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Conflicting Origins and Claims to the Land
Ojibwe Migration Story
The story of Bugonaygeshig and the Last Battle of Sugar Point at Leech Lake are part of a much older narrative. These stories are carefully preserved by the Anishinaabeg ('Ojibwe people') on _______ wiigwas ('birchbark scrolls'). The scrolls cannot be shown on the internet, because they are the sacred property of the Midewiwin ('Grand Medicine Society'). Some of the stories, however, are well known and can be shared.
Anishinaabeg ownership of the land is based, in part, on an ancient prophecy they would migrate west, following the appearance of the sacred megis shell, until they came to a place where food (wild rice) grew in the water. Scrolls show nigig manidoo ('otter spirit') leading Anishinaabeg to Otter Tail Point on Leech Lake. Chi-ay ya agg (‘wisdom keepers’) at Leech Lake still remember Bugonaygeshig as a respected member of Midewiwin. Bugonaygeshig knew well the prophesies preserved on the birch bark scrolls, which entitled the Anishinaabeg to their ancestral homelands.
The origins of the state of Minnesota are based on a series of treaties from 1783 to 1867. “Minnesota Territory” was formed in 1849, by an act of congress. At that time, Anishinaabeg still occupied huge swaths of northern Minnesota. Minnesota became a state in 1858, but land disputes between Anishinaabeg and Minnesota continue to this day.
Andy Favorite on the 1855 treaty which created ten reservations
The treaties also granted sovereignty and legal standing to what was then called the "Chippewa Nation," these words first appeared in the Treaty of 1837. These treaties, granting Anishinaabeg sovereignty, are still legally valid to this day.
During Bugonaygeshig's lifetime, timber companies began cutting valuable stands red and white pine on Ojibwe reservations, in violation of their treaty rights. Bugonaygeshig found himself caught between these two conflicting origin stories, out of which he forged his own story as one of the most important historical figures from the Leech Lake reservation during one of the most difficult periods in the band's long history.