The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) is a sovereign nation established in 1936 by the United States Government. The Community has its own Constitution and ruling bodies with the seat of its government operating out of the Tribal Center on Beartown Road, Baraga, MI. KBIC is located in Baraga County (see map) and presently is the leading employer in the County. KBIC is governed by a Tribal Council, a duly elected official body, who serve for 3 years. Tribal elections are held annually in the month of December with reorganization taking place the following January. One third of the council is up for election every year. The Tribal Council has established committees to oversee all of the elements of life within the Community.
The Keweenaw Bay Reservation was developed as a result of the Treaty of 1854 between the United States Government and the indigenous Ojibwa (Chippewa) peoples of the Lake Superior region of Michigan. This treaty, one of many (Treaty of 1836, Treaty of 1842), completed the transfer of land from the people who had been living on the land within Northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to the US Government. The overwhelming military might of the US Government, the discovery of copper in the Copper Country of Michigan, and the ever westward expansion of territorial expansion compelled the US Government to acquire these lands at the cheapest prices. The lands and rights ceded by the indigenous tribes reflected a defeated people. The history of the Ojibwa people reflects a chronic effort to stave off the encroachments of European civilization while as the same time seeking any advantage that European civilization could offer.
Today, the Ojibwa people of KBIC are striving to improve their standard of living after nearly 150 years of enforced poverty. The nation suffers from many problems, but the Community is slowly developing leaders, committing itself to education, better housing, child care development, care for the elderly, health care for every Native American on and off the reservation, employment opportunities, and countless projects all designed to encourage the Community to a higher standard of life. KBIC enjoys large tract of lands along Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior and presently is in the midst of developing some of this area into a recreation area. The Community also holds annual pow-wows to maintain its cultural identity and provide social opportunities for Ojibwa peoples throughout the Lake Superior region to gather and retain their connectivity with each other.
Many controversies remain to be addressed with maintaining the rights involved in the various treaties made with the US Government. Recently, voting difficulties arose out of an outdated Constitution imposed by the US Government. The Tribe today is presently in the middle of working out these differences and seeking Constitutional reform to reflect the realties of present day existence. The ever present difficulties of addictions which seem to plague most Native American peoples throughout North America also confront the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. They have responded by establishing a long-term residential treatment program in L'Anse which not only addresses the needs of the local Native American population but also serves as a resource for many tribes throughout Michigan and Wisconsin.
The community remains committed with all of its resources to meet these needs and controversies. They have led the legal fight for many of their treaty rights, have taken the leadership in fighting for environmental protections throughout Baraga County and the Copper County, and continue to seek ways to improve educational and employment opportunities.