Kathy Denman-Wilke’s father was a member, and she is a descendent of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, also known as the Ojibwe. She says that her preferred cultural identifier is American Indian, but that each person has their own preference, so it is respectful to ask an individual what title they would like you to use.
Even though most of the history books written about the early 19th century focus on explorers and fur traders, the majority of people living in Minnesota at that time were American Indians. Minnesota scholars and traditional Ojibwe accounts place tribes in the state during the late 1600’s, but some believe they have been living here since 6,000 B.C. Remnants of their early life can be seen in burial mounds and pieces of pottery and metalwork found by archaeologists. The Ojibwe tribe was able to flourish in this area during those times based on their extensive knowledge of the natural world including plant life, animal habitats and some agricultural practices.
When European settlers came to Minnesota in the 1700’s and 1800’s the Ojibwe had the majority of their territorial land taken from them through treaties, that were not upheld. “By the mid-1860’s much of the once vast domain of this tribe had been transferred to the United States government.” At this time the tribe was forced to live on reservations which negatively impacted their lives and lifestyles in many ways, including loss of cultural traditions and population decline. There are seven Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota including: Grand Portage, Bois Forte, Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, and Mille Lacs. “All seven reservations in Minnesota were originally established by treaty and are considered separate and distinct nations by the United States government. (Indian Affairs Council Website)
According to a 2013 study and report conducted by the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and Wilder Research, there are currently 41,000 members of the Chippewas tribe living in Minnesota. The total number of “American Indians in Minnesota number 60,916, or 1.1 percent of Minnesota’s total population.”