Who I Am
A Guide To Your Turtle Mountain
Les LaFountain, Orie Richard, and Scott Belgarde
Turtle Mountain Community College
Table of Contents:
Forward by Susan Davis page 3
Introduction page 5
History page 6
Treaties page 12
Heritage page 14
Language page 19
Land page 19
Government page 22
Geography page 27
Institutions page 30
Resources page 40
References page 44
To the People of the Turtle Mountains,
Growing up on Turtle Mountain and leaving here at the age
of 17 to attend college at UND, I was amazed at about how little I
did know about my reservation, my culture and my history. I sat
in classrooms and listened to other students talk about issues--
sometimes Indian issues--and I did not know the answers. I filled
out a BIA scholarship and did not have a clue what BIA was all
about. I went to PHS (public health service hospital) as it was
called back then and again did not understand why “we” went to
an Indian hospital. I heard about treaties but did not know how
they could possibly affect me as they were so far back in history. I
would think, “what is a treaty and what does it mean to me?”
In my home my parents spoke Michif though my dad always
said when I asked, “I speak Cree”. Talk about confusing. I am an
enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Then I
started hearing words like Ojibwa, Ojibway, Anishinaube and I
was like…hmmm? I am confused again. My grandmother Mary
Davis said she was a Michif and would say she spoke Michif.
Because grandma Mary went to boarding school as did my dad
and mom, they rarely spoke about our history. So many questions.
Who am I anyway?
As I looked around the reservation I saw as much confusion
as I had in my head. And I also began to realize that tribal politics
and religion were all affected by who you are and where you came
from and sometimes that problem just created more problems.
Even though we have all these differences with what we identify
with, in many ways we are all so much the same. We do have
common ground and we need to accept that.
As I got older I knew if I ever got the chance I would find a
way to put together that information and present in a way
whereby some of the questions could be answered. When a young
person left Turtle Mountain they would have a reference book of
sorts that describes the different things that make us a tribe but
also unique individuals. There are no right or wrong answers
about who you are. I called this book Who I Am and not Who Am
I because I know deep inside we know who we are--it just takes
some time getting it all sorted out. I hope this handbook helps a
tiny bit with sorting.
Through my job as Director of the Indian Law program at
Turtle Mountain Community College I have been able to get a book
started. The book by no means has all the answers but it is a start.
I was able to find three people who I knew could do the job and
they did their finest. They worked long and hard hours trying to
produce a handbook that would be helpful to our community and
others. I can’t take credit for any of the work done as the credit
goes to Scott Belgarde, Les LaFontain and Orie Richard; I thank
Who I Am(Copyright 2007) was produced and funded by a grant from the Department of Justice. All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission
from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
Who am I? It is a simple question but the answer is never simple. This is
especially true for those of us who are members of the Turtle Mountain Band of
Chippewa. Often we don’t really ask ourselves this question until we leave the
Turtle Mountains for school, for work, for the military, for any of many reasons.
Many times we don’t really think about this question until others ask us about our
homes, our heritage, and our people.
This booklet is designed to help you keep in touch with who you are and
where you came from. It will help you answer the questions you might have and
those questions that might be asked of you by others who do not know about the
Turtle Mountains or its people. This booklet is also to be used as a reference to
keep in touch with home. It is designed to be a valuable source for important
information about your Band and what it means to be a member. It could also
teach you a few things you probably did not know about the Turtle Mountains or
confirm what you have always believed. This booklet is in no way a
comprehensive overview of the Turtle Mountain community, as there is so much
Who are the Pembina Band of Chippewa and how did they originate?
The origins of the Pembina Chippewa are associated with the trading post
established at Pembina in the northeastern corner of North Dakota in 1801. For
many years this post was the focal point for many Chippewa hunting and trading
in the region.
“The Chippewa at the Pembina trading post formed the nucleus for a widely
distributed and segmented group which in many accounts was known up until
1863 as the Pembina Band”(Hickerson, 1956, p. 289),
although the use of the title “Pembina Band” became identified with the
Chippewas that lived, hunted, and traded around the Pembina Fur Trading Post
near the Red and Pembina Rivers in the mid 1700s.
What is the origin of governance for the Turtle Mountain Band of
The Anishinabe/Chippewa/Ojibwa genesis began along the Great Salt Water in
“Many years ago, my Ojibwa ancestors migrated to this area from their original
homeland on the eastern shores of North America” according to Ojibwa elder and
author Benton-Banai(1988, p. 1). Centuries ago the Chippewa, Potawatomie
and Ottawa were called theThree Fires Confederacy, and for a long period these
sub-groups of the Anishinabe were located near the Great Lakes.
Native tribes have always had strong leadership systems and made treaties for
peace or commercial trade. Tribes have always maintained constitutions and
codes to govern themselves, but these doctrines were generally unwritten.
Consequently, the lack of written forms of government led many Euro-Americans
to concoct fallacies of lawless Natives. Ironically, then and now, tribes are
perhaps the most legally and politically organized people in the world.
The chiefs and councils of the Pembina Band of Chippewa engaged in a peace
treaty, called the Sweet Corn Treaty, between the Chippewa and Dakota (Sioux)
in 1858 to cease conflicts over hunting boundaries. This treaty between two
tribes later served as the basis for establishing future treaty boundaries between
the Pembina Band of Chippewa and the United States government. Incidentally,
no legal written document was exchanged relative to the Sweet Corn Treaty but
oral tradition supports the customary process of securing the agreements and
later validating the tribes’ claims with the United States government in
subsequent treaties. According to oral tradition, as an act of solidarity between
the Chippewa and Dakota, a child from each tribe was exchanged to deter the
tribes from going to war with each other.
In 1863, the Pembina Chippewa, Red
Lake Chippewa and U.S. Government
met near a place now called Red Lake
Falls, Minnesota, to negotiate the Old
Crossing Treaty.[as seen left] This
was a legal transaction that resulted in
a peace agreement and land cessions
by the bands in exchange for annuities
and other obligations. Two chiefs,
including Little Shell and Red Bear,
along with warriors, represented the
Pembina Band of Chippewa. Likewise,
chiefs and warriors represented the
Red Lake Band of Chippewa, who in the view of the United States was a
separatesovereign nation despite being a sub-group of the Anishinabe (tribe).
Nearly 9 million acres of land in the Red River Valley of what is now North
Dakota was given up to the United States in exchange for various items identified
in the treaty, which was subject to constitutional review by the U.S. Senate(U.S.
Senate, 1900).The Pembina Band of Chippewa, which was eventually to be
amalgamated with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, still occupied a huge
tract of land in north central North Dakota in the late 1800’s.
In the mid 1880’s, President Chester A. Arthur issued three executive orders or
presidential actions in reference to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The
three executive orders were issued recognizing areserved portion of the lands
occupied by the tribe as a homeland in perpetuity. This was done after two
documented attempts to relocate the tribal population to the White Earth Indian
Reservation in Minnesota and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation of North
Dakota. Consequently, some Turtle Mountain descendents currently inhabit the
White Earth Indian Reservation because the U.S. Government used the annuities
promised in the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863 as incentives for relocation.
The first executive order was issued on December 21, 1882, identifying 20
townships as the boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
However, two years later, President Arthur issued a second order reducing the
size of the reservation from 22 to 2 townships on March 29, 1884(U.S. Senate,
1900, p. 102).The rational for reservation reduction was based on questionable
census data and quandaries over blood quantum. The third order was issued on
June 3, 1884 to remedy an oversight by the federal government regarding the
location of a township adjacent to the US/Canadian international border.
Today, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, which consists of approximately
30,000 tribal citizens, occupies two townships in north central North Dakota,
about 7 miles south of the US/Canadian border.
