July 10, 2012

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota


The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (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 approximately 30,100 enrolled members (as of the 2000 census).It is federally recognized.

Official Tribal Name: Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota

Address: P.O. Box 900, Hwy. 5 West, Belcourt, North Dakota 58316
Phone: (701) 477-2600
Fax: (701) 477-6836

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Anishinaabe– Original People. In the Ojibway language if you break down the word Anishinabe, this is what it means:

From whence lowered the male of the species

Today the Anishinaabe have two branches or 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, “fish-spearing place).

Common Name:

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Meaning of Common Name:

The Turtle Mountain Band is one branch of the larger Pembina Chippewa group who once lived near the Pembina Trading Posts on the Red River.

The Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians (Ojibwe: Aniibiminani-ziibiwininiwag) are a historical band of Chippewa (Ojibwe), originally living along the Red River of the North and its tributaries. Through the treaty process with the United States, the Pembina Band were settled on reservations in Minnesota and North Dakota. Some tribal members refusing settlement in North Dakota relocated northward and westward, some eventually settling in Montana.

The successors of the Pembina Band who are now known as separate tribes are:

  • Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation (Montana) (in part);
  • Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana (in full);
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa (Minnesota) (in part);
  • Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation (Manitoba) (in full);
  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (North Dakota) (in full); and
  • White Earth Band of Ojibwe (Minnesota) (in part).

The so-called Little Shell Pembina Band of North America, based in North Dakota, is a militia-type group made up of one family descended from the historical Little Shell Chippewa Band, mostly white militia members, and one Indonesian, who attempted a coup against the government of Fiji. It claims to be a successor apparent of the Pembina Band, but it is not recognized as a Native American tribe by the US federal government nor by North Dakota.

The Fort Pembina trading posts included:

  • Peter Grant of the North West Company, at an unknown date, possibly 1793, built a post on the east side of the Red River. It had disappeared by 1801.
  • In 1797 Jean Baptiste Chaboillez of the North West Company built a post on the south bank of the Pembina in what is now Pembina State Park. In the same year David Thompson (explorer) determined that Pembina was south of the 49th parallel.
  • From 1800 to 1805 the XY Company had a post within sight of the two following posts. It was absorbed by the North West Company.
  • In 1801 Alexander Henry the younger, also of the North West Company, built a post on the north bank across from Chaboillez’s post. He remained in charge until 1808. It was absorbed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821.
  • By 1793 the Hudson’s Bay Company had a small post (seeming called Fort Skene) on the east side on the Red River. It was rebuilt in 1801. By 1805 most of the local beaver had been exterminated. Pembina was the traditional rendezvous for the Métis buffalo hunt. It was also a center for illicit trade with the United States. The HBC post operated until at least 1870, even though it was known to be south of the border.
  • In 1812 people from the Red River Colony built Fort Daer on the Chaboillez site.
  • In the 1840s Norman Kitson of the American Fur Company had an establishment.

Alternate names:

The name Chippewa, (a mispronunciation of Ojibway), Saulteaux, and Anishinaabe (Anishinabeg is the plural form of Anishinaabe) are all names that refer to the same group of people. The Chippewa in the northern tier of the United States have been referred to by other names, including Bungi,  Pembina Band (which includes both Red Bear Band and Little Shell Band), Bois Brule, Michif, Métis, and Chippewa-Cree (Rocky Boy). Most of the Chippewa in this area are of mixed ancestry, predominately French and are known as Mechif or Metis. Few full blood Chippewa remain.  Descendence may include intermarriage with other Chippewa bands, Cree, and other nations who make up the membership of the Turtle Mountain Band, as well as intermarriage with non-indians.

Alternate spellings and misspellings:

Chipewa, Chipawa, Chipewyan, Ojibwa, Ojibwe, Ojibway, Anishinabe,  Chippaway, Chippewyn, Chipewa, Chippawa, Ojibwe, 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)

Ojibwe language: Mikinaakwajiw-ininiwag

Region: Plains Indians  Chippewa Indians

Great Plains, formerly eastern woodland.

