Last Card Played: A History of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and the Ten Cent Treaty of 1892

In 1882, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation was created which was 500,000 acres, or twenty-two townships. Suddenly, in 1884, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation was cut down to approximately 476,000 acres, or twenty townships without warning. The total land holdings of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa people in 1884 were ten million acres or approximately 1/10 of North Dakota. But by 1892, their total land holdings were down to thirty four thousand acres, or two townships. In 1882, a traditional tribal government whose hereditary leader had been head chief since 1863 conducts Turtle Mountain Chippewa affairs. However, in 1892, a native committee appointed by a federal Treaty Commission becomes the recognized government body of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa are still today the most prominent of the Plains Chippewa tribes in America, having today's membership and affiliates numbering nearly eighty thousand people. As we shall see, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa were also affiliated with the ethnically European and Indian mixed Métis people, who constitute the largest indigenous group in Canada, and will suffer because of their conflicts between nationality and Canadian and American federal policy. Due to an influx of new evidence, and using quantitative and qualitatitive methodologies combined with analysis of primary and secondary sources, this (dissertation) will contribute to the public record and change previous interpretations concerning the creation of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in the 1880s, and final settlement treaty between the United States and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indians of North Dakota in 1892. Through letters, journals, manuscripts, as well as other miscellaneous works such as newspaper articles and literary books, a thesis framework will be constructed to put some never before revealed information in a proper historical context. Whether or not Little Shell III was the undisputed head chief of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and that his being deposed by a faction within his own tribal government was wrong or illegal by the tribe or the federal government, is not an objective of this paper. Instead, this historical revision of the pivotal events of the 1880s and 90s will show that Little Shell III's tenure as a head chief among the Turtle Mountain Chippewa will depict a leader who operated within a chieftain's parameters to mediate disputes and competently represented his diverse tribal membership to outsiders. The failure or lack of success in achieving the goals for all of the people at the Turtle Mountains cannot be a condemnation of his abilities considering that success for Little Shell by the 1880s depended upon fair and equitable treatment by the American federal government. Much of the history during the time from 1882 - 1892 has been misinterpreted by historians until now, it is imperative to proceed carefully with the new information and lay a solid groundwork for further study. Nevertheless, this work will charge the U.S. government for fraud against a peaceful defenseless people, and destroying their traditional leadership structure as well.


Roland Marmon


Franci Washburn






AAT 3387377
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences