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Tribes purchase Strawberry Island

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (WXPR) -- In 1745, the Ojibwe defeated the Lakota Sioux in a battle at a place called Strawberry Island, now at the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa reservation in Vilas county. It ended the Sioux dominance in this region. The island had been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but to the Chippewa, it was a place of significant cultural and spiritual meaning that they did not own, until Monday.

The island had been in non-native ownership since 1910. A permit for the owner to build on the island was denied by Wisconsin courts in 1996. Since that time, the Lac du Flambeau tribe has been negotiating with the owners to purchase the island. A few weeks ago, the tribe and the owners came to an agreement. Monday morning, the paperwork was finalized. The island was reportedly purchased for $250,000. For Tribal President Tom Maulson, this day was a the culmination of years of work, and he was pleased those who passed on who fought to bring the island to tribal ownership were represented by their descendants.  "It's good to see here, a lot of different relatives, that belong to those other relatives are representatives today in this beautiful day."

Maulson said the sticking point was money.  "The sale was way up in the millions and millions of dollars. We were very staunch in saying, 'no'. We know what you got it for. We got it for less than $200 way back then or whatever the number was, but it's a lot less than what we paid for it today."

Zoya Mayo is the tribe's Director of Land Management and worked for nine years to bring the agreement to a close.  She didn't think the agreement would come.  "Negotiations for the island have been on going for almost 40 years. It's been a long time coming.  It's an historic day for us. It means so much to us as a tribal nation, and it's our heart."

Items discovered on the island date back as far as 300 B.C.

Portions of the island were damaged by a tornado several years ago.