State(s) Today: North Dakota, Montana

Traditional Territory:

The Ojibway migrated in many directions. They lived on the eastern shores of Turtle Island (North America) around 900 A.D. and eventually established their aboriginal territory in the woodlands of Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and eventually North Dakota and Montana. Around the beginning of the 17th Century or shortly thereafter, the Ojibway moved westward to the shore of Lake Superior. This migration was taking place on both the north and south shores of Lake Superior. The tribes that were to the north of the lake were mainly Ojibway and Cree with whom they shared familial ties. The Ojibways to the south of the lake were called “Chippewa” – an English mispronunciation of Ojibway. 


Ojibwe Confederacy, Three Fires Confederacy


1863 Old Crossing Treaty
Sweet Corn Treaty (between the Chippewa and Dakota Sioux)
McCumber Agreement of 1892 (also known as The Ten Cent Treaty) – not really a treaty, it was an Act of Congress.

Reservation:  Turtle Mountain Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land

Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation – Although this reservation is known as home to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, there are also members of other Pembina Band of Chippewa living there. During early fur trapping days, the Turtle Mountain Band were also known as Pembina Chippewa. The Pembina were named after the fur trading posts they lived near.

Some Turtle Mountain Chippewa live on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

Chief Little Shell III refused to sign the McCumber agreement and lead his followers into Montana, where they are now known as the “Landless Indians of Montana.” Politally, they have no indigenous rights, but continue to seek Federal recognition.

Land Area: 72 square miles
The land base of the reservation is entirely within Rolette County, North Dakota,  measuring 12 miles long by 6 miles wide.
Trust Land Base: 79,176 acres

When the Federal Government issued allotments to tribal members, the land approved by Congress was insufficient to meet the allotments needs of the Tribe. As a result, Congress authorized members of the Band to take allotments on the Public Domain in Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota. Today, the land holdings of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and individual tribal members stand at approximately 79,176 acres with an equal amount located in Montana and South Dakota.

Tribal Headquarters: Belecourt, ND

The Turtle Mountain Agency is located in the community of Belcourt, North Dakota, which is geographically located in the far north central part of the State, approximately 10 miles southeast of the International Peace Garden.

Time Zone:
Central Time

First European Contact:

An Ojibway chief by the name of Copway stated first contact with Champlain traders occurred as early as 1610. The Ojibway populated the shores of Lake Superior when the Jesuits and French traders recorded contact in 1640.

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today:

The tribe has approximately 30,100 enrolled members. A population of 5,815 reside on the main reservation and another 2,516 reside on off-reservation trust lands (as of the 2000 census).


Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

The membership in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians shall consist of:

a) All persons whose names appear on the roll prepared pursuant to Section 2 of the Act of May 24, 1940 (54 Stat. 219), and approved by the Secretary of the Interior on March 15,1943.

b) All descendants of persons whose names appear on the roll defined in Section 1(a) of this Article, provided that such descendants possess one-fourth or more Indian blood, and provided further that such descendants are not domiciled in Canada.

Genealogy Resources:


Charter: Constitution and ByLaws
Name of Governing Body:
Tribal Council
Number of Council members: 9
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 1962, 1975, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001 amendments.
Number of Executive Officers:


Language Classification:

 Algic >> Algonquian >> Central Algonquian >> Ojibwe–Potawatomi >> Ojibwe

Turtle Mountain Band T-Shirt
Buy this Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa T-Shirt

Language Dialects:

Ojibwe and Michif are the main dialects spoken by Turtle Mountain Chippewa. The Ojibwe language is spoken in a series of dialects occupying adjacent territories, forming a language complex in which mutual intelligibility between adjacent dialects may be comparatively high but declines between some non-adjacent dialects. Mutual intelligibility between some non-adjacent dialects, notably Ottawa, Severn Ojibwe, and Algonquin, is low enough that they could be considered distinct languages.

