Recollections: Vicious Racists at Lac Du Flambeau

Tue Aug 17, 2021 22:09:53PM

Going to the memory cloud for this...the mist dissipates sometime on or around 1988.

Having relocated to Chicago, connections to things native were, for us, found at the Northside Indian Center. My wife and I were invited there in support of Native Rights issues.

At the meeting was a group unfamiliar to me called "Witnesses for Nonviolence". The witnesses had contact with a tribe of Natives in Wisconsin. Native Casinos were coming to some reservations as a source of economic growth for natives who are statically the poorest ethnic group in the country.

With the source of economic power becoming a reality, Tribes were utilizing parts of the monies to buy back lands and enforce treaties long ago and presently violated. Though it is written into the constitution that, "Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land", the powers that be did not and had not made the enforcement or recognition of treaty rights a priority. States and racist groups of individuals fought the treaties to keep the Native people and governments under their thumb or from realizing their rights.

First I was off to Lac Du Flambeau and a preplanning meeting of sorts. There we were given an idea of what was to be expected, or more why. There were some inspiring speeches by the local Ojibwe leaders. It didn't seem like supporting the Ojibwe would be much of an issue at the time.

Lac Du Flambeau is French for The Lake of the Flames. This is what the French first noted when visiting the area. The flames were from torches held by Natives who were fishing nightly in their ancient manner. The torches drew the fish to the surface at night where they were speared by Natives.

The wife and I arrived around the day of the newly re-recognized rights of natives to spearfish were going into effect/practice. On this day was also a parade attended by the local citizenry. It resembled many small towns, ho-hum (think of the movie scene in "Born on the 4th of July") parades. Across the street from us stood a good sized group composed of VFW members wearing their official hats/covers. We watched the various groups pass us in the parade. Then came a color guard of Native vets who also carried the Lac Du Flambeau tribal flag along with the usual array of flags.

The contingent of regular VFW members watched as the Ojibwe Native color guard approached, then the VFW assembly all turned their backs on them. It was intended to be a disrespectful, hateful, and demeaning act of hate, which it was. This was an omen of what was to come.

The area merchants had been selling "Treaty Beer". One might think it was to support treaties but it was not.

Photo credit:

Racism in a Can | Royal Ontario Museum

X. The ROM is open and delighted to welcome visitors back to our must-see exhibitions and expansive galleries. The Museum’s large physical footprint and wide-open spaces, combined with timed-ticketing and comprehensive safety measures, offer a safe and welcoming place to reconnect and re-engage this summer.

The racist beer trope was instigated by Stop Treaty Abuse (STA), a racist hate group (vaguely feigning to be conservationists) who claimed that Native fishing was depleting the lake. The opposite is true as sport fishermen remove a much higher number of fish than the natives who have agreed to a quota on the fish they take.

After the parade, our group of supporters loosely assembled. We were to caravan in our vehicles to the site where the Ojibwe fishermen would depart and land for their fishing sessions. The drive to the boat landing site was revealing. Several houses had large hate signs either propped up or held by their children to openly broadcast their racist hate towards Natives. It was hard to believe that people would put their children up to these acts, to teach them racism and hatred were correct and acceptable actions.

By the time my wife and I arrived at the parking lot for the boat landings, night had fallen. Our original caravan had become scattered along the way. We began our trek on foot as a couple. Down we traveled a pathway to the landings which was barely visible through the dimming moonlight. The path was situated at the bottom of a gulley. Each side of the gulley rose upwards with brush and trees covering the sloping landscape. Out of the darkness came angry voices, shouting, cursing, and intimidating.

"You Fucking Timber Niggers!"

Piece of shit Walleye Warriors!"

We'll fucking Kill you phony warriors!"

Walley Warriors my ass!"

To be certain, neither my wife nor I had spoken or taken any oath or proclaimed ourselves warriors. At his point, I began wondering what I had gotten us into. Yes, fear had cracked open a door with hidden, ominous, and hateful voices echoing from it, lashing out at us like victims in a gauntlet. We began to sing softly a prayer song to each other and continued walking down the path that had become darker than the shadows passing in the trees. We could hear noise, or more a din, not too far off in the distance. If I recall correctly, the path took an upward elevated turn. We could see obscured lights ahead, some electric lights, some firelight was breaking through the brush.

