July 11, 2012

Minnesota Chippewa Tribe


Who are the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe?

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe is a federally recognized political union of six Ojibwe bands, including the Mille Lacs Band, Bois Forte Band, Fond du Lac Band, Grand Portage Band, Leech Lake Band, and White Earth Band. There are Ojibwe communities in both Canada and the United States. In Canada, they are the second-largest population among First Nations, surpassed only by the Cree. In the United States, they have the fourth-largest population among Native American tribes, surpassed only by the Navajo, Cherokee and Lakota.

Official Tribal Name: Minnesota Chippewa Tribe

Address: PO Box 217, Cass Lake, MN 56633
Phone: 218) 335-8581
Fax: (218) 335-8496
Email: jbruce@mnchippewatribe.org

Official Website: http://www.mnchippewatribe.org/

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Anishinaabe- meaning Original People.

Today the Anishinaabe have two tribes: Ojibway/Ojibwe/Chippewa (Algonquian Indian for “puckered,” referring to their moccasin style) and Algonquin (probably a French corruption of either the Maliseet word elehgumoqik, “our allies,” or the Mi’kmaq place name Algoomaking, meaning “fish-spearing place”).

Common Name: Generally known by Band names (see Reservations below) 

Alternate names: Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake), Fond du Lac Band, Grand Portage Band,  Leech Lake Band, Mille Lacs Band,  White Earth Band, Ojibwe

Alternate spellings / Misspellings: Ojibwa, Ojibway, More names for Ojibwe

Ojibwe / Chippewa in other languages:

Aoechisaeronon or Eskiaeronnon (Huron)
Assisagigroone (Iroquois)
Axshissayerunu (Wyandot)
Bawichtigouek or Paouichtigouin (French)
Bedzaqetcha (Tsattine)
Bedzietcho (Kawchodinne)
Dewakanha (Mohawk)
Dshipowehaga (Caughnawaga)
Dwakanen (Onondaga)
Hahatonwan (Dakota)
Hahatonway (Hidatsa)
Jumper, Kutaki (Fox)
Leaper, Neayaog (Cree)
Nwaka (Tuscarora)
Ostiagahoroone (Iroquois)
Rabbit People (Plains Cree)
Regatci or Negatce (Winnebago)
Saulteur (Saulteaux)
Sore Face (Hunkpapa Lakota)
Sotoe (British)
Wahkahtowah (Assiniboine)

Northeast –>Ojibwa, Chippewa and Potawatomi
Plains Indians –>Chippewa Indians

State(s) Today: Minnesota

Traditional Territory: The Chippewa remember a time when they lived close to a great sea, traditionally called the Land of the Dawn (Waabanakiing), where they were ravaged by sickness and death. It is theorized that they lived as far away as the Atlantic near the gulf of the St. Lawrence, but more than likely it was Hudson Bay.  They have a pictograph engraved scroll written on birchbark that records their migration, which began more than 600 years ago.

Colder weather forced the Chippewas south to the East side of Lake Huron.  They continued to expand west, south, and east through fur trade and wars with the Iroquois. 

By the early 1700s the Chippewa controlled most of what would now be Michigan and southern Ontario.  Further fur trade with the French brought them west of Lake Superior, and into a war with the Dakota Sioux in 1737.  During their battles in the next century, they were able to force the Sioux out of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

By 1800 Chippewa people were living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. No other tribe has ever controlled so much land.   Canada recognizes more than 130 Ojibwe First Nations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  The United States gives federal recognition to 22 Chippewa groups. 

Confederacy: Council of Three Fires, Ojibwe

Treaties: The Chippewa have signed 51 treaties with the U.S. government, more than any other tribe.  They’ve also signed more than 30 treaties with the French, British, and Canadians. 

Reservations: Minnesota Chippewa Trust Land, and reservations below.

