About the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is a federally recognized American Indian tribe located in East Central Minnesota. The Band has over 4,300 members living on and off the reservation. The Mille Lacs Band is comprised of three districts, District I is located near Onamia, District II and IIa are located near McGregor and Isle and District III is located near Hinckley. The Mille Lacs Band is one of six members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which was formed in 1934, during the Indian Reorganization Act. The other Bands that make up the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe are White Earth, Leech Lake, Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage. Chippewa is a common term for Ojibwe, with more and more tribal members preferring to be called Ojibwe or Anishinabe, which translates to "original people" or "people of the past" in the Ojibwe language. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is one of the few tribes that have a separation of powers form of government, similar to the United States, which means that they have a judicial branch, a legislative branch and an executive branch of government.
According to oral traditions, ancestors of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe began migrating west from lands near the Atlantic coast of North America about 500 years ago.
By the mid-1700s, the Ojibwe had established themselves in the region around Mille Lacs Lake in what is today East Central Minnesota. Their political and social structure was guided by doodems, or clans and the role you played in the tribe was often associated with what clan you belonged to. In Mille Lacs children assume the clan of their fathers. The Ojibwe followed the cycles of the season and they supported themselves by hunting deer, bear, moose, waterfowl, and small game; fishing the area's lakes and streams; gathering wild rice, maple sugar and berries; and cultivating plants, as well as gathering a variety of herbs and roots that were used for food, medicines and utilitarian purposes.
But it wasn't long before the Mille Lacs Ojibwe's self-sufficient way of life was affected by a new presence in their homeland. Europeans started arriving, and as their numbers grew, they began taking more and more of the Mille Lacs Band's land and natural resources in violation of treaties, statutes and agreements.
Because of new diseases and federal policies, by the end of the nineteenth century, only a few hundred Ojibwe remained on the Mille Lacs Reservation. Band members' religion was banned, the teaching of their language and culture was often forbidden, their right to govern themselves was virtually taken away, and their traditional means of making a living was made nearly impossible.
Over the next century, the Mille Lacs Band struggled with poverty and despair. Finally, in the early 1990s, the Band opened Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley. Since then, casino revenues have allowed the Mille Lacs Band to strengthen its cultural identity, return to economic self-sufficiency, rebuild its reservation and increase the prosperity of the entire region.
Much of this history was courtesy of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe website. Learn more about their history, culture and contemporary lifestyles still rooted in tradition.