Lake Superior Chippewa Indian Tribe of Wisconsin

Published on October 19, 2010 by John

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Red Cliff Band
Red Cliff Band of
Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

The Lake Superior Chippewa (Anishinaabe: Gichigamiwininiwag) were a historical band of Ojibwe Indians living around Lake Superior in what is now the northern parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

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Sometime earlier than 1650, the Ojibwe split into two groups near present-day Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, one of the prophesized stops along the path that had brought the Anishinaabe west from the Atlantic Coast. The Ojibwe that followed the south shore of Lake Superior found the final prophesized stopping place and “the food that grows on water” (wild rice) at Madeline Island. During the late 17th century, the Ojibwe at Madeline Island looked outward due to population pressures, desire for furs to trade, and increased factionalism brought by the arrival of French Jesuit missions. Having driven the Sioux out of most of northern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota, the Ojibwe spread throughout this region establishing bands throughout what would become northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. La Pointe on Madeline Island remained the spiritual and commercial center of the nation.


The Lake Superior Chippewa was large in number that those not within the Lake Superior watershed who were identified as a separate sub-nation, known as the Biitan-akiing-enabijig (Border Sitters) as they were located between the Ojibwe of located within the Lake Superior watershed and other Nations. The Biitan-akiing-enabijig was then further divided into three principal Bands: Manoominikeshiinyag (the “Ricing Rails”, in the St. Croix River valley), Odaawaa-zaaga’iganiwininiwag (the “Ottawa Lake Men”, about Lac Courte Oreilles) and the Waaswaaganiwininiwag (the “Torch Men”, about Lac du Flambeau). Numerous sub-bands also existed.

Treaties and Reservations

In a series of treaties with the US Government, the Lake Superior Chippewa were formally grouped as a unit distinct from the farther-west Mississippi, Pillager, Bois Forte, Muskrat Portage, Red Lake and Pembina bands. In fact, the various villages had been politically independent and did not have a centralized authority. In the winter of 1851, the President of the United States attempted to remove the Lake Superior Chippewa west of the Mississippi River, which resulted in the Sandy Lake Tragedy and the deaths of several hundred people. After a visit to Washington DC by the La Pointe chief Buffalo, further attempts at Ojibwe removal were abandoned. The final treaty in 1854 established permanent reservations at L’Anse, Lac Vieux Desert, and Ontonagan in Michigan, the component parts of today’s Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Lac Vieux Desert Indian Reservation. In Wisconsin, reservations were established at Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau. The St. Croix and Sokaogon bands, left out of the 1854 treaty, did not obtain tribal lands or federal recognition until the 1930s. In Minnesota, reservations were set up at Fond du Lac and Grand Portage. Other bands such as the Bois Forte Band continued negotiations with the US Government and thus ended political affiliation with the Lake Superior Chippewa.


Today the bands are politically independent though they remain culturally closely connected to each other and have engaged in common legal actions concerning treaty rights. Many bands include “Lake Superior Chippewa” in their official tribal names (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, etc.), with their political Successors Inherent being: Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, merged from L’Anse Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (historical) Ontonagon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (historical) Lac Vieux Desert Band of Chippewa La Pointe Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (historical): descendants are Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa St. Croix Chippewa Indians Sokaogon Chippewa Community Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Grand Portage Band Bois Forte Band of Chippewa In addition to the full political Successors Inherent, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (via the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Minnesota), Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (via removable Fond du Lac Band of the Chippewa Indian Reservation) and White Earth Band of Chippewa (via the removable St. Croix Chippewa of Wisconsin of the Gull Lake Indian Reservation) retain minor Successorship to the Lake Superior Chippewa, though the Aboriginal Sovereign Powers derived from the Lake Superior Chippewa are not exercised.

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