The church is being sandbagged on June 20, 2002


Taken from the Kittson County History Book

St. Michael’s Church, Caribou

Caribou, Minnesota is a district just south of the U.S. border neighboring the Arbakka district on the Canadian side. When pioneers first came to these areas there was no border between Canada and the United States.

 The settlers were mostly Ukrainians with a few other nationalities, such as English, Icelandic, Swedes and others.

 The first postmaster in Arbakka was Mr. Gillies, an Icelander who lived near the banks of the Roseau River. Arbakka in Icelandic means ‘river bank”. The settlers came at their own risk, and their life was far from being easy.

 Caribou was further south a few miles and the settlers worked together, visited each other and made lasting friends. Very early in 1900, a Ukrainian Orthodox Church was built in the Arbakka district with voluntary labor. The church was built on land donated by a Mr. Karol. The priest servicing the area came from Canada.

 In 1905, the homesteaders in the Caribou area built the St. Michael’s Orthodox Church on land donated by Sandyk Mykytey, a part of his homestead. This wooden hand-built structure was built by builders from Bukovina, Ukraine. The priest that officiated in the church nearby in Arbakka officiated there also. The church, now 70 years old, still stands.

In 1909, a boundary line as made between Canada and the United States. Iron posts were placed as markers. They still remain. Caribou was one mile south of the border and Arbakka two miles north of it. People still mixed and traveled back and forth since there was no Customs Station and no one seemed to bother about the border for a number of years.

 In 1930, the boundary laws were enforced, people arrested, horses and cars were taken away for illegal crossing. No longer could friends, neighbors and relatives visit freely with the people on “the other side” without first going through Customs in Emerson.

Changes came about too through intermarriages, in ways of living as well as in religion. For many years the St. Michael’s Church in Caribou was only used for special services and funerals. The church and grounds have been very well kept by its few members.

In 1974, Mrs. Kushniryuk of Saskatchewan donated a large sum of money to the church. The church committee, J. Kowaliuk (President), J. Pready (Treasurer) and Irene Weleski (Secretary) and others, had the exterior of the church renovated and painted. The humble beauty of the interior remains the same as it was originally built. It is unique in appearance.

 The first Sunday in July, 1975, will long be remembered by the few members of the Caribou Church, for it was that day with the efforts of a few members as well as the help of Father Thatcher of Vita, that Divine Liturgy was held in the church after some 30 years of having only special services or funerals there. There were people there from Fargo, North Dakota, Minneapolis, St. Paul and many other areas of Minnesota, as well as Sundown, Vita, Winnipeg, Arbakka, Gardenton, Tolstoi and other places in Manitoba, Canada.

 Father Thatcher of Vita officiated and Martin Chobotar of Sundown was Cantor.

Many families and friends were reunited after many years. Tears of joy were shed by many. Surely the presence of the Almighty was felt by many as they once again prayed together in their church.


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