The McCumber Agreement of 1892 was made with the Turtle Mountain Band of
(Pembina) Chippewa and the U.S. Government. Various exchanges were made
including the tribe relinquishing claim to nearly 10 million acres of Native land in
north central North Dakota. In the process, the traditional government structure
was disrupted by external political influences of the United States.
Principal Chief Little Shell[as seen to the right]
headed up a traditional Grand Council of 24
headmenor advisors of tribal citizens, regardless
of blood quantum status. After a great deal of
trepidation and manipulation, an agreement was
secured under suspicious terms and continues to
cause ill feelings among various tribal groups.
The McCumber Agreement is what we commonly
refer to today as “The Treaty” or “The Ten-Cent
Treaty”; however, the US Congress stopped
making treaties with Indian tribes after 1871, but
continued to make agreements with tribes that
are similar to treaties through Acts of Congress
or Executive Orders. The McCumber Agreement
is one of these, but it is not formally a treaty.
Under protest, Chief Little Shell (III) refused to endorse the terms of the
McCumber Agreement and he ultimately led followers into Montana to pursue the
means of livelihood. As a result of that action, today, several hundred lineal
descendents of the tribe live as the “Landless Indians of Montana.” Politically
they have no indigenous rights, but based on cultural bonds, continue to seek
federal recognition as a separate entity through the U.S. government’s federal
recognition process for tribes.
As a result of the questionable process of coming to terms with
the McCumber Agreement, the traditional tribal form of
government went through a transition. A Committee of 32 was
formed and recognized by the U.S. government, which
specifically called for 16 full bloods and 16 mixed-bloods, and
was headed up by Chief Kakenowash,[as seen on the left]
who maintained that leadership position for many years. In the
1930’s, Tribal Chairman Kanik (also known as Walking with
Thunder) became a leading figure in the governance of the
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Chairman Kanik headed up
an Advisory Council that adopted a written tribal constitution on
October 8, 1932.
Who are the people that have served as a tribal chairman or chairwoman?
•1932-1940 Kanick (Walking with Thunder)
•1940, 1941, 1943, and 1944 Louis Marion
•1942, 1947 Frank Vondal
•1945, 1946, 1948, 1950-1953, Edward (Chick) Jollie
•1949 Norbert Davis
•1954-58, Patrick Gourneau
•1959-61 Louis LaFountain
•1962-1963 Francis Cree
•1964-1965 Andrew Turcotte replaced by Reginald (Tiny) Brien
•1966-1967 Mary Cornelius replaced by Russell Davis, who was
then replaced by Reginald (Tiny) Brien
•1968-1969 Mary Cornelius replaced by Peter Marcellais
•1970-1971 Edwin James Henry succeeded by Gregory LaVallie
•1972-78, 1980-1982, Edwin James Henry
•1978-1980 Wayne Keplin
•1982-88, 1992-1994, 1998-2000 Richard (Jiggers) LaFromboise
•1988-1992, 1994-1996, Twila Martin-Kekahbah
•1996-1998 Melvin Lenoir (Senior) succeeded by Raphael
•2000-2002 Richard Monette replaced by Melvin Mike Lenoir
•2002-2004 Richard Monette succeeded by Leon Morin
•2004-2006 Kenneth W. Davis
•2006-2007 David (Doc) Brien
(Source: Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Tribal Records Department, Peltier,
When did the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa adopt a written
Tribal citizens voted to accept a written constitution on October 8, 1932 and on
December 23, 1932 it was approved by the U. S. Department of the Interior,
Office of Indian Affairs(Rhoads, 1932).
Who was the first Tribal Chairman under the written
constitution of 1932?
Kanick [as seen on the left in 1937] (Rhoads, 1932, p. 1)
What was the name of the governing council in 1932?
It was named the Turtle Mountain Advisory Committee and it was made up of
eight enrolled members.(Rhoads, 1932, p. 1)
When was the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation established?
December 21, 1882, but was reduced in 1884 to the current six by twelve mile
area. The following excerpts are the executive orders issued by the President of
the United States from the Executive Mansion (White House) that recognized the
Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, December 21, 1882.
It is hereby ordered that the following-described country in the
Territory of Dakota, viz: Beginning at a point on the international
boundary where the tenth guide meridian west of the fifth
principal meridian (being the range line between ranges 73 and
74 west of the fifth principal meridian) will, when extended,
intersect said international boundary; thence south on the tenth
guide meridian to the southeast corner of township 161 north,
range 74 west; thence east on the fifteenth standard parallel
north, to the northeast corner of township 160 north, range 74
west; thence south on the tenth guide meridian west to the
southeast corner of township 159 north, range 74 west; thence
east on the line between townships 158 and 159 north to the
southeast corner of township 159 north, range 70 west; thence
north with the line between ranges 69 and 70 west to the
northeast corner of township 160 north, range 70 west; thence
west on the fifteenth standard parallel north to the southeast
corner of township 161 north, range 70 west; thence north on
the line between ranges 69 and 70 west to the international
boundary; thence west on the international boundary to the
place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, withdrawn from
sale and settlement and set apart for the use and occupancy of
the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewas and such other Indians
of the Chippewa tribe as the Secretary of the Interior may see fit
to settle thereon (Kappler, 1904, p. 885).
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
Why is the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation only two townships (6 by 12
Originally the reservation consisted of 20 townships in 1882,
but it was reduced apparently because of the arguable status
over half bloods being eligible citizens of the tribe. Thus, in
1884, President Chester Arthur[as seen on the right] issued
two executive orders reducing the size of the reservation to
two townships that are known today as the townships of
Ingebretson and Couture.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, March 29, 1884.
It is hereby ordered that the tract of country in the Territory of
Dakota withdrawn from sale and settlement and set apart for
the use and occupancy of the Turtle Mountain band of
Chippewa Indians by Executive order dated December 21,
1882, except townships 162 and 163 north, range 71 west, be,
and the same is hereby, restored to the mass of the public
domain (Kappler, 1904, p. 885).
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, June 3, 1884.
The Executive order dated March 29, 1884, whereby certain
lands in the Territory of Dakota previously set apart for the use
and occupancy of the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa
Indians were, with the exception of townships 162 and 163
north, range 71 west, restored to the mass of the public domain,
is hereby amended so as to substitute township 162 north,
range 70 west, for township 163 north, range 71 west, the
purpose and effect of such amendment being to withdraw from
sale and settlement and set apart for the use and occupancy of
said Indians said township 162 north, range 70 west, in lieu of
township 163 north, range 71 west, which last-mentioned
township is thereby restored to the mass of the public domain
(Kappler, 1904, p. 885).
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
How are Indian reservations created?
It varies; some were created by treaties, acts of Congress, or executive orders.
The Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation was established by executive orders of
President Chester A. Arthur in 1882, and 1884.
Did the federal government give the Indians of the Turtle Mountains a
No, the tribe “reserved” the current reservation, which was originally a portion of
the other ten million acres, ceded (given up) to the U.S. Government in 1905
under the McCumber Agreement.
How many treaties or agreements have the Turtle Mountain Band
of (Pembina) Chippewa made with the United States?
Two, the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863[commemorated above] and
the McCumber Agreement (“Ten-cent Treaty”) of 1892.
What is a treaty?
Treaties are formal agreements between the US Government and sovereign
nations, including Indian tribes according to the US Constitution, Article II.
Treaties are negotiated by the Executive Branch (the President) and are ratified
by US Senate. The US Government stopped making treaties with Indian tribes in
What is the “Treaty” or “LePay”?
