Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Honoring Chief Willard Ackley

Born on December 25, 1889, in a traditional Ojibwe wigwam along the shores of what was once known as Dry Lake (now called Bishop Lake), Chief Willard Ackley is said to have been one of the last born into the old ways of the Sokaogon.


“The thing about Chief Ackley is, he wasn’t voted in as Tribal Chairman,” said Fred Ackley, Jr., Chief Ackley’s nephew, in 2015. “He was chosen by the people the old way – he came to us down through heaven, through the sky, and was put here as an Ogema (Chief).”


Chief Ackley is well known across Wisconsin and beyond. He worked tirelessly to help the people. “He spent much of his life fighting to establish the Mole Lake reservation. He saw what was happening to Indian people here. He saw how his people were forced to move off their land,” Fred said.


The Treaty of 1854, also known as the Treaty of LaPointe, established various reservations of the Ojibwe. Although this was to include the Mole Lake and St. Croix Bands, both were left without a land base, which placed the people of each Tribe in peril. Oral history tells of corrupt government land and military agents using firewater and a language barrier to deny the claims of both Tribes.


Despite the seemingly insurmountable task, Chief Ackley continued his quest for repatriation for his people, and in 1939, the Sokaogon of Mole Lake were finally granted 1,680 acres of reservation land.


It is said that Chief Ackley was skilled in many Ojibwe customs, including the use of traditional plant medicines, hunting and fishing, and the creation of birch bark crafts. He taught many in the ways of the natural laws. He was also an ambassador of goodwill and advocated for the advancement of Indian people into the 20th century. To this day, his legacy lives on in our community.


“He was a true leader of the people. He represented the Great Spirit, and everything that’s good about Indian people,” Fred shared. “He taught myself and many others what it means to be a good person – to be a good human being. Through him, our Tribe has survived.”


Hear Chief Ackley share some history of the Tribe, as well as some words in Ojibwe and their meanings.



Tribal offices and the SCC Health Clinic will be closed on Monday, December 28th to honor Chief Ackley.