My Hometown

How Devils Lake Got its Name

The name given the lake by Indians is “Minnewaukan,”  “Minnie” (which means water) and “Waukan” (which means spirit), or Spirit Lake.  The name has been misinterpreted by white people centuries ago. 

When the whites first came here the Indians told them “Minnewaukan Seche” – (which means “Spirit Lake” is bad), referring to the fact that the water is salty and not suitable for drinking, but the interpretation given it by the whites was “Bad Spirit Lake” or Devils Lake, and thus the name has come down to us, as an unfortunate translation. 

Devils Lake is in the neutral ground of the perpetual enemies, the Sioux and the Chippewas, and is regarded with superstitious dread by the Indians who have a legend that a terrific storm engulfed two large fleets of Sioux and Chippewas who were engaged in a fierce combat on its surface and all of the warriors were drowned. 

For many years the Indian man never ventured on the waters of the lake, though thousands of them lived on the reservation along its southern shore.

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