Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians

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Sault Ste. Marie Tribe
of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Flag of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Federally Recognized September 7, 1972
Headquarters Sault Ste. Marie
 • Body The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe Board of Directors
 • Chairman /Chairperson Aaron Payment
Population (2010)Enrolled members
 • Total 40,000[2]
Time zone ET/EDT

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (pronounced "Soo Saint"), commonly shortened to Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians or the more colloquial Soo Tribe, is an indigenous community located in what is now known as Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The tribal headquarters is located within the major city in the region, Sault Ste. Marie, from the French for the rapids of Saint Mary, which was originally known as Bawating by residents of the region prior to Europeans arriving in the mid-to-late 1500s. Bawating, sometimes seen written as Bahweting, is an Ojibwe word meaning The Gathering Place.[3]


The Sault Tribe operates its own government, with regular elections for chairperson and council members to represent the tribe's five units throughout seven counties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.[4] Over one half of the tribe's enrolled members reside outside the five units, but vote within those established units, generally in a unit they have significant ancestral or historic ties. The tribe's current chairman is Aaron Payment, elected by the largest majority in the tribe's modern history.


The Sault Tribe was accorded federal recognition by memorandum of the United States federal government Commissioner of Indian Affairs on September 7, 1972.[5] Land was first taken in trust for the tribe by deed dated May 17, 1973, and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on March 7, 1974.[6] The Commissioner of Indian Affairs formally declared the trust land to be a reservation (Sugar Island part at 46°28′19″N 84°12′44″W / 46.47194°N 84.21222°W / 46.47194; -84.21222) for the tribe on February 20, 1975 with notice published in the Federal Register on February 27, 1975.[7] The land is located in both the city of Sault Ste. Marie and in Sugar Island Township, east of the city.

Though modern federal recognition came in the 1970s, the Sault (Soo) Band has existed for hundreds of years, preceding modern European contact. The first treaties with the United States in 1820 were signed by chiefs whose signatories identified them as members of the Sault (Soo) Band and other bands. The tribe has lived in the Great Lakes region for at least a millennium.


Since formal recognition in 1972, the tribe has expanded considerably and counts approximately 40,000 members on its rolls.[8] Today, many Sault Tribe members live off-reservation in the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan. In 1979 a resolution was passed allowing Mackinac Band members to enroll, thus doubling the number of members. Some claim more than 51 percent of today's Sault Tribe consist of Mackinac Bands. Some Mackinac Band members continue work on receiving their own federal recognition and have formed the state recognized tribe the Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians.

The modern tribal organization has its roots on Sugar Island in the St. Mary's River between the U.S. state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario. The Sault Tribe consists of more than 20 bands.

Economic development[edit]

The tribe operates five casinos under the Kewadin name in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Christmas and Hessel. The Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace locations are located near tribally-owned and managed hotels. These tribal enterprises currently operate at a profit. The tribe formerly operated Detroit's Greektown Casino until the Michigan Gaming Control Board voted 4-0 at a special meeting in June 2010 to transfer ownership from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to new investors.[9] The tribes involvement Greektown Casino was pivital in opening the way for the three non-trust (off reservation) casinos in Detroit, which continue to operate and infuse the region with employment and income. The tribe is currently considering the development of another downstate casino in Romulus [10] and Lansing.


The tribe also operates six health centers for its members with locations in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Munising, Newberry, Hessel.[11] The tribe also has emphasized education for its youth, offering several college scholarships for its members,[12] and helped found the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe Public School Academy in Sault Ste. Marie.[13] The school was renamed in 1998 to honor Lumsden, a late tribal leader who helped develop the tribe's first housing, education and health programs.[14]

Other tribal endeavors include the Chi Mukwa (Big Bear) Recreation Center, which holds Olympic and NHL-size ice rinks, a basketball court, a volleyball court, aerobics room, and fitness areas in Sault Ste. Marie[15] and two Midjim convenience stores, one in Sault Ste. Marie and the other located in St. Ignace, which offer discounts on gasoline and cigarettes for tribal members.[16]

The tribe also operates its own police department,[17] tribal court,[18] and publishes a monthly newspaper, Win Awenen Nisitotung, which in Ojibwe means he/she/or one, who well or fully understands.[19] The newspaper is also commonly referred to as the WAN.


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  2. ^ "Tribal Enrollment." Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. 2013. Retrieved 25 Feb 2013.
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External links[edit]

Including related tribes and bands