Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of Indians

Turtle Mountain Consolidated Agency
Belcourt, North Dakota



      There are so many requests that come to this office for information regarding the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of Indians, I have decided to write as much history about these people as is possible to assemble in memorandum form, which will be sent to each individual requesting such information.

     The following is the executive orders set out for the Turtle Mountain Chippewas:

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boundary; thence west on the international boundary to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, withdrawn from sale and settlement and set apart for the use and occupancy of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas and such other Indians of the Chippewa tribe as the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.

Chester A. Arthur.

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It is hereby ordered that the tract of country in the Territory of Dakota withdrawn from sale and settlement and set apart for the use and occupancy of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians by Executive Order dated December 21, 1882,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.

Chester A. Arthur.


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 the 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.

Chester A. Arthur.


Articles of agreement and stipulations made and concluded at Belcourt, in the County of Rolette and the State of North Dakota, by and between Porter J. McCumber, John W. Wilson and W. Woodville Flemming, commissioners, on the part of the United States, on the twenty-second day of October one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two and Ka-ki-ni-wash, Kanik, Ka-ish-pa, Conie, Cawo-ta-we-nin, Oza-ah-wo-kisik, John Baptist Wilkie, Augustine Wilkie, Sr., John Baptist Vandall, Joseph Rolette, Jerome M. Rolette, St. Matthew Jerome, and Martin Jerome, and others whose names are hereto subscribed, being a majority of the whole member of male adults belonging to and comprising the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, on the part and behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

Article I

The friendly relations heretofore existing between the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the United States shall be forever maintained.

Article II

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, in consideration of the covenants and stipulations hereinafter contained, do hereby code, alin, and convey to the United States all the claims, estate, right, title and interest of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians or any of them as members of said band of Indians, in and to all lands, tenaments, and hereditaments, situate lying and being in the State of North Dakota, excepting and reserving from this conveyance that tract of land particularly mentioned and set apart by an executive order of the June A. D. eighteen hundred and eighty-four, to which reference is hereby had for more particular description, the same reserve being twelve miles in length and six miles in breadth, and now occupied as a reservation by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. It is being expressly stipulated that the land now occupied and used for school, church, and Government purposes shall be so held at the pleasure of the United States, and may, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior of the United States, be patented when the interest of the United States, the Indians thereon, or the efficient school conduct requires; the Secretary of the Interior may, as occasion requires, set apart other land in said reserve, for school and other public use.

Article III

The land, woods, and waters above reserved for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians subject to the stipulations contained in Article II of this treaty and agreement, shall be held as the common property of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and it is agreed that the United States shall, as soon as it can conveniently be done, cause the land hereby reserved and held for the use of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians to be surveyed as public lands are surveyed, for the purpose of enabling such Indians as desire to take homesteads, and the selections shall be so made as to include in each case, as far as possible, the residence and improvements of the Indian making selection, giving to each an equitable proportion of natural advantages, and when it is not practicable to so apportion the entire homestead of land in one body it may be set apart in separate tracts, not less than forty acres in any one tract, unless the same shall abut upon a lake; but all assignments of land in severalty shall conform to the Government survey. The survey of this land shall be made as Government surveys and at no expense to the Indians.

Article IV

In consideration of the promises and the foregoing cession, the United States agrees to pay to the said Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa Indians the sum of one million dollars, of which sum there shall be paid annually the sum of fifth-thousand dollars for the period of twenty years, which sums shall be invested annually in food, clothing, bed clothing, houses, cattle, horses, all kinds of agricultural implements and farm machinery and products for seed for husbandry and such things as may be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, who shall have authority to direct such expenditure, and at such time in the building, improving (sic) and repairing of houses as the needs of the Indians on the above reserve may require except as hereinafter agreed.

Article V

The schools now located upon the above-named reserve are to be maintained in efficiency as at present and increased as necessity may require.

Article VI

All members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians who may be unable to secure land upon the reservation above ceded may take homesteads upon any vacant land belonging to the United States, without charge, and shall continue to hold and be entitled to such share in all tribal funds, annuities, or other property, the same as if located on the reservation.

