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Turtle Mountains/Chippewa

12/21/2003:

On this day in 1882, the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation was established for the Chippewa Tribe. Congress planned for 200 full-bloods, who were allotted 160 acres each, but the Chippewa, true to their culture, decided to hold the land in common rather than claim individual plots. Soon, more than 1,000 mixed-bloods were placed on the reservation as well. In less than two years, overcrowding became a serious problem, because the reservation’s best farmland was opened to homesteaders, and the Chippewa’s original 22 townships were reduced to two.

By the mid-1880s, winter storms and summer droughts were so harsh that even the pioneer farms were failing. The Chippewa’s main food source, the buffalo, was nearly extinct, and conditions became so desperate that in the winter of 1887-88, 151 tribal members starved to death.

Five years later, the Chippewa sued the government for the seizure of their lands, and in 1982 the Pembina Band of Chippewa was finally awarded 52 and a half million dollars as payment for more than 8 million acres of stolen land.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm