Winona LaDuke: Ojibwe people return to our sacred homeland

A view of Moningwunakauning Minis, or Madeline Island, in Wisconsin. Photo from Oneconscious / Wikipedia

Winona LaDuke explores the importance of Moningwunakauning Minis, or Madeline Island on Lake Superior in Wisconsin:
Long ago, during the time of prophecy, the Anishinaabeg were told to follow the Migis shell which appeared in the sky. And from our eastern homeland, along the great water, we would stop seven times, ending finally at Moningwunakauning Minis.

It is here on this island that we flourished and spread our wings as Anishinaabe people. Moningwunakaauning Minis served as the southern capitol of the Anishinaabe nation, which now stretches across what are four American states and three Canadian provinces.

Moningwunakaauning Minis became a center of our Midewewin Society, our powerful religion, which connects us to the four layers beneath the earth and the four layers above. It is here on this island that we refined our lacrosse game, and where the Anishinaabe women perfected our game of shinny, a sort of Ojibwe broomball. It is here that we launched fishing boats, collected berries on the many surrounding islands and became the largest inland naval force in North America—dominating the Great Lakes with trade, agriculture and fishing.

We lived on the Island for 300 years before we were “found.” The French found us, and, as European empires do, they built a fort. Gotta have a fort. That was in 1693, the fort was La Pointe.

Our treaties were signed at La Pointe, allowing access to the Great Lakes for miners, loggers and settlement. It was cheaper for the fledgling United States to treaty for land than to fight wars. The western Indian wars cost the United States millions of dollars. Treaties were the equally treacherous, less-expensive answer. An Indian Agent at La Pointe once calculated that millions of acres of Ojibwe territory were acquired through treaties for less than 10 cents an acre.

The value of the fisheries, maple syrup, wild rice, agriculture and fur from our treaty lands was incalculable. The copper taken from our homelands alone was worth $5.72 billion based on 1971 markets.

Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: Restoring a Multi-Cultural Society in a Sacred Place (In These Times 4/21)

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