Published on October 9, 2013 by Amy
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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 Richard McCloud is the current Tribal Chairman.
Around the end of the eighteenth century, prior to the advent of white traders in 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.
Chief Little Shell I (Esens), a leader of the Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians, signed such documents with the federal government as the 1863 Treaty of the Old Crossing, signed near the Red Lake River, Minnesota, which the Red Lake Band also signed. They ceded their lands in the Red River area to the United States under this treaty. Other reservations that share interest with Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are Little Shell Tribe of Montana, Rocky Boy Chippewa-Cree Tribe, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Chippewa Nation and Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation of Manitoba.
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. 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 recognized by federal or state governments.
The Chippewa in the northern tier of the United States have been referred to by other names, including Bungi, Saulteaux, Pembina Band (which includes both Red Bear Band and Little Shell Band), Bois Brule, Michif, Métis, and Chippewa-Cree.
The principal Pembina Chief was Ogimaa Muskomukwa (Chief Red Bear), who was born before 1829 to Clair Ahdicksongab and Name_Not_Given, of the Reindeer Clan on Lake of the Woods. 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. Members of the Red Bear Band have 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 Joseph Montreuil, 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 interpreted said treaty.
Direct descendants of Chief Red Bear reside on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota. They 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 descendant Marty Cobenais (Red Bear) of Red Lake, and lineal descendants Donna Patenaude (Montreuil/Grandboise), Jesse Peltier (Montreuil/Caribeau), Bradley Vervalen-White Buffalo Charging Man (Montreuil/Grandboise), Randy Vondal (Montreuil/Grandboise) and Charles Vondal (Montreuil/Grandboise), all members of the committee holding Headmen 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.
“A group who were disenrolled from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota in the 1890s were then led into Montana by Chief Thomas Little Shell.”
The tribal offices are located in Belcourt, North Dakota. The current Tribal Chairman is local businessman Richard McCloud, who defeated Merle St. Claire in the 2012 tribal election. Merle St. Claire had held office in December 2010.
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. Merle St. Clair, former chairman of the tribe, is also a board member of the Native American Lending Alliance, an association of tribes in the payday loans business. Other participating tribes include the Chippewa Cree, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Santee Sioux Nation of South Dakota.
Delvin Cree, a writer with The Tribal Independent, classified their high rates charged as predatory lending in an opinion piece published on Indianz.com in February 2012. A New York Times article said the tribe charged an annualized rate of 360% on some of its short-term loans.