In their move westward from the east, the Sandy Lake Band was led by their esteemed chief known historically as Bi-aus-wa, just as other Chippewa bands were moving west led by their leaders. The Sandy Lake Band settled at Sandy Lake in 1730 and were involved in many tribal boundary conflicts with the Sioux who were inhabitants of this area.
Ka-ta-wa-beda or Broken Tooth, the son of Bi-aus-wa, was chief of the Sandy Lake Band in the mid to late 1700's until his death in 1828. He was present at the signing of the 1825 Treaty along with seven other signatories from Sandy Lake. Chief Broken Tooth claimed the upper half of what is now Minnesota. Governor Cass, the representative of the federal government did not dispute his claim. In the following years, the Sandy Lake Band negotiated and signed ten treaties independently with the federal government. Treaties of 1825, 1826, 1837, 1842, 1847, 1854, 1855, 1863, 1864, and 1867.
In the treaty making era, through Chief Hole-in-the-day, the Sandy Lake Band negotiated an 1855 treaty establishing a 60,000 acre reservation for the benefit of their people. With the westward movement of the white poplulation and their need for more land, the Sandy Lake Indian Reservation was ceded to the federal government in the treaty of 1864, but article twelve specifically said the Sandy Lake people were granted a non-removable status which continues to this day.
In 1867, there were many attempts to remove the Sandy Lake Band for the next 20 years, some Sandy Lakers were removed to the White Oak Point reservation created by Executive Order in 1873. Many returned to their former reservation at Sandy Lake, and some stayed at White Oak Point and were eventually integrated into the Leech Lake Band, via the Wheeler-Howard Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
In 1889, the United States Congress approved the Nelson Act or commonly known as the Dawes act. (51st congress, 1st session, House of Representatives, Ex. Doc. No. 247) The federal government tried to resettle all Indians from Minnesota on what is known as the newly created White Earth Reservation. The federal government met with members of the Sandy Lake Band on September 19, 1889 to discuss the allotment act, the meeting was held at Kimberly, Minnesota, close to the original boundaries of the Sandy Lake Indian Reservation. There were one hundred in attendance. The Rice commission could not get a consensus from the Sandy Lakers to move
Also, with the Nelson Act of 1889, the treaty established Sandy Lake Indian Reservation was erased from the maps, forcing the non-removable Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa to be a federally recognized tribe without a reservation. In 1915, because of the continued presence of the Sandy Lake people, President Woodrow Wilson, by Executive Order, created a reservation for the Sandy Lake Band on March 4, 1915. The federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs stated: that this act by President Wilson reaffirms the non-removable status of the Sandy Lake Band. "1980 Bureau of Indian Affairs legal opinion, Elmer T. Nitzschke".
In 1934, the United States Congress passed the Wheeler Howard Act, also known as the Indian Reorganization Act. This act was intended to fix the Indian problem created by the 1889 removal. This act also created the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which consists of six Chippewa bands.
The federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs were to conduct a referendum vote on each federal reservation to allow the adult members of each tribe to vote to accept or reject the Indian reorganization act. There was no such vote held at Sandy Lake. It has been a claim of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa that we were overlooked in the structure of the Wheeler-Howard Indian reorganization act of 1934 and should be restored, according to federal law. Also, the Bureau of Indian Affairs lacks the legal authority to terminate a tribe that has been acknowledged by an Act of Congress and Congress has never taken any action to officially terminate the federal acknowledgment of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa.
In addition to the 1915 Executive Order reservation created for the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa, on August 24, 1940, there was an additional reservation established for the benefit of the Sandy Lake Band consisting of 147 acres which was negotiated by Monroe and George Skinaway, members of the Sandy Lake band who dealt with the federal government on this land acquisition. This reservation is listed on various state of Minnesota maps as the "Sandy Lake Indian Reservation".
For 30 years, the Sandy Lake Band has continued efforts to restore federal recognition to their tribe and to rectify an injustice that has been done to their people. Many tribal, federal and state officials have been contacted through the years and many have come and gone as efforts continue on the tribal, federal and state levels. The road to recognition has been riddled with problems. The legislative avenue is now closed due to the large campaign contributions from the tribes in Minnesota to the Congressional representatives who continue to be very supportive of the Minnesota Tribes who continue to oppose the Sandy Lake Band's efforts to restore their federal recognition.
Because of poverty, lack of housing, employment opportunities and the continued refusal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to restore federal recogntion to the Sandy Lake Band, many tribal members were forced to leave Sandy Lake. Many have gone to the cities, some to homes on other reservations and others have been forced to enroll in other bands for employment, medical, and housing opportunities. But, they continue to maintain their identity as members of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa to this day.
It is with a sense of irony that we must fight to restore our federal recognition as an American Indian tribe when our ancestors made provisions for us, their descendants through ten treaties with the United States Government and ceded millions of acres of land. There doesn't seem to be much of a remedy for our situation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs since it was they, who were instrumental in creating our tribal situation. We have been trying to settle this issue with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Mille Lacs Band, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and the United States Congressmen for thirty years, to no avail. Even though we have encountered many road blocks and endured many disappointments, we firmly believe that we will eventually restore our federal recognition. We will never stop the efforts.
We are now teaching the next generation about the Sandy Lake's Band rich history and the gallant efforts to restore federal recognition. It is the Sandy Lake Band's motto: "Persistance prevails, when all else fails."
Our long term goal is to rebuild our community, our language, our history, and the economic well being of our tribal members and our future generations.
If you wish to help the Sandy Lake Band in their efforts to restore federal recognition, you can write letters of support to: The Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa, 54130 Loon Ave., McGregor, MN 55760.
Legal assistance would be greatly appreciated.