Article VII

So long as the United States retains and holds the title to any land in the use or occupation of any member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians or the title to other property in the possession of any Indian of said band, which it may do for twenty years, there shall be no tax or other duty levied or assessed upon the property the title to which is held or retained by the United States.

Article VIII

And in further consideration of the foregoing cession and stipulations, it is further stipulated that the six hundred and forty acres of land heretofore reserved to "Red Bear," a Chippewa Indian, by the treaty between the United States and the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa Indians, concluded in Minnesota, October 2d, 1863, amended March 1st, 1864, proclaimed May 5, 1864, be patented to Red Bear, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who is the only son and heir of the "Red Bear" named in the eighth article of the treaty above referred to and mentioned.

Article IX

It is further convenanted and agreed that under no circumstances the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians nor any members of the said band of Indians shall take up arms against, or resist the established authorities of the United States, every person so violating this stipulation shall in the discretion of the United States be forever barred from the benefits of this agreement, and all rights of such person or persons hereunder shall be forfeited to the United States.

Article X

This agreement to be of no binding force or effect until ratified by the Congress of the United States.

Article XI

It is mutually agreed that the sum of five thousand dollars of the fifty thousand dollars above stipulated be annually paid to the turtle mountain band of Indians, in cash, and that said sum be distributed per capita.

Article XII

In testimony whereof the said Porter J. McCumber, John W. Wilson, and W. Woodville Flemming, commissioners, as aforesaid, and the members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, have hereunto set their hands and affixed their official marks on the day and at the place above written.

Executed at Belcourt Agency, North Dakota., this 22d day of October, A.D., 1892.

  P. J. McCumber (Seal)
John W. Wilson (Seal)
W. Woodville Flemming (Seal)

We, the undersigned, separately and severally certify on honor that we have fully explained to the Indians whose names are hereto signed the above instrument, and that they acknowledge the same to be well understood by them.

  John Baptiste Ledeault
Joseph Rolette

      The Turtle Mountain Chippewas reside in North Dakota, about the Central part of the State, near the Canadian border. The Reservation consists of slightly over two townships of land. In 1930 there were 979 allotments in Montana, however, many allotments had been patented and sold before 1930. There were 178 allotments in 1930 on the public domain outside of Rolette County in North Dakota. In 1932, eleven hundred and thirty-three allotments were transferred to the jurisdiction of the nearest Indian Agency, such as Fort Peck, Montana; Fort Belknap, Montana; Rock Bay, Montana; Fort Berthold, North Dakota; Cheyenne River Agency, South Dakota; North Cheyenne Agency, Montana; Lame Deer, Montana; and Fort Totten Agency, North Dakota. Many allotments have been sold since 1930. There are a few allotments scattered over the Western part of North Dakota.

      The Turtle Mountain Reservation topography is amall rolling hills, covered with brush. The small trees consist of poplar, birch, aspen. There are numerous kinds of wild fruits; in fact one will find as many wild berries in this area as will be found in any part of the United States. The soil is glacial deposit, which naturally contains a great deal of sand, gravel and rock.

      The people of the Reservation are 98 percent mixed blood. Their ancestry is mostly French, with a few Scotch and Irish names thrown in. The people of this Reservation, culturally speaking, are French because of the fact they have had 12 to 14 generations of French background. They speak the French language, celebrate the Frenchman's holidays, and prepare many of the delicacies that the French prefer. They do not have the Indian cultural characteristics, such as the Sioux people have. The fact is, the Turtle Mountain Chippewas know very little about the culture of the old Chippewa people that we read about in history. At the present time there are in the neighborhood of 5,000 living on the Reservation. There are some 12,000 enrolled; however, the 7,000 not living on the Reservation are scattered over the entire United States. We might say they are integrated into the great American way of life. For instance, we have doctor who practices in Jacksonville, Florida; a widely known singer who lives in Minnesota; a Doctor of Philosophy who teaches in Oklahoma; many nurses, school teachers, and professions of all types are represented in the Chippewa group, who live in various places over the United States. I could list hundreds of professional people and skilled laborers who have taken their places in society.

