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EARLY HISTORY
(Part One)

White people have lived in Spicer and on Green Lake for about 134 years. Indians were here at least 10,000 years earlier and occupied the area for much of that time; although there is no record of Indians being present when E. T. Woodcock and his wife, Loretta, Spicer's first settlers, spent a miserable winter here in 1856‑1857.

The Indian heritage, however, lives on. The Dakota Sioux saw one of the main differences between this lake and other area lakes, the distinctive green color, so they called it "Mdeto.” “Mde" in Dakota means lake and "to" means blue green. The Mdeto name is perpetuated, in the phonetically spelled Medayto Beach, Medayto Farm, and Medayto Cottage, all named by J. M. Spicer, for whom the town is named.

No one knows when the Dakotas first came to Green Lake and named it Mdeto, but a good guess would be about 1760. They had been living on Mille Lacs Lake but were driven south by the better-armed Ojibwa about 1750.

Most Dakotas settled on the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers but hunted and fished in this area for many years. The first reference to the Kandiyohi Lakes region was on a map published by the French explorer Nicollet in 1842. He did not visit the area but recorded what the Indians on the Minnesota River told him about the Kandiyohi Lakes region, the place where the buffalo fish were plentiful in the spring.

Unlike most fish, the buffalo fish run upstream from the major rivers to the lakes to spawn. They came to Green Lake by the thousands, up the Crow River from the Mississippi. The Indians could easily catch them by putting willow dams or weirs across the stream. The water could go through, but the fish could not.

The first people here were not settlers, but wandering hunters who came through the area 10,000 years ago, in pursuit of the giant bison and mastodon. This was a lush grazing land, ideally suited to these large, now extinct, animals. The retreating glaciers could still be seen on the northern horizon when these big game hunters first camped on the shores of Green Lake.

Those early visitors, Paleo or Big Game people, lived almost exclusively on the meat of the mastodon and the giant bison. As a family unit, they followed these huge animals and then lived on the flesh until it was gone or too "ripe" to eat.

When the meat was gone, scouts went out to find the next prey, and the family unit moved out in pursuit. Hunting these powerful animals with stone‑tipped spears was dangerous work. Young, strong hunters were very important to a family's survival.

The Paleo hunters were specialists. They did not usually hunt deer, bear, elk, or any small game. In fact, they did not even use the abundant fish and wild rice found in this area. In spite of their specialization they survived here about 8,000 years.

The Paleo people either adapted to change in their environment or were replaced by more diversified hunters, called Archaic people. The climate changed, the mastodons and giant bisons died out, and so did the culture called Paleo.

The new Green Lake area occupants arrived about 7,000 years ago and were also nomads, but were not so specialized. They would stay in one place long enough to harvest a season's supply of food. Their primary source of food was meat from deer, moose, elk, and all types of small animals and birds. They also made use of the abundant fish in the area lakes and all manner of wild seeds, berries, and nuts to supplement their diet.

Archaic people lived and hunted here for about 4,000 years. They were replaced by the first permanent settlers, the Woodland people, about 3,000 years ago. The Woodland people lived on Green Lake approximately 2,400 years.

By using all of the various foods available and learning to store them, the Woodland people were able to live in more or less permanent villages. Their culture was thus very different from that of its predecessors. They developed the bow and arrow for hunting; they made pottery, and the pottery gave them a medium for artistic expression; they harvested wild rice, which gave them a supply of storable carbohydrate; and they learned to grow a few plants like corn and tobacco.

Two locations on Green Lake were ideal for Woodland villages, places where they had open water in the winter, protection from the winter north wind, and wood for fuel. These two sites are the inlet and the outlet or the Old Mill and Kandiyohi County Park Number 5. Many Woodland artifacts have been found at both of these sites; such things as stone hammers, projectile points, flint chips, and broken pottery.

One other very different practice of the Woodland people was the burying of their leaders in earthen mounds. Indian Beach received its name from the 69 mounds found there by the first white settlers. Most were destroyed by farmers, artifact hunters, cabin builders, and highway construction. Two remain in Reuben Felska's yard, and at least two are still visible in the farmyard across the road.