The McCumber Agreement is what is usually referred to as “The Treaty” or “Le
Pay” in which the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa gave up a large portion of
what is now north central ND in return for certain benefits, including a payment
that amounted to ten cents per acre, giving the agreement another nickname of
the “Ten Cent Treaty.” The money wasn’t paid out until the Turtle Mountain Band
of Chippewa went to court and forced a settlement in 1980. The payout of the
monies were started in 1988 and continued until the last person who was alive
when the settlement was reached turned 18 years of age. The last payment was
made in 1998.
For a copy of the McCumber Agreement and the other treaties, go to:
The Treaty of Prairie du Chein of 1825
This treaty was to bring peace primarily between the Chippewa and Dakota
(though other tribes also signed, it also served as a source document for later
treaties between the United States government and these tribes(Kappler, 1904,
p. 1).The name comes from the French words for prairie dog, which once was
abundant on the Great Plains.
Who negotiated the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863?
Articles of a treaty made and concluded at the Old Crossing of Red Lake
River, in the State of Minnesota, on the second day of October, in the year
eighteen hundred and sixty-three, between the United States of America,
by their commissioners, Alexander Ramsey and Ashley C. Morrill, agent for
the Chippewa Indians, and the Red Lake and Pembina bands of
Chippewas; by their chiefs, head-men, and warriors(Kappler, 1904, p.
Who signed (an “X” mark endorsement, which were commonly used
by Indians) the Old Crossing Treaty representing the Pembina
Chippewa, after amendments to original treaty was made by the U.S.
Government in April 1864?
Principal Pembina chief, Mis-co-muk-quah (Red Bear), Pembina headman, Tebish-
co-ge-shick (Equal Sky), Pembina warrior, I-inge-e-gaun-abe, (Wants
Feathers)(Kappler, 1904, p. 862).
Anishinabemeans “the first or original people”, it is the Anishinabe name for
ourselves. The spelling of Anishinabe has many variants including whether
the name is singular or plural, or depending on which tribe or band is using
the name. For example, the following are some of the variant usages:
Anishinabeg, Anicinape, Anishinaabeg, Anishinabek, or the slang word
Michifis a phonetic spelling of the Métis denoting of mixed heritage, usually
Chippewa, Cree and French but other ethnic diversity is also included.
Saulteauxis another name of the Chippewa, and the word is a French term
meaning "people of the rapids," referring to a former tribal home site at
present day Sault Ste. Marie.
Ojibweand Chippewa refer to the people originally called Anishinabe, the
word itself means, "puckering," probably referring to their characteristic
moccasin style worn by the Anishinabe.
Creeis the name of a tribe of North American Indians that live in various
areas from the Rocky Mountains to near the Atlantic Ocean in both Canada
and United States.
Ethnic Diversityhas a long standing history among the Turtle Mountain
Band of Chippewa. The most obvious ethnic influence is French. Many tribal
members have ancestors who trace their heritage to the province of Quebec,
Canada. Early intermarriages took place among the French with the
Chippewa and Cree Indians dating back to the early 1700’s. Thus, many
Turtle Mountain family surnames are identified as French, for examples:
Azure, LaFromboise, Desjarlet, and Parisien, etc. are common among tribal
enrolled members and or descendents. However, early governmental
enrollment documents record three names, including Chippewa or Cree,
French, and English names. In fact, the community of Belcourt is a French
name referencing the Catholic priest Father George A. Belcourt who lived and
travelled among the tribe’s people on buffalo hunts throughout the open
In addition, some tribal members have ancestral connections to countries in
the Middle East, such as Syria, and Lebanon. While other tribal members
share ancestral lineage to African-American, Hispanic, Germanic, Scottish,
Irish, and other ethic traditions.
Chippewa ceremonies and social customs:
What kind of Pow Wows do the
The Chippewa have held Pow
Wow celebrations or social
gatherings for centuries. These
Pow Wows were primarily social
events where the participants
shared dances, ceremonies, food,
and camaraderie. Some Pow
Wows are organized to pay cash to
all participants, while others pay
only dance and drum category
winners. In recent times the Pow Wows continued to maintain some traditions
while adapting to new customs. For example many traditions are interwoven into
specific ceremonies still performed at competition Pow Wows, such as “naming”,
“whistle-blowers”, “first-time dancers”, and others. Today, the Turtle Mountain
Band of Chippewa has two main Pow Wow arbors-- the Little Shell Pow Wow
arbor in Dunseith, ND and the Eagle Heart Pow Wow arbor located west of
Belcourt, ND. In historical times, the Pow Wow arbor was made with small trees
trunks, covered with fresh tree top branches and leaves to provide a shaded
covering for dancers and spectators. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
also has several lodges, including Teaching and Sundance Lodges.
What Native ceremonies are practiced on or near the Turtle Mountain
Many Native ceremonies are practiced by individuals and families. For example,
sweat lodgeceremonies and pipe ceremonies are conducted by persons given
that right by spiritual leaders. The Alcohol and Drug treatment programs use this
ceremony to help those with addictions who are seeking sobriety and healing.
Give-awaysare celebrations of thanksgiving and honor sponsored by individuals
and their families to bestow gratitude for an accomplishment or period of
endurance, such as military service, graduation, birth of a child, or at the end of
the grieving period for the death of a relative.
What are the seven teachings of the Anishinabe?
The guiding principles of life, which the Anishinabe strive for, as recorded by
Edward Benton-Banai in the Mishomis Book, are wisdom, love, respect, bravery,
honesty, humility, and truth. The following inscriptions referring to the Seven
Teachings are noted on metal plaques embedded in concrete pillars at the
entrance of the Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt, ND.
1. To cherish knowledge is to knowwisdom.
2. To knowlove is to know peace.
3. To honor all creation is to haverespect.
4.Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave.
5.Bravery is to face the foe with integrity.
6.Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of creation.
7.Truth is to know all these things.
What are the original clans of the Anishinabe?
Ojibwa author Basil Johnston, offered the following in the book Ojibwa Heritage,
“Originally there were five totems representing the five needs of the people and
the five elementary functions of society. Later others were added.
Below is a partial list of Anishinabeg clans as identified by Johnston(Johnston,
1990, p. 60):
•Leadership: Chejauk (crane)
•Defense: Noka (bear) (pronounced Makwa in the Turtle Mountains)
•Sustenance: Waubizhaezh (marten)
•Learning: Mizi (catfish)
•Medicine: Makinauk (turtle)
However, Benton Banai’s(1988, p.74) of the Lac Court Oriellas Band of the
Ojibway Tribe gives the following account of the clan origins in his book called
The Book of Mishomis: “There are seven original o-do-i-daym’-i-wug (clans),”
including thecrane, loon, fish, bear, martin, deer, and bird.” Each of the clans
functioned to serve the people. “The crane and loon clans were given the power
of chieftainship. Between the two chief clans stood the fish clan. The fish clan
was made up of the intellectuals of the people. The bear clan served as the
police force of the people. The martin clan served as the warrior clan for the
people. The deer clan was known as the clan of gentle people. The bird
clan…represented the spiritual leaders of the people.”
What are some stories
and teachings in the
Many tribes taught the lessons of
life through a principal teacher
commonly referred to as a
trickster. The trickster for the
Anishinabe (Chippewa/ Ojibwa) is
Nanabozho, although various
dialectical articulations are used
especially among the tribes and
bands of the Great Lakes region,
including Winabozho, Nanabush
and other variations. The Anishinabe, and many Northeastern tribes, commonly
visualized the “trickster” as a rabbit character.
Nanabozo “has been looked upon as kind of a hero by the Ojibway,” according to
Benton-Banai(1988, p. 31). As the principal teacher Nanabozho insured the
survival of the Anishinabe for generations.
