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Zagaakwaandagowininiwag / Bois Forte Band of Chippewa

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. To obtain Indian people’s rich land and natural resources, the U.S. government signed a series of treaties with Indian nations in the 1700s and 1800s. Under the terms of the Treaty of 1854, Indian people in northern Minnesota ceded land from International Falls to Duluth to Grand Portage. The Bois Forte Indians were given the right to select reservation lands in the vicinity of Lake Vermilion, which was the heart of their community, and they retained the right to hunt and fish in the ceded area. But when reports of gold beneath the Bois Forte people’s lands began to circulate, non-Indians wanted the land. That led to the Treaty of 1866, in which all claims to a reservation near Lake Vermilion were relinquished and a reservation of about 100,000 acres was established at Nett Lake. Even though the Vermilion reservation was reestablished by an 1881 Executive Order, the Bois Forte Indians were only given back about 1,000 acres in the Vermilion area, instead of the tens of thousands they had been promised in the Treaty of 1854.
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.
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