Soon we emerged from the dark pathway. Bodies moved before us but more appearing as animated forms, arms, heads shoulders, muddled by the night as they moved about. I don't know how many people were there; perhaps one hundred or one hundred fifty, maybe more. The people were generally separated into two groups; one supported the Natives, the other hatefully opposed them. They hurled insults and threats at one another with the racist group being the more obnoxiously vocal.

Past the groups of supporters and haters was the shoreline where the boats of the Native fishermen would land. Bright lights from the media illuminated the shoreline. Between the shoreline and the groups of people was a very long line of police officers,

Hate signs at landings:

Courts affirm rights

Throughout the 1900s, tribes across the U.S. took states to court, arguing that attempts to bar them from harvesting was a breach of federal treaties. The tribes won landmark cases, including:United States v. Winans (1905): A private commercial fishing company barred the Yakima people from crossing ...

My wife and I silently observed the spectacle; the crowds, the hate, and the riot police. Every now and again, a boat with two or three Ojibwe fishermen would arrive at the shore from off the lake. Suddenly the White racists would try to charge the boats. The police stood fast in full riot gear and shields to hold them off.

This is how it went the rest of the evening; the same virulent White hate group, the Natives exercising their legal rights; here and there an occasional bloody nose, a fat lip, the police holding back the snarling, viciously hateful ugly mob of White men.

I don't recall any specific end to the evening or even leaving the area and heading back to Chicago. The whole memory kind of ends there in the mist of memory.

Since that time, similar scenes in similar/same places have played out. Some I attended, others I did not, but it is definite that the uncertainty and threat that comes with being Native, has not ended. A simple google search will prove this fact.

Note: NFL Hall of fame coach, Bud Grant, was in the mix somewhere I think but I don't recall details. Anyway, afterward, Grant was a ringleader in efforts to thwart Native fishing Rights in Minnesota through an organization called PERM. A few later years, my extended family and I would become one of PERMS opponents through the organization of a grassroots Native group called MAPP.

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3.3k 0 7 0 0 Truth or Consequences, NM

331 days ago
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The white court let him slide.
When I write white court, I mean exactly that because there have been many, many cases where a white court disparaged people of ethnicity, especially the non whites. The white court goes easy on white individuals, but when people of different ethnic backgrounds are charged with a crime, their punishment is much more severe and biased. Sometimes, it all depends on how much money or political influence a white person has for a so called, fair trial. And, I really believe that is true. Is it any wonder why police arrest and charge a larger majority of people with different ethnic backgrounds? The whole system is biased.
3.3k 0 7 0 0 Truth or Consequences, NM

331 days ago
Replies (0)
A big thank you Jason for sharing one of your experiences in life, you & wife are probably very lucky to have walked away without being beat to hell or being shot up. You say this happened in or about the year of 1980. But you know, this hasn't been the only occurrance when Natives have been accosted in that area of Wisconsin due to Natives exercising their fishing tradition rights. This hatred of Natives has continued for decades.
In fact, the most recent attacks happened just last year, and the year before. Some white intoxicated person, shot at natives that were fishing on the lake when it happened. Police were called, the shooter was arrested and charged, but the most severe charge was dropped and the shooter only ended up being fined about $367 for some misdemeanor. I call ridiculous on that one. People could have been severely injured or killed because of his actions. Those Natives that were shot at were very lucky too, they lived to tell their story. .
Dutchworldwide experience
14210 1 45 5 2 Ft.myers, FL

338 days ago
Replies (1)
Very well written. Yes this country still has a lot to learn. Especially "respect". I lived in Canada for just about 10 years, and met the Indians there and had the feeling they were not "hated" but more or less accepted. They were more on their own and their communities were not intruded as here because of "land grab"or other reasons. Once in a while we had an "drunk" Indian because of the "fire water". So we hoisted him on the "bus" to reservation. Due to my work there we had help from the Indians and had often lots of fun with them sharing an campfire.
I was there in the "sixties", so things must have changed nowadays, because of "land grabbing" and intolerance.
JasonPeaceShocked by Repugs and the Planet

332 days ago
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Thanks for your comment Dutch. Talk again soon Koda!