On the Turtle Mountain Reservation, they speak a more modified form of the Ojibwa language that can more rightly be classified as Saulteaux or Nakawe, which is more Cree-like than eastern Ojibwa language. Michif—the Métis creole language developed during the fur trade—is also prevalent in the Canadian Prairie Provinces and in North Dakota and Montana groups.
There is no standard writing system that covers all dialects. The relative autonomy of the regional dialects of Ojibwe is associated with an absence of linguistic or political unity among Ojibwe-speaking groups. The Ojibwe word for this language is Anishinaabemowin.

Number of fluent Speakers:

56,531 (47,740 in Canada and 8,791 in the United States) 


Download the newest way to learn the Ojibwe language on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod and take it with you everywhere! The app is distributed FREE by Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia in partnership with Byki for iPhone Community Edition as a compliment to their Ojibwemodaa software. The software includes over 140 lists each with 10-20 words where you can hear the word spoken in Ojibwe, see it spelled in English and practice learning.


The following creation story has been recorded on birch bark scrolls and passed down orally through generations. The Ojibway believe they have always lived in North America. 
Ojibway Creation Story 
Creation of Turtle Mountain

Bands, Gens, and Clans

Traditionally, the Ojibwes were patrilineal, and had different names for different types of kin relations. In addition to relationships within the nuclear family, each person was a member of a clan-the same as that of their father. The clans were usually named after an animal, bird, or fish. Clans were also exogamous, that is a Bear Clan man would marry a woman of a different clan and their children would be Bear clan. In different areas, the number and name of clans varied, but there were at least twenty different clans grouped in phratries, which were larger organizations with differing responsibilities toward one another. For instance, among the Minnesota Ojibwe bands, there were five phratries: Fish (Catfish, Merman, Sturgeon, Pike, Whitefish, and Sucker clans); Crane (Crane and Eagle clans); loon (Loon, Goose, and Cormorant clans); bear (Bear clan); and marten (Marten, Moose, and Reindeer clans).

Little Shell Band of Chippewa
Red Bear Band of Chippewa
Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa and Cree
Pembina Band of Chippewa (includes Little Shell and Red Bear Bands)

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
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
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

Traditional Allies:

The Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi make up the Three Fires Confederacy. Maliseet

The French were allies up to and including the French and Indian wars, then they switched allegiance to the British after the end of the American Revolution.

Traditional Enemies:

Conflict with the Santee Dakota over territory, as they moved into the location that is present-day Northern Minnesota. Like other Indian groups, the Ojibwe were forced westward beginning in the 1640s when the League of the Iroquois began to attack other tribes in the Great Lakes region to monopolize the fur trade.

Ceremonies / Dances:

Chief Dance, Drum Dance, Warrior Dance, Fish Dance, Pipe Dance, Horse Dance, Forty-Nine Dance 

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Turtle Mountain Days – 3rd weekend in July (July 13-21, 2012)
International Peace Garden

Legends / Oral Stories:

Father of Indian Corn
How Bats Came to Be
How dog came to be
Mother, we will never leave you
Nokomis and the spider (The Dream Catcher Legend)
The close your eyes dance
The First Butterflies
Thunderbirds and Fireflies
Why birds go south in winter
Ojibway Migration Story

Art & Crafts:

The Turtle Mountain Chippewa are known for traditional beadwork, quillwork, hand made quilts,  and red willow baskets. 


Animal names such as chipmunk, muskrat, raccoon, and caribou are all Algonquin in origin. Animals symbolize each clan. The Chippewa didn’t use horses until they migrated westward to the Great Plains and adopted a nomadic buffalo-hunting existence, when horses became an integral part of their lives.


Most articles of clothing were made from tanned deer hides. The women wore dresses, which were designed in two pieces, and leggings that came to the knee. Jewelry was made from small pieces of leather and beads. Most dresses and other clothing articles were intricately decorated with floral designs or diamond shapes. Dyed porcupine quills were often used to decorate belts and jewelry. Moccasins were also decorated with quills or beadwork. Both men and women wore braids, and tied the ends with leather strips.

Men wore tanned breech clothes, leggings, moccasins, and tanned robes. The men’s leggings were worn from the ankle to the hip with a belt type strap used to secure the leggings. Buckskins for men were often decorated with beading and quillwork done by the women. The tanning of hides was also a task performed by women.

During the 1800’s, contact and trade with the U.S. army was established, and women began using trade blankets and calico to make dresses. Army blankets replaced the robe when trade with the United States government began.  


While the tribe was basically stationary, homes varied with the season. The homes they built in the spring were made from birch bark and called wigwams. In the winter, the structural designs of the homes were dome-shaped. The exterior was insulated with snow. The floors of the wigwam were layered with woven mats of balsam branches and covered with furs. Later, when they adopted the nomadic life of the plains, they adopted the bison-hide tipi.


Traditionally, the Chippewa people were primarily a hunting and gathering society. They hunted various animals for food and clothing. They gathered berries, nuts, roots, vegetables, fruits, and wild rice for food and medicinal purposes. The Chippewa have a legend about mun-dam-in (Corn), which indicates that they were sedentary to a degree. The springtime work included the activity of maple sugar making.

The Chippewa were active in the early fur trade, which they traded mainly for steel knives and copper cooking utensils. The transition from woodlands to plains people vastly influenced the culture of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. Food, transportation, clothing, and housing were all adapted.

For the Chippewa situated along the Great Lakes, the Minnesota lakes and rivers, and the Turtle Mountain lakes, fish were an abundant source of protein. Fishing was often done at night by canoeing the shallow waters and spearing fish. Torches, made of spruce pitch, lit the night waters for the fisherman and attracted the fish to the canoe. On summer nights the torches of the fishermen reflected upon the lakes and glowed for miles. Fish were trapped with basket traps, snares, wires, gill nets, and dip nets. Fishhooks were made of willow twigs. Strips of fish and meat along with berries were dried in the sun. The catch was then stored in six-foot deep pits lined with dried grass and timbers. Filled with fish and other meats, these pits or caches provided provisions for winter.

Arrow shafts were made out of different types of wood depending on what was being hunted. Arrows that were used for waterfowl were made of cedar because they would float. The stalks of June berry bushes were usually used for arrows made for hunting on land. Each man decorated his arrows with individual makings so one could recognize another hunter’s arrow. Bows were made from branches of ash trees, usually four-feet long in length. The fiber used for the bowstring was made of the Stinging Nettle plant or from a material found in the neck of a snapping turtle.

Once the reservations were created, the Ojibwe were unable to sustain themselves by hunting and gathering and increasing poverty forced many Ojibwe men to work as lumberjacks for White-owned companies.


While living in the Minnesota lakes and rivers, the most useful form of transportation for the Chippewa was the canoe. They were expert craftsmen at building canoes. Birch bark was used as the outside covering for canoes. The frame was usually made from small strips of cedar wood. The outside lining of birch bark was sewn together with the root of pine trees, and covered with pitch derived from pine or balsam trees. Most traveling was done on foot through the woods, and the canoe was balanced on the shoulders (portaged) from one lake to another.

Modern day economy:

The tribe has founded the Turtle Mountain Community College, one of numerous tribally controlled colleges in Indian Country. The tribe has established online short-term or “payday lending” as a business to serve under-banked Native Americans. Merle St. Clair, the chairman of the tribe, is also a board member of the Native American Lending Alliance, an association of tribes in the payday loans business.

Delvin Cree, a writer with The Tribal Independent, classified the high rates they charge as predatory lending in an Opinion piece published on in February 2012. A New York Times article said the tribe charged an annualized interest rate of 360% on some of its short-term loans.

Oil leases.

Locations associated with Turtle Mountain Chippewas

  • Belcourt
  • Dunseith
  • St. Joseph (Walhalla)(Red Bear’s Reservation)
  • Pembina
  • St. John
  • Stump Lake (Black Duck’s village)
  • Grahams Island (Little Shell’s Village)
  • Round Lake village
  • Buffalo Lodge
  • White Earth River region
  • Trenton / Buford region (TISA)
  • Dogden Buttes
  • Strawberry Lake

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Catholicism, Methodism, Midewiwin.

The Midewewin, Great Medicine Society, was an organization of medicine healers. The priests of the Midewewin contend that their religion began with their cultural hero Nanabozoho, the Great Hare, by order of the Great Spirit. Members of the Midewewin believe that Mother Earth is a living thing, and that all plants and animals upon her contain a spirit that is part of the Divine Creator. The Chippewa respected the cycle of seasons, the four corners of the earth, and gave thanks. Besides being a religious philosophy, the Midewewin is a practice of preserving the medicinal qualities of plants to aid the people’s longevity.

The ethics of the Midewewin religion are simple, yet comprised the structure of family values. Midewewin philosophy is related to nature. Tribal members lived as one with all life. They honored the “Four Orders of Creation, physical, plant, animal, and human. Without the earth, plants, and animals, there would not be human life. The Chippewa believed they were the last form of life created on Mother Earth, and lived with respect for all life forms, often calling other forms of creation their elders. Respect was a value they honored. With the teaching of values, proper conduct was inspired.

The Chippewa believed a long and balanced life was acquired through following the sacred teachings of the Midewewin.

The practice of the Midewewin instilled values to the individual and the tribe. Such characteristics as sharing, honor, and learning throughout ones life were attributes of proper conduct. The survival of Chippewa society depended on the success of the tribe as a whole. Cooperation is an important factor to maintain safety and well being for everyone.

Individuals were encouraged to develop personal skills. Through observation members acknowledged another’s abilities and honored them. In this way, individuals built self-esteem and a strong sense of pride in oneself and in one’s family.

The drum is used by the Chippewa for spiritual and social gatherings. It is believed that it is the heart of the people by it’s sound representing the heartbeat.

Tobacco continues to be used in many spiritual rituals, each shred representing man, woman, animals, trees, agriculture, medicine, birds, spiritual beings, everything living and/or breathing. It is used as an offering to Kitchi Manito in prayers and is used when taking something of the earth for the use of food or medicine to help with hunger or healing. Sage, sweet grass, and cedar are also used in ceremonies. Eagle feathers are used in many ceremonies and are symbols of honor and accomplishment.

There are different types of pipes. One type is used for healing in the Midewewin society. This type of pipe is an important part of the Midewewin and is earned through members within the society. Another type of pipe is used as a symbol of peace for all tribes and nations, which signifies accepting peace.

While the Midewiwin remained important among those who maintain a traditional lifestyle, the Drum Dance or Dream Dance was also introduced from the Plains tribes during the 1870s. Within the new structures of reservation life, the Dream Drum provided a cohesive force within smaller communities. In many cases, Drum Dance ceremonies were held immediately after Midewiwin ceremonies and provided important social contacts which traditionally had been forged through inter-band gatherings where socializing, dances, and games took place. While the Chief Dance or Brave dance had been a means to secure spiritual aid for embarking war parties, it took on a role of providing spiritual enforcement for individuals and communities, especially against the threat of illness. Unlike some of the more southern tribes, the introduction of the Peyote religion or Native American Church had little effect on the Ojibwe, except at Lac du Flambeau during the 1940s.

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs

Tribal Colleges:
Turtle Mountain Community College
United Tribes Technical College
Radio: KEYA Public Radio
Newspapers:  Turtle Mountain Star Newspaper

Ojibwe / Chippewa People of Note

    • Ahshahwaygeeshegoqua (The Hanging Cloud) – The so-called “Chippewa Princess” who was renowned as a warrior and as the only female among the Chippewa allowed to participate in the war ceremonies and dances, and to wear the plumes of the warriors.


