Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians
|Sault Ste. Marie Tribe
of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
|Federally recognized||September 7, 1972|
|Headquarters||Sault Ste. Marie|
|• Body||The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe Board of Directors|
|• Chairperson||Aaron Payment|
|Population (2010)Enrolled members|
|• Total||40,000 |
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (pronounced "Soo Saint Marie"), commonly shortened to Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians or the more colloquial Soo Tribe, is a federally recognized Native American tribe 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 on the St. Marys River.
This location was known as Bawating by Chippewa (Ojibwe or Anishinabeg) residents of the region, who had been there prior to Europeans arriving in the mid-to-late 16th century. Bawating, sometimes seen written as Bahweting, is an Ojibwe word meaning "The Gathering Place." The Chippewa participated in fur trading with the French and later British and American traders here.
The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians is the largest federally recognized tribe in Michigan, outnumbering the next largest tribes by a scale of about 10 to one. It was recognized in 1972 with five units in seven counties. In 1979 the tribal council included the Mackinac Band as members, nearly doubling its enrollment. The tribe's revenues from its Kewadin Casinos has enabled it to establish health centers and invest in education.
The Sault Tribe operates its own government, with regular elections for chairperson and council members. Council members represent the tribe's five units throughout seven counties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Over one half of the tribe's enrolled members reside outside the five units, but vote within those established units. They vote in a unit where they have significant ancestral or historic ties.
In 2012 the current chairman Aaron A. Payment was elected by the largest majority in the tribe's modern history. He had first been elected to the Tribal Council in 1996. He was elected as chairman in 2004, defeating a 17-year incumbent. In 2008 he lost his race for re-election to Joe Eitrim, but was re-elected in 2012 and 2016.
For hundreds of years preceding modern European contact, the Sault (Soo) Band ancestors were part of the large Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians. The Ojibwe (Chippewa in the United States) were known to have migrated over centuries from the Atlantic Coast. They historically spoke the Ojibwe language, one of numerous Algonquian languages.
Chiefs whose signatories identified them as members of the Sault (Soo) Band and other bands were among those in the region signing treaties with the United States in 1820. Ancestors of the tribe are believed to have lived in the Great Lakes region since about 1200CE. They were part of a wide trading network.
The Sault Tribe gained federal recognition by the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs on September 7, 1972. The tribe did not have a historic reservation from a previous treaty. As part of the process, the federal government took land in trust for the tribe by deed dated May 17, 1973, and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on March 7, 1974. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs formally declared the trust land to be a reservation for the tribe on February 20, 1975 with notice published in the Federal Register on February 27, 1975. The reservation land is located in both the city of Sault Ste. Marie and in Sugar Island Township, on Sugar Island (Sugar Island part at ) east of the city.
Since formal recognition in 1972, the tribe has increased in number. It has approximately 40,000 members on its rolls. In the 21st century, many Sault Tribe members live off-reservation in the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan, about one third live throughout the United States and Canada, and on other continents. At any given time, significant numbers are serving in the Military.
In 1979 the Tribal Council passed a resolution allowing Mackinac Band members to enroll in the tribe, which doubled the number of enrolled members. The Sault Tribe consists of more than 20 bands in the 21st century. There is also a significant and historic relation with Garden River First Nation, also known as Ketegaunseebee (Gitigaan-ziibi Anishinaabe in the Ojibwe language), is an Ojibwa band located at Garden River 14 near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.
Several thousand Mackinac Band members continue to work separately to gain independent federal recognition. They have formed the Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, which is state recognized.
Based on a 1993 compact with the state, the tribe operates five casinos under the Kewadin Casinos name in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Christmas and Hessel. The tribe also owns and manages hotels at the Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace casino sites. These tribal enterprises currently operate at a profit.
The tribe formerly operated Detroit's Greektown Casino. In June 2010 the Michigan Gaming Control Board voted 4-0 at a special meeting to transfer ownership from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to new investors. The tribe's participation in the Greektown Casino created support for the opening of three non-trust (off-reservation) casinos in Detroit. These have provided the region with employment and income.
In 2011 the tribe said it was considering development of additional downstate casinos in Romulus and the state capital of Lansing. These were proposed to be built on land the tribe owned but which had not yet been put in trust by the federal government.
Both projects were challenged in court cases. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette contended that the Lansing project violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the compact the tribe entered into with then-Gov. John Engler when it established its first casinos. In September 2015 a judge dismissed the state's lawsuit seeking to block a casino in downtown Lansing. The mayor of Lansing has publicly supported the project, saying that the casino "would bring thousands of good-paying jobs to Lansing and fully fund the Lansing Promise to provide college scholarships for graduates of the city's schools." The casino is proposed to be built next to the Lansing Center, blocks from the state capitol building.
The tribe has reinvested revenues from the casino/hotel operations to build infrastructure for the welfare and education of its people. It operates six health centers for its members, with locations in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Munising, Newberry, and Hessel. The tribe also has emphasized education for its youth, offering several college scholarships for members.
The tribe helped found the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnaabe Public School Academy in Sault Ste. Marie.
This is operated independently as both a Bureau of Indian Affairs school and a Michigan Charter school, founded to offer an alternative to public schools, from which Chippewa students had a high drop-out rate. 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.
Open to all students in the community, Bahweting has achieved progress. It offers an introduction to Anishnaabe language, culture and values. The school was awarded the Governor of Michigan’s Gold Apple Award for outstanding student performance in the ‘Most Improved’ category on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. The U.S. Department of Education gave it a Title I Distinguished School Award; it was one of 95 schools honored among the 48,000 Title I schools nationwide.
Other tribal endeavors include building the Chi Mukwa (Big Bear) Recreation Center in Sault Ste. Marie. It offers Olympic and NHL-size ice rinks, a basketball court, a volleyball court, aerobics room, and fitness areas.
The Tribe publishes a monthly newspaper, Win Awenen Nisitotung, which in Ojibwe means he/she/or one, who well or fully understands. The newspaper is commonly referred to as the WAN.
The tribe operates 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.
- "Tribal Enrollment." Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. 2013. Retrieved 25 Feb 2013.
- Melissa Anders, "2013 Michiganders to Watch: Aaron Payment, Sault Tribe chairman handling casino expansions", Mlive.com, December 2012, accessed 24 December 2015
- Pritzker, Barry (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-0195138771.
- "Michigan Historic Tribes", STATE OF MICHIGAN COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANT (CSBG); STATE PLAN FOR FISCAL YEARS 2015 -2016, Draft 2014, p. 67
- "Sault Tribe loses grip on Greektown Casino", Soo Evening News
- , The News Herald, 12 March 2011
- John Agar, "Casino in downtown Lansing closer after judge rejects state's lawsuit, backers say", Mlive.com, 16 September 2015, accessed 24 December 2015
- , Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians
- "Joseph K. Lumsden School", School Wires
- JKL Bahweting, Sault Tribe official website
- SaultTribe.com: Official Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians website
- SaultTribe.com: Tribal Code
- SaultTribe.com: History of the Sault Tribe
- "Compact between the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and the State of Michigan for the Conduct of Class III Gaming Casinos", 1993, State of Michigan documents, also published in the Federal Register
- Native Americans in Michigan Databases, Mainly Michigan website, includes "Durant Roll of 1908" and "Mt. Pleasant Indian School Register (1893 to 1932)"
- Official Garden River First Nation website — Ojibwe tribe based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.