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Historically, the Chippewa proudly referred to themselves as Anishinabe, meaning “The Original People.”  The members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are primarily members of the Pembina Band of Chippewa.  The descendents may include, through intermarriage, other Chippewa Bands, the Cree, and other nations who comprise the membership of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

The name “Chippewa,” a mispronouncing of Ojibwa, Ojibway, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, and Anishinabe all represent the same group of people.  The word “Ojibwa” means “something puckered up.”  One name theory suggests that it comes from the way the people made their moccasins.  The word “Ojibway” will be used when referring to the Tribe’s early history and the word “Chippewa” is used after contact with the Northern Europeans.

The Ojibway are members of the Algonquin language group located in a huge expanse of land from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to North Carolina.  Other tribes in this language group are the Cree, Ottawa, Sauk, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, Miami, Shawnee, Delaware, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, and the Arapaho.  This language classification by scholars does not mean these tribes were closely related nor allies for that matter.

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 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.

The transition of the Chippewa from the woodlands to the plains occurred near the end of the 18th century. French and English fur traders had traveled with the Chippewa as far as the Turtle Mountains. Having acquired guns and ammunition from the traders, and horses from the Mandan and Hidatsa, the Chippewa had an advantage in obtaining territory in Dakota. They had spent a decade utilizing the rivers of the Red River Territory. However, by 1807 this region was virtually depleted of wild game and furred animals. Feeling the hard times, these bands returned to their woodland homes in Minnesota. One group, the Mikinak-wastsha-anishinabe, a band of Chippewa, left the Pembina settlement and established themselves in the Turtle Mountains.

The Pembina Band of Chippewa advanced westward for several reasons. First they had acquired the horse and developed the Red River Cart. Alexander Henry (Younger) stated in his Journals that one cart was as useful as five horses. The Turtle Mountains were plentiful in resources. Abundant in muskrat, beaver, fish, deer, and buffalo, the Turtle Mountains allowed the Chippewa to maintain a thriving fur trade. This region was filled with lakes and water resources as well as several types of medicinal and edible plants. At the same time, the Turtle Mountains offered a refuge from the encroachment of white settlers. Although they moved to the plains, the Chippewa still traded at the posts in Pembina, as well as trading with the Mandans and other tribes at Fort Union.

The Turtle Mountain Reservation is Established, 1882

The Turtle Mountain Reservation was establish in 1882.  It was not until December 1882 that Congress designated a 24 by 32-mile tract in Rolette County as the Turtle Mountain Reservation on behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.   The government miscalculated the size of the Tribe at 200 full-blooded Chippewas, and failed to consider the more than 1,000 mixed bloods who were also members of the tribe. 

The government was determined to allot the Tribal members 160 acre plots as in the past, but the Chippewas were against this arrangement preferring to hold the land in common with all Tribal members.

In 1882, President Chester Arthur established the Turtle Mountain Reservation with twenty-two townships of land.  However, by March of 1884, the government reduced the original 22 townships comprising the reservation to two townships, declaring the best farm land to be open to the public domain.



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