THE METIS, LOUIS RIEL, THE RED RIVER, AND MUCH MORE [HUNTER GRAY 1/30/02]
UPDATE: On May 14, 2002, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. According to an AP report, the Court "said the water board has jurisdiction over the land itself, and thus has authority to compel the tribe to sell it."
The Tribe is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
From the attached Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper
article of January 30,
"To avoid seizure of the 1.43 acres by a local water control district, he
sold it in 2000 for three blankets and three sets of beads to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a tribe with a reservation 200 miles from the farm. The tribe declared the land a former burial ground significant to its culture. It then said that tribal sovereignty legally exempted the parcel from condemnation proceedings."
Note by Hunterbear:
Just what I like to read.
Creative, tactical maneuvering that helps the Indians! Among the tribes in
the North Dakota / South Dakota / western Minnesota / Manitoba / Montana
region where I have a really vast number of former students, is the Turtle
Mountain Chippewa nation headquartered at Belcourt, ND. And, although my
spouse, Eldri [Saami/Finnish/Norwegian], was born at Moose Lake, Minnesota [just south of Duluth], her father grew up on a homestead in the
Bisbee/Agate setting of northern N.D., very close to Turtle Mountain where
she has a number of cousins in the Tribe.
Many of the Turtle Mountain Indian people -- like those in lesser known but
very viable bands at Trenton, ND and Great Falls, Montana -- are descendants
of Metis [Native mixed with Scottish and French] refugees who fled into the
United States following Canada's suppression of the Riel Rebellion. Louis
Riel, a great patriot of the destitute and landless Metis and other Native
people, was an extraordinarily courageous and charismatic activist. Among
other things, he was a freedom seeking leader in the Red River Rebellion of
1870 -- and the very famous North West uprising of 1885 which has carried
his name forward through History. The latter was brutally suppressed by
Anglo Canada. Riel's associate, Gabriel Dumont, escaped to Montana -- where
many of his descendants currently live [in the Assiniboine Nation, among
other regional tribes.] Riel surrendered and was tried and convicted at
Regina -- in a witch-burning atmosphere -- for sedition and murder. [He had
originally been scheduled for trial at Winnipeg, but authorities feared
Metis might wind up on the 12 person jury in that setting. At Regina, the
predictable jury was six local white men.]
Louis Riel, remaining completely true to his commitment and mission,
retracted absolutely nothing. He was hanged at Regina in 1885 -- loyal to
his people, the Metis, right to the very end. And he was loyal to Canada
as well. His final written words: "I have devoted my life to my country.
If it is necessary for the happiness of my country that I should now cease
to live, I leave it to the Providence of my God."
He was simply one more in a vast flow of human martyrs to the cause of
social justice -- many before, many since, and many many more to be. And,
like Joe Hill, Louis Riel has never really died.
Seven Native persons were also executed by Canada. Two major Cree chiefs
and Riel colleagues, Big Bear and Poundmaker, were sentenced to long prison
The honour of all of these martyrs, and all those who fought with them, has
long outlived, and always will, the hideous nature and murdering motivations
of -- officialdom.
About ninety years later, Canada issued a postage stamp honoring Louis Riel.
The Metis -- numbering at least a couple of million in the distinctive
Native blood and socio-cultural identity sense -- are almost as poor now as
they were in the Riel era. Canadian policy moves on their behalf always
proceed at a glacial pace and are frequently roadblocked. Many of the Metis
have long been very vigorous socialists -- and the predecessor of the New
Democratic Party [ 1961], the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, which
took shape in Saskatchewan in 1933 with roots reaching back to the Winnipeg
General Strike of 1919 -- had many key Metis activists in its founding
The Metis struggle continues -- as does the Native struggle generally in
Canada, the 'States, Mexico and everywhere else in the Hemisphere.
This attached newspaper piece concerns a planned dam and the Red River of
the North. It also involves the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation.
Personally, I'm pretty much against dams. And I don't think any dam is
going to block flooding on the Red -- which, fed by perennially heavy snow,
flows north into Lake Winnipeg. In the 1840s, the Canadian fur
entrepreneur, Alexander Ross, reported a lake almost 60 miles wide stemming
from Red River flooding. I never trusted the Red River and, in 1991, moved
my family from our initial Grand Forks home [about a half mile from the
River] 'way out on the extreme western edge of town. [Some people we knew
questioned the good sense of our move -- given the fact that there had been
no floods for years and extreme winds and the cutting edge of other heavy
weather things always strike that area with especially cruel force. But I
had a very strong feeling.]