In addition, to the Nanabozho, the cultural heritage of the Turtle Mountain Band
of Chippewa is enriched with multi-ethnic traditions. Many tribal citizens were
once fluent speakers in several Native and European languages. This
multilingual heritage contributed to the teachings of Wishekaychak, the Cree
trickster. Wishekaychak stories generally begin with the image of a wandering
and hungry old man. Again, spellings of the title vary depending on the dialectic
and location of the Cree speaker. However, many of the Wishekaychak and
Nanabozho themes are comparable.
The rich folklore associated with the Turtle Mountain region includes other
characters like the Michif CheJohn, a half-witted and mischievous male figure.
The French Catholic Christian influnces are identified, especially during the
Lenton period, with the Le Rou-ga-roo, who was a milder version of the French
werewolf. It was common for stories to be told about a handsome man entering a
dance hall and seducing a vulnerable woman, upon leaving the bystanders would
identify Le rou-ga-roo by an exposed tail or hooves. Sometimes Le Rou-ga-roo
would take on the image of a large black dog.
What are the Michif dances?
The Michif (also known as “Metis” in Canada) dances included European style
jigs, quadrilles, waltzes and reels, with elements of Native steps incorporated to
What is a bush dance?
The bush dance was an event
held in the home of local person
on or near the Turtle Mountain
Indian Reservation. The host
removed most of their furniture
from their relatively small cabin
to make room for the expected
company of neighbors, friends,
and family members, who
would dance to fiddle music and share merriment, usually from dusk to dawn.
These types of gatherings were common through the 1960s.
How was a bush dance organized?
One version of this tradition was to have a local person host the bush dance, by
obtaining a cake or other token from the current host, which indicted that the next
bush dance would voluntarily be the responsibility of the person holding the cake
or token at the end of the current dance.
What are bundles?
The “bundles” referred to the packaged cloth bags made from an excess garment
of miscellaneous used clothing. They sold for minimal amounts of money
(perhaps at the time about 5 cents each) by the local St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
The St. Ann’s Benedictine nuns operated a second-hand store offering donated
clothing and other items. Many local tribal members and some non-tribal
members frequently competed rather vigorously to purchase large quantities of
What languages have been commonly used in our reservation community?
Different languages have been spoken in our community. The most commonly
used languages are English, Anishinabe, Cree, French, and Michif (a blend of
Anishinabe, Cree, and French). Your parents may have only spoken English. In
years past, adults spoke their languages quite commonly especially in their home
and with relatives and friends. There was no dominant language here. Instead,
there are four commonly used languages: English, Chippewa, Cree, and French.
Depending where you live and what your grandparents spoke usually determined
what languages you heard. Today the most commonly used language is English
followed by Michif, then Cree and then Chippewa.
A few common phrases:
English Michif Anishinabe
Hello/Hi Tánishi or boñjour Boozho or Anean
How are you? Tánishi kiya? Aaniin
Come over here Áshtum óta Ambe
Hazel Nuts Pucons Bagaan
Sneaky Keemooch Giimoozikaw (to sneak
Thank You Merci Megwich
Grandma Kokum Nookomis
What are land rights?
Although we often speak of people “owning land”, in an American legal context it
is more correct to say that people have obtained rights to inhabit and use land.
American jurisprudence has slowly evolved to consider property as not the
physical object but as a
“bundle of rights”
composed as legal
relationships such as
the “right to sell” or
“right to devise”.
Usually, these rights or
legal relations have
economic or sale value
if they are allowed to
Although native people
may treat and use the
land differently, the
concept that people
inhabit but do not own
the land is also found in Native American culture. “Some of our chiefs make the
claim that the land belongs to us. It is not what the Great Spirit told me. He told
me that the land belongs to him, that no people owns the land…” Kanekuk,
Kickapoo Prophet(Indian Land Tenure, 2002/2007, n.p.)
What is Land in Trust or Federal Trust Land?
Land in Trust or Federal Trust land is Indian-owned land, the title to which is held
in trust and protected by the federal government. Indian people and tribes have
use of the land, but ultimate control of the land remains with the federal
government(Indian Land Tenure, 2002/2007, n.p.)
What is an allotment?
The General Allotment Act of 1887, also referred to as the Dawes Act or the
Dawes Severalty Act, authorized the President of the United States to survey
Native American communal lands and divide the areas into allotments for
individual Native American families or persons. It was enacted February 8, 1887,
and named for its sponsor, U.S. Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts. The
Act was amended in 1891 and again in 1906 by the Burke Act. The act remained
in effect until 1934. The allotments originally consisted of 40 to 160 acres in size.
Today, many of the Turtle Mountain allotments are highly fractionated or divided
among numerous heirs. There are stories of several hundred heirs to a single
allotment in places such as Turtle Mountain and Western North Dakota and
What are “Fee Simple Lands” or “Taxable Lands”?
Land status is broken down into categories:
Tribal Trust Landis land for which the US Government holds the
title in trust for an individual member of the tribe or for the tribe
Restricted Landis land the title to which is held by an individual
member of the tribe or the tribe itself which can only be
encumbered by the owner with the permission of the BIA.
Fee Simple or Taxable Landis land that is subject to ND State
property taxes owned by an individual member of the tribe or a nonmember.
Owning Fee Simple lands is most
basic form of ownership. The owner
holds title and control of the property.
The owner may make decisions
about the most common land use or
sale without government oversight.
In Indian country, however, whether
the owner of fee simple land is
Indian or non-Indian is a factor in
deciding who has jurisdiction over
the land. Due to the checker
boarding of Indian reservations,
different governing authorities - such
as county, state, federal, and tribal governments – may claim the authority to
regulate, tax, or perform various activities within reservation borders based on
whether a piece of land is Indian or non-Indian owned. These different claims to
jurisdictional authority often conflict. The case law relevant to jurisdiction on
these lands is complex and on some points inconsistent and unsettled.(Indian
Land Tenure, 2002/2007, n.p.).
What is fractionated land?
Fractionated land is an allotment owned by more than one owner. As these
owners died, the ownership in the land would again be divided among their
relatives, thus compounding over and over the number of ownership interests in
a parcel of land. These single pieces of land often have hundreds of owners,
which makes it difficult for any one of the owners to use the land (i.e. for farming
or building a home). By law, a majority of owners must agree to a particular use
of land(Indian Land Tenure, 2002/2007, n.p.).
How can I find out if I have inherited some interest in fractionated land?
If you inherited an interest in fractionated land, you should have been notified
through the probate processing of that interest. However, if you have not been
notified and you suspect this is due to some error in the process, contact the
superintendent of the Turtle Mountain Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,
located in Belcourt, ND.(Indian Land Tenure, 2002/2007, n.p.).
What are the requirements to be an enrolled member of the tribe?
Membership in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa requires a one-quarterblood
quantum of Indian blood. (This is due to federal law and not the beliefs or
traditions of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.) The enrollment
office of the Turtle Mountain Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Belcourt,
ND, maintains the enrollment rolls for the tribe and is responsible for providing
documentation of one’s enrollment and for issuing Indian tribal membership
How many total enrolled members (citizens) comprise the Turtle Mountain
Band of Chippewa?
As of March 27, 2007, the total enrollment was 29,926.
(personal communication, Marion, 2007).
Did the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa have chiefs?
Yes, prior to 1932 band leaders held the title of “Chief.” One of the last persons
to hold the title of “Chief” was Chief Kakenowash, and prior to him three
hereditary Chiefs by the name of Little Shell represented the band, along with
two hereditary Chiefs named Red Bear. Though others were referred to as
“Chiefs”, none were recognized as official.
How has the traditional government changed?
In 1891, a committee of sixteen mixed bloods and sixteen full bloods, called the
Committee of 32, replaced the traditional Grand Council of 24 members under
the hereditary leadership of Chief Little Shell(U.S. Senate, 1900)
When did the title of Chief change to Chairman?
