Fri June 15, 2012
Ojibwe bands look to end exclusion on their ancestral home island
One of the most sacred places for the Ojibwe people will have more of a Native presence, possibly even reclaiming some of its reservation land.
When the Ojibwe people migrated from the east coast of North America, they were told of a place where food grows on water. When they got to Madeline Island in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands, they found wild rice growing in the sloughs and settled. Bad River Band Chairman Mike Wiggins says they consider Madeline Island a sacred place. “There’s definitely a power, definitely a calling that island has for a lot of Ojibwe people,” he says. “It does for me. It does for a lot of our tribal members. When I get over there, there’s definitely a lot of thought that goes into the past and what our ancestors went through to call that place home.”
Today, Madeline Island and its community of LaPointe is a place with 500 year round residents and hundreds of people who spend summer in exclusive homes. LaPointe Town Chairman Greg Nelson knows there is concern by area Ojibwe bands, so they’re creating a tribal relations committee. “This island is a very sacred place for the tribes,” he says. “We realize that. It’s just an effort to try to have communications that are a little more proactive than reactive if something transpires on the island that they were unaware of.”
About 12 homes on the island’s north end have leased land from Bad River for decades. Wiggins says it’s possible that lease won’t be renewed when it is up in 2017. “With all those homes on that shoreline that is reservation on the North End, there are generations upon generations of tribal members now that have never known the possibilities of just interacting with the tribal land up there because of the houses that are there and some of the exclusivity that comes with those being leased out like that,” he says.
Wiggins says the tribal relations committee could end years of being excluded from development and preservation decisions on their home island.