Minnesota Indian Reservations

These six bands of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe each have their own reservation:
Bois Forte Band Reservation  (Nett Lake)
Fond du Lac Band Reservation
Grand Portage Band Reservation
Leech Lake Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
Mille Lacs Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
White Earth Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

Population at Contact: Made up of numerous independent bands, the entire Ojibwe bands were so spread out that few early French estimates of them were even close. 35,000 has been suggested, but there were probably two to three times as many in 1600. The British said there were about 25-30,000 Ojibwe in 1764, but the the Americans in 1843 listed 30,000 in just the United States. The 1910 census (low-point for most tribes) gave 21000 in the United States and 25,000 in Canada – total 46,000. By 1970 this had increased to almost 90,000.

Registered Population Today: Over 44,000 members in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Collectively, there are 130,000 Ojibwe in United States and 60,000 in Canada. The 190,000 total represents only enrolled Ojibwe and does not include Canadian Métis, many of whom have Ojibwe blood. If these were added, the Ojibwe would be the largest Native American group north of Mexico. 

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

1/4 blood quantum – See Enrollment requirements of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe

Genealogy Resources:


“Band governing body” refers to a Reservation Business Committee, Reservation Tribal Council, or other entity recognized by the Tribal Executive Committee as the governing body of a member band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe on their respective reservation. The Tribal Executive Committee is the governing committee for the whole tribe, which is made up of the six member bands.

Name of Governing Body: Tribal Executive Committee
Number of Council members: The Tribal Executive Committee is composed of the Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer of each of the six Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Reservations.   These officials are the governing body for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.  They meet quarterly.  Four officers are elected by the Tribal Executive Committee to serve the Tribe (see Executive Officers below.)
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Division of Administration:

The Division of Administration is responsible for providing assistance to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in the areas of governmental affairs and supportive services. Executive Direction and Tribal Operations are charged with advocating for the sovereignty and self-determination of the Tribe and Bands by fostering improved government to government relations. Executive Direction and Tribal Operations work to ensure that constitutionally mandated duties, and directives of the Tribal Executive Committee, are carried out and fulfilled by the Tribe.

Supportive services, including Accounting and Human Resources, are essential components for the successful operation of the various programs of the Tribe. Supportive services include financial management, staffing, benefits administration, computer services, special projects, and facilities management.

Executive Direction:

Executive Direction is provided by the office of the Executive Director, who is the chief administrator for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. The Executive Director is responsible for the daily operation of all tribal affairs, including intergovernmental relations, the performance of staff, and the achievement of goals by programs administered by the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. The Executive Director assists Tribal leadership by identifying and developing policy objectives and then by implementing policy once it is adopted by the Tribal Executive Committee.

The Executive Director has also been delegated broad administrative powers and is accountable to the Tribal Executive Committee for the daily operation of all tribal programs and services. The Executive Director reports to the President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

Human Resources:

Human Resources is responsible for the management of all human resource functions for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe including policy development, labor law compliance, and employee relations, as well as the administration of the tribal hiring, benefits, evaluation, safety, and compensation programs.

Human Resources serves as a liaison between staff and management, and reports and makes recommendation for changes associated with human resources to the Tribal Executive Committee. Duties entail work associated with the Divisions of Administration, Education, Human Services, and Finance.

Elections: Elections are held on the second Tuesday in June of even number years for the Regular Elections. If only two candidates are certified to run for an office, no Primary Election is held. If there are more than two, a Primary Election is held 10 Tuesdays before the Regular Elections, and the two top candidates will run in the Regular Elections.

If one of the two top candidates receives more than half the votes in the Primary Election, he is appointed to the position and a Regular Election is not held. If two candidates tie for the most votes, they advance to the Regular Elections.  If two candidates tie for the 2nd highest number of votes in the Primary Election, and there was no tie for the most votes, a recount is held within 24 hours. If that does not break the tie, the tying candidates draw lots to determine who will advance to the Regular Elections.

