Bad River Ojibwe Tribe Reclaims Amnicon Bay
The land and the cabin owners on Amnicon Bay, however, represent a challenge to Native people that is difficult to express. The story of Amnicon Bay is one of great beauty, cultural pride and resistance to U.S. domination for the people of the Bad River Ojibwe tribe. It is also a story tinged with pain and regret over the need to sacrifice a powerful emblem of this pride for economic survival. Less than three years from now, however, the tribe has a chance for redemption.
Madeline Island is the largest of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The Bay, about 17 acres, is included in a 200-acre parcel on the island owned by the tribe, guaranteed to them by the LaPointe Treaty of 1854. Remote and pristine, the land on Amnicon Bay offers a seemingly endless view of Gitchee Gummee, or great sea, a view incomparable to any other location on the Island. Highlighting the exclusive nature of the beachfront property, a local realtor advertises the area as the Caribbean of the north.
“That view is like looking out at an ocean, and reminds us of our migration story, of our journey from the Atlantic Ocean; that is part of why our elders insisted on maintaining ownership of this land,” said Edith Leoso, Bad River Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
Leoso refers to the Ojibwe migration story that tells of the tribes journey to the Great Lakes from the eastern area of the St. Lawrence Seaway hundreds of years before European contact. The story tells of a long journey guided by the vision of a megis shell leading to the place where food grows on the water. This food is wild rice or manoomin, a traditional Ojibwe food that grows in the Great Lakes region.
According to Leoso and others in the tribe, the Bay and Madeline Island in general are potent spiritual and cultural symbols not only for Bad River but for all Ojibwe.
Although the 1854 treaty refers to Amnicon Bay as fishing grounds, it represents far more than that. “It is a place for some of our most important ceremonies; it’s where we had our first Midewiwin ceremony when our people arrived in this area from the East, way before Europeans first came here,” according to Myron Burns, Bad River tribal council member.
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