      On the Reservation there is only a possibility of 100 families making their living from the soil. Therefore, we have a large surplus of families who are unable to make a living from the land. These surplus people follow seasonal employment. Many of them work on the railroads; about 80 or 90 work in the Rolla Jewel Plant. This plant makes precision jewels for the Army Ordnance. Many of the people are employed in the town of Rolla and surrounding areas on a yearly basis. However, the ones who follow seasonal employment return to the Reservation during the winter and many draw unemployment insurance. Those who are not qualified to draw unemployment insurance are taken care of during three or four months of the winter by our Welfare Department, and this is called the General Assistance Program.

      As a whole, the Turtle Mountain people are a very good looking group of people. They are very cooperative and I, personally, would say easy to work with; much more so than many of the other groups of people.

      We have four large day schools on the Reservation and one large Community Day School located at the Agency proper, which is in Belcourt, North Dakota. There are nearly 500 students who attend the Belcourt Community School, from grades 1 through 12. In high school the sciences are taught, industrial arts, music, commercial work, and all other subjects which are required by the North Central Conference of Accredited Schools. Those who teach in the Indian Bureau operated schools must have at least a Batchelor's degree to teach in any grade in our systems. We have many teachers with Masters' degrees on our staff.

      We have a Relocation Program which is called Relocation Services. We relocate individuals who wish to go to places of employment, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, St. Louis and Chicago. At these field offices that I have named we have employees who have training in working with Indian groups. Many of these employees in the Relocation Field Offices are Indians. The Federal Government pays the transportation of the Indian families to these Field Offices and give them a month's subsistence. They procure jobs for these Indian people at all these Centers. They also see that they have proper housing facilities. This, I feel, is one of the greatest services the Federal Government has rendered to the Indian people. It gives the Indians an opportunity to fit into this great American way of life that all other people enjoy. Our figures show that about 70 out of every 100 that we have sent on relocation in the past three years have not returned to the Reservation. We feel that this is a very good percentage. There are literally hundreds of Indian people that are fitting into these relocation centers. I had the good fortune of spending some time visiting a number of Indian people in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, a number of places in that immediate area. Every individual that I visited had a good job and was living in very good quarters. One Individual I visited was making $3.75 an hour. This individual had gone out on relocation, stayed about one and one-half years, returned to the Reservation, and decided he would go back on his own. His wife and boys were all working. This proves to me that people who really want to do something for themselves can get along very nicely if they take advantage of the Relocation Service. I wish to emphasize here that the Relocation Service is absolutely a volunteer branch of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The offices we have are in the Agency Office Building at Belcourt. The people are advised that at any time they may talk to our Relocation Officers, whether they wish to go on relocation or not. Many of our people who have been successful on relocation have been good examples to other friends and relatives at the Reservation level. Many of the people who have relocated have encouraged others to relocate. Naturally there are individuals who we relocate who do not make the best of the opportunity. This would be characteristic of any group of people that might move to another area.

      We have a Public Health Service, consisting of a modern hospital, authorized 22 beds. However, at the present time they have 35 available beds for patients. We have three Public Health Doctors, one field doctor and one dentist, with adequate nursing staff and other employees. Many patients who need special care are sent to Creighton Memorial Hospital in the City of Omaha, Nebraska. Tuberculosis patients are sometimes sent to the Sioux Sanitarium at Rapids City, South Dakota. However, most of the TB patients are contracted to the State of North Dakota. The State of North Dakota Tuberculosis Sanitarium is located on the West side of our Reservation, the name of the Sanitarium is San Haven.

      The Turtle Mountain Agency is called a Consolidated Agency. The Fort Totten Reservation is under the jurisdiction of the Turtle Mountain Agency. This Reservation is located about 100 miles South and East of Belcourt, North Dakota, it is some 13 miles out of the town of Devils Lake, North Dakota. This Reservation is made up entirely of Sious people. They are a Branch of the Sisseton Wahpeton group, who have a Reservation in Northeastern South Dakota.

