This paper explores how the Lac Courte Oreilles People maintained their relationships with their fractured, flooded homeland and, by extension, their sovereignty, even as the state of Wisconsin and the federal government refused to recognize that sovereignty. In the fight against the dam, Ojibwe leaders articulated an expansive version of sovereignty rooted in their relationship with the land since time immemorial, in particular manoomin and their ancestors’ graves. After the waters rose, Ojibwe men and women repaired frayed networks along the water’s edge. They carried their ancestors’ remains to new graves and used treaty-protected rights to access wild rice beyond the reservation’s borders. State-based archives erase the Ojibwe or drown them in bureaucracy, much like the dam’s waters swamped their graves and manoomin. However, approaching these archives from the perspective of Ojibwe relationships with the land opens up histories of Indigenous power and resilience, allowing scholars to recognize sovereignty in the midst of settler colonial destruction.
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