Fond du Lac Band reclaims land on Wisconsin Point after more than a century.
FOND DU LAC RESERVATION -- Thursday, tribal leaders from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and government officials from across Minnesota and Wisconsin celebrated the return of Wisconsin Point to tribal land.
Representatives from the US Department of the Interior, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin all spoke about the importance of the event.
“Wisconsin point was the place where our people actually lived,” said Fond du Lac Chairman Kevin Dupuis.
Dupuis says the last time the tribe owned the land was more than a century ago.
The land was used as a burial ground, but hundreds of bodies were removed to make way for industrial development in the early 1900s that never actually took place.
Superior City Council President Jenny Van Sickle says it doesn’t fix the past, but returning that land is a huge step toward reconciliation.
“Taking responsibility is difficult and not something we can do all the time, but something we can always work towards,” she said.
Van Sickle is Superior’s first indigenous City Council President, and a driving force in getting that land returned.
“I’m the first native woman to represent Wisconsin Point in this way. And none of us should have been comfortable representing those areas [in the first place],” she said.
She believes the reclamation of Wisconsin Point is a great example of why indigenous representation in local politics is so important.
“When you elect different people, you get different results,” she said.
Dupuis believes it was Van Sickle’s advocacy and hard work that made the reclamation a reality.
“I can say right now we couldn’t [have done] it without her,” he said.
Dupuis is adamant the return doesn’t right the wrongs that were done, but acknowledges that it’s cause to celebrate, now that the land is back in the hands of its original owners.
“We know we can’t return to the past, but we can bring the past forward to the present,” he said.
Now, since the tribe once again owns the land, they’ll likely work with the US Department of the Interior to make the land part of a trust.
“The land then becomes a protected homeland for the tribe becomes, in essence, a part of their reservation, under their jurisdiction and control and management,” said Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs under the US Department of the Interior.
For the time being, though, Dupuis says Thursday was a time to celebrate.
“Today was a very happy day for everybody,” he said.
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