The Intrigue of the Northwest Angle

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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Have you ever heard of an American region that is entirely disconnected from the United States, where to get to it you need to travel through Canada? Many might say Alaska, but there is a small, more unknown and isolated American region known as the the Northwest Angle. The Northwest Angle is the only place, with the exception of Alaska, located north of the 49th parallel, the line that designates the United States’s border with Canada between Washington and Minnesota. Geographically, this small town is completely isolates from the rest of continental United States, but, nevertheless, belongs to the state of Minnesota. According to a 2010 census, the Northwest Angle is home to 119 people who live simple and humble lives in the area’s one city, Angle, and its three unincorporated communities, a designation given to sparsely populated land that is not directly governed by its town. However, a 2016 CBS report claimed, there were simply 60 or so inhabitants in this strange territory. Interestingly, 70% of the land in the Northwest Angle belongs to a Native American Reservation (Red Lake Indian Reservation) controlled by the Ojibwa people, or rather, an Ojibwa person? In the Northwest Angle, there is only one person of Native American descent who doesn’t even live within the reservation. The other 30% of the land is either controlled by the people, the state of Minnesota (unincorporated communities), or the town of Angle. Unfortunately, the town of Angle’s population has been declining. With poor access to necessary goods, the citizens of Angle simply want to live in a more convenient area where they can easily get whatever they need. The town of Angle has no grocery store, no hospital, no fast food restaurants, and no movie theater. The only public buildings they do have are a post office and small K-8 schoolhouse. For high school, students have to take a 60 mile journey to Minnesota where they are bussed to the their school. However, it is not that simple. Before leaving the Northwest Angle, the bus driver must notify Canadian immigration services that they will be entering the country, and he/she must provide the name of every child he/she is transporting. Then, he/she has to alert the United States Customs and Border Protection that they were reentering the United States. Evaluating the inconveniences of living in a remote area such as the Angle and the dwindling population, I started wondering if it is truly worth living in the Northwest Angle. Well, it turns out, one of the main reasons many people stay are the fish. The fishing industry has become the staple of the Northwest Angle and the biggest source of income. In fact, in the 1990s when Americans were prohibited from fishing in Canadian lake water, the Angle threatened to succeed and become part of Canada. However, this industry cannot support the entirety of the town, thereby leading to the particularly high poverty level of nearly 13% of the town’s population. For many, the solution has been to leave their home behind and move to more developed parts of the state. Personally, I can’t imagine having to drive for hours to go grocery shopping or to go to school. Therefore, I cannot blame the people who are leaving the area and moving elsewhere. This territorial oddity is not for all, but it is a land for people who are ready for adventure and the thrill of living off the land.

Photo Credits: CBS News