Fight to regain Wisconsin Point land moves forward
By: Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The fight by a northern Minnesota Ojibwe band to regain land taken from them more than 90 years ago appears to be moving forward after being stalled in the federal bureaucracy for a decade.
The Fond du Lac Ojibwe people had lived on a delicate spit of land called Wisconsin Point separating Lake Superior from the Superior Harbor in the late 19th century. But when U.S. Steel wanted to build an ore dock there in 1913, not only were the Ojibwe villagers evicted as trespassers, but some 200 graves were dug up and transferred to a Catholic graveyard in Superior.
Fond du Lac Tribal Chairwoman Karen Diver says this history and the 18 acre piece of land is culturally sensitive and they want it back.
“Band members fought valiantly to retain their residency and access to their burial grounds that were there and so to be able to reclaim a little bit of historical property that is within some or our families’ memories of living there and visiting there is very important,” she says.
In 1999, the federal government declared that part of Wisconsin Point excess real estate. That’s when Fond du Lac began trying to right what Diver says is a 90 year-old wrong.
“Oh I definitely think we feel so,” she said. “People were forcibly removed from the land so to be able to get it back, for us it also is about honoring our ancestors who fought so hard to keep it.”
Although the acquisition stalled between at least four federal agencies, Diver met with Bureau of Indian Affairs officials in Washington this month. Now she’s optimistic this land will be returned to her people this year.