Bad River Ojibwe Tribe Reclaims Amnicon Bay
“There is a shift occurring in that relationship,” according to Leoso.
Some of that change can be attributed to the tribe’s strong show of their treaty rights and sovereignty in recent years especially relating to protection and stewardship of the environment. In 2011, the tribe won the right from the Environmental Protection Agency to set their own standards for water quality on their lands.
"As a sovereign nation, the Bad River Tribal Government is committed to preserving and enhancing its natural resources for future generations and believes clean water should not be sacrificed for short-term speculative economics," Chairman Wiggins said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal.
Tribal leaders are proudly expressing the validity of traditional Ojibwe values in their relationships and negotiations with the non-Native communities and governments. Notably, Bad River is fighting the creation of a giant open pit iron ore mine immediately adjacent to the reservation that they maintain will pollute their land and water. In addition to utilizing their legal rights in the courts, the tribe has employed savvy coalition building methods among non-Native communities who share concerns over the health of the environment. This sophisticated ability to translate tribal values into a basic message of responsibility to family and community has attracted many supporters.
Regarding the tribes fight to keep Gogebic Taconite from building the mine, Chairman Wiggins said, This is a real and tangible example of our value system that involves responsible stewardship of our land and water,” Wiggins says.
For Wiggins and most tribal members, taking the Amnicon Land back is a potent expression of not only of tribal sovereignty but also of Ojibwe tradition and values.
Schwarz, however, questioned the assertion that the Bay has strong traditional and ceremonial associations. She maintains that there has been very little activity by Bad River tribal members on the leased land.
“They can call it spiritual ground if they want and that’s fine, but that land was given to them as a fishing grounds because the fishing at Bad River wasn’t good,” she said.
Regarding cultural differences over the tribe’s connection to the land, Wiggins said in an ICTMN interview in 2011, “We are home and have been home for a thousand years, where the prophecies directed us to be. It may be difficult for others to understand, but this is our ancestral homeland.”
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