This Day in History, July 29, 1837: First major swindle of Ojibwe, Dakota lands in what would become Minnesota

On this day in history, July 29, 1837, the Ojibwe and Dakota signed the first treaties ceding significant amounts of their land to the U.S. government in what would become the state of Minnesota. White businessmen got the better end of the deals. Continue reading

This Day in History May 27, 2020: Menominee Tribe wins landmark case to preserve hunting and fishing rights in spite of official “termination”

In one of the more blatant examples of broken treaties, the United States tried to unilaterally end the existence of Tribal Nations and their treaty rights during what is known as the Termination Era. Forced assimilation policies spanned the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin was one of the first tribes officially terminated by an Act of Congress, and one that pushed back. On this day in history, May 27, 1968, the Menominee Nation won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case reestablishing its hunting and fishing rights, the first step in reestablishing its status as a sovereign nation. Continue reading

This day in history, May 15, 1905: U.S. Supreme Court upholds tribal sovereignty, sets important precedents for interpreting treaties

On this day in history, May 15, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Winans v. United States, a case that set important precedents for how the Court would interpret treaty rights.

This case has echoes of the current debate in Minnesota over the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline and its impact on the Anishinaabe people’s rights under the treaties of 1854 and 1855 to hunt, fish and gather on the lands they ceded to the United States.  Continue reading

This Day in History, May 4, 1863: The Dakota Exile

On this day in history, May 4, 1863, the U.S. government began deporting more than 1,100 Dakota people from their homelands, implementing federal legislation that exiled Dakota people from Minnesota following the Dakota-U.S. War. On May 4 and 5, steamships took more than 1,100 Dakota women, children, and elders from St. Paul to the newly created Crow Creek Reservation in the Dakota Territory. Continue reading

This Day in History: Supreme Court rules desecrating sacred site doesn’t violate First Amendment

On this day in history April 19, 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association that brought into focus the clash between the Western view of land as a resource to be mined, plowed or harvested and the Indigenous view of the earth as Mother and sacred. Today’s example comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case, decided this Continue reading

This day in history, April 7, 1866: Bois Forte Band forced into treaty to open land for Minnesota’s ‘Gold Rush’

History offers several examples of white settlers’ greed for gold and how it led to violence, disease, land theft, and genocide of Indigenous peoples, the California and Black Hills gold rushes being prime examples.

Less well know is that it happened in Minnesota, too. Reports of gold in northern Minnesota led state business and political interests to seek the U.S. government’s help in securing a treaty to force the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe to cede lands coveted by gold speculators and prospectors. That treaty was signed on this day in history, April 7, 1866.

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This day in history, March 24, 1999: U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Mille Lacs Band’s treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather

On this day in history, March 24, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa had treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the lands the Band ceded to the U.S. government by an 1837 treaty. It’s known as the Treaty of St. Peters (present day Mendota), the first treaty in which the Anishinaabe people ceded significant lands in what would become the state of Minnesota.

This treaty — and the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision — have particular relevance today. The Red Lake and White Earth nations have opposed the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota based on treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather along Line 3’s proposed route. They cite the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case as precedent.

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This Day in History, March 19, 1867: U.S. treaty with Chippewa Indians gives white business leaders access to valuable timber lands

I’ve wondered how many “This Day in History” entries could be written just about broken treaties. Wikipedia says: “From 1778 to 1871, the United States government entered into more than 500 treaties with the Native American tribes; all of these treaties have since been violated in some way or outright broken by the US government.” I guess that means you could fill an entire calendar and have plenty left over.

Today’s entry concerns a treaty between the Chippewa of the Mississippi and the U.S. government on March 19, 1867 that effectively stole valuable timber lands from Chippewa people in northern Minnesota.  This was the last treaty the U.S. government negotiated with Native nations in Minnesota.

It’s part of state history that most of us who live here never learned. We need to. It’s an important correction to our history books. The wealth of early business leaders had its roots not in sweat and toil, but in deceit and outright theft of Indigenous lands and resources.

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This Day in History, Feb. 27, 1803: President Jefferson’s private plan to swindle Indigenous lands

On this day in history, Feb. 27, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a private letter William Henry Harrison outlining his plans to gain control of massive amounts of Indigenous lands.

At the time, Harrison was serving as the first Governor of the Indiana Territory, the frontier of his day. The Territory included an expansive area that would later become the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota. Harrison was dealing with many Indigenous nations. Jefferson wrote him privately that “I may with safety give you a more extensive view of our policy respecting the Indians.”

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