      Many of the people living on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation have relatives living in Canada and in the Eastern part of North Dakota. There are a great many of Indian descent living in Cavalier, Pembina and Walsh Counties, which are located in Northeastern North Dakota. These Indian people, of Indian descent, who live in this area did not move West as civilization moved Westward. They stayed in their respective areas and became a part of the great American way of life. There are many people who say there are more people of Indian descent in this particular area, just mentioned, than there are on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Many of our people who are listed on the rolls show very little Indian blood. Many of them show no Indian characteristics whatsoever.

      The Chippewa people have a large Reservation in Minnesota. They are scattered clear across the States of North Dakota and Montana. Many people who possess Chippewa blood are on the Fort Peck Reservation, and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Bay Reservations, all located in Montana. Many of our people have relatives located on the above Reservations; also many of the cousins and other close relatives of our people live in and around Winnepeg, Canada.

      The Turtle Mountain area, which extends West of Bottineau, North Dakota, and North to Canada, is the most picturesque spot in all of North Dakota. During the summer months it is very beautiful; the rainfall in this area is adequate; everything grows very well, and with all of the shrubs and bushes leaved out and in bloom it should be one of the potential vacation spots in the Middle West. I feel that whenever good roads are built and this area is publicized North Dakota will get a great deal of tourist traffic. The Reservation proper is filled with numerous small and large lakes. In other words, the area is about 1/2 water. These small lakes are of no value, being too shallow to be a fisherman's paradise. However, Belcourt Lake, on the Reservation, is one of the best fishing lakes in North Dakota. A large lake, called Gordon Lake, has been restocked and will be, in the near future, a fisherman's paradise.

      The famous Peace Gardens, which are between Canada and North Dakota are located on the Northwest end of the Reservation. In recent years many tourists are attracted to this area through the efforts of many civic minded citizens who have been instrumental in advertising and building up the Peace Gardens. There is a large, fine, building in the Peace Gardens area, built of logs, where many organizations meet during the summer months. One of the big meetings is held there every summer. It is the International get-together of the Masons of Canada and the United States. A large music festival and training center was held at the Peace Gardens this past summer. There were students from all over the entire United States who attended this festival. It is planned to have this festival every year. A large dormitory was built last summer by the State of North Dakota, to house students attending the music festivals. There are many beautiful picnic spots in this area. They have fireplaces and benches as you see in all parks. The Peace Gardens park is well kept and maintained by the State of North Dakota and other interested organizations.

      Highway 5, which is a blacktop highway of very recent years passes through the Turtle Mountain Indian Agency.

      There are a small number of full-blood Cree Indians who live on the Northwest and North side of the Turtle Mountain Agency. This small group of people looked to Little Shell for their leadership. Over the years there have been a number of disagreements between the Chippewas and the Crees of this band. In fact, there are still disagreements between them. I would say there are in the neighborhood of 100 Crees on the Reservation.

      Blacktop Highway 3, which leaves Rugby, North Dakota, Northward, passes along the Western end of the Reservation, into Canada. Highway 3 is some two miles West of the Reservation line. However, there, are a number of Indian Allotments along the highway and some Tribally-owned land along this highway that leads into Canada.

      There are around 145 employees on the two Reservations. Most of the employees of this 145 are in the Educational and Health fields. We have Branch Chiefs in charge of: Education, Welfare, Law and Order, Land, Credit, Roads, Relocation, Purchasing and Supply, Buildings and Maintenance, Soil and Moisture Conservation, and Extension. The men who are in charge of the entire organization are called the Administrative Officer and the Superintendent. We have an Area Office, located in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which serves the entire area of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of Minnesota.

      Most of the houses on the Reservation are small, with a very limited number of rooms. With some of the more progressive people we find unusually good houses; however, most of the homes are not adequate. There are a number of log houses, which are built from native timber. These log houses are very comfortable when they are built by someone who understands log home construction. The fact is, the Turtle Mountain Reservation is the most densely populated rural area in the United States. There are some advantages on the Reservation, but they certainly are few. There is an abundance of fire wood; adequate logs for building homes; much wild fruit; and in the summer it is an ideal place to live. In fact in the summer time it is like living at a summer resort. The winters, however, are very long, and severe.

