Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Honoring Chief Willard Ackley

The last hereditary chief of the Sokaogon Chippewa, Chief Willard Ackley, was born on December 25, 1889, in a traditional Ojibwe wigwam along the shores of what the old people called “Dry Lake” (now called Bishop Lake).

Every December 25th, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community celebrates the life of Chief Willard Ackley. The day is recognized as a National Holiday within the Tribe.

It is said Chief Ackley was an expert in many Ojibwe customs, from the use of traditional plant medicines, to hunting and fishing, to 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 among the people of Mole Lake.

Hear Chief Ackley tell a bit of history about the Tribe, as well as words in Ojibwe and their meanings.

The Treaty of 1854, also known as the second Treaty of LaPointe, established the various reservations of the Ojibwe. Although this was to include the Mole Lake and St. Croix Bands, both were left without a land base and placed the people of each Tribe in great peril. The Tribe, under the leadership of Chief Ackley, finally, and after a long struggle, received federal recognition and reservation status in 1937.

Chief Ackley met with many government officials to obtain federal recognition for the Sokaogon Chippewa. At a 1934 meeting in Ashland, Bureau of Indian Affairs Commissioner John Collier asked Chief Ackley where he wanted the reservation to be. Chief Ackley stated he wanted the reservation to be located at Rice Lake for the wild rice beds. The Chief took a handful of wild rice out of his pocket and stated, “This is the food of Indian people.”

In 1962, with the help of his sister, Alice A. Randall, Chief Ackley was able to successfully apply for a Historical Marker retelling the story of the Battle of Mole Lake.

Read the history of the Sokaogon Chippewa Tribe as told by Alice A. Randall, as told to her by her brother, Chief Ackley, and collected from the Manitowoc County Historical Society.