become everybody's baby, and island goers report back and forth about it -- is it still there, is it threatened by the eagle overhead, is it healthy and is it learning to fish? For the first week or so, the mama loon let it swim up inside her open wing and climb onto her back. She raised her wing shoulders and created the greatest little cradle. This behavior, of course, will protect the young from predators under the water! A certain call helps protect the young from the sky. At first the papa loon feeds both mother and chick, knowing that neither will dive. Later on, both parent birds dive and the little one will hustle toward whichever one comes to the surface first. Lately, we hear that the parent birds are teaching the chick to dive.

One amazing fact about loons is that after a whole summer of protecting and teaching their young, they abandon it and fly south. The young might then coalesce with others of the same generation and, depending entirely upon their DNA, they also fly south. They spend a full two years in the south before maturing enough to return to the northland to find a mate and reproduce. We're happy to be part of the life cycle of this little chick. For more information, try what was gathered by the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at
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Hydro Development Threatens Sturgeon in Border Wilderness

Proposals are underway to build a series of hydroelectric dams along the Namakan River in Northwestern Ontario, a critical link between Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and Quetico Park in Ontario. The falls at risk are the highest and the river the largest remaining undammed in the region, and its free-flowing waters provide habitat for the strongest population of Lake Sturgeon in the continent.

Our organization opposes the proposed development which threatens an internationally renowned wilderness area, the Namakan River ecosystem, the ecological integrity of the adjacent parks, species at risk such as the endangered Lake Sturgeon, and the historic Quetico-Superior canoe route

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