According to Ojibway historical narratives, their forefathers lived on the great salt water, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean near the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River. The history is told through the Ojibway religion—Me-da-we, or Midewiwin. Originally the Ojibway were one tribe, but over three centuries became distinct separate tribes—the Ottawa, Pottawatomie, and Ojibway. All three are Algonquian speaking tribes.
The Ojibway proper, after separating from the Ottawa and Pottawatomie, lived at the Falls of Sault Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior. Here they established a large village. From this point at Sault Ste. Marie, they migrated in all directions.
First Métis are the offspring of men from Champlain’s Company who founded Quebec. These men intermarried with Cree and Ojibway women.
First written contact of European traders with the Algonquian tribes.
The Amikwa and Missisauga Ojibway join tribesman at Sault Ste. Marie and go to war against an Iroquois war party. After defeating the Iroquois, the Ojibway retreat for a short time along the south shores of Lake Superior.
United Bands of Ojibway again encounter Iroquois near Sault Ste. Marie and drive them from the territory.
Alliance made between the Ojibway and Dakota. The Dakota agree to let the Ojibway hunt upon the eastern fringes of Dakota country in exchange for delivery of goods and continued trade with the French. This arrangement lasts 50 years during which the Ojibway spread westward across northern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior.
Ojibway build a large village on Madeline Island at the mouth of Chequamegon Bay. At the same time, the French trading post, LaPointe, is established.
Ojibway acquire firearms. The Missisauga Ojibway move into the area south and east of Lake Superior and their people spread through what is now southern Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Between 1700 and 1736, the Ojibway establish a foothold west of Lake Superior.
Between 1780 and 1800, the first Plains Ojibway began separating from the Woodland Ojibway proper. A part of this group had a dialect similar to the Saulteur, or “Saulteaux,” and among these are Crees and some Ottawa.
The Ojibway are established on the lower Red, Assiniboine, and Souris Rivers and become true Plains Indians.
Ojibways form permanent settlements at Pembina. Alexander Henry’s post is also established at Pembina, in the Red River Valley. This band became the nucleus of the Turtle Mountain or Pembina Band of Ojibway, or “Chippewa.” The general pattern was for the Indians to establish a village, which later became the center of a trader’s operations.
First appearance of the Red River Cart. The Chippewa are credited with inventing this two-wheeled cart, which was considered a major invention. The cart played a major role in early transportation in the northern Dakota Territory. The cart provided the first means of movement of goods and was used to transport tents, dried buffalo meat, and hides. Long trains numbering over 100 of the Red River Cart were commonly seen and heard, because of its distinctive sound, during hunting season.
Chippewas participate in the War of 1812.
Chippewa sign a treaty of peace with the U.S. government.
First mission school and church established at the Pembina village by Father Severe Dumoulin.
The Hudson Bay Company closes its only remaining trading post at Pembina and withdraws north of the border.
There is a mass migration from Pembina to escape flood waters. Chippewa relocate to St. Joseph, which was the location of the North West Company’s Hair Hills post, founded in 1801.
Father Belcourt, an early missionary who became prominent among the Pembina Chippewa, builds a mill at Pembina Mountains, 30 miles up the Pembina River, at St. Joseph’s. There are 1,500 French-Canadian, Cree, Chippewa, and Assiniboine Métis settled by this time. The present community of Belcourt is the location and home of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. The community is named after Father Belcourt.
March 2—Dakota Territory is established. The federal government recognizes the Red Lake and Pembina Chippewa claims of 10,000,000 acres in North Dakota.
October 2—A treaty is concluded between the United States and Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa at the old crossing of the Red Lake River. This treaty is known as the “Old Crossing Treaty.” The Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa cede a large tract of country comprised of the following boundaries:
Commencing at the intersection of the national boundary with
the Lake of the Woods; thence in a southwest direction to the
head of Thief River; thence following that stream to its mouth;
thence southeasterly in a direct line toward the head of Wild Rice
River, and thence following the boundary of the Pillager cession
of 1855 to the mouth of said river; thence up the cannel of the
Red River to the North of the mouth of the Sheyenne; thence up
said river to Stump Lake near the eastern extremity of Devils
Lake, thence north to the international boundary; and thence
east of said boundary to the place of beginning. (Kappler, 1972,
This land embraced nearly all of the Red River Valley in Minnesota and Dakota, and was estimated to contain eleven million acres. Little Shell II and Mis-co-muk-quah, or Red Bear sign the 1863 treaty.
May 5—The Old Crossing Treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa (13 Stats., 667) is ratified by the United States and signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Canada purchases a tract of land (Rupert’s Land) in Manitoba, an area of high concentration of Canadian Métis. The Métis protest and claim the method of surveying the land is alien to the manner of Métis ownership. They believe their land base would be destroyed as well as the Métis way of life. This protest is led by Louis Riel, the son of a French father and a Chippewa mother.
Riel established a provisional government in Manitoba. Of the three Riel requests, provincial status is declared. (Howard, 1952, 1994, p. 174) Riel is exiled to the United States and settles in Montana.
March 12—The Manitoba Act is passed by the Parliament of Canada. The act provides for land to be set aside for Métis claims to their ancestral lands. The act allows the use of their native languages, English, and French. The act also provides for the creation of Manitoba as a province with its own legislature.
St. Joseph’s is used by Louis Riel as a haven. Father Belcourt’s bell hangs in the steeple of Walhalla area. St. Joseph’s is renamed “Walhalla” with the arrival of Scandinavian settlers.
