|Regions with significant populations|
|North Dakota, United States|
|English, Ojibwe, Michif|
|Catholicism, Methodism, Midewiwin|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Chippewa Cree, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Métis|
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (Ojibwe language: Mikinaakwajiw-ininiwag) is a Native American tribe of Ojibwa and Métis peoples, based on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. The tribe has 30,000 enrolled members. A population of 5,815 reside on the main reservation and another 2,516 reside on off-reservation trust land (as of the 2000 census). It is federally recognized and Jamie Azure is the current Tribal Chairman elected for 2016 to 2018 term.
Around the end of the eighteenth century, prior to the advent of white traders in the area, the formerly woodland-oriented Chippewa, who had been in what is now Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, moved out onto the Great Plains in pursuit of the bison and new beaver resources to hunt and trade. They successfully reoriented their culture to life on the plains, adopting horses, and developing the bison-hide tipi, the Red River cart, hard-soled footwear, and new ceremonial procedures. By around 1800, these Indians were hunting in the Turtle Mountain area of present-day North Dakota.
For more than a century, as there was no international boundary, the Chippewa freely ranged in the areas that would become Manitoba, Canada and the United States including Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, where they mingled with Cree and other tribes in the area. Running battles with the Dakota over territorial disputes, were finally settled in 1858 with the signing of the Sweet Corn Treaty which described the 11,000,000 acres of the Chippewa domain and provided for reparations. The agreement was signed by Mattonwakan, Chief of the Yanktons and La Terre Qui Purle, Chief of the Sisseton Band, Chief Wilkie (Narbexxa) of the Chippewa and witnessed by many members of both tribes.
By 1863, the Chippewa domain encompassed nearly one-third of the land in what would become North Dakota. White settlers, wanting to take advantage of the Homestead Act petitioned Congress to open up the Red River valley for agriculture and to make treaties with the native peoples. On 2 October 1863, at the Old Crossing of the Red Lake River in Minnesota, Red Lake chiefs Monsomo (Moose Dung), Kaw-was-ke-ne-kay (Broken Arm), May-dwa-gum-on-ind (He That Is Spoken To) and Leading Feather, along with chiefs of the Pembina Band, Ase-anse (Little Shell II) and Miscomukquah (Red Bear) met with Alexander Ramsey and Ashley C. Morrill, commissioners for the Government, to negotiate. The government secured all 11-million acres obtained in the Sweet Corn Treaty to open it up to settlement. The Chippewa signed the treaty under duress.
The 1869-1870 Red River Rebellion was a series of events that started when the Hudson's Bay Company transferred the North-Western Territory trapping franchise to the Dominion of Canada. As a result, Louis Riel and his Métis followers seized Fort Garry on 2 November 1869, and attempted to establish a provisional government for the territory of Manitoba. When Canadian troops arrived, Riel fled to the sanctuary of Montana, married, and became a US Citizen. In 1885, a group of Métis from Prince Albert, Canada asked for his assistance in settling grievances between the Métis and settlers. Riel drafted a petition, but fighting broke out, and he became wanted. Riel surrendered and was tried for treason. He was found guilty and hanged causing his followers to flee and seek refuge with the Turtle Mountain Chippewa.
As the fur trade and buffalo hunting diminished available resources, the landless Turtle Mountain Chippewas, though recognized by the Government, found it difficult to ward off starvation. In an effort to provide them with a reservation, Congress approved purchase on 3 March 1873, of lands on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota and attempted to relocate the tribe. The Chippewa refused to move and insisted on remaining in the Turtle Mountains. In June, 1884, an agreement had set aside a reservation twelve miles by six miles which was being occupied by the Turtle Mountain Band, but by 1891, again the US wanted a land cession.
In 1891, Agent Waugh of Fort Totten, convened a committee of 16 full bloods and 16 mixed bloods to take a census of the Chippewa and set boundaries for a new reservation. Little Shell III wanted to obtain a 30 square mile tract at Turtle Mountain, but when that proposal was rejected, he and his followers abandoned the meeting. The McCumber Agreement was reached on 22 October 1892, which granted two townships within the traditional area ceding all other lands the Chippewa might possess in North Dakota. The land granted was inadequate to meet the needs of granting allotments to all tribal members, so negotiations continued. Finally in 1904, Article VI was added which provided that "All members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas who may be unable to secure land upon the reservation above ceded may take homesteads upon any vacant land belonging to the United States without charge, and shall continue to hold and be entitled to such share in all tribal funds, annuities, or other property, the same as if located on the reservations." With this provision, the Chippewa agreed to the terms and the final agreement was ratified by Congress on 21 April 1904.
In the decades after signing the McCumber agreement and the Great Depression the Chippewa adopted farming and gardening as a way of survival. They developed a Big Store in 1922 to sell goods and operated a creamery. They sold farm goods, chopped lumber, farm labor and medicinal herbs. Under the WPA, men gained training in construction jobs and women learned to sew and can goods. Congress approved the first charter of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa in 1932 and because of their successful endeavors and distrust of government programs, the tribe chose not to participate in the Indian Reorganization Act.
The tribe filed numerous claims for a below market value settlement on the lands ceded in the McCumber Agreement. In 1934, Congress passed a law for the Indian Court of Claims to determine a settlement with the Chippewa, but it was vetoed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in May, 1934. As second attempt was also vetoed in June, 1934. Finally in 1946, with the establishment of the Indian Claims Commission, the tribe filed a petition in 1948. On 9 June 1964 an Act established their claim and a method of distribution of the judgment.
On 1 August 1953, the US Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution 108 which called for the immediate termination of the Flathead, Klamath, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa, as well as all tribes in the states of California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Termination of a tribe meant the immediate withdrawal of all federal aid, services, and protection, as well as the end of reservations. Though termination legislation was introduced (Legislation 4. S. 2748, H.R. 7316. 83rd Congress. Termination of Federal Supervision over Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), the law was not implemented. In 1954, at the Congressional hearings for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, tribal Chairman Patrick Gourneau and a delegation spoke in Washington, DC. They testified that the group was not financially prepared, had high unemployment and poverty, suffered from low education levels, and termination would be devastating to the tribe. Based on their testimony, the Chippewa were dropped from the tribes to be terminated.
The primary band of people making up the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are the Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians. This band is named after a fur trading outpost called Pembina Post that was established in 1797 at the juncture of the Red River and Pembina Rivers. As the fur trade dwindled, many of the bands from the Red, Rainy, Leech and Sandy Lakes areas who had settled near the Post, drifted back into Minnesota and North Dakota. One band, the Mikinak-wastsha-anishinabe, established their community in the Turtle Mountains.Dept. of Public Instruction, p. 9 An 1849 letter from a Canadian priest, Father Belcourt, described the people of the Pembina Territory in 1849 as being from Red Lake, Reed Lake, Pembina and Turtle Mountain bands mixed with Métis, who far outnumbered the Chippewa. (Dept. of Public Instruction, p. 11)
Chief Little Shell I (Esens), a leader of the Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians, was part of the generation to make treaties with the United States federal government that ceded certain lands. This included the 1863 Treaty of the Old Crossing, signed near the Red Lake River, Minnesota, which the Red Lake Band also signed. Under this treaty, they ceded their lands in the Red River area to the United States.
Other reservations that are considered descendant from the Pembina Band are the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, the separate and state-recognized Little Shell Tribe of Montana, the Chippewa-Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy Indian Reservation, Montana; the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Chippewa Band, which are both part of the federally recognized Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; and Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation of Manitoba.
The history of the Turtle Mountain Band as a contemporary band began on December 21, 1882, with the Turtle Mountain Reservation Presidential Executive Order. The Turtle Mountain Band is considered as one of the political 'Successors Apparent' of the Pembina Band.
In the 1890s, Ayabrwaywetung (Ayabiwewidang, "Sit to Speak"; Thomas Little Shell) disenrolled his group from the tribal rolls of the Turtle Mountain Band (and reservation), and led his people into Montana. There has been a legal question of whether the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians includes the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians (of Montana), which is recognized separately by that state. Several court cases, including as recently as 2003, have ruled that they are separate tribes, given the Little Shell Band's independent development since the 1890s and its relocation to Montana to have a separate government.
The courts have recognized three independent units claiming the name Chippewa, and several unassociated members of that band. This case refers to cases of the Indian Claims Commission and United States Court of Claims, which can no longer be found online at their original sources, as the cases are old. Today three descendant bands are officially recognized by federal or state governments.
The principal Pembina Chief was Ogimaa Muskomukwa (Chief Red Bear), who was born before 1829 to Clair Ahdicksongab and Waubojeeg the last ruler of the O'Jibway Dynasty, of the Reindeer Clan at Lake of the Woods. His grandfather was King of the Loons Mamongazida "Loons Foot". His siblings included Marguerite Macheyquayzaince Ahdicksongab O-kit-chita (Clear Sky Woman), Pewanejeet (Charlo/Chano), Omaniknay (Mrs. Temp Claire, wife of Mizhaquot), Ahdickons (Little Reindeer), LeBroche and Aceguemanche. After Red Bear's death in 1879, his children relocated to the Red Lake Reservation of Minnesota. This reservation is one of six bands in the state. The Ahdik Reindeer clan were the founding clan of Crane and Loon and the principle clan leadership.
Members of the Red Bear Band established the Pembina Descendants Committee under the 1971 Act of Congress Bill H.R. 6072 Report No. 142-92. This committee includes the Signatory Heirs of Ogimaa Muskomukwa (Chief Red Bear). Chief Red Bear's Sub-Chiefs were Teb-ish-ke-ke-shig "Equal Sky", and Sub-Chief Joseph Montreuil "Heir of Alexander","Warrior of Pembina", who was married to Red Bear's niece Isabel Migijisi. They signed the 1863 "Old Crossing" Treaty alongside Pembina warriors Joseph Gornon (Gourneau) and Summer Wolverine. Chief Red Bear's nephew Pierre Bottineau served as interpreter for this treaty.