In the winter of 1996-97, we had about a dozen major blizzards, followed by
destructive ice storms [the last one of which took down many hundreds of
power poles.] Then, in mid-April, '97, the Red flooded -- forcing virtually
everyone in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks [about 60,000] out of town into
refugee camps and into Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. At the
same time, downtown Grand Forks burned.
But the flood waters stopped 300 yards from our home and those of our few
neighbors. With water from the Buffalo Farm well to the west of us [and
then from the Army], we survived handily, our house serving as a refugee
outpost and a key informational center. My son, Peter, then 27 and State
Editor of the Bismarck Tribune, stayed at our house, of course, and traveled
out in boats with N.D. Senator Byron Dorgan. Later in the summer, we sold
our very, very rare "dry" house at a pre-flood price, bought a nice setup
here in Idaho at the beginning of July, and, like the Joads, came here as a
family caravan [people and animals] at the end of that month.
Here we've found the worst police -- city and state -- since the Southern
days as well as a gaggle of racists and other ill-wishers. But we've also
encountered a raft of very nice folks of all ethnicities -- and all sorts of
friendly wild animals: coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, mule deer, moose
and much else.
And we're now so far up in the Idaho hills that, if a flood hits us, the
whole wide world is gone as well.
But we vigorously continue much, much involved in North Dakota issues --
and extremely so in the on-going matter of the three Turtle Mountain Native
men murdered at Grand Forks last September. Still no arrests.
We keep at it.
Hunter [Hunterbear] Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk [Now
on the far far upper western frontier of Pocatello, Idaho -- right on the
North Dakota land transferred to tribe to foil dam project
Pat Doyle Star Tribune
Published Jan 30 2002
Roger Shea rejected selling part of his North Dakota farm for a dam project
designed to reduce flooding of the Red River along the Minnesota border. So
local officials threatened to condemn the parcel.
But Shea wasn't about to give up. He vowed to stop the dam -- "stop it
dead." And he had a creative plan.
To avoid seizure of the 1.43 acres by a local water control district, he
sold it in 2000 for three blankets and three sets of beads to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a tribe with a reservation 200 miles from the farm. The tribe declared the land a former burial ground significant to its culture. It then said that tribal sovereignty legally exempted the parcel from condemnation proceedings.
A judge agreed, but had misgivings about the potential impact.
"A non-Indian could convey . . . property to an Indian tribe, not even
located in the state of North Dakota, for purposes of stalling any street, water,
sewage, road or other public improvement project," wrote East Central
District Judge Georgia Dawson.
The case has been appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, which will
hear arguments today testing limits of tribal sovereignty over land that tribes
While a ruling by the North Dakota high court would be binding only there,
it is being watched in Minnesota and elsewhere where Indian tribes have been
buying land they lost generations ago.
"Most of those repurchases are occurring within the reservations, but it's
not unusual these days for tribes to go off reservations and buy land," said
Charles Carvell, an assistant attorney general for North Dakota.
"This isn't just an issue in North Dakota; it's occurring in other states as
well because tribes have more money now and they are more sophisticated
now," he said.
However, he said he is not aware of another case in which someone sheltered
land from condemnation by selling property to a tribe.
Tribal land purchases are most common on reservations where there is a
patchwork of Indian and non-Indian property. The White Earth Reservation in
Mahnomen County is such a place, and that band has supported a land
reclamation program with a goal of acquiring 30,000 acres of non-Indian property within its reservation.
The flood control project in Cass County, N.D., includes a dam on the Maple
River, which connects with the Red River. In 1997 the ice-swollen Red broke
through dikes and flooded Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn.,
forcing 60,000 people to flee.
"The project is designed to help alleviate flooding in the Red River
Valley," Carvell said. "It's a decades-long problem, and this is a piece of the
puzzle in trying to resolve that."
He said North Dakota has already spent $800,000 to study the project and
that the resulting flood control would be worth $4.3 million a year in benefits.
The Cass County Joint Water Resource District plans to use the 1.43 acres to
pool water behind a 70-foot earthen dam that would be built on another
parcel. It is designed to keep water away from the Maple River during heavy rains or spring snow melt.
But Shea said the dam project would divert water onto two-thirds of his
470-acre farm 30 miles west of Fargo. Shea, 76, is retired, but rents the
farm to relatives who use it for grazing livestock and raising grain. He hopes
that denying the water district the 1.43 acres will scuttle the dam project.
"We have protected this for 100 years now, my father and grandfather before
me," Shea said of his farm.
He rejected a $200 offer from the water district for the parcel and sold it
to the tribe. The tribe rejected a $300 offer for it, said Steven McCullough, a
lawyer for the district.