Indians of North Dakota
The name North Dakota is from a Sioux word meaning "friend" or "Allies"
About 6,000 American Indians lived in North Dakota in 1910. Many of them lived on reservations, but many did not. When the 1915 and 1925 state censuses were taken, Indians were enumerated throughout the state in the townships and counties where they lived and were designated as Indians on those censuses. By 1970 there were over 25,000.
Various field offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- superintendencies, agencies, Indian schools, and others --created records of births, marriages, deaths, adoptions, censuses, schools, land allotments, probates, and other miscellaneous records. Many of these records are available only at the originating office, if that office is still operating. Some of the original records have been transferred to the National Archives or to the Central Plains Regional Archives of NARA. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilm copies of some of these records.
To learn how to get started with American Indian research, find research facilities, and American Indian websites click here.
Tribes and Bands of North Dakota
The following list of American Indians who have lived in North Dakota has been compiled from Hodge's Handbook of American Indians... and from Swanton's The Indian Tribes of North America. Some may simply be variant spellings for the same tribe.
- Devils Lake Sioux
- Santee Sioux
- Sisseton Sioux
- Teton Sioux
- Wahpeton Sioux
- Wiciyela Sioux
From the mid-1800s, the official policy of the United States government toward the American Indian was to confine each tribe to a specific parcel of land called a reservation. Agencies were established on or near each reservation. A government representative, usually called an agent (or superintendent) was assigned to each agency. Their duties included maintaining the peace, making payments to the Native Americans based on the stipulations of the treaties with each tribe, and providing a means of communication between the native population and the federal government.
Sometimes, a single agency had jurisdiction over more than one reservation. And sometimes, if the tribal population and land area required it, an agency may have included sub-agencies.
The boundaries of reservations, over time, have changed. Usually, that means the reservations have been reduced in size. Sometimes, especially during the later policy of "termination," the official status of reservations was ended altogether.
For a current reservation map - North Dakota - Indian Reservations - The National Atlas of the United States of America. Federal Lands and Indian Reservations. by the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Geological Survey.
The following list of reservations has been compiled from the National Atlas of the United States of America, the Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America, and other sources. Those reservations named in bold are current federally-recognized reservations, with their associated agency and tribe(s). Others have historically been associated with the state or are not currently recognized by the federal government.
There are five federally-recognized Indian reservations in North Dakota -- the Fort Berthold Reservation in west-central North Dakota, the Lake Traverse Reservation in the southeastern corner of North Dakota, the Spirit Lake Reservation in the east-central part of North Dakota, the Standing Rock Reservation in south-central North Dakota and northern South Dakota, and the Turtle Mountain Reservation in north-central North Dakota, near the Canadian border..
The Fort Berthold Reservation is located in west-central North Dakota in ____________ Counties. It originally consisted of ____ acres. Some of the towns located within the reservation include ___________. The tribes on the reservation are known as the Three Affiliated Tribes -- the Hidatsa, Arikara, and Mandan. It is under the jurisdiction of the Fort Berthold Agency.
The major portion of the Lake Traverse Reservation is located in South Dakota. A very small corner of it protrudes into southeastern North Dakota in Sargent and Richland Counties.
Created in 1871, it originally contained about 230,000 acres and was known as the Devils Lake Reservation. It is located in east-central North Dakota, mostly in Benson County. The reservation was initially under the jurisdiction of the Devils Lake Agency. The name of the agency was changed in 1906 to the Fort Totten Agency, under which it currently operates. The reservation has sometimes been called the Fort Totten Reservation. The major towns within the reservation boundaries are Fort Totten, Harmar, St, Michael, and Warwick. Devils Lake is the closest larger town, but is just off the reservation. The Devils Lake Sioux are actually a part of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Band. They are closely related to the Sisseton in South Dakota and to the Sioux living west of Brandon, Manitoba.
Standing Rock Reservation is located in south-central North Dakota and in north-central South Dakota. It consists of over 3500 square miles in Sioux County, North Dakota and Corson County, South Dakota, along with small parts of Dewey and Ziebach Counties, South Dakota, The population of 8250 (2000 pop. figures) are Dakota and Lakota Sioux.
The Turtle Mountain Reservation was established in Dec. 1882 and is located primarily in the Turtle Mountains in Rolette County, North Dakota. This federeally-recognized reservation consists of approximately 70 square miles. The population on the reservation is about 6,000 (2000 pop. figures).
In addition to the main portion of the reservation, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa also hold title to approximately 170 square miles of trust lands scattered throughout some 22 counties in North Dakota and Montana, with a smaller portion in South Dakota.
Agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Agencies and subagencies were created as administrative offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its predecessors. Their purpose was (and is) to manage Indian affairs with the tribes, to enforce policies, and to assist in maintaining the peace. The names and location of these agencies may have changed, but their purpose remained basically the same. Many of the records of genealogical value were created by these offices.
The following list of agencies that have operated or now exist in North Dakota has been compiled from Hill's Office of Indian Affairs..., Hill's Guide to Records in the National Archives Relating to American Indians, and others.
- Devils Lake Agency
- Fort Berthold Agency, P.O. Box 370, New Town, North Dakota 58763
- Fort Totten Agency, P.O. Box 270, Fort Totten, North Dakota 58335
- Grand River Agency
- Sisseton Agency 1867-1880
- Standing Rock Agency - prior to 1875 known as Grand River Agency
- Turtle Mountain Agency, P.O. Box 60, Belcourt, North Dakota 58316
Family History Library has, Records of the Dakota Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1861-1870 and 1877-1878, and the Wyoming Superintendency, 1870. FHL film 1549631 (first of 13 films)
The Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) established a network of schools throughout the United States, beginning with Carlisle Indian School, established in 1879. Some of these schools were day schools, usually focusing on Indian children of a single tribe or reservation. Some were boarding schools which served Indian children from a number of tribes and reservations.
In addition, other groups such as various church denominations established schools specifically focusing on American Indian children. (read more...)The following list of Indian Schools in North Dakota has been compiled from Hill's Office of Indian Affairs...FHL book 970.1 H551o, and Hill's Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981.FHL book 970.1 H551g
- Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C.:Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #30 1907. Available online.
- Swanton John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #145 Available online.
- National Atlas of the United States of America -- Federal Lands and Indian Reservations Available online.
- Isaacs. Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices, Bureau of Indian Affairs List of American Indian Reservations, Appendix E, Indian Reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991.
- Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc. 1974. (Family History Library book 970.1 H551o.)
- Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981. (FHL book 970.1 H551g.)