Throughout the history of the Turtle Mountain Band there have been three Little Shell Chiefs. They all held the same name of Little Shell (Ase-anse). They were also called Aissance or Little Clam.
Little Shell I was considered a British Ojibwa Chief of the Red River. He lived in the area of the Red River and Spirit Lake (Devils Lake). The Dakotas killed Little Shell I and the people of the camp at Spirit Lake.
Little Shell II became the hereditary chief of the Pembina Band. Little Shell II was Chief during the time of the Old Crossing Treaty (1863). Little Shell and other Chiefs of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands were against the treaty. This treaty allowed the government to take 11 million acres of land along the Red River. To Little Shell II and the people, this was the land of their fathers. The treaty was signed under protest.
In 1807–1808 Ase-anse (Little Shell I) attempted to lead his followers to his ancestral residence at Man-e-to Sah-gi-e-gun (Spirit Lake, presently Devils Lake). This party all met their death on the prairies at the hands of the Dakota. In 1808, Ase-anse was one of the most influential of the Chippewa Chiefs of Pembina. Tanner (a white Ottawa captive) states that Ase-anse was the last of the “considerable men of his age” among the Red River Chippewa. Prior to his death in 1808, his son Tabasnawa, and an old woman, were also killed by the Dakota at the Wild Rice River.
Little Shell III was the last in line of the hereditary Chiefs. He was the Chief of the Turtle Mountain Band. Little Shell III is noted for his involvement in the McCumber Agreement. He did not agree with its terms and refused to sign the McCumber Agreement. This Little Shell III had two wives. One of the wives died before Little Shell III reached the age of 56. He had four children: Mary, Joseph, Genevieve, and Pierre. In the early 1900s records show a boy named Thomas died. Pierre took the name of his brother, who had died before him. Pierre was also known as Kiyon. Kiyon never married, had children, or assumed the responsibilities of the Chief. With the death of Kiyon, the lineage of Little Shell line of hereditary Chiefs ended.
In the history of the Turtle Mountains there were also two chiefs with the name Red Bear. The first Red Bear was involved with, and is noted for, signing the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863. He was also a sub-chief of the Pembina Band. His Indian name was Muskomaquah (Misko-mukwuh).
The second Red Bear was the son of the first. He was a Chief in Little Shell III’s Band. They settled on the Turtle Mountain Reservation after the Executive Order of December 21, 1882.
Red Thunder was very important in the history of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. He was a secondary chief to Little Shell III. He was appointed by Little Shell III to preside over his 24-member council in Little Shell III’s absence. He was instrumental in the McCumber Commission. Red Thunder is recognized for the speech he gave to the McCumber Commission:
When you (the white man) first put your foot upon this land of ours you found no one but the red man, and the Indian woman, by whom you have begotten a large family and pointing to the half breeds present, he said: “These are the children and descendants of that woman. They must be recognized as members of this tribe.” We are all glad that our Great Father sent you here and we hope that you will relieve us from starvation, for we have nothing to eat. (Report of the Turtle Mountain Indian Commission, Government Document 44)
John Baptist Bottineau was the nephew of Charles Bottineau, who co-owned a trading post with Charles Grant at Pembina. He was known as the first farmer of North Dakota. In his early years, John grew up in St. Anthony Falls, now Minneapolis, Minnesota where he studied law. He married Marie Renville, and moved to the Turtle Mountain area.
Little Shell III asked John Baptist Bottineau to represent the Turtle Mountain Band to negotiate the McCumber Agreement. As attorney for the Turtle Mountain Band, Bottineau traveled to Washington, D.C. on numerous occasions on behalf of the tribe. Officials of the Indian Bureau once removed him from the Turtle Mountain Reservation. He served for many years on the Turtle Mountain Tribal Business Council. Dedicated to the Turtle Mountain people, John Baptist Bottineau spent the last twenty years of his life in Washington, D.C. working on the Turtle Mountain Claim, during which he became a noted statesman. (“John Baptiste Bottineau,” 1913)
While there is little information available to document the transition in leadership during this period, it is reported that Kaishpau Gourneau was chief of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in 1882. (It is documented that Little Shell II lived at St. Joe but died in 1874. Little Shell III then became hereditary chief upon his father’s death. Little Shell II lived near Plentywood, Montana, before coming to the Turtle Mountain in 1887). Meanwhile, Docket 113 states that in 1882, Kaishpau Gourneau was Chief of the Pembina Band. Kaishpau Gourneau traveled to Washington, D.C. and served on a treaty delegation from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Little Shell III returned in 1882 and called a meeting, apparently not aware that Kaishpau was Chief.
Although not much information is available, early sources indicate Chief Kakenowash succeeded Chief Little Shell in 1901. Kakenowash, in the 1900s, is photographed, along with a tribal council member, Henry Poitras. Also, pictured is attorney John or Pierre Bottineau. A letter from the Turtle Mountain Agency superintendent indicates that in January of 1917, Kakenowash, with his interpreter, Eustache Roussin, went to Washington, D.C. to represent the tribe.
Louis Riel was born on October 22, 1844, in St. Boniface, Manitoba. His father was Louis Riel, Sr., and his mother was Julie Lajimodiere. He married Margaret Monette and they had two children. Riel was a strong, colorful, enigmatic man, fluent in four Native languages, along with French. Similar to many Métis he spoke little English. Riel became an Oblate novice and studied in Montreal, but returned west to the Red River and the Métis people. By 1869, the disappearance of the buffalo herds, the influx of settlers, intrusions of foreign cultures, and political and religious elements, resulted in rising tension and apprehension by the Métis people. (Coutu, 1980, p. 63-64) Dissatisfied with the Canadian government, Riel and his Métis followers led two rebellions. Following the defeat at the Battle of Batoche, Riel chose to surrender and stand trial so that at last, the Métis case could be heard. Riel was charged with high treason on July 6, 1885, a charge that called for the death penalty upon conviction. The jury consisted of six men, all of Protestant English stock. Riel was found guilty and was hung for treason in the early morning hours of November 16, 1885, in Regina, Saskatchewan. Riel is buried at St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba. (McLean, 1987, P. 229-231)
Gabriel Dumont was born on the prairie southwest of the Red River in 1837. His father was Isidore, or Ai-caw-pow (The Stander) Dumont. His mother was Louise Laframboise, a Sarcee. (McKee, 1973, p. 3) Gabriel Dumont was famous for his skill in the hunt, and for his leadership ability and generosity among fellow Métis. At a young age, Gabriel became an expert marksman and skillful horseman. His legend as a Métis grew as he distinguished himself as a buffalo hunter and a fearless warrior. Able to speak six native languages as well as French, he earned a reputation as a diplomat. (McLean, 1987, p. 110) During the second Métis Rebellion, Gabriel fled to the United States. He eventually joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Gabriel Dumont died on May 19, 1906. He is buried in the cemetery at Batoche in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Kanick was an early leader of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In 1892, he was given the English name of Walking Thunder. The October 1, 1911 census listed him as being 30 years old. His father was Little Crane who was chief Little Shell’s brother. His mother’s name was Okeshewashicha (Flying Swift) and his father’s name was Ochechakonsh. He had three children, Judy, Mary, and Nanapush. (St. Ann’s Centennial Guide, 1985, p. 131)
Historical documents indicate Kanick served on the council in the latter part of the 18th century and early 1900s. He traveled to Washington, D.C. with Chief Kaishpa Gourneau.