|Lac du Flambeau is a premiere place for those seeking an exciting
cultural and hands-on historical. experience. Ojibwe culture
is alive and well-respected in this community which has much to
offer in the ways of both nightlife and outdoor living. Come
to Lac du Flambeau to have a quiet walk in the woods, an exciting
game of blackjack at the casino or an authentic cultural
experience at the local Ojibwe museum. This is one of the
unique places in the world where the balance of natural resources
and modern development co-exist to protect future generations.
rich history and culture of the Lac du Flambeau reservation brings
the past alive into the present. Many years ago, the ancient
Ojibwe came from the Big Salt Water in the East. Their
migration was prophesied to end where they found food that grew on
water. This food they found was wild rice, which continues to
be a staple in the Ojibwe diet. Fish were also abundant and
were harvested by the light of a flaming torch; thus the name Lake
of the Torches. The Ojibwe name for this region was
Waswagoning, meaning "A place where they spear fish by torch
light". During the summer months, visitors to the
reservation can experience what it was like in the old days at
Waswagoning Village. Experience Ojibwe culture at the George
W. Brown, Jr. Museum. Pow-wows are held
each Tuesday evening where you can watch or take part in the celebration
of life, dancing to the rhythm of the drum, the heartbeat of the earth.
Simple surroundings near the water's edge and traditional dance regalia
accompany beautiful sunsets and gentle evening breezes. Old songs and
dances float across the lakes, reminding us of the hundreds of years
of continued Ojibwe presence. It's a fun and friendly event for the
whole family where you will be invited to dance with the dancers.
The George W. Brown, Jr. Museum also offers top-notch exhibits
dovetailing the old ways and the new ways into a holistic picture
of Ojibwe life and history. The museum displays many rare artifacts
while at the same time represents the present day in multi-media displays.
An informational video shows the harvesting of wild rice, fish, and wild
game and other traditions that the Ojibwe still practice.
For those visitors with outdoor ambitions, Lac du Flambeau offers hundreds
of lakes, streams, and rivers which are ideal for recreational water sports
and abundant with a variety of fish. In fact, a visit to the local hatchery
guarantees catching a fish in the trout pond. Local fishing guides are
available and can add an interesting perspective to your expeditions.
Travel for miles on beautiful snowmobile trails through the scenic woods
and over the lakes for winter sport enthusiasts.
A variety of special events are available year-round in Lac du Flambeau
ranging from the annual Bear River Pow-wow to top entertainment acts at the
Lake of the Torches Resort Casino. You can stay in comfort at the Casino
Hotel or bring your camper and pitch a tent at the Lac du Flambeau Tribal
Campground on Flambeau Lake.
The lakes, rivers, and woodlands team with culture and modern amenities to
make Lac du Flambeau one of the most popular destinations in north central
Wisconsin. It is a place where you can visit the historic past while enjoying
one of the most popular recreation areas of the beautiful Northwoods.
Whether your interest is in culture, fishing, swimming, or recreation, Lac du
Flambeau has something for everyone all year round. You are welcome in Lac du
Flambeau to experience our history, heritage, and culture.
A Brief History of Lac du Flambeau:
The following article on the history of Lac du Flambeau was written by Ben Guthrie for the bicentennial editions of "The Lakeland Times" and "The Vilas County News Review". It is published in "The Messenger" posthumously, as edited by Gregg Guthrie.
This area's habitation apparently began at least 9,000 years ago, as Indian hunting parties followed the withdrawals of the Valders glacier. Six major cultural changes followed before recorded contact by early explorers, fur-traders and missionaries. Then occupied by Dakota Indians, Lac du Flambeau was contested by the Dakota and the Chippewa, migrating westward, for about 150 years, because of its vital wild-rice fields and its position at the crossroads of the Montreal River-Wisconsin River route and the Big Bear River-Flambeau River-Chippewa River route to the Mississippi.
Keeshekemin (Sharpened Stone) moved his band here about 1745 and Lac du Flambeau has remained a permanent Chippewa settlement ever since. The North West (Fur Trade) Co. established its headquarters post "for the waters of Wisconsin" on Flambeau Lake in 1792, followed shortly by a post of the XY Co. The companies merged in 1804. Following the war of 1812, Astor's American Fur Co. maintained the post here until furs petered out of this region about 1835.
