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Remembering the Sandy Lake Tragedy and the hundreds of Lake Superior Ojibwe who died

TradingCardsNPS / Wisconsin Historical Society WHi-3957

You've probably heard of the Trail of Tears, when more than 4,000 Native American men, women, and children died in a series of forced removals from their homeland in the Southeastern U.S. to present-day Oklahoma. They were members of the Cherokee, Seminole, Muscogee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.

But there was another Trail of Tears much closer to us. It's the Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850. Hundreds of Ojibwe people died as the U.S. government tricked them into leaving their homes in the Upper Great Lakes and traveling to northern Minnesota. 

It's known as the Chippewa Trail of Tears, and the Wisconsin Death March.

Author Robert Downes joined Stateside today to tell this history. His new novel Windigo Moon is set among the Ojibwe some 400 years ago.

On what Downes thinks we should most remember about this history

“I think we should think about Native Americans in general, because here in the upper Great Lakes, they’ve lived here for 9,000 to 11,000 years. And you walk outside your door, you walk in their footsteps, you know? The Ojibwe people have been here for about 1,000 years – somewhere between 500 and 1,000 years and I think it behooves us to think about their culture and their traditions because in many ways, they were better than us. They gave thanks for their food that they ate. Generosity was their highest virtue. Kinship and family relationships were extremely important to their survival. So there’s a lot we can learn about the native people of the upper Great Lakes.”

Listen to the conversation above.

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