Many Métis migrate west to Saskatchewan. As settlers again move into Métis lands, Métis demand action. Riel is called back to act as spokesman. Riel and his followers, after numerous attempts to settle the issues through negotiation, revolt against the state and set up a provisional government in Saskatchewan.
July 11—Little Shell, residing at Wood Mountain, Manitoba, travels to Turtle Mountain Reservation, and calls a meeting. He warns white settlers not to settle on Turtle Mountain Chippewa lands because the treaty with the United States government had not been signed. While the federal government recognizes Kaishpau Gourneau as chief of the Turtle Mountain Band (US Docket 113), Little Shell does not.
St. Mary’s Indian Industrial School is built at Belcourt. The school is financed by Sister Catherine Drexel of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and administered by two sisters from Yankton, South Dakota. Two buildings, each 3 stories high, serve as a boarding school for 116 girls and 73 boys on the Turtle Mountain reservation. This mission, first school built at Belcourt, burns down in 1910.
Following several decisive battles, the second Riel rebellion is stopped at the Battle of Batoche.
November 16— Louis Riel is hanged for treason at Regina. His followers are released or escape across the border and settle in Manitoba and North Dakota.
The federal government constructs several “day” schools on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. These schools are named Greatwalker, Roussin, Houle, and Dunseith Day.
July 13—A three-member commission is authorized to negotiate an agreement with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa—known as the “McCumber Agreement.”
October 22—Through the McCumber Agreement, the Turtle Mountain Band lose their rights and title to 10,000,000 acres for which the government offers to pay 10 cents per acre. Classified as the best agricultural land in the state, the parcel of land reserved for the Turtle Mountain is insufficient in size (two townships or 6 miles by 12 miles) to accommodate the number of Chippewa. The Commission also wants to extinguish Chippewa title and remove the Chippewa to Berthold. The Chippewa protest. This “ten cent treaty” was amended and approved on April 21, 1904.
Frame church is built at Belcourt by Father Malo. This church replaced the small log church built by the Chippewa in 1880.
Chief Kakenowash (Flying Eagle) serves a chief of the Turtle
The first health facility is constructed on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. It is a two-story wood frame building, which formerly served as housing quarters for Indian agency staff.
An old army barracks is moved to Belcourt and renovated into a hospital for the Turtle Mountain Reservation. The hospital accommodates 20 beds and is staffed with one doctor and two nurses.
Federal government agrees that the Indians would assume the responsibility for educating their own children. Two school districts are formed, Couture and Ingebretson. These two school districts substantively form the Turtle Mountain Community School system. It is not until July 1, 1984 that the two school districts reorganize and become Belcourt School District #1.
Turtle Mountain is severely hit by a flu epidemic, and whole families perish.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa continues to be governed by a traditional council. From 1900 and on, the tribal council had legal representation by John and Pierre Bottineau.
A second hospital is built and replaces the first hospital built in 1916. This three-story concrete structure served the reservation and off-reservation community for 25 years.
A three-story concrete elementary school is built. This building is still in use as an elementary school on the Turlte Mountain Reservation.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa adopts a constitution, bylaws, and form a self-governing tribal council. The Turtle Mountain band still recognizes its hereditary Little Shell leaders. From 1932 to 1955 meetings are conducted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Agency.
St. Ann’s church and Indian Mission school is built. In 1939 a gymnasium is added.
Belcourt School holds first high school graduation.
January 12—Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa files claim with the Indian Court of Claims for just payment for lands ceded to the government under the 1863 Treaty and the 1892 McCumber Agreement.
June 15—The Secretary of the Interior approves the revised constitution and bylaws of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
October—United States Claims Commission hands down a decision that the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa are entitled to $3.3 million.
February 7—Turtle Mountain Housing Authority is chartered. The Turtle Mountain Housing Authority manages over 300 rental and mutual help homes.
Turtle Mountain Reservation receives funding to build a 50-bed hospital for the community. While direly needed, this facility is unable to keep pace with growing health care needs.
A local board of interested educators seeks and receives recognition to begin planning and operation of a college on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.
November 9—By Tribal Council Resolution, Turtle Mountain Community College is chartered.
Tribe contracts St. Ann’s School and renames it the Ojibwa School.
KEYA radio is established. The local school board acquires license to operate a radio station.
Turtle Mountain Manufacturing Company is established. It is a 100 percent tribally-owned and operated business. In 1979, the company’s building is constructed.
March 18—U.S. Court of Claims awards $47.3 million to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, in compensation for lands taken under the “Ten Cent Treaty.” (McCumber Agreement)
Turtle Mountain Chippewa Historical Society is established.
December 4—Additional $4.9 million is awarded for the 1905 value of the remaining Pembina lands ceded to the U.S. government.
Turtle Mountain Community College is granted full accreditation status by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
A new $8 million high school is completed to accommodate the growing Turtle Mountain school age population.
Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center begins operation.
Uniband, a 100 percent tribally-owned enterprise is established. The firm provides data entry services to corporations and governmental agencies.
Turtle Mountain community school system receives support to construct a new middle school on the reservation.
Turtle Mountain Motor Vehicle Department begins producing license plates.
By referendum vote, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa approve a separation of powers of the tribal government creating a judicial and executive branch of government.
The existing hospital is remodeled and expanded.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa constructs a casino, as a result of an agreement between the state and the Tribes. This agreement is made possible under the Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act. This law allows tribes to negotiate with states for gaming operations.
Turtle Mountain tribal offices move into new headquarters three miles west of the community of Belcourt.
Community fitness center is established.
Tribe begins construction of new casino and lodge.