Little Shell Protest
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is comprised primarily of three bands: the Pembina Band, the Red Bear Band, and the Little Shell Band. Whether the Little Shell group is properly included has been a legal problem that has its roots in the late 1800s.
On this date in 1892 the North Dakota Government held The McCumber Commission, which had the responsibility of negotiating the relinquishing of land by the Turtle Mountain Band, and who would be allowed to be on the rolls for food assistance.
Representatives of the Turtle Mountain Indian agency and Agent Waugh, and a committee of 32 tribal members attended, none of whom had been agreed upon by the Turtle Mountain Band themselves. This left no room for Chief Little Shell and his people. Upon their arrival at the meeting, Little Shell and his council were informed they were not invited, and their starving people would not be fed. Little Shell and his followers were turned away. Many desolate, starving people returned home, but this was not the end.
Little Shell requested that his group be represented by the Reverend J.F. Malo; John B. Bottineau, their attorney; and Judge Burke of Rolette County. The request was granted, but the committee would not budge, saying they were justified in not including Little Shell’s people among those eligible for assistance. Attorney Bottineau felt a great injustice had been committed when it came to determining who should be included. He demanded access to the rolls. The commission agreed, but E.W. Brenner, who was the Farmer in Charge, would only provide numbers of those eligible and of those denied.
Little Shell worked to include starving families on the rolls, but was then told that he must withdraw from the reservation or face arrest. Tensions rose, but it was finally decided that it was best for Little Shell to leave.
On October 24,1892, Little Shell filed a protest with Congress against the McCumber Agreement. He painstakingly outlined the many grievances. Unfortunately, his attempts fell on deaf ears, and Congress ignored his protest. He eventually dis-enrolled his tribe and move to Montana, where many continue to live today.
Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas.