Native News

Fond du Lac Band receives funding to help restore tip of Wisconsin Point

People sit on the sand
Community members gather on the regained Fond du Lac land at Wisconsin Point in May of 2021 for a talk by Tom Howes.
Courtesy of Deanna Erickson, Lake Superior Reserve

The Fond du lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has received a $350,000 planning grant from the federal infrastructure law passed three years ago to help restore land on the tip of Wisconsin Point, or Gibiskising Minis, a long sand bar at the mouth of the St. Louis River and the Duluth-Superior harbor.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers returned the 10.9 acres at the far western end of Lake Superior in 2017, after years of dialogue with the Band.

It’s about a quarter mile away from a smaller parcel containing an old cemetery that the city of Superior returned to the Band two years ago. About 200 bodies there were exhumed and moved to a mass grave in Superior more than a century ago, for a planned iron ore dock that was never built.

The area at the end of the point — which nearly connects with Minnesota Point, or Park Point, a similar sandbar that extends seven miles from Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge — has major ecological, cultural and historic importance to the Fond du Lac Band.

For hundreds of years it was an important stop along a trade and migration route as Ojibwe people moved westward into the region.

“And so people have lived there and died there and have a real deep connection to that place,” explained Tom Howes, natural resources director for the Band. “It’s part of our stories and legends, and the Fond du lac Band is still really directly tied to it.”

The grant will pay for an archeological and cultural survey and an engagement process with Band members to create a restoration design for the area.

“Part of the ultimate design at the end of the point will be probably some cultural interpretation that tells the Band’s story,” said Howes.

He hopes his grandchildren can go there and know it was once where “Ojibwe people were, and this is a place that people still come to."

Officials say the plan will help protect rare Lake Superior dunes by removing roads and restoring native vegetation. The project team also expects the restoration will reduce off-roading, illegal dumping, and vandalism at the site.

The Band is partnering with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve on the project, which is expected to begin in August.

“Gibiskising-minis has been a central and important place in the Lake Superior region for centuries,” said Deanna Erickson, director at the Lake Superior Reserve.

“I feel lucky to support the Fond du Lac Band in taking care of this place long into the future.”

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