Indians of Minnesota

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The word Minnesota comes from a Dakota Indian word meaning "sky-tinted water"

Two major Native American tribes—the Dakota (or Sioux) and the Ojibwa (Anishinabe or Chippewa)—lived in the area that is now Minnesota. Small groups from other tribes now also reside in the state, including the Winnebago, who once had reservation land there. By the late 1860s treaties had pushed the Indians off lands they had occupied and moved them onto reservations.

Many American Indians still live on reservations in Minnesota. Seven Ojibwa reservations are located in the northern part of the state, and four Dakota communities occupy lands in the southern part. Other American Indians reside in urban areas. More than 9,000 people of Ojibwa ancestry live in Minneapolis, and about 3,000 Ojibwa, Dakota, and Winnebago are in St. Paul. There are smaller groups of American Indian people in Duluth and Bemidji.

Tribes and Bands of Minnesota

Algonquian, Arapaho, Bois Fort Chippewa, Cheyenne, Chippewa or Ojibwa, Dakota, Foxes, Iowa, Missouri, Ojibaway, Omaha, Oto. Ottawa, Ponca, Rainy Lake Chippewa, Sauk, Sioux, (Mdawakonton), Winnebago, Wyandot

Chippewa Bands: Bois Fort, Fond Du Lac, Grand Portage, Cass Lake, Pitlager, Lake Winnibigoshish, Mille Lac, Snake River, Pembina, White Oak


Hodge, Fredericak Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin #301907.
Swanton, John R. The Indians Tribes of North America ( ) Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin #145.


As identified in the National Atlas of the United States of America, the following reservation names in bold are current federally-recognized reservations:

  • Bois Forte: 1866 (Chippewa)
  • Chippewa Reservation: 1867
  • Dakota or Sioux Reservation: 1851-58  / 1851-62
  • Deer Creek Reservation:
  • Fond De Lac (Bois Forte) Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Mississippi Band of Chippewa
  • Grand Portage Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • Leech Lake Reservation 1855 Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • Lower Sioux Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Eastern or Mississippi Sioux
  • Mdawakonton Reservation: 1884
  • Menominee Reservation: 1845-1845
  • Mille Lacs Reservation: 1855-1889 Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • Nett Lake Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • Lower Sioux Community: (Sioux)
  • Ojibwa or Chippewa Reservation: 1855-1864
  • Pipestone Reservation:
  • Prairie Island Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Sioux, Tribe: Eastern or Mississippi Sioux
  • Prior Lake Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction..........Tribe: Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux
  • Red Lake Reservation: 1863-1889 Federal, under jurisdiction of Red Lake Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton: State, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Shakopee Sioux
  • Sioux Reservation: 1851-1858
  • Vermillion Lake Reservation: 1881
  • Upper Sioux Reservation: Federal, under jurisdiction of Minnesota Sioux, Tribe: Eastern or Mississippi Sioux
  • Wabasha Reservation:
  • White Earth Reservation: .........., under jurisdiction of Minnesota Agency, Tribe: Chippewa
  • White Oak Point Reservation:
  • Winnebago Reservation: 1846-1855 (Houston County)


Isaacs, Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices, Bureau of Indian Affairs List of American Indian Reservations. Appendix E. Indian Reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991.

Agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Agencies were created as an administrative division of the federal government to manage Indian affairs with the tribes, to enforce policies, and to assist in maintaining the peace. The names and location of these agencies may have changed, but their purpose remained basically the same. Many of the records of genealogical value were created by these offices.

Minnesota Superintendency 1849-1856


Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs. 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc., 1974.

Indian Schools

The Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) established a network of schools throughout the United States, beginning with Carlisle Indian School, established in 1879. Some of these schools were day schools, usually focusing on Indian children of a single tribe or reservation. Some were boarding schools which served Indian children from a number of tribes and reservations.

In addition, other groups such as various church denominations established schools specifically focusing on American Indian children. (read more...)

Other Repositories

  • Minnesota Historical Society, 690 Cedar Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101

Family History Library

The Family History Library has many American Indian records from the National Archives - Central Plains Region (Kansas City, Missouri). For the Ojibwa, for instance, microfilms of census, vital, land, and family records are available from 1876 to 1955. Additional sources are at the Minnesota Historical Society Library, including:

  • Powell, Ransom Judd. Papers, Undated and 1843, 1896–1938. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1987. (Family History Library microfilms 1550598–612.) No circulation to Family History Centers. Papers include genealogies, censuses, correspondence, and other records collected by the lawyer for lumber companies that bought White Earth Reservation land.
    A research study of one Ojibwa family from Minnesota’s White Earth reservation is in:
  • Byers, Paula K., ed. Native American Genealogical Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1995. (Family History Library book 970.1 B991n.) It includes chapters on historical background, research methods and sources, and libraries and archives holding genealogical information on American Indians. The case study reported on pages 54–64 uses records mostly dating between 1885 and 1915 to trace ancestors and descendants of one Ojibwa family. Records used include Indian censuses, United States censuses, Chippewa Commission and Chippewa Agency records, and the Ransom Judd Powell papers. A bibliography of sources for further study on Minnesota Indians is provided.
    Other books include:
  • Ebbott, Elizabeth. Indians in Minnesota. 4th ed. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1985. (Family History Library book 970.1 Eb17i.) Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, this book deals mainly with social strengths and economic problems of American Indians in modern-day Minnesota. Preliminary chapters give histories of major Indian groups in the state and shifting government policies toward them. Includes maps and tables showing the locations of Indian groups on and off reservations in 1980.
    Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, Minnesota). Chippewa and Dakota Indians: A Subject Catalog of Books, Pamphlets, Periodical Articles, and Manuscripts in the Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1969. (Family History Library book 970.3 D149c .) A list of printed and manuscript sources on Minnesota’s two major tribes. Much new material has been added to the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society since this book was published.
    See also the chapter on "The Dakota and Ojibwa" in They Chose Minnesota, described in the "Minorities" article. For sources on the Sioux War of 1862, see the "Military Records" article. Steps to effective research are listed in the "United States Native Races" article.

Records of the various tribes can be found by looking under the name of the tribe in the Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog and under "Indians of North America – Minnesota." Many of the records are also listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:


  • Records of the United States attorneys and marshal for the District of Minnesota, 1889-1917 which include land allotments for the White Earth Chippewas and genealogical charts connected with those allotments. There are 7 microfilms starting with film 1294074. (NARA record group 118 roll 22)
  • Records of the Minnesota Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1849-1856    There are 9 microfilms in the Family History Library starting with 1618093.

See Also

Minnesota - History for a calendar that includes dates of importance to the Indians of Minnesota

Minnesota - Military for a list of forts