July 11, 2012

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin


The Red Cliff Band is one of the successors of the Lake Superior Chippewa group of Ojibwe that moved west along the south shore of Lake Superior from Sault Ste. Marie.

Official Tribal Name: Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin

Address: 88385 Pike Road, Highway 13, Red Cliff, WI 54814
Phone: 715-779-3700
Fax: 715-779-3704

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

Alternate names / Alternate spellings: Ojibwa, Ojibway, Ojibwe, More names for Ojibwe

Ojibwe / Chippewa in other languages:

Aoechisaeronon or Eskiaeronnon (Huron)
Assisagigroone (Iroquois)
Axshissayerunu (Wyandot)
Bawichtigouek or Paouichtigouin (French)
Bedzaqetcha (Tsattine)
Bedzietcho (Kawchodinne)
Dewakanha (Mohawk)
Dshipowehaga (Caughnawaga)
Dwakanen (Onondaga)
Hahatonwan (Dakota)
Hahatonway (Hidatsa)
Jumper, Kutaki (Fox)
Leaper, Neayaog (Cree)
Nwaka (Tuscarora)
Ostiagahoroone (Iroquois)
Rabbit People (Plains Cree)
Regatci or Negatce (Winnebago)
Saulteur (Saulteaux)
Sore Face (Hunkpapa Lakota)
Sotoe (British)
Wahkahtowah (Assiniboine)

Region: Northeast (Eastern Woodland) –>Ojibwa, Chippewa and Potawatomi

State(s) Today: Wisconsin

Traditional Territory:

According to tradition, the Ojibwe came from the Atlantic coast via several stopping places to Chequamegon Bay directed by the Great Spirit {Gichi Manidoo} to find the “food that grows on water” (wild rice). Madeline Island represented the final stopping place.

During the 17th century, French fur traders and Jesuits arrived on Madeline Island and set up a trading post at La Pointe with a Catholic mission. In the 18th century, the La Pointe Ojibwe spread throughout the mainland of what would become Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Ojibwe that remained in the vicinity of Madeline Island were referred to as the La Pointe Band.

After a disastrous 1850 attempt at removing the Lake Superior bands resulting in the Sandy Lake Tragedy, the US Government agreed to setting up permanent reservations in Wisconsin with the Treaty of La Pointe (1854). At this point, the La Pointe band split with Roman Catholic members under the leadership of Chief Buffalo taking a reservation at Red Cliff, and those maintaining traditional Midewiwin beliefs settling at Bad River. The two bands, however, maintain close relations to this day.

Confederacy: Ojibwe (Chippewa)


The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians retains rights under various treaties it signed with the United States in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854. This series of treaties ceded large tracts of land in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota to the federal government.

In exchange for these vast land cessions, the tribes were given promises of small amounts of money, schooling, equipment, and the like. In addition, the 1854 treaty included the reservation of land as a permanent home for many of the Chippewa bands, including Red Cliff.

It is under this treaty that the current reservation was established at Red Cliff.

In addition, under the various treaties the tribes, including Red Cliff, reserved certain “usufructuary” rights, namely, the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the lands ceded to the federal government. These treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather within the ceded territory have been upheld in a series of federal and state court decisions over the past three decades.

Reservation: Red Cliff Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Red Cliff Reservation was created through a series of treaties between the U.S. Government and the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Red Cliff Band), the most recent being the treaty of 1854.

In 1854, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs arranged a treaty council in an attempt to get the Chippewa Indians to give up their titles to certain pieces of land on Lake Superior. Several Ojibwe chiefs responded to the call, and they convened in the town of La Pointe on Madeline Island, one of the 22 Apostle Islands in the Chequamegon Bay of Northern Wisconsin. Cheifs from all over traveled to this council, including Chief Buffalo.

Chief Buffalo was the “founder” of the Red Cliff reservation. So many supporters traveled with him to the treaty council, that in 1856 an executive order created a Reservation for his followers who had come for the council and decided to stay.

The reservation is approximately one mile wide and 14 miles long, located at the top of the Bayfield Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.
Land Area: 14,541 acres

Tribal Headquarters: Red Cliff, WI
Time Zone:

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today: There are currently 5,312 Red Cliff tribal members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body: Tribal Council
Number of Council members: A nine-member council, including the executive officers, governs Red Cliff.
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:


The council is elected to two-year staggered terms with elections held annually

Language Classification:

Language Dialects:

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Forest County Potawatomi
Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Hannaville Indian Community
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
La Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac de Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians
Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Potawatomi
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Saginaw Chippewa Indians
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
St. Croix Chippewa Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Red Cliff Indian Reservation Annual Pow Wow
Red Cliff Indian Reservation Annual Pow Wow By Bjoertvedtvia via Wikimedia Commons

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:





Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs


Ojibwe / Chippewa People of Note

Renae Morriseau

Catastrophic Events:

Sandy Lake Tragedy – The Sandy Lake Tragedy was the culmination of a series of events centered in Sandy Lake, Minnesota, that resulted in the deaths in 1850 of about 400 Lake Superior Chippewa when officials of the Zachary Taylor Administration and Minnesota Territory tried to relocate several bands of the tribe to areas west of the Mississippi River.

Tribe History:

The tribe’s sovereign immunity from suit is akin to the immunity of the United States and is jurisdictional in nature. Sovereign immunity is an absolute bar to a lawsuit against the tribe. The doctrine of sovereign immunity from suit as it applies to Indian tribes has received continued and unqualified adherence by the U.S. Supreme Court for well over the last half-century. The tribe’s sovereign immunity from suit can only be waived by Congress, or by the tribe itself. Sovereign immunity from suit extends to state court subpoenas seeking to hail tribal officials and/or documents into state court.

In the News:

Further Reading:

US Tribes Q-S
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