Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (North Dakota)

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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indians Gotoarrow.png North Dakota Gotoarrow.png Indians of North Dakota Gotoarrow.png Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (North Dakota)

The Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation is located primarily in the Turtle Mountains, Rolette County, North Dakota.

Established -- 21 December 1882
Agency (BIA) -- Turtle Mountain Agency
Principal tribes -- Pembina Chippewa
Population -- 6,000 (2000 census)


The Turtle Mountain Reservation was established by executive orders, Dec. 21, 1882, Mar. 29 and June 3, 1884 and by an agreement made Oct. 2, 1892, amended by Indian appropriation act approved and ratified Apr. 21, 1904, (XXXIII194)[1].  In 1884, the United States thought the Reservation was too large for the number of Chippewa's living there so they reduced the Reservations size to just two townships or a little over 46,000 acres. Then after 1900 the United States became concerned about the large Chippewa population living on the Reservation and the land allotments they planned to hand out.

Evidently there was not enough land on the Reservation so the United States had to open up public domain lands in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Up to 500,000 or more acres was allotted to over 3,000 Chippewa's. Most of the land allotments were handed out in Montana. Over 130,000 acres was handed out in Williams County, North Dakota. So many Chippewa's lived in Williams County, North Dakota a branch office of the Turtle Mountain Reservation was opened in the Chippewa town of Trenton, North Dakota, to manage the numerous land allotments in not only northwest North Dakota but also northeastern Montana. The Fort Peck Agency also manages some of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa land allotments, as does the Fort Belknap Agency, Rocky Boy Agency, and Northern Cheyenne Agency. The Cheyenne River Agency of South Dakota manages the Turtle Mountain Chippewa land allotments in South Dakota.

Chief Little Shell III refused to take treaty which left over 10 million acres yet to be accounted for. Many present day Turtle Mountain Chippewa's are yet claiming the 10 or 11 million acres. And many Turtle Mountain Chippewa's are angry about the minerals their land conceals. They know the United States is exploiting their land and want compensation. In the late 18th century, both the Chippewa's and Lakota were competing for the plains of both North Dakota and South Dakota. Most of the Lakota were subjugated by the Chippewa's. However, the few Lakota who escaped subjugation often attacked the Chippewa's. One such instance occurred at Devil's Lake between 1800 and 1810, in which chief Little Shell I was killed in action while fighting the Lakota.

Though the Chippewa's were defeated they yet controlled the land around the Devil's Lake region of North Dakota. In fact, the Chippewa's controlled much of South Dakota. The first advance force of Chippewa soldiers left their homes in central and southern Minnesota in the 17th century. They are known today as the Arapaho and Cheyenne. The Cheyenne were still practicing the Chippewa's Midewiwin or Grand Medicine Society, in the 19th century. The Cheyenne River Reservation of South Dakota was probably named after the Cheyenne. In the late 19th century it was common to refer to the Cheyenne River Reservation as the Cheyenne Agency Reservation. Maps from the late 19th century prove it.

A part of the Turtle Mountain Reservation (land allotments) is located adjacent to the Spirit Lake Reservation. That is Graham Island. The Chippewa's make up about a third of the population of the Spirit Lake Reservation. Another part of the Turtle Mountain Reservation (land allotments) is located a few miles west of the Cheyenne River Reservation. There may be other parts of the Turtle Mountain Reservation (land allotments) a little north of the Pine Ridge Reservation. East of the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Reservation of Montana, is another part of the Turtle Mountain Reservation (land allotments) which originally covered a large area.

According to the book "The History of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy Indian Reservation" around 250 Chippewa's from the Turtle Mountain Reservation were allotted land at the Miles City, Montana land office in 1911. Each allotment averaged 160 acres. That is around 40,000 acres. Many Turtle Mountain Chippewa's would love to know more about that land. A total of 1,700 Turtle Mountain Chippewa's were living in Valley County, Montana in 1911 waiting to receive land allotments. In 1911, Valley County, Montana included what are now Blaine, Daniels, Phillips, Sheridan, and Roosevelt Counties. A very large area of land. Another 250 Turtle Mountain Chippewa's received land allotments in Blaine, Hill, and Liberty Counties. The remaining 1,200 received their land allotments in Daniels, Phillips, Roosevelt, Sheridan, and Valley Counties. That is 192,000 acres.

However, over 2,000 Turtle Mountain Chippewa's were allotted land in Montana, before 1911 and after 1911. The allotments did not just occur in 1911. Up to 350,000 acres was allotted to the Turtle Mountain Chippewa's in Montana. When including the Williams County, North Dakota Turtle Mountain Chippewa land allotments with the Montana Turtle Mountain Chippewa land allotments, it comes to over 480,000 acres. Another 50,000 to 100,000 acres was allotted in North Dakota and South Dakota. Most of the land allotments were eventually sold. And it is very difficult to learn exactly how much remains now. Between the Pine Ridge, Crow-Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Rocky Boy, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, Cheyenne River-Standing Rock, Fort Berthold, Spirit Lake, and Turtle Mountain Reservations are the remaining Turtle Mountain Reservation Land Allotments. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation is actually the larges Indian Reservation when considering the facts.


Records of many of the Indians who have lived on the Turtle Mountain Reservation are among the records of the Turtle Mountain Agency records, some of which are available at the Central Plains Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Kansas City.[2].

The 1900 federal census included population schedules for the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The census includes the non-Indian employees of the Turtle Mountain Agency, as well as many pages of Indian Population Schedules for the native population of the Reservation. They are recorded as District 262, Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, in Rolette County, North Dakota.

Web Sites


  1. "North Dakota Indian Reservations," Handbook of Indians North of Mexico, by Frederick Webb Hodge Available online.
  2. Guide to Federal Records, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75Available online


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  • Sturtevant, William C. Handbook of North American Indians. 20 vols., some not yet published. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978– .
Volume 1 -- Not yet published
Volume 2 -- Indians in Contemporary Society (pub. 2008) -- WorldCat 234303751
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Volume 4 -- History of Indian-White Relations (pub. 1988) -- WorldCat 19331914; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.4.
Volume 5 -- Arctic (pub. 1984) -- WorldCat 299653808; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.5.
Volume 6 -- Subarctic (pub. 1981) -- WorldCat 247493742; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.6.
Volume 7 -- Northwest Coast (pub. 1990) -- WorldCat 247493311
Volume 8 -- California (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 13240086; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.8.
Volume 9 -- Southwest (pub. 1979) -- WorldCat 26140053; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.9.
Volume 10 -- Southwest (pub. 1983) -- WorldCat 301504096; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.10.
Volume 11 -- Great Basin (pub. 1986) -- WorldCat 256516416; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.11.
Volume 12 -- Plateau (pub. 1998) -- WorldCat 39401371; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.12.
Volume 13 -- Plains, 2 vols. (pub. 2001) -- WorldCat 48209643
Volume 14 -- Southeast (pub. 2004) -- WorldCat 254277176
Volume 15 -- Northwest (pub. 1978) -- WorldCat 356517503; FHL book 970.1 H191h v.15.
Volume 16 -- Not yet published
Volume 17 -- Languages (pub. 1996) -- WorldCat 43957746
Volume 18 -- Not yet published
Volume 19 -- Not yet published
Volume 20 -- Not yet published
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