McGREGOR (AP) -- Some 4,000 Ojibwe Indians trekked to Sandy Lake in northern Minnesota 150 years ago expecting to collect the money and supplies the federal government had promised them by treaty.
But when the tribal members from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan arrived in early October, tired and hungry, they found no one there to distribute the supplies. Waiting for two months with no shelter and little food, 170 died of disease, exposure, starvation and other causes.
After finally receiving partial payments on Dec. 2, 1850, many headed home. But with low temperatures, frozen waterways and a foot of snow on the ground, 230 died en route.
On Saturday, 12 Ojibwe bands from the three states dedicated a memorial to the 400 dead and held a 150-mile run in remembrance of the 1850 Sandy Lake Tragedy.
"In terms of tribal people, this is an event that was almost lost to history," said Jim Schlender, executive administrator of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odanah, Wis.
"We went back and asked our elders and spirits about what should be done," he said. "It was a tragic event that was at the hands of the government and our tribe said something needed to be done to memorialize that event."
So at sunrise on Saturday, they dedicated a monument made of 400 stones from the reservations of all the affected tribes.
Following the dedication, the Mikwendaagoziwag ("remember them") Run started at Sandy Lake Recreation Area, about 11 miles north of McGregor in northeastern Minnesota. The run ends Monday in Bayfield, Wis., with a ceremony at Madeline Island. About a dozen runners are expected.
"The run is not meant to be a publicity thing or for competition," said Jim Zorn, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission policy analyst. "It's about making the trek back and the memorial."
Before 1850, the federal government had made annual distributions including money, awls, needles, twine and kettles to 19 Ojibwe bands at La Pointe, Wis. But authorities in 1850 ordered the bands to Sandy Lake to receive the distributions.
Moving the distribution was an attempt by the federal government to remove Indians from other areas into Minnesota as settlers moved westward, Schlender said.
"There were no great battles in this area and no battlefield massacres," he said. "The Ojibwe were a pretty peaceful people."
The Minnesota bands supporting Saturday's event are Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake and Grand Portage; the Wisconsin bands are St. Croix, Red Cliff, Bad River, La Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau and Sokoagon. The Michigan bands are Lac Vieux Desert and Keweenaw Bay.
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