    • John Baptist Bottineau was the nephew of Charles Bottineau, who co-owned a trading post with Charles Grant at Pembina. He was known as the first farmer of North Dakota. In his early years, John grew up in St. Anthony Falls, now Minneapolis, Minnesota where he studied law. He married Marie Renville, and moved to the Turtle Mountain area. As attorney for the Turtle Mountain Band, Bottineau negotiated the McCumber Agreement and traveled to Washington, D.C. on numerous occasions, on behalf of the tribe. He served for many years on the Turtle Mountain Tribal Business Council, and spent the last 20 years of his life in Washington, D.C. working on the Turtle Mountain Claim, during which time he became a noted statesman.


    • Gabriel Dumont – Was born on the prairie southwest of Red River in 1837. His father was Isidore, or Ai-caw-pow (The Stander) Dumont. His mother was Louise Laframboise, a Sarcee (McKee, 1973, p.3). He was famous for his skill in the hunt, and for his leadership abilities and generosity among his fellow Métis. Able to speak six native languages as well as French, he earned a reputation as a diplomat. Following the second Métis Rebellion, Gabriel fled to the United States. He eventually joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Gabriel Dumont died on May 19, 1906. He is buried in the cemetery at Batoche in Saskatchewan, Canada.


    • Kanick – Was an early leader of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In 1892, he was given the English name of Walking Thunder. In the October 1, 1911 Census, he was listed as being 30 years old. His father was Little Crane (Ochechakonsh), who was Chief Little Shell’s brother. His mother’s name was Okeshewashicha (Flying Swift). He had three children, Judy, Mary, and Nana Push. Historical documents indicate Kanick served on the council in the latter part of the 18th century and early 1900’s and traveled to Washington, D.C. with Chief Kaishpau Gourneau.


    • Little Shell I, (Ase-anse), AKA Aissance of Little Clam. Little Shell I was considered a British Ojibwa Chief of the Red River. He lived in the area of the Red River and Spirit Lake (Devils Lake). The Dakotas killed Little Shell and the people of the camp at Spirit Lake.


    • Little Shell II, (Ase-anse), AKA Aissance of Little Clam.Little Shell II became the hereditary chief of the Pembina Band. Little Shell II signed the 1863 Old Crossing Treaty. He and other Chiefs of the Pembina Bands and the Red Lake Bands were against the treaty. This treaty allowed the government to take 11 million acres of land along the Red River. To Little Shell and the people, this was the land of their fathers. The treaty was signed under protest.


      • Little Shell III, Turtle Mountain Chippewa ChiefLittle Shell III, (Ase-anse), AKA Aissance of Little Clam. Little Shell III was the last in this line of hereditary Chiefs. He was the Chief of the Turtle Mountain Band. Little Shell III is noted for his involvement in the McCumber Agreement. He did not agree with its terms and refused to sign the McCumber Agreement.

        This Little Shell had two wives. One of the wives died before Little Shell reached the age of 56. He had four children, Mary, Joseph, Genevieve, and Pierre. In the early 1900’s records show a boy named Thomas died. Pierre took the name of his brother, who had died before him. Pierre, also known as Kiyon, never married, had children, or took on the responsibilities of the Chief. With the death of Kiyon, the lineage of Little Shell hereditary Chiefs ended.

    • Black Duck


    • Red Thunder was a secondary chief to Little Shell III. He was appointed by Little Shell III to preside over his 24-member council in Little Shell III’s absence. He was instrumental in the McCumber Commission and is remembered for the speech he gave to the McCumber Commission.


