Fond du Lac Band buys sacred Ojibwe island
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A sacred Ojibwe island on the St. Louis River is now in the hands of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Spirit Island, the sixth stopping place in the migration of the Anishinaabe people from the northeastern part of the continent, was purchased by the band Monday.
‘There isn’t an Anishinaabe person in Canada or the U.S. who will not feel this is significant,’ said Karen Diver, chairwoman of the band. ‘It’s such a significant reclamation of our land and culture it’s almost like healing … like plugging a hole in our cultural spirit.’
Hundreds of years ago, it was foretold through prophecy that the Anishinaabe people had to move west to survive, Diver said, and they would know when to stop during the migration because food (wild rice) would grow on the water.
The seven stopping places during the gradual migration were present-day Montreal, Niagara Falls, the Detroit area, an island in Lake Huron, Sault St. Marie, Spirit Island and Madeline Island in Lake Superior. The ancestors of the Fond du Lac Band stayed in the area.
There is evidence that until the early 1900s, the Ojibwe held ceremonies on the island.
The band will use the island for conservation and cultural efforts. It’s located near Clough Island on the Minnesota side of the river in Spirit Lake, which is a widening in the St. Louis River. The 5.9 acres with 2,200 feet of shoreline was purchased from Duluth resident Steve Filipovich for $150,000.
Wayne DuPuis, environmental program manager for the band, said having control of the land for preservation is important to the people of Fond du Lac. Because of the years of pollution in the river, ‘it was almost akin to having a Superfund site in Jerusalem,’ he said. ‘It was a holy land to the people.’
The island is nearby the former U.S. Steel site, which is a heavily polluted federal Superfund site.
The band will seek to have the island put into trust to become federal Indian land, because it’s ‘about the restoration of our homeland,’ Diver said. ‘It’s a protective factor for us.’
The purchase ensures the island will never be developed, and is ‘something we’ve wanted to do for quite some time,’ Diver said.