The Indians returned to their annual migration cycle from early spring sugar camps to planting grounds-to hunting along the shores of Lake Superior-to fishing areas (often at Madeline Island). Early fall found them in the wild-rice fields, then moving to harvest their plantations, gather nuts and berries, and as the leaves began to fall, canoeing down the rivers to hunt on the prairies, finally gathering together just before freeze-up for winter camp.
In 1885, when the government decided to log the reservation, which had been set apart in the Treaty of 1854, many bands returned to this area to receive their allotments of land and to work for the loggers. Meanwhile, Rev. Hall, a Presbyterian missionary, had visited the village in 1832, Bishop Baraga in 1842, government agents occasionally, and a blacksmith at intervals.
Four logging outfits, staked by Weyerhaeuser's "pool" suddenly appeared. "Cap" Henry being the first to start cutting in November, 1885. Almost 10 million board feet were cut in the winter, 30 million the next, the logs being driven down river to the mills at Chippewa Falls. Incensed by flagrant violation of federal regulation, logging was stop-ordered until a single contract was awarded to "Cushway, Herrick and Sterns" in 1893. In the meanwhile, the first Indian agent ("farmer") to be stationed here had arrived in 1888, and in 1889 the "Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western Railroad" was extended across the reservation.
With both a 3-saw mill operating night and day from 1894 to 1912, and a planning mill finishing 12 to 15 car loads of lumber daily, this mill became the largest operation in the area, with the largest lumber yard in the state of Wisconsin. The mill company developed its own general store, boarding houses, residences, pool-hall, barns and jail and held almost autocratic power in the new town except for the missions and government school.
The first church (Catholic) built at the "old village" in 1894, was soon abandoned for another built near the mill the following year, Rev. Odoric Derentha, O.F.M., being the first resident missionary in 1897. A Presbyterian church followed in 1898.
An Indian boarding school opened in 1895 with a capacity of 200, it's curriculum equally divided between "industrial" and "literary". Few children enjoyed the strictly regimented "life-style" enforced. Its boarding program ended in 1932. The present school followed shortly, becoming a public school about 1950.
The Lac du Flambeau area was in the Lincoln County until 1893, when Vilas County was created. Flambeau township, was established June 5, 1900, extended to the Michigan line. Following divisions to the town of Presque Isle in 1907 and the Town of Manitowish Waters in 1928, Flambeau township assumed its present boundaries.
The first town election and meeting was held April 2, 1901 at the lumber company's boarding house, all elected officials being company employees. The first tax roll totaled $265,668, but following a protest by Strange Lumber Co., forcing a re-assessment, it became $600,322. In 1903, practically the entire difference being in Flambeau Lumber Co. valuation, but Mr. Herrick quickly gained control, cutting his taxes in half the next year. The first town tax levy was $3,200, for "roads, bridges, schools and poor funds", but a $241.39 deficit resulted. The next year a smallpox epidemic swept the area, materially increasing taxes for a "pest house and board and nursing services."
In 1896, shortly after the mills opened, Mr. Herrick asked Ben Gauthier Sr. to build a boarding house for his lumber buyers and mill supply salesman. Starting with a four-room house, then the largest in town, Mr. Gauthier built additions each of the next 16 years. This was the fore-runner of today's tourist business in Lac du Flambeau. Salesmen and buyers spread the work about the fine fishing in this recently opened area and in 1913 Mr. Gauthier built a new, then very modern, resort. George Goller built a few cottages on Sand Lake in 1910. "Ojibwe Lodge", a private club, was built on Fence Lake in 1914. Several resorts and summer homes followed in 1924 marking the real beginning of Lac du Flambeau as a popular tourist center. By 1945 there were over 100 resorts and 1000 summer homes around Lac du Flambeau lakes.
Today, Lac du Flambeau has the largest population as well as the largest equalized valuation in Vilas County. Unique in having it's governmental authority divided between the Tribal Council and the Town Board, Lac du Flambeau is growing steadily while changing character. Government programs help to provide modern housing, community facilities and employment. Resorts are continually vanishing as refugees from the cities and retirees increasingly discover the Lac du Flambeau areas year round attractiveness.