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The Mashkiiziibii People (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)

Don Wyeth

The Mashkiiziibii People (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)

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3 mins
March 22, 2021

The tribal reservation of the Mashkiiziibii People was established on September 30, 1854 by the signing of the United States Treaty of Lapointe on Madeline Island. The tribal territory of 124,459 Acres stretches across the southern end of Lake Superior (Anishinaabeg Gichigami) for 36 miles including Chequamegon Bay. 200 acres are also designated as a traditional fishing grounds on Madeline Island.  The Mashkiiziibii have resided on the shores of Anishinaabeg Gichigami ages before Columbus sailed west. The French explorers Radisson and Groseilliers are said to be the first Europeans to make contact with the tribe in the mid-1600s. This area is revered by the Mashkiiziibii as “…the capital and cultural/religious center of the Ojibwe…Chippewa Nationhttp://www.badriver-nsn.gov. Although the meaning of the word Ojibwe is not certain, some native speakers translate it as “…he who writes”. This interpretation comes from the fact that the Mashkiiziibii kept tribal records on birchbark using a pictogram system.

The Bad River Band is a member of a federation of Ojibwa bands in Wisconsin that also includes Red Cliff, Lac Du Flambeau, St.Croix, Mole Lake, and the Lac Courte Oreilles tribes. The language, of the Mashkiiziibii, Anishinaabemowin, is a variety of the Algonkian language family. The Ojibwa Nation is identified as one of three of the largest native nations on the North American continent. “Ojibwe people are culturally known as semi-nomadic hunters, fishermen and gatherers.” The main sources of meat are game; including fish, deer, bear, rabbit, ruffed grouse, ducks and geese. In addition, muskrat, beaver, mink, marten, raccoon, fox, and fisher are taken for fur. Clan membership (dodem) which is designed to identify a persons place in society, is passed down through the father. There are currently nine clans:  Crane, Loon, Eagle, Bear, Marten, Lynx, Bullhead, Sucker, and Turtle. “The original religious society is known as Midewiwin or Grand Medicine Lodge.” There are also Big Drum societies that serve as a spiritual practice.

Although the original tribal government consisted of hereditary chiefs and the head man of each clan, now based on the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934,“… the governing board is the tribal council which is made up of seven elected at-large officials: Tribal Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, two Senior Council Members and one Junior Council Member.”

Tribes of this nation embrace The Seven Values of the Anishinaabe, which is ascribed as coming from their ancestors. These values are just as rich and as deep as any ethical code I have ever read about in Europe and Asia. They are given here without comment.

Nibwaakaawin – Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people.

Zaagi’idiwin—Love: To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are challenged emotionally and financially they become fearful of their situation. Anishinaabeg is reminded to love the people; the children; and the environment.

Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected.

Aakode’ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant.

Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others.

Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better.

Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

Waanakiwin+an… I wish you Peace.


This article was orginally reported by
Don Wyeth

Passionate and intelligent columnist from Madison, WI.

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