The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians announces the purchase of Strawberry Island, a place of cultural and spiritual significance to many Tribal Members and the site of a defining point in the Tribe’s history.
More than 100 years ago, one of the Tribe’s most historic locations was removed from Tribal control when the Island was deeded to the Mills Family in the early 1900s. After years of controversy surrounding the Island, including jurisdictional disputes and attempts to develop it for residential use, the land now returns home to take its rightful place in Lac du Flambeau Tribal history, and under tribal jurisdiction and protection for perpetuity.
Strawberry Island was the site of one of the last historic battles between the Ojibwe and Sioux Tribes. Tribal teachings passed down from one generation to the next told of what has become to be known as “The Battle for Lac du Flambeau”, when migrating Ojibwe encountered Sioux Indians inhabiting the area now known as Lac du Flambeau. Tribal members believe that had their ancestors not prevailed in the battle, present day Ojibwe (Chippewa) would not reside in Northern Wisconsin. It is believed among Ojibwe, through oral history, that all six of the Ojibwe Bands calling Wisconsin home originated from the Lac du Flambeau area. Strawberry Island not only holds a significant place in Ojibwe history; Sioux Tribal teachings also recognize the significance of the Island and the subsequent events that led them from being a woodland people to becoming one of the most feared Tribes of the Northern Plains.
In 1978, the Island was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its rich Tribal history and the numerous artifacts uncovered by survey teams. Items discovered on the Island have dated back as far as 300 BC.
For decades, efforts to reclaim the Island fell short as the Band was unable to reach an agreement with the Mills Family. Zoya A. Mayo, Director of Lac du Flambeau Tribal Land Management, has pursued the purchase of the Island for more than nine years.
“To me, as Director of Land Management and a LDF Tribal Member, this is one of the most memorable moments in our Tribe’s history,” Mayo said. “It is personally gratifying for me to see this through, and I am honored and humbled to bear witness to this. We could not have accomplished this history-making moment without the support of our President Tom Maulson, our current Tribal Council, our Historical Preservation Department, our Cultural Committee, and the many Elders and community members who have supported this monumental acquisition.”
In celebration of the purchase, the Tribe hosted a “Strawberry Island Closing and Drum Ceremony” Monday, Dec. 30. The ceremony took place at the William Wildcat Sr. Community Center in Lac du Flambeau. Tribal President Tom Maulson and agents from Redman Realty Group representing the Mills Family were on hand to sign the deed. The Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council was also present along with Spiritual leaders and traditional singers, who offered an Ojibwe prayer and songs in honor of the historical purchase. A Community Feast is planned for the summer of 2014 in honor of Strawberry Island returning to the Tribe.