Ojibwe Bad River Band

1. Historical information about the culture

The Bad River Band is branch of the larger group of Ojibwe Indians. Ojibwe is said to mean “puckered ” to describe the type of moccasins these Indians wore with puckered seams. The Bad River Band's native language is called in Ojibwe Anishinaabemowin. This group began to migrate west from the St. Lawrence River as early as 1500AD and settled in areas around Lake Michigan, Huron and Superior near mixed forests. The Bad River Band had different clans in their society.  Membership in the clan was passed down through the father, making them a patrilineal society. The roles of families in society were based off of which clan they were part of.  
To find food, they relied on both gathering and trapping, living a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often traveling to be close to their food sources. Their lives were very dependent on the land for survival and livelihoods often revolved around the seasons. Since the tribe was mobile they needed shelter that was quick and easy to assemble, which is one of the reasons that the Bad River Band used wigwams. These were made of poles with mats, bark and hides covering the top to keep them warm during the winter months. Fires could be built in the middle for extra warmth. Canoes were built from wood and snowshoes were used to make getting from place to place easier in the winter months. While they mostly relied on natural resources to sustain themselves, they also planted gardens with crops such as pumpkins, corn, beans and squash to add to their diet. Men would hunt and fish, while women would gather berries and other fruits, setting aside part of the harvest and collection for the winter and part for day-to-day life. Part of their livelihood was harvesting maple sap to make maple syrup in the spring, which was used to season foods, put in medicine and used in drinks. Wild rice was also harvested during the summer and each family usually possessed their own rice field.  Wild rice was a good crop that kept during the winter months. Ojibwe Indians also preformed powwows in celebration of a good harvest or hunt or for ritual purposes.
The Bad River Band believed in honoring spirits through offerings and prayers. Religion and beliefs were very personal to the tribe and highly respected. The tribe’s original religious society is called Midewinin. This included religious ceremonies once or twice a year. During these ceremonies different rituals took place in regards to sickness, health and spirits.
As European settlers began to arrive in the area, trading began between the Indians and settlers. Guns, metal and other tools were exchanged for the Ojibwe furs, rice, syrup and other crops which began to help their economy, but also led to warfare and depletion of resources.



















2. Colonial experience

The arrival of European settlers iled to many attempts to remove Native Americans from their ancestral homelands due to the desire of white settlers to own the lands. The Ojibwe, along with many other Native American tribes, were part of the Prairie du Chien meeting in 1825. This meeting, held by the United States government, required tribes to declare their borders and negotiate their land, which often meant ceding their land to the settlers. These attempts to take ancestral lands were taken a step further in 1830 when President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act, initiating the removal of all Native American tribes living to the east of the Mississippi River and moving them west of it. The Ojibwe were specifically forced to cede lands in 1837 and then again in 1843. This land included much of the upper third of what today is Wisconsin, although the Ojibwe were still allowed to hunt, gather, and fish on the ceded land. It wasn’t until 1850 that the removal policies reached the tribe, and President Zachary Taylor signed an order that would force them to give up their land and relocate to Sandy Lake, Minnesota. This trek to Minnesota territory is often called the Sandy Lake Tragedy due to the fact that around 400 of the Ojibwe people died due to starvation, disease, and freezing.
            After the failed attempt for the United States government to move the tribe to Minnesota, the La Pointe Chief (Bad River Band was formally referred to as the La Pointe Band) traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to speak with the new president, Millard Fillmore. There, he managed to get the president to remove the order that Taylor had signed, which allowed the tribe to relocate back to their homeland. This act, called the Treaty of La Pointe of 1852, gave reservations to four of the Ojibwe tribes, including the Bad River Band. This land given included their original land base and 200 acres on Madeline Island. Madeline Island was the location of the longtime capital and religious and cultural center of the tribe, so this was a great triumphfor the Band River Band. The treaty also still allowed the tribe to hunt, gather, and fish on any ceded land.
This land did not remain the Ojibwe’s for long, though, as the Dawes Act was passed by Congress in 1887. The goal of this act was to assimilate Native Americans into American society by giving individual tribe members their own land in 80-acre parcels and giving the rest of the land to white settlers, and then granting the tribe members citizenship. Many Native Americans couldn’t live off this small area of land and were forced to sell it and move to other areas. At the end of what is referred to as “The Allotment Period,” about half of the land originally owned by the Ojibwe was leased, leaving the Bad River Band tribe with a very small reservation of land.




3. Contemporary developments or issues

The Ojibwe Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa are located on the southern edge of Lake Superior and northern part of Wisconsin. Because of their close proximity to Lake Superior, the tribe is located on a watershed (area of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers). The Bad River watershed includes the four main communities of Bad River: New Odanah, Old Odanah, Birch Hill, and Frank’s Field.  Its waters are some of the most clean and unspoiled that run into Lake Superior which make it ideal for many of the Ojibwe traditions such as harvesting wild rice. The Ojibwe tribe has always had a deep-rooted appreciation for the natural world and leaving things as they were found, thus most of the reservation is undeveloped. With respect to the treatment of the land in the Bad River watershed, the tribe prioritizes environmentally conscious policies. 

Currently there are federal and state legislators promoting firms who want to exploit natural resources from the Lake Superior basin in order to gain profits. This mining is strongly apposed by the Ojibwe because of all the destruction that it would cause to the environment and especially the cleanliness of the water. It would reverse all the restoration progress of the past few decades. The Ojibwe have held numerous events and discussions for people to be educated about the negative impacts that the mining would have. One tribal member and elder was quoted as saying that water may one day be the price of gold if people continue down the path that they are going. This is obviously a major issue for the tribe, but also for surrounding communities and is why the Ojibwe are trying to work to inform people of the consequences of mining. The surrounding ecosystems would be greatly damaged and wouldn’t be able to provide adequate habitat for many endangered species such as the piping plover, trumpeter swan, yellow rail, bald eagle, wood turtle, and ram’s head lady slipper orchid. The watershed is also home to many species of fish and the Ojibwe have a large fishery on the Bad River watershed that would be negatively affected by pollution.
The mining proposed is iron mining, the project being proposed would span about twenty thousand acres and a byproduct of the mining would be acid-producing sulfide, which would greatly degrade the water quality of the basin. It has been shown in other areas such as Minnesota that when this type of mining takes place, the damages far outweigh the benefits.
The Ojibwe are involved in more than environmental protection, as mentioned earlier they actively harvest wild rice and run a fish hatchery that supplies over 15 million walleye to rivers on the reservation and surrounding rivers and lakes. In addition, they own a resort and casino with various other amenities available. These all bring in a large amount of revenue to the tribe each year. They also continue to keep their cultures alive through celebrations such as the Manoomin (Wild Rice) Fest and Pow-wow, and the Harvest Pow-wow, which center on celebrating prosperity and expressing gratitude to the natural world.