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa changed the title fromChief to Chairman
with the 1932 adoption of new written constitution. Under this new constitution,
the advisory government was lead by Chairman Kanick (Walking With Thunder).
All succeeding leaders continued to useChairman as their executive title.
What is the extent of the jurisdiction of the Turtle Mountain Band of
The Turtle Mountain
jurisdiction over the
6 miles (northsouth)
by 12 miles
over lands acquired
for it and held in
trust by the US
includes lands in
Dakota and eastern
Montana that was
assigned to Turtle
Mountain members by treaty or agreement. There wasn’t enough land within the
6-mile by 12-mile reservation boundaries to give 180 acres to each male over 18
years of age, and so land off the reservation was allotted them. Many tribal
members, however, did not wish to leave their homelands, or could not for
economic reasons. As a result many sold their allotments sight unseen. Still
others found it difficult to keep track of their lands hundreds of miles away and
were taken advantage of by many interests (their lands were used without their
permission or their mineral rights were ignored.) With the passing of time, many
of these allotments became fractionated. Fractionation occurs when a section of
land is owned by a large number of individuals, usually through the original
owners dying without a will, or with a large number of heirs. Through repetitions
of this process, the land becomes owned by hundreds of people, becoming
virtually unmanageable. This also makes it easier for outside interests to take
advantage of not having one or a small group of owners to manage their land.
How is Trenton Indian Service Area (TISA) affiliated to the Turtle Mountain
Band of Chippewa?
There are approximately 1500 citizens that live in the community of Trenton, ND.
They are enrolled members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
How did the Trenton Indian Service Area originate?
Because there wasn’t enough land to give 180 acres to each member of the
band over the age of 18 years, land away from the reservation was allotted to the
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Tribal members living on allotments in
western North Dakota and eastern Montana become identified as the Trenton
Indian community. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa passed Ordinance
Number 28-A in 1981, authorizing the formation of a tribal organization called the
Trenton Indian Service Area (TISA), which includes the counties of Williams,
Divide, and McKenzie in North Dakota, and in Sheridan, Roosevelt, and Richland
Does TISA have a governing council?
Yes, the TISA Board of Directors consists of seven (7) governing members. Each
of TISA’s three (3) districts elects two (2) directors, and one chairperson is
elected at large.
Can the tribal citizens (members) of TISA vote in the tribal elections of the
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa?
Yes, refer to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa constitution for details. TISA
members may vote in state and national elections, and in TISA and TMBCI
elections. This make TISA a perhaps the only entity in the nation with this
political status, whereby citizens (members) are governed by a board (TISA)
within a tribe (TMBCI), within a state (ND) and nation (USA).
Who are the Little Shell Band of Pembina?
The Little Shell Band of Pembina were founded by Ronald Delorme who
renounced his membership in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. They are
primarily based in North Dakota (around the Walhalla region) and in Washington
(state), but members can be found across the nation. The group has split into
two competing factions, each using the same name. They claim to be a
sovereign Native American tribe, but are not recognized by the US Government.
They claim they are not subject to the laws of the United States and have
become involved with anti-government groups such as the “sovereign citizen
movement” and white supremacist groups.
They use the internet, videos, fax solicitations and seminars to promote
themselves and their activities, activities that include issuing bogus license
plates, insurance fraud schemes, tax evasion, and passport fraud. The Little
Shell Band of Pembina have allowed anyone, regardless of ancestry, to become
a member of the group, opening the door for a variety of anti-government figures
to join (for a fee) and claim membership in the "sovereign" Little Shell Band. As a
result, Little Shell Band activity spread around the country. The Little Shell Band
has more than 60 documented members, with probably a hundred more not yet
identified. People have joined from around the country, with larger numbers in
North Dakota, the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. Most of the
members are an eclectic and unusual collection of anti-government activists.
Who are the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana?
Headquartered in Great Falls, Montana, this band of the Chippewa Tribe is a
state-recognized tribe without a designated reservation in Montana. There are
over 4,000 enrolled members within the state, many of which live in the Great
Falls and surrounding area. The tribe is currently petitioning for federal
recognition, but isnot yet a federally recognized tribe. For more than 100 years
the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa have been landless Indians. The federal
recognition, which they seek, would enable the tribe and its members to qualify
for government services and aid such as education and health-care funding. The
Little Shell Tribe members claim to be descendents of the Turtle Mountain Band
of Chippewa, with their ancestors following Chief Little Shell into Montana
following the controversial negotiations of the McCumber Agreement in 1892.
Consequently, the Little Shell Tribe continues to petition the United States for
federal recognition. For more information about the Little Shell Tribe contact their
official web site below.
Little Shell Tribal Council
P.O. Box 1384, 1807 3rd Street NW #35A
Great Falls, MT 59403
406-452-2892, Fax: 406-452-2982
What makes up the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal government?
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians consists of a Tribal Council (that
includes a Tribal Chairman) and a Tribal Court system. The Tribal Council must
meet at least once a month and all its meetings are constitutionally required to be
open to the public unless they are discussing protected personnel information or
confidential business contracts. The Tribe is supported by Federal funds and by
a percentage of profits of the SkyDancer Casino. The tribe also gains revenue
from various Tribal programs that charge fees and interest from treaty funds.
How does the tribal government make laws?
The Tribal Council passes resolutions that require the Chairman’s signature in
order to become valid, much like the US Congress passes bills that require the
President’s signature to become law. The Chairman can veto what the Council
passes, but the Council can override a veto if at least five of them disagree with
the Chairman’s veto.
What is the Tribal Constitution?
The Turtle Mountain Tribal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It can
only be changed by a vote of the people. Changes to the constitution are called
amendments. The Tribal Code is a collection of laws that can be changed by the
Tribal Council without the vote of the people. The Council can pass an ordinance
to add to, or to change the Tribal Code and it can do so without a vote of the
people, but any such ordinance change or addition comes into effect only after
the public is given a 30 day notice in which they can make comments on the
proposed change or addition.
For a copy of the Constitution for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa,
What taxes do members of the TMBCI have to pay?
All enrolled members of the tribe have to pay all federal taxes, including federal
income tax. Enrolled members who live on the reservation and work on the
reservation do not have to pay North Dakota income taxes. North Dakota sales
taxes do not apply on the reservation. As of 2007, the Tribe is negotiating with
the state of North Dakota to end the collection of state gas taxes on the
reservation. As a sovereign nation, the Tribe can impose taxes on the
reservation, but as of 2007, has chosen not to.
Why are they called “the Turtle Mountains”?
There are several
theories as to how the
name “Turtle Mountains”
came about. One
account is that when
viewed from the south,
the hills appear as a
turtle on the horizon with
the head pointed west
and the tail pointed east.
Another account was
that it was named after
an Ojibwa Indian named
“Makinak” (turtle) who
walked the length of the
hills in just one day. Yet another theory is that the hills get their name from the
abundant numbers of turtles in the region.
What is the terrain of the Turtle Mountains like?
The Turtle Mountains are approximately 600 to 800 feet higher than the
surrounding plains. As a result they receive more precipitation than the
neighboring grasslands. This increased availability of water enables the hills to
be forested. The modern Turtle Mountains contain hundreds of lakes, ponds,
and sloughs. The Turtle Mountains straddle the border between the US and
Canada and occupy an area of nearly a thousand square miles.
What trees and bushes are found in the Turtle Mountains?
Trees that make up the forests include aspen, black poplar, ash, birch, box elder,
elm and bur oak. Bushes like hazel, chokecherry, Saskatoon, dogwood, high
bush cranberry and pincherry also make the Turtle Mountain their home.(John
Bluemle ND Geological Survey http://www.nd.gov/ndgs/NDNotes/ndn15-h.htm)
How were the Turtle Mountains created geologically?
