Last Wednesday, July 31st, Ojibwe from across the region gathered to remember those Ancestors who perished along the way to Sandy Lake,
In an attempt to force the Ojibwe to relocate to areas west of the Mississippi River, officials of President Zachary Taylor’s administration changed the location of the annuity payments in 1850 from La Pointe, Wisconsin, to Sandy Lake, Minnesota. It was their hope that by doing so, they would force the Ojibwe who were making the trek to stay the winter at Sandy Lake and, ultimately, wear down their resistance to relocation.
This resulted in the deaths of as many as 400 Ojibwe due to disease, starvation and exposure. Much to the dismay of the U.S. Government, this only strengthened the resolve of the Ojibwe to remain in their homelands, and led to the Treaty of La Pointe in 1854
, which established a number of reservations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
The Mole Lake and St. Croix Bands did not sign the Treaty in hopes the federal government would fulfill their promises of land and money made in previous treaties. This prevented Mole Lake from gaining federal recognition until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
This year, Sokaogon Tribal Leaders, Youth, Elders and Community Members attended the Memorial Ceremony.
“I have had the opportunity to attend the Memorial Ceremony for the last five years. I attend to recognize and honor our ancestors. This is a significant part our history, and it’s important to keep our culture alive,” Vickie Ackley shared. “Every year, more people attend and I think it’s important to remember our ancestors sacrificed everything to keep our people alive today. My dad (Fred Ackley, Jr.) would express that they didn’t have the comforts and luxuries we have today, so we travel there to think about and remember the hardships and losses of their travel.”
The Sokaogon Singers sang an honor song, there was a pipe and drum ceremony, a feast, and Tribal Leaders spoke about the significance of the tragedy.
Read more about the Sandy Lake Tragedy and Memorial Ceremony in the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission’s brochure