Mary M. Strong, “Waubcomegook"– meaning “the first fall of snow”, 73, Lake Vermilion, died Sunday,
Aug. 30, 2015, at Essentia Health in Duluth. She was also known to many as Margaret or “Muggs.” Mary
was of the Bear Clan and member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.
Mary was born in Nett Lake on October 11, 1941 and
lived most of her life on the Nett Lake-Vermilion
Reservations, residing in Duluth for a time. Earlier
she worked for Reserve Mining where she was their
first female heavy equipment operator. She then
made her career working 21 years for MNDOT
(Minnesota Department of Transportation),
stationed in Hibbing, Virginia, and retiring in Cook,
where she was the 1st “snowplowing grandma” for
the State of Minnesota. Her strong work ethic was
known to all.
Mary was successful as one of the first vendors
at the Land of the Loon Festival in Virginia
and Blueberry Arts Festival in Ely. Her threegeneration
family business, Vermilion Native
Crafts, thrived because of her beautiful beadwork.
She made sure the knowledge and skill of
beadwork were passed on to her grandchildren.
Her commitment to leading found her serving on
the Elder’s Committee, Conservation Committee,
the Lake Vermilion Pow Wow Committee,
State Minority Focus Board, and the Bois Forte
Reservation Business Committee. Mary was also
the Home School Coordinator where she was a
strong advocate for education and equal treatment
of Native American children. Mary also was well
known on the Pow Wow Trail. She was a jingle
dress dancer, maker and designer, and part of the
Pow Wow Golden Girls who traveled across the
country to attend many pow wows. She was one
of the last Strongsville women.
Mary was not afraid to tell it like it was, and she
would not back down to anyone. Though she was
known for her “tough as nails” character, she also
has a good sense of humor and had the wonderful
ability to make everyone smile and laugh. She lived
for wild ricing. Her family fondly recalls her strong
presence at ricing time -a “rice-hog” passion.
She and her brother, Minge, were legendary
top wild rice pickers. She also loved gardening,
taking cruises and blueberry picking. Her family
and friends will always remember her blueberry
pies and pancakes. Mary will be sadly missed by
all who came to know her.
She is preceded in death by a son, Carl James
Dagen on February 8, 2009; 3 brothers, Gerald
Chicag Sr., Faron Chicag and Ken Strong Sr.; 1
sister, Sara Kochie; and her brother-in-law, Robert
Boshey.
Mary is survived by her children; Denise Pieratos
of Lake Vermilion, Carrie Strong of Lake
Vermilion, Cheryl Milbridge of Roseau, Tracey
Dagen of Lake Vermilion, Kevin Strong of Lake
Vermilion and Kelly Strong of Duluth; 3 siblings,
Phyllis Boshey, Gaynard Strong and Rodney
(Lisa) Strong; 19 Grandchildren, 18 Great
Grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews
and many friends.
SERVICES: Tribal Rites will be at 10:00 AM
Thursday, Sept. 3rd, at the Vermilion Reservation
Wellness Center-Tower. The Wake will be after
5:00 PM Wednesday at the Wellness Center.
Gilbert Smith will be the spiritual leader, assisted
by Gene Goodsky. Honorary bearers will be:
Jim Merhar, Bobby Joe “Archie” Deegan, Robert
“JR” Moyer, Dale Boshey Sr., Neil Strong and
Jayson Strong. Interment will be in the Vermilion
Cemetery. Arrangements are with Mlaker Funeral
Home in Cook. To sign the online guest book, or
to send a condolence to the family, go to: www.
mlakerfuneralhome.com.