    • Chief Flying Eagle (Kakenowash) 1901-1930 – Although not much information is available, early sources indicate Chief Kakenowash succeeded Chief Little Shell in 1901. Kakenowash was photographed in the 1900’s, along with a tribal council member named Henry Poitras. A letter from the Turtle Mountain Agency superintendent indicates that in January of 1917, Kakenowash, with his interpreter Eustache Roussin, went to Washington, D.C. to represent the tribe.


    • Kaispau Gourneau – While there is little information available to document the transition in leadership during this period, it is reported that Kaishpau Gourneau was chief of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in 1882. (It is documented that Little Shell II lived at St. Joe but died in 1874. Little Shell III then became hereditary chief upon his father’s death. Little Shell II lived near Plentywood Montana, before coming to the Turtle Mountain in 1887). Meanwhile, Docket 113 states that in 1882, Kaishpau Gourneau was Chief of the Pembina Band. Kaishpau Gourneau traveled to Washington, D.C. and served on a treaty delegation from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Little Shell III, returned in 1882 and called a meeting, apparently not aware that Kaishpau was acting as Chief.


    • LOUIS RIEL 1844-1885 – Louis Riel was born on October 22, 1844, in St. Boniface, Manitoba to Louis Riel Sr., and Julie Lajimodiere. He married Margaret Monette and they had two children. Riel was fluent in four Native languages, along with French, but spoke little English. He became an Oblate novice and studied in Montreal, but returned to the Red River and the Métis people. Dissatisfied with the Canadian government, Riel and his Métis followers led two rebellions in 1869. Following their defeat at the Battle of Batoche, Riel was charged with high treason on July 6, 1885. He was found guilty and hung for treason on November 16, 1885, in Regina, Saskatchewan. Riel is buried at St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba.


    • Chief Rocky Boy – Last free chief of the Chippewa. Rocky Boy Reservation is named after him.


    • Chief Red Bear (Ogimaa Muskomukwa)also spelled Muskomaquah or Misko-mukwuh – In the history of the Turtle Mountains there were also two chiefs with the name Red Bear. The first Red Bear was involved with and is noted for signing the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863. He was also a sub-chief of the Pembina Band.

      The second Red Bear was the son of the first. He was a Chief in Little Shell III Band. They settled on the Turtle Mountain Reservation after the Executive Order of December 21, 1882.

    • Joseph Montreuil (Pembina Sub-Chief)
  • Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement member, activist and author.
  • Renae Morriseau
  • Bennett Brien, rebar sculptor
  • Alfred Decoteau, sculptor 1946 –
  • Albert Lee Ferris, sculptor, painter, 1939–1986
  • Louise Erdrich is known for her moving and often humorous portrayals of Chippewa life in North Dakota in poetry and prose.
  • Mark Turcotte, poet
  • Georgianna Houle, Red Willow Baskets
  • Curtis and Debbie Cree LaRocque, Red Willow Baskets
  • Doris Wallette
  • Northern Straight Drum Group
  • Yvonne “Putch” Frederick, Hand Quilted Quilts
  • Dolores Gourneau, Hand Quilted Quilts
  • Shirley Marion,Hand Quilted Quilts
  • Maureen Williams

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

Around the end of the eighteenth century, before white traders came into the area, the formerly woodland-oriented Chippewa moved out onto the Great Plains in pursuit of the buffalo 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. Around 1800, these Indians were hunting in the Turtle Mountain area of present-day North Dakota.

The history of the Turtle Mountain Band as a contemporary band began on December 21, 1882 when Turtle Mountain Reservation was established in North Dakota under 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 question of whether the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians includes the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians (of Montana), which is recognized by that state. Several court cases have ruled that they are separate tribes, given their separate development after some ancestral Chippewa disenrolled from the Turtle Mountain Band and reservation in the 1890s to migrate to Montana.

The courts have recognized three independent units claiming the name Chippewa, and several unassociated members of that band. Today three descendant bands are recognized by federal or state governments.

In the News:

Further Reading:

History of the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe) people

US Tribes T to V
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