Hole in the Day

Portrait of Chief Hole in the Day

Hole in the Sky (The Younger) 1825-1868, was a prominent chief of the Ojibwe, Native Americans of Minnesota. The Ojibwe pronunciation has been written in various spellings such as Bagone-giizhig, Bagwunagijik, Bug-o-nay-ki-shig, Pugonakeshig or Puk-O-Nay-Keshig. Hole-in-the-Sky has also been called Hole-in-the-Day. The name refers to a dream in which the guardian spirit was seen through an opening in the sky. It also refers to the Anishinaabek constellation of the same name, also known as the 7 Sisters.


In 1847 Hole in the Day (the Younger) succeeded his father, Hole in the Day (the Elder), as head chief of the Mississippi Band of the Ojibwe(Chippewa) of central Minnesota. Like his father, Hole in the Day the Younger was prominent in skirmishes against the Sioux(Dakota), and was prominent in negotiations with the Dakota and with the U.S. government. Hole in the Day the Younger strove to be considered the head chief of all Minnesota Ojibwe. Most white government officials actually did consider him to be head chief in Minnesota. This was due to his ambition to be involved in most, if not all, important negotiations and other dealings between the Minnesota Ojibwe and the US government, and that he presented himself in an articulate and stately manner. However, many of the other Ojibwe leaders in Minnesota did not recognize him as the head chief.

Personal life

Hole-in-the-Day had several wives. Some accounts number them as many as eight[1] Other sources number his wives as a total of five.[2] What is agreed on though is that one of his wives was a white woman. He married her on a journey to the eastern United States, where she may have worked as a journalist. She is described as "Irish" but whether this means she was born in Ireland, or only that this was where her ancestors came from is unclear.

Some sources give his named as Joseph Hole-in-the-Day. He was considering becoming a Catholic at the time of his death, but had not been baptized.

1862 Dakota War

During the Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota, Hole in the Day the Younger spoke out in favor of joining forces with the Dakota to drive European settlers from Minnesota. His threats to attack and take control of Fort Ripley caused a great amount of tension at the fort.[3] To help encourage Minnesota Ojibwe to join the battle, he spread a false rumor that the federal government was drafting Ojibwe men to become soldiers in the ongoing Civil War.[4] Largely in reaction to this rumor and warlike coaxing by Hole in the Day, a group of Leech Lake Ojibwe burned the Indian Agency in Walker, took prisoners, and marched to Crow Wing.[5]

The other Ojibwe chiefs, however, did not agree with the idea of going to war against United States Government and, with many Ojibwe warriors, moved into Fort Ripley to help protect the fort against a possible attack from forces incited by Hole in the Day.


On June 27, 1868, Hole in the Day left his house at Gull Lake in a buggy driven by his trusted cousin and bodyguard Ojibwe. They were several miles from his home and were on the way to renegotiate the terms of the treaty regarding the new reservation at White Earth. In the meantime, Hole in the Day had issued orders that no one was to move to White Earth until the United States Federal Government built everything on the Reservation that had been promised in the previous Treaty.

Near the Crow Wing Agency, the Chief found the buggy's path obstructed by a group of twelve Ojibwe men from the Pillager Ojibwe. Standing up, the Chief, who for reasons unknown had left his revolver at home, called out in the Ojibwe language, "You find me at a bad time! I am unarmed!"

In response, one of the Pillagers fired a double barrelled shotgun into the Chief's face and upper body. After the Chief fell from the buggy to the ground, another of the Pillagers ran over and repeatedly stabbed him to make sure that he was dead. Following the murder, the assassins went to Hole in the Day's house and looted it. Only Ojibwe's warning of the dangers of kidnapping a White woman prevented the Pillagers from abducting the youngest of the Chief's wives.

The murder of Hole in the Day was Indian on Indian crime on Indian land, thus the United States Federal Government had little authority to arrest or prosecute the offenders. Even so, an attempt was made to arrest the assassins, but the Chief of the Pillager Band refused to give them up. The Chief's grounds was that, if he surrendered them, only the assassins would be prosecuted while whoever had hired them would not even be tried.