The Turtle Mountains were formed from sediment deposited from glaciers
retreating after the last ice age as a glacier that formed Lake Agassiz retreated.
The Turtle Mountains were free from ice before the surrounding areas, making it
the first area in the region to be inhabited by animals and humans.(John
Bluemle ND Geological Surveyhttp://www.nd.gov/ndgs/NDNotes/ndn15-h.htm)
What animals are found in the Turtle
Animals that currently make the Turtle
Mountains their home include deer, raccoons,
red squirrels, gophers, rabbits, moose, the
occasional black bear, bobcat, and mountain
lion, muskrats, beavers, skunks, porcupines,
turtles, salamanders, garter snakes, frogs,
ducks, geese, and other birds, as well as insects like the mosquito, ants, and
ticks. With the coming of the Europeans, the Turtle Mountains now also are
home to dogs, cats, cattle and horses.
1 Bunagee’s Corner
2 Azure’s Store
3 Jackrabbit Road
4 Fish Lake
5 Windmill corner
6 Green Acres Housing
7 Eagleview Housing
8 Shell Valley Housing
9 Crick Housing
10 South Cluster Housing
11 North Dunseith Housing
12 East Dunseith Housing
13 St. Benedict’s Church
14 SkyDancer Casino
15 St. Anthony’s Church
16 Ojibwa Millennium School
17 San Haven
18 Tribal Headquarters
19 Turtle Mountain Community College
20 Fish Lake Road
What is the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
The Turtle Mountain Tribe has existed as an autonomous government within the
United States because early treaties recognized the Band’s sovereignty. The
United States government promised “health, education, and welfare” in exchange
for aboriginal lands. This unique relationship gives rise to several institutions that
manage these services including the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian
Heath Service. These institutions are the major employers on the reservation,
with over 600 teachers, nurses, bus drivers, mechanics, road workers, janitors,
cooks, policemen and others.
[Turtle Mountain Agency of the BIA, 1938]
The United States Department of Interior funds the Bureau of Indian Affairs to
manage the trust assets of the nation’s over 500 tribes. There are 12 Area
Offices nationwide, responsible for recording, collecting and investing revenue
generated by tribal treaties, lands and minerals. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has
an Area Office at Aberdeen South Dakota, which serves the entire area of North
Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of Minnesota.
In the Great Plains Region, the Turtle Mountain Agency is responsible for the
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. It estimates that the total enrollment of the
Band, (including those in the Trenton Indian Service Area) will reach 30,000 by
mid-summer of 2007.(http://www.doi.gov/facts.html)
What are the functions of the local BIA Agency?
The Turtle Mountain Agency is responsible for the land holdings of the Turtle
Mountain Chippewa and individual members, about 80,000 acres, with an equal
amount managed by the B.I.A. Agency in Billings, MT. Its mission is developing
forestlands, leasing assets on these lands, directing agricultural programs,
protecting water and land rights, developing and maintaining infrastructure and
economic development. It oversees about 600 federal employees in the local
schools, hospital, road and police departments.(personal communication with
[Turtle Mountain Agency of the BIA, 2007]
A Deputy Superintendent assists the Agency Superintendent for Trust Services
(Forestry and Fire, Natural Resources, Probate and Real Estate) and a Deputy
Superintendent for Indian Services (Property, Facilities, Human Services, Job
Placement, Probation, Transportation, Tribal Operations and Self-Determination).
It also provides education for approximately 3,300 students in Rolette County.
(BIA/Turtle Mt. Agency Superintendent’s Meeting Handbook, August 18, 2005.)
What terms were commonly used to identify the BIA Superintendent?
The BIA superintendent’s title has also been referred to as “farmer-in-charge,”
“boss-farmer,” and “Indian agent.” Most of these terms were used in the past,
especially before 1950.
Can Native Americans be BIA Superintendents?
Yes, although through most of U.S. History, non-Native Americans held these
posts. It was not until after Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, that Native
Americans were given preference for jobs within the BIA, and other federal
What is a BIA 638-contract?
The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 allowed
tribes to "contract" to provide some of the services the BIA provides, including
school systems and law enforcement. This allowed additional employment
opportunities to tribes.
What are the Service Area’s distinctions?
TMBCI is one of few Indian tribes in the country who allow the BIA to record their
membership. The Tribe is also a “non-IRA” tribe, rejecting the Indian
Reorganization Act in favor of tribal law and a tribal constitution. The Tribal
Council has resolved that it does not need BIA approval to amend its own
constitution, a necessary step in Bureau regulations.
In 2005, the Turtle Mountain Agency estimated that there were 14,584 enrolled
members who were unemployed, ages 16 through 64, resulting in 65.7%
unemployment.(BIA/TMA Labor Market Report, 2005)
To combat the historically high unemployment rates in Indian Country, each
Agency’s Employment Assistance Office offers vocational scholarships, and the
local Credit Office will give Loan Guarantees for some small businesses. The
Social Service Office accepts some 600 clients each month for “general
What is the Indian Health Service?
Native Americans are guaranteed health care services if they live on or near an
Indian reservation. Urban natives can locate off-reservation clinics, but the entire
federal program is historically under-funded. The local service unit of the Indian
Health Service (IHS) serves Rolette County and covers approximately 938
What does the local IHS offer?
The Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Health
Care Facility[as seen on the left],
occupied in 1994, employs
approximately 250 people, with around
another 50 positions vacant. The
Service Unit Director is in charge of the
hospital and clinic, as well as a kidney
dialysis unit, a cancer care clinic,
eyeglass center and transportation. The
facility provides 29 beds in the hospital,
an emergency room with air ambulance
landing pad, and a new clinic that
serves over 200 outpatients per day. The pharmacy fills over 500 prescriptions
per day, while the dental clinic serves 30 to 40 patients per day.
The many vacant positions are due to the critical shortage of doctors willing to
relocate their practice to North Dakota. Much of the hospital’s resources spent on
transportation and costs associated with contract health care at the state’s larger
hospitals. Individuals who have health related degrees have the option of joining
the IHS as civil servants or as commissioned officers in the Public Health Service
(PHS). These professionals fill much of the local need by serving short periods of
employment, from three to six months. The IHS also has 20 homes and 30
apartments available for staff quarters.
The earliest IHS building was an old army barracks set up in 1914, followed by a
two-story, brick building erected in 1931[as seen below]. The front unit of the
present facility was built in 1966, and still houses the current hospital wing.
What other names are used for Indian governing entities?
Besides tribes, titles such as confederated/affiliated tribes, rancherias, pueblos,
or nations are common names for federally recognized tribal governments.
How many federally recognized Indian tribes exist today?
The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs records over 300 groups
mostly in the lower 48 states, and another approximately 200 Native Alaskan
How many people does the government of the Turtle Mountain Band of
The Tribe employs about 450 people at the casino and other tribal operations
and programs. It sets policy, approves budgets and seeks grants and contracts,
while complying with many federal mandates including the Indian Child Welfare
Act (adoptions approved by the tribe), and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
(governing compacts with the state).
The Turtle Mountain Tribal Court, Appellate Court and Law Enforcement are
operated under BIA 638-contracts. An Alernative and Drug Court are also
available. Other 638 contracts include Land Survey, Forestry, Fire,
Transportation Planning, Janitorial, Home Improvement, Family Services,
Noxious Weeds, Dam Safety, Water Resources, and Fish/Wildlife/Parks.
Tribal Budgets are split between Tribal, Federal and State Funds. Some federal
funds come from the Department of Justice (Equipment, COPS, Personnel,
Domestic Violence, STOP grant, Court Enhancement, Drug Court), the
Environmental Protection Agency Region VIII, (Water Quality, Brownsfield), and
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Block Grant, Disaster,
Facilities, Indian Home, Preservation). The Master Health Program augments the
IHS service budget. The Headstart Program, BIA educational programs, and
Fines and Fees collections comprise other large parts of the tribal budget.
The Turtle Mountain Housing Authority employs 98 people and provides some
1,500 homeownership units and another 300 rental units distributed in the 15
housing sites in and around the reservation. Currently, the TMHA is a Tribally
Designated Housing Authority for Native American Housing Assistance and Self
Determination Act (NAHASDA). TMHA also operates a Retirement Home, lowrent
elderly units, and a senior center in St. John.
Tribal funds include profits from
tribal businesses, including
SkyDancer Casino, which began
as a small room adjacent to the
tribal bowling alley, in 1992. It
offered blackjack, slot machines
and pull-tabs. An interim building
that now serves as the Tribal
Headquarters housed the casino
from 1993 to 2004. An adjacent
“sprung” building was also
erected and still serves today as
the Bingo Palace.
Today, the hotel/casino complex[see above] has 495 slot machines, table
games, dice, roulette, simulcast horseracing, and a restaurant and bar. It
employs 320 people. Live horse races are also held at Chippewa Downs
racetrack during the first three weeks in June.
Some of the Tribe’s other businesses include the Turtle Mountain Manufacturing
Company, Uniband data processing, DynaBand call center, Home Media
Technologies and Chippewa Tribal Industries. The tribe also operates a public
utilities station, a motor vehicle department (with tribal license plates), a day care,
two fitness centers, women’s and youth shelters, a radio station, a newspaper,
and garbage transfer station. The Northwest Area Foundation Pathways to
Prosperity grant ($10 million over 10 years to 2016) is helping to reduce poverty.
What are the schools in the community?
In 1882, a federal act authorized the use of any abandoned military facilities for
the education of Indian children. Many Belcourt children were forced into
boarding schools at Fort Totten and Wahpeton, North Dakota, and Marty,
Flandreau and Pierre, South Dakota, Chemawa, Oregon and boarding schools in
[Wahpeton Indian School Students 1956]
Later, a number of one or two-room day schools were opened including Roussin
School, Houle School and Shell Valley schools. By 1914, the schools offered
freshmen and sophomore high school classes.
Currently, the BIA operates three schools: The Turtle Mountain Community
Elementary School, the Turtle Mountain Middle School and the Dunseith Day
School. The Turtle Mountain Tribe administers 638-contracts to operate the
Turtle Mountain Community High School and the Ojibwa Indian School.
Turtle Mountain Middle Schooloperates as a Public Law 95-561 school with a
five member governing board. In the near future, the students in grades 6
through 8 will occupy the current high school.
Turtle Mountain Community High
Schoolis operated by the Tribe
under a Public Law 638-contract with
the BIA, through the auspices of the
Belcourt School Board. The high
school is a Public Law 100-297 tribal
grant school with a nine member
governing board, which address
policy issues for the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, a federal agency. A new
facility[as seen left] will house the
9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students
in the fall of 2007.
In addition, the Turtle Mountain Community Schools have a state district school
board that sets policy for the elementary, middle, and high school to maintain
compliance with state law. The state district governing board consists of seven
members. Thus, the TMCS system has an integrated governing organization of
The Ojibwa Indian School:The Ojibwa Indian School is a Public Law 100-297
tribal grant school and operates under a seven member governing board. The
new Ojibwa Millennium School is located west of Belcourt near the site of the old
Sister’s Convent and tribal racetrack. The new campus will house Kindergarten
through 8th grades, beginning in the fall of 2007, with hopes of providing high
school classes to its 282 students (enrollment as of 2005). OIS is also a tribal
The Dunseith Day Schoolis a Bureau of Indian Affairs institution that operates
as a Public Law 95-561 school with a five member governing board.
Turtle Mountain Community
Collegewas founded in 1972.
Originally located on Main Street
Belcourt, it moved to its current
new facility in 1999. TMCC
overlooks Fish (Belcourt) Lake, and
incorporates the Seven Teachings
into campus architecture. The
main building is shaped as a
thunderbird, with 33 classrooms,
an 800-seat auditorium, a
gymnasium, weight room and
track, and parking for 1,000. In
addition to the 26 associate
degrees offered at TMCC, Bachelor of Science degrees in Early Childhood
Education and Secondary Science are offered. Also, on-site degrees through the
University of Mary are offered in Business Administration. The collection of
buildings on main street in Belcourt that served as the Old Campus now house
the Building Trades, G.E.D. program, Print Shop, Substance Abuse Prevention,
and other programs. The primary campus is located on the south shore of
Belcourt Lake and includes nature trails, a roundhouse, and a new construction
trades building slated for completion in 2008.
St. Ann’s Catholic Schoolwas built in 1934-35 by Father Hildebrand Elliot, of
the Oblates of Saint Benedict in Marty, South Dakota. He requested the help of
five Catholic nuns from the Ferdinand, Indiana convent. No tuition was charged,
and support was solely from the mission benefactors. Previously, 80% of Indian
students attended regional boarding schools in Flandreau and Marty, South
Dakota, or in Fort Totten or Wahpeton, ND. In 1974, the Turtle Mountain tribe
took over the school, and renamed it Ojibwa Indian School. After the school
relocates in 2007, the old landmark school will become the home of St. Ann’s
Mission School, once again. St. Ann’s parish opened its doors to K through 6th
graders in 2002, and boasted 39 students at the end of school year 2005.
What is St. Ann’s?
St Ann’s Catholic Church overlooks
downtown Belcourt and includes the
church, a bed and breakfast that was
formerly a nun’s house, a bus
garage, two classroom buildings and
a gymnasium. The ministerial duties
are now provided by the Society of
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity of
Texas. The spiritual center for most
of the tribe’s Christian history, St.
Ann’s parish also consists of rural St.
Benedict’s and St. Anthony’s
churches, and St. Michael’s church
in Dunseith.(conversation with Wilkie. April, 2007)
What Service Organizations are there in the community?
Service Organizations include the Knights of Columbus with their 3rd Degree
Knights celebrating 40 years in the Belcourt community in 2006, and their 4th
Degree Knights observing 25 years in 2008. The Veterans of Foreign Wars
maintain Post #4516 and have operated continuously for decades.
What businesses are in Belcourt?
The Turtle Mountain Mall is the heart of Belcourt, housing the local post office,
Jollie’s supermarket, a dollar store, barbershop and café. The Jollie’s purchased
the mall from the tribe in 1994. The Turtle Mountain Mall Addition lies across a
small street from the post office and houses the mini-casino, a Chinese
restaurant, and a TV satellite dish company. A vacant bowling alley and a tribal
bar are also in the addition.
There are three convenience stores within the community, a fast food drive-up,
an oil company, supermarket, a video store, a bed&breakfast, a cable company
and two restaurant locations. A strip mall is under construction, as is a feed
supply store. There are four small bars and many small businesses operating on
the reservation, including three multi-million dollar construction companies, some
trucking firms, and many sub-contractors. The FDIC recently approved an
application from local investors to form Turtle Mountain State Bank.
Who are other employers in the area?
Benchmark Electronics of Dunseith, ND, formerly operating as Pemstar, Inc., has
produced circuit boards and other products since the mid-1970s. About half of its
200 employees are tribal members.
The William Langer Jewel Bearing Plant in Rolla has historically employed Tribal
members to produce jewel bearings for watches and precision instruments. In
1996, the Rolla Development Corporation bought the plant from Bulova Watch
Company, and renamed it MicroLap Technologies. It employs about 40 tribal
members, about 85% of its employees.
