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Tribes celebrate history of Strawberry Island

Lac du Flambeau Tribal Logo
Lac du Flambeau Tribal Logo

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (WXPR) -- Lac du Flambeau celebrated the tribe's purchase of the historic Strawberry Island Thursday, after years of negotiations with its former owners.

About a hundred people gathered in Lac du Flambeau at the Sand Beach Historical Marker across from the island. The island is historically significant for the Ojibwe or Chippewa tribes, because it's the site of an important battle with the Sioux people.

Lac du Flambeau Chairman Tom Maulson says it's also spiritually important.  "It's an island that has some very religious significance.  It's been in the arms of the Ojibwe people for hundreds of years, until it was taken from us through, I guess I would say, false pretense by non indian people."

The island ended up in nontribal hands in 1910. But when the landowners made plans to build on the island, it prompted outcry from tribal members, who felt the island should remain undeveloped.

After years of negotiations, with the tribe unable to afford the asking price, the parties finally came to an agreement. In December the Lac du Flambeau bought Strawberry Island for a quarter million dollars.

Melinda Young, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.says it's more than just a land acquisition deal. "The fact that it's back, it belongs to us again, that to me is the ultimate.  I can't think of another space aside from where we have our ancestors resting that is more important to our community. To me this is our heart."

State Senator Bob Jauch also attended the celebration, as did representatives from the Bad River and Sokaogon Chippewa bands.

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