MORE WHITE EARTH HISTORY
"White Earth: A History" was published in 1989. Created by the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in conjunction with the White Earth Reservation Curriculum Committee who served as an advisory group (Marshall Brown, Jerry Rawley, Georgia Wiemer, Everett Goodwin, Kathy Roy Goodwin)
The White Earth Reservation was created in 1867 by a treaty between the United States and the Mississippi Band of Chippewa Indians, it is one of seven Chippewa reservations in Minnesota. Although the White Earth Chippewa no longer live as their ancestors did, they have kept alive their tribal heritage. Almost every aspect of their present-day life has been strongly influenced by the past.
Under the direction of former Natural Resources Director, Mike Swan, the White Earth Reservation has available a downloadable, interactive experience including some of our history, culture and traditions.
The White Earth Reservation contains 829,440 acres and is located in the northwestern Minnesota. It encompasses all of Mahnomen County and portions of Becker, and Clearwater Counties. The reservation is located 68 miles east of Fargo and 225 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Tribal headquarters is located in White Earth, Minnesota.
The White Earth Reservation is named for the layer of white clay underneath the surface on the western half of the reservation. The land is typical of west-central Minnesota of prairie in the west, rolling hills and many lakes and rivers in the middle, and conifer forest in the east. Indian communities include White Earth, Pine Point/Ponsford, Naytahwaush, Elbow Lake, and Rice Lake. Other villages were built along the railroad track running south to north in the western part of the reservation, Callaway, Ogema, Waubun, and Mahnomen (all incorporated cities).
White Earth is 1 of the 11 Tribal Nations within the State of Minnesota. See MN Indian Affairs Council for more information.
During the early 1900s White Earth was the center of a national scandal due to fraudulent and illegal sales of land allotments. In The White Earth Tragedy, Melissa Meyer carefully details the fraud and corruption at White Earth. Jill Doerfler has also written about this topic in the Anishinaabeg Today and here in “An Anishinaabe Tribalography: Investigating and Interweaving Conceptions of Identity during the 1910s on the White Earth Reservation.”
The federal government needed to determine who was “mixed-blood” as legally defined by U.S. courts to decide which land sales were legal. Those who were “mixed-blood” were allowed to sell their allotments but “full-bloods” were not. U.S. courts ruled that legally a “mixed-blood” was person who had any amount of white blood, no matter how small. So, “mixed-blood” was legally a racial and biological term that was not tied to culture. There was an investigation in the 1910s during which many Anishinaabeg were asked questions about ancestry, blood quantum, and physical characteristics so that the government could officially decide who was a “mixed-blood.” Ransom Powell (his role is discussed in the Peterson article) headed up the investigation and the records are housed in his papers, which can be viewed at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. Below are a few excerpts from the investigation. Several Anishinaabe witnesses were confused by the investigators use of the terms “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” because racial categories based on biology did not make any sense to them. Many Anishinaabeg insisted that they did not use the categories of “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” to define an individual’s identity or if they did use the categories they insisted the designations were cultural and not racial.
A list of random witness files is included here:
Ken Peterson, former MN Commissioner of Labor and Industry was a lawyer on the Leech Lake Reservation and served as a deputy attorney general, he coordinated the State of Minnesota's legal relations with Tribal governments. His role in defending the actions of White Earth members who lost their lands is discussed in "Ransom Powell and the Tragedy of White Earth".