      The Tribal Council is made up of eight/nine individuals elected by the inhabitants of the Reservation. There are many duties the Council performs. They have a constitution and by-laws which regulate their operations. The Chairman of the Tribal Council is Patrick Gourneau, a very able, consciencious individual. It would take a great deal of time and space to explain the functions of the Tribal Council and if any individual is so interested I suggest he write Mr. Patrick Gourneau, Belcourt, North Dakota.

      The Reservation is criss-crossed, East and West, North and South with a very good system of roads. These roads are well graded and gravelled. We must have good roads in this area as we have a fleet of 14 to 16 buses which leave and return every morning during the school year to pick up and return children on the Reservation. I am familiar with many Reservations over the Western part of the United States and I find the roads on the Turtle Mountain Reservation far better than any roads on any Reservation with which I am familiar. There are many inadequate roads that lead from these main roads into the so-called bush country. However, it would be an impossibility to build good roads to each home. The Reservation being small, it does not take long to get to one of our good Reservation highways.

      The town of Rolla, located seven miles East of Belcourt, is made up of an unusual group of people who are very cooperative with this Agency. The business men of this town are very civic minded and understand the field of human relationships very well. There is less discriminat1on in the town of Rolla than any with which I have had experience. They have a very active Commercial Club. A group of energetic businessmen raised $25,000 which enabled them to acquire the Jewel Plant that I mentioned in the first part of this article. The people of Rolla are not interested in the color of a man's skin. If the individual can perform his duties and fulfill a job that he is expected to do, that is all they ask. They have Chippewa people working in the Hotels, Restaurants, Variety Store, Barber Shops, Creamery, Implement Companies--in fact there is hardly a business in Rolla that does not have some of the Chippewa Indians employed. The cooperation given by the town of Rolla is very commendable and this Agency appreciates this very much. Many of the towns near the Reservations could learn a lot from the town of Rolla. In fact this writer has found that most of the people in North Dakota are anxious and willing to help is in any way they can.

      At the present time we have in the neighborhood of 145 employees at the Turtle Mountain Consolidated Agency, which includes Fort Totten. The greater percentage of these employees are at Turtle Mountain Agency proper. All bus drivers, janitors, maintenance helpers, mechanics, and roads employees are Indian. There are sixty-some local Indians employed on the Reservation. I will list a few of the Indians presently employed in positions of responsibility, and their qualifications:

      Edmund Manydeeds, Sioux, Teacher, M.S. Degree, Northern State Teachers College, South Dakota; Milo Buffalo, Sac and Fox, Teacher, Graduate of Iowa State Teachers College. Minard White, Sioux, Teacher, M.S., South Dakota State College; Reuben Paul, Principal, Nez Perce, M.S., University of Idaho; John Bad Heart Bull, Sioux, Teacher, Graduate of Huron College, S. D.; Ernabelle Amiotte, Sioux, graduate of Southern State Teachers College, S. D.; Earl Lahr, Road Engineer, Blackfoot, Browning Montana. All of our police force, except the Special Officer are Indians; namely: Robert White Shield, Chief of Police, Fort Totten; Cliff Thompson, Assistant; Jerome Vermillion, Chief of Police at Belcourt (these named individuals are all Sioux from South Dakota); Gilbert Champagne, Policeman, Chippewa. William Iorn Moccasin, Heating Plant Supervisor, Fort Totten; Noah Long Crane, Maintenance Engineer, Fort Totten, are both Sioux from South Dakota. Donald Bruce and Lewis Wilkie, Chippewas, are with Buildings and Utilities at Belcourt. Robert Dunn, Administrative Officer and Elsie Pearman, I.I.M. Clerk are Sioux from South Dakota. Many of our clerks are of Indian descent, Dick Drapeaux, Assistant Relocation Officer, Sioux, graduate of Southern State Teachers College, S. D.; Louis Fritts, Cherokee, graduate of Northeastern College, Oklahoma.

      I feel this gives an overall picture of the Turtle Mountain Indian Agency.

  Sincerely yours,


Harold W. Schunk

Scanned and formatted by Kathryn Thomas
North Dakota State University Libraries
March 10, 2005