Direct descendants of Chief Red Bear on the Red Lake Reservation include: Rosebear, Cobenais, Waybenais, Kingbird, Cloud, Wind, and Desjarlait, among other Red Lake families. Other lineal descendants are dwelling on Turtle Mountain Reservation and in Walhalla, North Dakota. They include Montreuil, Caribeau, Grandbois (1 line), Bushie, Nadeau (1 Line), Frederick (1 line), Brunelle (1 line), Decoteau (1 line), Bottineau (1 line) and Grant (1 line).
Hereditary Chiefs of Red Bear include all 5th-generation grandchildren residing on the Red Lake Reservation, the Signatory Heirs of the Red Bear Bloodline, Sub-Chief Joseph Montreuil, and also all of Red Bear's 5th-generation nephews and nieces, as well as the 4th-generation grandchildren of Sub-Chief Joseph Montreuil. They hold seats on the Muskomukwa Bloodline Committee as Chiefs and Headmen, Signatory Heirs of Pembina Treaty Council, and bloodline descendants of Pembina Descendants Committee. Some notable descendants of the bloodline include: direct descendants Robert DesJarlait, Marty Cobenais, Miziway-Migizi DesJarlait of Red Lake who hold Ogimaag positions, and lineal descendants Donna Patenaude (Montreuil/Grandboise), Jesse Peltier (Montreuil/Caribeau), Bradley Vervalen-White Buffalo Charging Man (Montreuil/Grandboise), Randy Vondal (Montreuil/Grandboise) Charles Vondal (Montreuil/Grandboise), and Miskwa-Mukwa DesJarlait (a direct descendant) whom holds position of Ogimaag, all other members of the committee holding Headmen and Clan Mother positions.
Signatory Heirs/Headmen Jesse Peltier and Bradley Vervalen, along with the researcher Vine Blackfeather Sr., appeared in one of Coleen Rajotte's documentaries about the similarities and differences between American Indians and Aboriginal Indians of Canada. She is a Canadian filmmaker.
The tribal offices are located in Belcourt, North Dakota. The current Tribal Chairman is Wayne L. Keplin who took over from Richard McCloud in 2016.
The Turtle Mountain Chippewa became the first tribe in the United States to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on November 22, 2011, by unanimous vote for a tribal resolution drafted by the grassroots tribal member group No Fracking Way Turtle Mountain Tribe. The tribal resolution fracking ban was amended by the tribal council to direct the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to cancel oil and gas bids on 45,000 acres of tribal land that was scheduled to begin on December 14, 2011. The BIA cancelled the bids on December 9, 2011.
The tribe has founded the Turtle Mountain Community College, one of numerous tribally controlled colleges in the United States.
The tribe has established online, short-term installment loans as a business to serve underbanked Americans. The business has brought new employment opportunities and has generated financial support for other tribal business ventures and social programs for the reservation. The tribe established BlueChip Financial in 2012, which is based on the reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota and employs more than two dozen enrolled tribal members. BlueChip Financial is doing business under the Spotloan.com brand. The loans are only available online and the maximum loan value is $800, according to the company website. Since launch, the company has made 250,000 loans and operates only in the United States excluding selected states, as per listed on the website.
Other tribes participating in online short-term lending include the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana, and the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska. The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) cites "Tribal online lending provides a critical economic lifeline for sovereign tribes in remote areas, whether or not they engage in tribal government gaming. While many out-of-the-way tribal communities have developed gaming facilities as a way to create jobs and generate essential government revenues, remote reservations and gaming properties have been more severely impacted by the economic downturn."
There is high unemployment and poverty rates within the tribes and according to U.S. News & World Report and Pew Research "more than 1 in 4 native people live in poverty and labor force participation rate - which measures the share of adults either working or looking for a job - is 61.6 percent, the lowest for all race and ethnicity groups."
Delvin Cree, a writer with The Tribal Independent, criticized tribal lending in an opinion piece published on Indianz.com in February 2012. On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal and other publications have written about how tribal online lending programs have brought much-needed economic development to tribes without many other economic development opportunities.
Chairperson Sherry Treppa of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake testified before the House Committee on Financial Services regarding tribal online small dollar lending programs becoming a vital part of many tribes' economic development strategies, providing much-needed jobs and revenue. She also argued that attempts to regulate tribes engaging in online lending is an attack on state and tribal sovereignty.
In addressing tribal sovereignty and the relationship with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Saba Bazzazieh argues that "the bureau has disregarded tribal sovereignty since its creation, the problem has recently reached an all-time high." Additionally, "the bureau has demonstrated a patent misunderstanding of what tribal sovereignty actually means in practice, including the fundamentally important issue of preemption of state law."
In 2016, Gavin Clarkson authored an important analysis on the law and economics of tribal online lending programs, finding that the programs were lawful, called "Online Sovereignty: The Law and Economics of Tribal Electronic Commerce." In this analysis Clarkson also identified ways in which lending has supported the tribal economy to include employment, infrastructure, education, healthcare, tribal services and social services. He notes that "many tribes participating in tribal lending have few other options in the wake of federal funding shortfalls and shrinking tribal budgets."