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Superior reaches final steps to transfer burial sites to FDL Band

Later this summer, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa could control the land where their ancestors were buried, disinterred and reburied.

Offerings rest on a monument on Wisconsin Point.
Offerings rest on a monument on Wisconsin Point.
File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Actions taken by the Superior City Council and Plan Commission this week set in motion the final steps to transfer burial sites on Wisconsin Point and near the Nemadji River to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

On Tuesday, May 17, councilors approved vacating a portion of 33rd Avenue East to provide access to land along the Nemadji River where disinterred remains of Ojibwe ancestors from Wisconsin Point were reburied in 1918.

The following day, the plan commission approved certified survey maps of both sites that will be the basis for drafting deeds to return the property to the Band. About 198 graves on Wisconsin were exhumed by U.S. Steel Company and reburied in 29 plots south of the St. Francis Cemetery to make way for a dock that was never built.

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Council President Jenny Van Sickle initiated the effort in 2021 to return the historic sites to the Band, whose Indigenous ancestors lived seasonally on Wisconsin as long ago as the 1600s.

The council approved the initiative in July.

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“We’re at that point; we’re getting close,” said Jason Serck, Superior's economic development, port and planning director.

The city has been working with the Catholic Diocese of Superior, which owns St. Francis Cemetery, and Douglas County to facilitate the transfer.

“Now the deeds will be drawn up,” Serck said.

Van Sickle said she anticipates the actual transfer of the land to take place in August.

“I hope that it will be the beginning of a new era in which we celebrate our shared history by telling the truth and seeking reconciliation,” Mayor Jim Paine said of the transfer during his State of the City address May 12.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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