San Haven hospital[as seen above] was purchased by the Turtle Mountain
Band in 1994 from the State of North Dakota. It qualified for renovation funds,
but remains vacant. At one time it employed about 90 Tribal members and
treated tuberculosis patients, many of whom were also tribal members. It later
became a mental health facility.
Ellick Funeral Home is prominently located on Belcourt’s western edge, with its
main offices in Rolla. The Ellicks purchased the former Niewhoener Funeral
home, which had operated since 1933.
Several sources exist on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, in particular.
Patrick “Aun nish e naubay” Gourneau and his son Charlie “White Weasel”
Gourneau have both written brief history books about the Turtle Mountain Band
of Chippewa. The book “History of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
Indians” was published in 1971
In 1985, St. Ann’s Catholic Church published “100 Years of History” a 200-page
collection of photographs and family biographies. The book has not been
reprinted, and is now a collector’s item among parish members.
The Turtle Mountain Community College and the North Dakota State Department
of Public Instruction published “The History and Culture of the Turtle Mountain
Band of Chippewa” in 1997. The book is out of print, but available for
reproduction at the TMCC Library.
In 2007, tribal member Dan Jerome published a retrospective of the Band’s
educational system entitled “The Trail of Misgivings, A Scourging Journey: A
Comprehensive Study of the Formal Education of the Turtle Mountain Band of
Chippewa Indians.” It is available from the author at 477-3819.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Turtle Mountain Agency, maintains yearly
reservation labor statistics. The Turtle Mountain Tribe conducted its own census
in 2002 and data from it can be requested from the Tribal Planning Department.
In addition, the state’s four university libraries have archives that pertain to the
What are some important phone numbers in our community?
(all phone numbers are in the 701 Area Code except where as noted)
Adult Probation Office
Belcourt Fire Hall
Belcourt Senior Meals
Belcourt Traffic &
Child Care Block
Child Welfare &
Dunseith Day School
Dunseith High School
Education P.L. 93-638
Even Start Program
Headstart – Belcourt
Headstart – Dunseith
Headstart – Dunseith
Headstart – Shell
Headstart – St. John
Hearts of Hope
Indian Alcohol &
Job Service North
Lenoir Dialysis Center
Little Shell Youth
Ojibwa Indian School
Probation and Parole
Property & Supply
Pull Tab Department
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Health Care Facility
Rolla High School
SkyDancer Hotel &
St. John Public
Tribal Court System
Tribal Fitness Center
Tribal Planning &
Tribal Property and
Turtle Mountain Head
Turtle Mountain Star
Turtle Mountain Times
Victims of Crime
Brimley, V., Jr., & Garfiled, R. (2005). Financing Education in a Climate of Change (A.
Burvikovs, Ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 25
Indian Land Tenure Foundation website:http://www.indianlandtenure.org/
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Vol. II (Treaties)in part. Compiled and edited by
Charles J. Kappler. Washington : Government Printing Office, 1904.
Indian Land Tenure Foundation. (2007). (Original work published 2002) Retrieved
February 3, 2007, fromhttp://www.indianlandtenure.org/
Johnston, B. (1990).Ojibway Heritage. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Kappler, C. (1904).Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (Volume II (Treaties) in part).
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Rhoads, C. J. (1932, December).Misc.55703-32. Letter presented at the Letter from the
Office of Indian Affairs, Washington, DC.
U.S. Senate, 56th Congress. (1900).Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (U.S.
Senate, 56th Congress, 1st Session, document 444). Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office.
Other website resources:
American Indian Higher Education Consortium:http://www.aihec.org/
American Indian Science and Engineering Society:http://www.aises.org/
American Indian Radio On Satellite:http://www.airos.org/
Association of Indian Affairs Scholarships:
Benchmark Electronics, Dunseith, ND, (formerly Pemstar):http://www.bench.com/
Bureau of Indian Affairs:http://www.doi.gov/bureau-indian-affairs.html
Center for Multi-lingual, Multi-Cultural Research – Native American Resources:
Dunseith Public Schools:www.dunseith.k12.nd.us/
Glacial Lake Agassiz information:
Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians (Montana):www.littleshelltribe.us
Little Shell Band of Pembina:
National Congress of American Indians:www.ncai.org
National Indian Education Association:http://www.niea.org/
National Society for American Indian Elderly:http://www.nsaie.org/
Native American Athletics:http://www.ndnsports.com/
Native American College Fund:http://www.collegefund.org/
Native American News:http://www.indianz.com/
Native American Educational Websites:http://www.dpi.state.nd.us/natived/sites.shtm
Native American Nonprofit Resources on the Internet:
North Dakota Geological Survey (John Bluemle):www.nd.gov/ndgs/NDNotes/ndn15-
North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission:http://www.health.state.nd.us/ndiac/
Tribal Leaders Directory (as of June 2007):www.doi.gov/leaders.pdf
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (TMBCI) official website:www.tmbci.net
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Treaties:
Turtle Mountain Community College:www.tm.edu
Turtle Mountain Community College’s Project Peacemaker:
Turtle Mountain Community Schools:www.belcourt.k12.nd.us
Turtle Mountain Comprehensive Healthcare Facility website:
Turtle Mountain Provincial Park information:
Turtle Mountain Tribal Code:http://www.tm.edu/community/propeace/tribalcodes.asp
Turtle Mountain Tribal Constitution:
Turtle Mountain Tribal Court Orders:
Turtle Mountain Tribal Rules of Court and Codes of Conduct:
Page 1 TMCC Archive beadwork – Courtesy of TMCC Archives and Orie
Page 5 Turtle Mountain Scenery College Road Summer – Courtesy of
Page 7 Old Crossing Treaty Site 1 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 8 Chief Little Shell III – Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution
Page 8 Chief Kakenowash -- Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution (negative 52927)
Page 9 Chairman Kanick -- Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 11 President Chester Arthur – US Library of Congress, digital ID cph.3a53294
Page 12 Old Crossing Treaty Site 2 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 14 Birch Bark Bucket 1 -- Courtesy of TMCC Archives and Les LaFountain
Page 15 Little Shell Pow Wow Dancers 2007 – Courtesy of Josette Lajimodiere
Page 17 Metal Bear Sculpture at Anishinabe – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 18 John B. Houle Old and New Home July 25, 1938 – Courtesy of Les
Page 20 Turtle Mountain Scenery Sweet Clover – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 21 Turtle Mountain Lake 2 -- Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 23 Turtle Mountain Scenery Lake and Trees 1 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 26 TMBCI Tribal Seal – Design by Bruce Allery, photo courtesy of Scott Belgarde
Page 27 Turtle Mountain Buffalo Horizon – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 28 Turtle Mountain Tribal Buffalo Park 1 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 29 Turtle Mountain Land Mark Map – Courtesy of Scott Belgarde
Page 30 Turtle Mountain Agency Jan 21, 1938 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 31 Turtle Mountain Agency 2007 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 32 Indian Health Service Front Summer – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 33 IHS Hospital Jan, 1938 – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 34 Casino and Hotel Summer – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 35 Wahpeton Indian School Graduation 1956 -- Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 36 New Turtle Mountain Community High School (under construction June 2007)
– Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 36 Turtle Mountain Community College Front View Summer – Courtesy of Les
Page 37 St. Ann’s Church and Playground Summer – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 38 San Haven Hospital – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Page 39 TMCC Archive willow basket – Courtesy of TMCC Archives and Orie Richard
Page 48 Sculpture at IHS – Courtesy of Les LaFountain
Special Thanks To:
Francis Abbott Allard
Dr. Virginia Allery
Dr. Duane Champagne
Dr. Carol Ann Davis
Dr. Denise Lajimodiere