Membership of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe is governed by the MCT Constitution and the Enrollment Ordinance approved by the Tribal Executive Committee.
The Revised Constitution and Bylaws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, in Article II-Membership, defines the requirements for membership into the Tribe as follows:
Section 1. The membership of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe shall consist of the following:
(a) Basic Membership Roll. All persons of Minnesota Chippewa Indian blood whose names appear on the annuity roll of April 14, 1941, prepared pursuant to the Treaty with said Indians as enacted by Congress in the Act of January 14, 1889 (25 Stat. 642) and Acts amendatory thereof, and as corrected by the Tribal Executive Committee and ratified by the Tribal Delegates, which roll shall be known as the basic membership roll of the Tribe.
(b) All children of Minnesota Chippewa Indian blood born between April 14, 1941, the date of the annuity roll, and July 3, 1961, the date of approval of the membership ordinance by the Area Director, to a parent or parents, either or both of whose names appear on the basic membership roll, provided an application for enrollment was filed with the Secretary of the Tribal Delegates by July 4, 1962, one year after the date of approval of the ordinance by the Area Director.
(c) All children of at least one quarter (1/4) degree Minnesota Chippewa Indian blood born after July 3, 1961, to a member, provided that an application for enrollment was or is filed with the Secretary of the Tribal Delegates or the Tribal Executive Committee within one year after the date of birth of such children.
Sec. 2. No person born after July 3, 1961, shall be eligible for enrollment if enrolled as a member of another tribe, or if not an American citizen.
Sec. 3. Any person of Minnesota Chippewa Indian blood who meets the membership requirements of the Tribe, but who because of an error has not been enrolled, may be admitted to membership in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe by adoption, if such adoption is approved by the Tribal Executive Committee, and shall have full membership privileges from the date the adoption is approved.
Sec. 4. Any person who has been rejected for enrollment as a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe shall have the right of appeal within sixty days from the date of written notice or rejection to the Secretary of the Interior from the decision of the Tribal Executive Committee and the decision of the Secretary of Interior shall be final.
Sec. 5. Nothing contained in this article shall be construed to deprive any descendent of a Minnesota Chippewa Indian of the right to participate in any benefits derived from claims against the U.S. Government when awards are made for and on behalf and for the benefit of descendents of members of said tribe.”
In addition, The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Tribal Executive Committee approved the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Enrollment Ordinance on July 30, 2003, which clarifies the requirements for enrollment, provides further direction on the application process, and describes how to file an enrollment appeal. The Enrollment Ordinance is a useful and easy to read resource for those who want to know more about the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s enrollment process.
The Tribal Operations Program serves as a centralized information center providing technical assistance on areas related to Tribal membership. Enrollment staff works hard to complete regular duties such as: processing enrollment applications; producing statistical data on enrollment figures; conducting research for enrollment appeals; maintaining the Tribal database; and processing address changes, name changes, birth and death records, ID Cards, Certificates of Indian Blood, and Indian Preference Forms.
Citizenship criteria of the MCT began when the first MCT Constitution was approved in 1936. At that time lineal descent was the criteria necessary to become recognized as a member of the MCT.
Discussions on enrollment criteria carried on throughout the 1940's, during which time Tribal Delegates (each of the six Reservations had representation based on their population) discussed enrollment criteria, specifically lineal descent, degree of blood, and any residency requirements that should be considered; by this time the U.S. government had started to use 1/4 degree blood quantum as a criteria for many services and was applying pressure to the MCT to do the same.
Although TEC passed resolutions to continue with lineal descent as the enrollment criteria, the Secretary of the Interior would not approve of it. Finally in 1961 the enrollment criteria was changed to require 1/4 degree MCT blood as the new criteria for enrollment. Since that time the number of enrolled members has steadily declined.
Following are some historical pieces of information that document the struggles officials were facing at that time:
March 31, 1942 Memorandum for Mr. Flanery from the Assistant Commissioner
November 3, 1942 Memorandum for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs from Oscar L. Chapman, Assistant Secretary
December 28, 1942 Letter to Ed M. Wilson, President, MCT, from Oscar L. Chapman, Assistant Secretary Minnesota Chippew Delegation
August 25, 1949 Letter and copies of resolutions from Lyzeme Savage, MCT Manager, to John R. Nichols, Commissioner of Indian Affairs
December 1949 Letter to Mr. Savage (MCT) from William E. Warne, Secretary of the Interior
1961 TEC Minutes document discussions on who should be enrolled
1966 TEC Resolution 34-66, Procedures for developing current membership roll
1968 TEC Resolution 31-68 defining "because of an error"
1979 TEC Resolution 110-79 revoking "because of an error"
It is also important to remember when talking about enrollment (citizenship), that originally our ancestors had no concept of blood quantum. Watch this video here from the late Andy Favorite (White Earth) and Larry Aitken (Leech Lake) discuss some history on how blood quantum was determined. Also see the 1910 U.S. Census Instructions relating to Indians and the actual 1910 U.S. Census report. See also the report published ten years after the adoption of the IRA, the US Indian Service published a report on the status of implementation throughout Indian Country.
The federal government needed to determine who was “mixed-blood” as legally defined by U.S. courts primarily to decide which land sales were legal. Those who were “mixed-blood” were allowed to sell their allotments but “full-bloods” were not. U.S. courts ruled that legally a “mixed-blood” was person who had any amount of white blood, no matter how small. So, “mixed-blood” was legally a racial and biological term that was not tied to culture.
There was an investigation in the 1910s during which many Anishinaabeg were asked questions about ancestry, blood quantum, and physical characteristics so that the government could officially decide who was a “mixed-blood.” Ransom Powell (his role is discussed in the Peterson article) headed up the investigation and the records are housed in his papers, which can be viewed at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
Below are a few excerpts from the investigation. Several Anishinaabe witnesses were confused by the investigators use of the terms “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” because racial categories based on biology did not make any sense to them. Many Anishinaabeg insisted that they did not use the categories of “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” to define an individual’s identity or if they did use the categories they insisted the designations were cultural and not racial.
A list of random witness files is included here:
In December, 2016 each of the six Reservations had the following membership numbers:
Bois Forte - 3,478
Fond du Lac - 4,214
Grand Portage - 1,107
Leech Lake - 9,460
Mille Lacs - 4,621
White Earth - 18,449
The Wilder Study
In 2012 the MCT contracted with Wilder Research to conduct a study and produce population projects for the MCT bands. The study was updated in 2014; key findings in the reports include:
- The overall population of the MCT is declining under the 1/4 blood quantum requirement, which has been in effect since 1961.
- The population decline is accompanied by a substantial aging of the enrolled population.
- All scenarios using 1/4 MCT blood quantum will result in population declines over the remainder of this century.