Before the INDIAN CLAIMS COMMISSION Docket 113, TURTLE MOUNTAIN BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS, Petitioner, V. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant. PETITIONERS PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT AND BRIEF, Docket: ICC 18-A Indian Claims Commission, February 27, 1951
Finding No. 4 Identification of Turtle Mountain Band; The Turtle Mountain Band is an Autonomous Band
Although the Chippewa Nation shared a common language, religion and other customs, the nation was separated into numerous bands. Each occupied and claimed ownership of a specific, area of land. In the latter part of the 18th Century, a group of Chippewa migrated west of the Red River of the North, i.e., from forest country into prairie country. There is evidence that the core of this group had become prairie Indians at some earlier time. It is clear, however, that this core was augmented by other members, that the group became resident in the area west of the Red River, abandoned some of the forest customs and became a distinct autonomous band of Chippewa known as the "Red River Chippewa" or Chippewa of Pembina. They were recognized as a separate band of Chippewa by the traders who dealt with them and by officials of the United States Government.
Early in the history of the Pembina Band, a certain Little Shell emerged as a principal chief, and his descendants were recognized as principal chiefs of the Pembina (and particularly as principal chiefs of the Pembina of Turtle Mountain) for at least the next 100 years.
Although the petitioner has long been officially identified as the Turtle Mountain Band and is governed by an elected chairman and tribal council, many members still identify themselves as members of "The Little Shell Band." The Turtle Mountain Band and the Little Shell Band are one and the same.
Other names of families on the Turtle Mountain Reservation were early associated with the Pembina Band of Chippewa. These were the surnames of French and Scottish traders who married Chippewa Indian women and whose progeny became the mixed-blood members of the Turtle Mountain Band.
Subsequent to the location and identification of the Pembina Band on the Pembina River in North Dakota, many of its members moved westward. This group was led by the reigning Little Shell. The group at Pembina remained under a chief named Red Bear. The two groups, however, did not separate to the extent the Pembina had split off from the more eastern Chippewa; Red Bear continued to acknowledge that Little Shell was his principal chief. Both Little Shell and Red Bear signed the Treaty of 1863, a cession by the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of the valley of the Red River of the North. When Red Bear's sub-band was forced to leave the Red River Valley, members of his group as well as some from the Turtle Mountain area relocated on the White Earth Reservation. Some members of the group at Pembina joined their relatives in the Turtle Mountain area. Government officials and the Indians themselves continued to recognize the Pembina at White Earth and those at Turtle Mountain as closely related.
The Pembina Chippewa were distinguishable from the Chippewa to the east; they were plains Indians (as distinguished from forest Indians) and their economy centered in great part about the buffalo. As buffalo became scarce, the Pembina traveled farther and farther west. They returned from time to time to the Turtle Mountains, thus retaining affiliation with the Turtle Mountain Band.
In 1882, a reservation of twenty townships was set aside for the Turtle Mountain Band, but in 1884, this reservation was reduced to two townships. The McCumber Agreement of 1892, among other things, recognized that two townships were inadequate to support the entire membership of the Turtle Mountain Band. The agreement was therefore designed to encourage members of the band to locate homesteads on the public domain. Since lands in North Dakota were quickly taken up by the white settlers, some members of the Turtle Mountain Band located permanently in Montana. Since locating on homesteads was consistent with government policy, it was recognized that members leaving the reservation for purposes of taking homesteads did not thereby lose their membership rights. Because of the scarcity of land on or near the Turtle Mountain Reservation and the resultant difficulty in surviving, members of the Turtle Mountain Band have long been scattered, but the members have, when they desired, retained their affiliations with the band and the defendant has recognized the band as an entity with headquarters on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.