The Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe are one of the six bands that make up the federally recognized Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which wrote a constitution and initiated its new government in 1936.
Official Tribal Name:
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning
Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe
Meaning of Common Name:
Bois Forte, meaning “strong wood”, was the French name given to the Indians living in the densest forests of what is now extreme northern Minnesota.
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The community first entered into a treaty with the United States in 1854 that set aside an undefined region around Lake Vermilion as a reservation. The regions at Nett Lake and Itasca County – Deer Creek – were officially established in an 1866 treaty, and the Lake Vermilion lands were defined in an 1881 executive order. In 1997, the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council assumed full responsibility for the delivery of all government programs and services to its people.
The Bois Forte reservation is located in extreme northern Minnesota, about 45 miles south of the Canadian border. The reservation is divided into three sectors, Nett Lake, Vermilion, and Deer Creek.
The largest section is around Nett Lake located in St. Louis and Koochiching counties. 50% of the Nett Lake sector is wetland and is said to be the largest producer of wild rice in the United States. The Nett Lake sector is home to the majority of the Bois Forte Band members and the Bands primary government offices.
The Vermilion sector of the reservation is located on Lake Vermilion, near Tower in St. Louis County. Vermilion is home to additional Band members and to Fortune Bay Resort Casino.
The third section of the reservation is Deer Creek, which lies in Itasca County and currently no Band members reside on this section.
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Name of Governing Body: Tribal Council
Number of Council members: Two council members from District 1 and one council member from District 2, plus the executive officers.
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Number of Executive Officers: Tribal Chair and Secretary/Treasurer
Algic -> Algonquian -> Ojibwe ->Chippewa
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The Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe (also referred to as Chippewa) has lived in northern Minnesota for centuries, but they did not originate there. The people journeyed from the east coast up the Saint Lawrence River, around the Great Lakes and followed rivers and lakes inland.
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The Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe were hunter/gatherers. Wild rice, maple syrup, maple sugar, and blueberries were among their most important plant food sources. They hunted woodland game animals such as deer and moose, and fished in the lakes and rivers.
The Bois Forte Band has carefully reinvested their revenues and diversified their business portfolio as part of their commitment to strengthening the regions economy and increasing Band member employment.
Under the management of the Bois Forte Development Corporation, the Band now owns and operates Fortune Bay Resort Casino, The Wilderness Golf Course, WELY- End of the Road Radio, Powerain Manufacturing, Inc., the Y-Store and Bois Forte Wild Rice.
Fortune Bay Resort Casino officially opened in August of 1986 and currently employs over 500 people, annually injecting more than $30 million into the economy of northern Minnesota
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Radio: WELY Radio is owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.
Newspapers: The Bois Forte News is a monthly publication distributed for free to all enrolled Band members over the age of 18. This publication is also available to non-enrolled, non-natives for a subscription fee of $10.00 per year. You can receive it by mail or email.
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Under the terms of the Treaty of 1854, Indian people in northern Minnesota ceded land from International Falls to Duluth to Grand Portage. The Bois Forte Indians were given the right to select reservation lands in the vicinity of Lake Vermilion, which was the heart of their community, and they retained the right to hunt and fish in the ceded area.
But when reports of gold beneath the Bois Forte peoples’ lands began to circulate, non-Indians wanted the land. That led to the Treaty of 1866, in which all claims to a reservation near Lake Vermilion were relinquished and a reservation of about 100,000 acres was established at Nett Lake.
Even though the Vermilion reservation was reestablished by an 1881 Executive Order, the Bois Forte Indians were only given back about 1,000 acres in the Vermilion area, instead of the tens of thousands they had been promised in the Treaty of 1854.
The federal government adopted a policy of assimilation, trying to squelch Indian traditions and press Indians to adopt the customs of white people.
Some Indian children were taken away from their families and sent to boarding schools, where they were punished for speaking their native languages. Despite this harsh policy, the Bois Forte Band and many other Indian nations tenaciously held on to their languages, traditions and cultures.
The federal Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 recognized that assimilation had failed and that that Indian people and Indian governments should be strengthened, not weakened. It was followed by other policies of the twentieth century, such as the Freedom of Religion Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the Indian Self-Determination Act, which marked a new respect for Indian sovereignty and self-governance. Indian nations like Bois Forte were offered the choice of managing their own government programs.
Also during this century, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe was formed as a political union of six Chippewa bands. This helped the Bois Forte Band further strengthen its government. By 1997, the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council had assumed full responsibility for the delivery of all governmental programs and services to its people.
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