Mary Annette Pember
Clock is ticking down for the Amnicon Bay Association, a group of 18 non-Native people leasing land from the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe of Wisconsin. The lease is up in 2017 and the tribe says it will not be renewed.

Bad River Ojibwe Tribe Reclaims Amnicon Bay

Mary Annette Pember

“I’m sure we’ll have a hard time leaving if it comes to that. We all love the land but as I’ve always told new members, ‘Remember, you are really only buying memories when you have a home here,’” Schwarz notes.

She opines that the subject of renewal will depend primarily upon the politics of tribal leadership in 2017.

Currently the Association and the tribe are involved in legal discussions regarding the amount of annual rent according to Burns. Neither Bad River tribal counsel nor the Amnicon Bay Association members would comment on this or the status of lease renewal negotiations.

John Tillotson, Bay Association treasurer, however, said, “It’s not meaningful to have renewal discussions until we are closer to the end of the lease.’

A lot can happen in three years according to Schwarz. “We are all holding out hope,” she said.

Schwarz’ hope, however, seems to be based on a status quo that is changing. “In many ways, we segregated ourselves from the Island,” notes Mike Wiggins, Bad River tribal chairman.

Wiggins opines that the Island enclave of mostly wealthy vacation homeowners presents a racial and class exclusivity that may not have felt welcoming to the tribal members. “I imagine they don’t feel at home here. They live in Odanah; this is a resort area,” Schwarz said.

Indeed, several Association members made reference to what they describe as unfortunate incidents in the past between Natives and non-Natives on the Amnicon Beach. In one incident, a belligerent Amnicon Bay resident ordered several Bad River people engaged in a sweat lodge off the lease land. And there have been other more minor occasions of residents confronting tribal members and asking them to leave.

“It’s only recently that we’ve begun to form a relationship with people on the island, there was too much friction between Native and non-Natives in the past, so few of our people went,” notes Leoso.

“We can sit down now and talk to each other without Native people feeling intimidated. It has to do with education and the non-Natives learning more about us and seeing that we are still alive; we are still here on the land,” she said.

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rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
Why would someone build a home on land they do not own...........??