In March of 1882, Mayor Edmond Hackett, of Bismarck, made a reconnaissance survey for the Bismarck, Mouse River, Turtle Mountain & Manitoba Railroad Company, with the designs of trying to find a way to take the land from the Indians of Turtle Mountain.
His survey and explorations led him to the international boundary line where it crosses the Turtle Mountains. During this trip through the Mouse River region, he encountered a Turtle Mountain half-breed settlement near what is present-day Sawyer, North Dakota.
While visiting the half-breeds he tried to determine who was the chief of the people, their desired claims, and to see if they would be willing to relocate to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
When first we discovered the [half-breed] settlement we were saluted with the howling of about fifty half-starved dogs. The village is scattered over some three or four hundred acres; the buildings or dwellings consist of small log huts mainly, with some tepees made of skins. The general appearance of these improvements is dilapidated. Each family has a patch of about an acre under cultivation which comprises their farms. I was met by the chief at once, and he wanted to know my business, and was surprised to see a party of white men in his country at this time of year. I told him I was instructed to go to his village and have a talk with the chief, to find out their condition. He kindly invited me in his tepee.
The name of the chief is “Black Bear," and he talks broken English. He is not a full-blooded Indian. I entered the lodge; two women seemed to be the only occupants. After the pipe was handed round, supper was ordered and was gotten up on short notice, consisting of Mouse River fish, hard bread and coffee. I asked him if he was the head chief of the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewas. He answered, "No,” the head chief [Little Shell], he said, “lived at Woody Mountain, on the other side of the international line.” I asked why he did not live there with his tribe. He said the chief became disgusted here with his people and would not live with them. He also said the chief at Woody Mountain held the papers from the President for these lands. I asked how they proposed to dispose of these lands, and learned that the half-breeds wanted a reservation sixty miles long and fifty miles wide, and a certain sum of money to the chiefs. I told him that I did not believe the Government would give a reservation to the half-breeds. but that they could take 160 acres, the same as a white man, under the homestead, or pre-emption law. He said the half-breeds should have a reservation as the whites had all the money. I asked him what he thought about going to the White Earth Reservation, and he said they would not go anywhere until they got pay for their lands, and then they could go where they pleased.
Kingsbury, G.W. (1915). History of Dakota Territory, Volume 2. Bismarck: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities