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Turtle Mountain Tribal Government - Traditional Chippewa Government

Traditional Chippewa Government | Divisions of Society |
Contemporary Chippewa Tribal Government

Traditional Chippewa Government

The Chippewa social system was structured to meet the basic need for tribal maintenance, growth, and longevity. This philosophy of the Ojibway Nation focused on man’s five basic needs as described by Basil Johnston (1990):

From man’s five basic individual and social needs
and endeavors, leadership, protection, sustenance,
learning, and physical well-being, emerged the
framework and fabric of Ojibway society.

*Tribe Chippewa
*Band Turtle Mountain Band
*Clan Totem

*Chippewa and Cree are examples of Tribes (Nations). Red Lake Band, White Earth Band, and Turtle Mountain Pembina Band are examples of Bands. The Bear, Fish, and Deer represent clans.

The Clan System was the framework and fabric of Chippewa society. The totem identified a function for clan members based upon man’s five basic individual and social needs and endeavors—leadership, protection, sustenance, physical well-being, and learning. Tribal members, who were born under the same totem, considered themselves brothers and sisters and this connected them into an alliance for the well-being of all members. Totems were descended through the male line. (Warren, 1985) In this way, chieftainship sometimes passed on from father to son, when the son revealed the ability to prove himself in a manner that the majority agreed upon.

And whereas . . . it has been the custom, practice,
and tradition among the [Chippewa] for the chief of
the tribe to select his . . . councilmen from the
members of the tribe. A councilman served only
during the period in which he could act in harmony
with the chief and the majority of the council, and
when he could not do so he resigned. Such councils
answered the same end and purpose as does the
Cabinet and Congress of the United States. Those
customs and traditions have always been respected
by the United States Government in all its dealings
with the Indians wherever located. And in accordance
with said customs and traditions, Ays Sence or Little
Shell, senior, appointed his council.
(Senate Document
444, October 24, 1892)

These honorable positions were aspiring through the oral history that they passed from generation to generation. The purpose of the history was to provide an understanding of the origin of culture and values.

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