A Brief Summary of Bois Forte History
To end any confusion, the Ojibwe and Chippewa are not only the same tribe, but the same word pronounced a little differently due to accent. If an "O" is placed in front of Chippewa (O'chippewa), the relationship becomes apparent. In the United States, Chippewa was used in all treaties and is the official name. We call ourselves Anishinabeg (Anishinaubag) meaning "original men" (sometimes shortened to Shinob and used as a nickname among ourselves).
Bois Forte, or “strong wood”, was the French name given to the Indians living in the densest forests of what is now extreme northern Minnesota.
The Bois Forte reservation is located in extreme northern Minnesota, about 45 miles south of the Canadian border. The reservation is divided into three sectors, Nett Lake, Vermilion, and Deer Creek. The largest section is around Nett Lake located in St. Louis and Koochiching counties. 50% of the Nett Lake sector is wetland and is said to be the largest producer of wild rice in the United States. The Nett Lake sector is home to the majority of the Bois Forte Band members and the Bands primary government offices.
The Vermilion sector of the reservation is located on Lake Vermilion, near Tower in St. Louis County. Vermilion is home to additional Band members and to Fortune Bay Resort Casino. The third section of the reservation is Deer Creek, which lies in Itasca County and currently no Band members reside on this section.
The Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe (also referred to as Chippewa) has lived in northern Minnesota for centuries, but they did not originate there. The people journeyed from the east coast up the Saint Lawrence River, around the Great Lakes and followed rivers and lakes inland.
The community first entered into a treaty with the United States in 1854 that set aside an undefined region around Lake Vermilion as a reservation. The regions at Nett Lake and Itasca County – Deer Creek – were officially established in an 1866 treaty, and the Lake Vermilion lands were defined in an 1881 executive order. In 1997, the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council assumed full responsibility for the delivery of all government programs and services to its people.
The Bois Forte Band has carefully reinvested their revenues and diversified their business portfolio as part of their commitment to strengthening the regions economy and increasing Band member employment. Under the management of the Bois Forte Development Corporation, the Band now owns and operates Fortune Bay Resort Casino, The Wilderness Golf Course, WELY- End of the Road Radio, Powerain Manufacturing, Inc., the Y-Store and Bois Forte Wild Rice. Fortune Bay Resort Casino officially opened in August of 1986 and currently employs over 500 people, annually injecting more than $30 million into the economy of northern Minnesota
The Bois Forte people have seen many changes, the great forests are gone, and there is more people and far fewer animals. Despite these alterations, Bois Forte has endured and preserved their ancient traditions; harvesting wild rice, tapping maple trees and picking berries to name a few.
As Bois Forte enters the Information Age, they still hold and cherish their traditions and culture. Balancing and weaving everything together – a sense of community, is expressed in gatherings, celebrations in powwows and sacred ceremonies. Keeping things in balance Bois Forte embraces education, keeping ancient traditions alive as well as planning and preparing for the future.
For information on history of Bois Forte
please contact the Heritage Center by calling 218-753-6017.