Candidates must be tribal members, over 21 years old, and reside on their respective reservation or in the district where they are running for office for at least a year prior to the election.

Language Classification: Algic -> Algonquian -> Central Algonquian -> Ojibwe -> Chippewa

The Ojibwe language is known as Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwemowin. Ojibwemowin is the fourth-most spoken Native language in North America (US and Canada) after Navajo, Cree, and Inuktitut. Many decades of fur trading with the French established the language as one of the key trade languages of the Great Lakes and the northern Great Plains.

Its sister languages include Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee among the northern Plains tribes. Anishinaabemowin is frequently referred to as a “Central Algonquian” language; however, Central Algonquian is an area grouping rather than a linguistic genetic one.

Language Dialects: Ojibwemowin 

Chippewa (also known as Southwestern Ojibwa, Ojibwe, Ojibway, or Ojibwemowin) is an Algonquian language spoken from upper Michigan westward to North Dakota in the United States. It represents the southern component of the Ojibwe language.

Chippewa is part of the Algonquian language family and an indigenous language of North America. Chippewa is part of the dialect continuum of Ojibwe (including Chippewa, Ottawa, Algonquin, and Oji-Cree), which is closely related to Potawatomi. It is spoken on the southern shores of Lake Superior and in the areas toward the south and west of Lake Superior in Michigan and Southern Ontario.

The speakers of this language generally call it Anishinaabemowin (the Anishinaabe language) or more specifically, Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwa language). There is a large amount of variation in the language. Some of the variations are caused by ethnic or geographic heritage, while other variations occur from person to person. There is no single standardization of the language as it exists as a dialect continuum: “It exists as a chain of interconnected local varieties, conventionally called dialects.” Some varieties differ greatly and can be so diverse that speakers of two different varieties cannot understand each other.

The Chippewa Language or the Southwestern dialect of the Ojibwe language is divided into four smaller dialects:

  • Upper Michigan-Wisconsin Chippewa: on Keweenaw Bay, Lac Vieux Desert, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, St. Croix and Mille Lacs (District III).
  • Central Minnesota Chippewa: on Mille Lacs (Districts I and II), Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, White Earth and Turtle Mountain.
  • Red Lake Chippewa: on Red Lake
  • Minnesota Border Chippewa: on Grand Portage and Bois Forte

Number of fluent Speakers: Treuer estimates only around 1,000 first-language speakers of the Chippewa dialect in the United States, most of whom are elderly.The Chippewa dialect of Ojibwemowin has continued to steadily decline. Beginning in the 1970s many of the communities have aggressively put their efforts into language revitalization, but have only managed to produce some fairly educated second-language speakers. Today, the majority of the first-language speakers of this dialect of the Ojibwe language are elderly, whose numbers are quickly diminishing, while the number of second-language speakers among the younger generation are growing. However, none of the second-language speakers have yet to transition to the fluency of a first-language speaker.

Ojibwe People’s Dictionary
A Concise Dictionary of the Ojibway Indian Language.
Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary
Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary

Origins of the Ojibwes: The Ojibwe Peoples are a major component group of the Anishinaabe-speaking peoples, a branch of the Algonquian language family. The Anishinaabe peoples include the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree, Odawa and the Potawatomi. 

Bands, Gens, and Clans:

The oral tradition of the Ojibwa (Anishinabe, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, Chippewa) tells of the five original clans – Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear, and Marten – traveling west from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Great Lakes and into what are now Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba. See Ojibwa, Chippewa and Potawatomi for a more detailed account of the migration of the bands and clans from the east coast to their present locations.

Their Midewiwin Society is well respected as the keeper of detailed and complex scrolls of events, oral history, songs, maps, memories, stories, geometry, and mathematics.

Related Tribes:

Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Forest County Potawatomi
Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Hannaville Indian Community
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
La Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac de Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians
Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Potawatomi
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Saginaw Chippewa Indians
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
St. Croix Chippewa Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Traditional Allies: Ottawa and Potawatomi. These three were once all part of the same Ojibwe tribe and are thought to have separated about 1550. For the most part, the Ojibwe were a peaceful nation.  The Chippewa were located well north of the early flow of European settlement, so they rarely had any conflicts with settlers.They were friendly with the white men, and even served as middlemen in trading between French fur traders and the Sioux. 

Traditional Enemies: Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux. The Chippewa took scalps, but as a rule they killed and did not torture, except for very isolated incidents. Like other Great Lakes warriors, there was ritual cannibalism of their dead enemies. 

The Dakota Sioux were by far their biggest enemy.  For 130 years, the Ojibwe and Sioux battled contiuously until the Treaty of 1825, when the two tribes were separated.  The Sioux recieved what is now southern Minnesota, while the Chippewas received most of northern Minnesota.

The Chippewa were the largest and most powerful tribe in the Great Lakes area.  The Sioux are perhaps better known today, but the Chippewa were the tribe who defeated the Iroquois in wars, and forced the Sioux from their native lands. 

Ceremonies / Dances:

In the following video, three Native American teens from Minnesota discuss how the historical traumas to Native Americans influenced their lives and what challenges they are facing today.

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Legends / Oral Stories:
Anishnaabek (Ojibwe) interpretation of the medicine wheel
Creation of Turtle Mountain
Father of Indian Corn How Bats Came to Be How dog came to be
How Rainbows Came to Be
Mother, we will never leave you
Nokomis and the spider: story of the dreamcatcher
Ojibway Creation Story
Ojibway Migration Story
Ojibway Oral Teaching: Wolf and man
The close your eyes dance
The Dreamcatcher Legend
The First Butterflies
Thunderbirds and Fireflies
Why birds go south in winter
Winabojo and the Birch Tree

Arts & Crafts: The Chippewa is best known for birch bark contaniners and intricate beadwork, usually with a floral pattern.

Are Dream Catchers Losing the Native Tradition?

Animals: Woodland Ojibwe rarely used horses or hunted buffalo, although there was a now extinct species of Woodland Bison in the Northeastern woods.  Dogs were the only domestic animal and a favorite dish served at their feasts.

The more southerly Chippewas did adopt the horse and hunted buffalo like other Plains Cultures.

Clothing: The Chippewa wore buckskin clothing, with a buckskin shirt and fur cape in colder weather. In warmer weather men wore just breechcloths and leggings. Women also wore leggings with long dresses with removable sleeves. Later, the Chippewas adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets, decorating them with fancy beadwork.

The Chippewa had distinctive moccasins with puffed seams that were colored with red, yellow, blue and green dyes.  Men wore their hair in long braids in times of peace, and sometimes in a scalplock during wars. Women also wore their hair in long braids.

Many Chippewa warriors also wore a porcupine roach. In the 1800’s, Chippewa chiefs started wearing long headdresses like the Sioux. The Chippewas painted bright colors on their faces and arms for special occasions,using different patterns of paint for war and festive decoration. The Chippewas, especially men, also wore tribal tattoos.

Housing: Domed Wigwams covered with birch bark were the homes of the northern Chippewa. When a family moved, they rolled up the birch bark covering and took it with them, but left the pole frame behind. Plains Chippewa adopted the buffalo hide tipi of the Plains Culture, and took their poles with them when they moved, since trees were hard to find on the open Plains.

Subsistance: Most Ojibwe were classic Woodlands culture, but since different groups lived across such a wide area, there were significant differences in individual groups.  Some Ojibwe villages in the southern part of their range were larger and permanent with the cultivation of corn, squash, beans, and tobacco; while others in the plains adopted the Buffalo culture, and developed different ceremonies, art, and clothing. 

Most Chippewa lived in the northern Great Lakes area with a short growing season and poor soil. They were hunter-gatherers whose main harvests were wild rice and maple tree sap, which was boiled down into a thick syrup. The Chippewa generally mixed everything with maple syrup as seasoning.

Woodland Ojibwe had no salt to preserve food and kept their food in birch bark baskets because birch bark contains tannin, which is a natural preservative. Food in tightly sealed birch bark containers can be preserved for years. They often hid food in underground caches stashed along their seasonal routes, so when fresh foods were scarce there was always a stash of food nearby.

They were skilled hunters and trappers.  Fishing, especially for sturgeon, which grow to over six feet long, provided much of the protein in their diet and became progressively more important in the northernmost bands. 

Bark from birch trees was very important to the Chippewa.  They used birchbark for almost everything: utensils, storage containers, wigwam covers and, most importantly, canoes. Coming in a variety of sizes depending on the purpose they were to be used for, the birchbark canoe was lighter than the dugouts used by the Sioux and other tribes.

Economy Today:

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs: The original religious society is known as Midewiwin or Grand Medicine. In modern times, the people may belong to the Midewiwin, one or more of the Big Drum societies, or a Christian Sect, primarily Catholic and Methodist.

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs:

Education and Media:

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Scholarship Program

Tribal Colleges:
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
LeachLake Tribal College
Red Lake Nation College
White Earth Tribal and Community College

Radio: 89.3 KKWE Niijii, White Earth, MN


Ojibwe / Chippewa People of Note

Renae Morriseau

Catastrophic Events:

Sandy Lake Tragedy – The Sandy Lake Tragedy was the culmination of a series of events centered in Sandy Lake, Minnesota, that resulted in the deaths in 1850 of about 400 Lake Superior Chippewa when officials of the Zachary Taylor Administration and Minnesota Territory tried to relocate several bands of the tribe to areas west of the Mississippi River.

Tribe History:

Long before European settlers came onto Indian lands, the Chippewas lived in the east. Their westward migration may have happened as far back as 11,500 years ago. They followed the Saint Lawrence River and settled in several location including Mooniyaang (Montreal) and Baweting (Sault Ste. Marie). At Baweting, the Chippewas agreed to colonize new lands to the south, north, and west.

Those Chippewas who migrated south into the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana are known as the Illini, Menominee, Miami, Potawatomi, Sac or Sauk, and Shawnee. Those Chippewas who migrated south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico including Florida, are the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. In the Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi region the Chippewas are known as the Atakapa, Natchez, Chitimacha, Tunica, and Tonkawa. In the far south, the Chippewas were largely mixed with other Indian Nations and blacks who all were under Chippewa protection.

The Chippewas who migrated to the north and northwest are the Chipewyan and Cree. The Chipewyan migrated northwest into far northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Alaska. The Cree migrated up to northern Ontario, central Manitoba, central Saskatchewan, and central Alberta.

From Baweting, the Chippewas and Odawa or Ottawa of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, migrated west along both the northern and southern shores of Lake Superior. They migrated into the region in northwestern Ontario, between the Ontario-Minnesota border and Fort Severn, Ontario. They eventually colonized the lands of southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, and southern British Columbia. They also colonized Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. In California, they are known as the Wappo, Wiyot, Yuki, and Yurok.

Once they learned that Europeans were settling westward, they followed prophecies that were part of their culture and attempted to stop the settlements of Indian lands by the whites. For nearly 400 years they were constantly at war with the white invaders and their Indian allies.

Baweting was a very important location. Baweting was the capital of the eastern Lake Superior Chippewas who are also known as the Saulteaux Indians and the Nez Perce. The Amikwa Chippewas are also known as the Nez Perce.

Chippewa Timeline

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Timeline

In the News:
Claims dating back more than 100 years settled with more than $1 billion payout

Further Reading:
The Southwestern Chippewa, an Ethnohistorical Study
Angwamas minosewag anishinabeg – Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Chippewa Customs (Publications of the Minnesota Historical Society)

US Tribes K to M
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