At the request of his son Ignatius Hole in the Day, a convert to Roman Catholicism who had who had attended and graduated from St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, Chief Hole in the Day was buried by Fr. Francis Xavier Pierz in the unconsecrated section of the Roman Catholic cemetery at Old Crow Wing. In 1957 a local resident illegally dug in the grave looking for valuable artifacts and discovered that there was no body.

According to Ojibwe author and historian Anton Treuer, the oral history of Hole in the Day's extended family is that the Chief's non-Catholic relatives objected to Ignatius' choice of burial, secretly dug up and removed the Chief's body, and reburied him with traditional Ojibwe ritual at a secret location near the town of White Earth.[6]

Hole in the Day's murder was national news, and theories about its cause were many: personal jealousy, retribution for his decades-long claim to be head chief of all the Ojibwe, retaliation for the attacks he fomented in 1862, or retribution for his recent vows to "use the knife's edge" to keep certain mixed-blood Ojibwes off of the White Earth Reservation and to have them dropped from the Federal annuity rolls. Following Hole in the Day's murder, however, these same mixed-bloods poured into the reservation.

For decades, the reasons for the Chief's murder remained a mystery. The names of the assassins were known, however no one was ever charged with the murder. In 1911, the surviving assassins testified that they had been hired by a group of mobbed-up mixed-blood businessmen and illegal whiskey-pedlars led by Clement Hudon Beaulieu, the Democratic Party's political boss of the region of Minnesota that surrounded Old Crow Wing. While negotiating with a previous group of hired gunmen, Beaulieu had said that Chief Hole in the Day was like a great big log and, if he was not killed, it would be impossible for Beaulieu and his confederates to get past him.[7]

According to Anton Treuer, all of the assassins had come to regret their actions. Beaulieu and his confederates and kept none of the lavish promises they had made to their hired gunmen. Furthermore, Beaulieu, the other conspirators, and their families had then taken control of the Government, law enforcement, and business community of the White Earth Reservation and had proceeded to enrich themselves by defrauding everyone else.

The assassins had grown aware, not only of Chief Hole in the Day's ability to force the bureaucracy that is the United States Federal Government to keep their promises to the Ojibwe people, but also of the Chief's ability to keep Clement Beaulieu and his confederates in check. For all of these reasons, even the Chief's murderers had come to mourn his absence.

Anton Treuer has described the Chief's assassination as a watershed moment in the history of the Ojibwe people and argues that the aftermath of the Chief's murder was a major factor in the continuing collapse of Ojibwe culture. Treuer, however, has sought out the truth because he believes that researching and understanding the past is what is necessary to preserve what remains and to rediscover what has been lost.

Others with the same name

Besides Hole in the Day the Elder and Hole in the Day the Younger, there were at least two other prominent Minnesota Ojibwe of the 1800s named Hole in the Day. One Hole-in-the-Day from Red Lake was involved in the Nelson Act of 1889. Another Hole-in-the-Day from Leech Lake played a leading role in 1898 in the nation's last Indian battle, the Battle of Sugar Point.


  1. ^ Carl Waldman. Who Was Who in Native American History: Indianas and Non-Indianas From Early Contacts through 1900. New York: Facts On File. 1990. p. 155-155
  2. ^ Brainard Dispatch article on Hold-in-the-Day
  3. ^ Treuer, Anton (2011). The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, Minnesota: Borealis Books. p. xii(preface). ISBN 978-0-87351-779-9.
  4. ^ Stone, Andrew. "Bagone-giizhig (Hole-in-the-Day the Younger), 1825–1868". MNOPEDIA. Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  5. ^ Treuer, Anton (2011). The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, Minnesota: Borealis Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-87351-779-9.
  6. ^ Treuer, Anton (2011). The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, Minnesota: Borealis Books. pp. 206–207. ISBN 978-0-87351-779-9.
  7. ^ Stone, Andrew. "Bagone-giizhig (Hole-in-the-Day the Younger), 1825–1868". MNOPEDIA. Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved 8 February 2016.


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