In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Richard W. McCloud, tribal chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
Where is your community located?
The Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation is in Belcourt, North Dakota.
Where were the Turtle Mountain Chippewa originally from?
The origins of the Pembina Chippewa are associated with the trading post established at Pembina in the northeastern corner of North Dakota in 1801. For many years this post was the focal point for many Chippewa hunting and trading in the region. Anishinabe, meaning the first or original people, is our name for ourselves. The spelling of Anishinabe has many variants depending on whether the name is singular or plural, or which tribe or band is using it.
?What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?
To preside at all regular and special meetings of the Tribal Council. To vote only in the case of a tie. To see that all council resolutions and ordinances are carried into effect, or to veto any resolution and ordinance. To exercise general supervision of all other officers and employees and see that their respective duties are performed. To be the chief executive officer of the tribe and to give the State of the Tribe Address.
How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?
Sitting on local boards—the school board for 15 years, the gaming board, the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO) board—and the national board of the U.S. Postal Service showed me the path to successfully lead our tribe to the next level.
Who inspired you as a mentor?
My parents, who taught me to be the best I can be.
Are you a descendant of a historical leader?
What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?
The McCumber Agreement of 1892, also known as the Ten Cent Treaty. [This Act of Congress greatly reduced the lands and enrolled membership of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. It is called the Ten Cent Treaty because the U.S. government paid ten cents an acre for nearly one million acres of Chippewa land along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota.]
How is your tribal government set up?
The government of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians consists of a Tribal Council, chairman, and court system. The Tribal Council must meet at least once a month, and its meetings are constitutionally required to be open to the public unless council members are discussing protected personnel information or confidential business contracts. The tribe is supported by federal funds and by a percentage of profits of the SkyDancer Casino. The tribe also gains revenue from various tribal programs that charge fees and from interest on treaty funds. The constitution adopted in 1932, established the Tribal Council—then called the Turtle Mountain Advisory Committee—made up of eight enrolled tribal members.
Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?
No. The concept of traditional government changed in 1891. A committee of 16 mixed bloods and 16 full bloods, called the Committee of 32, replaced the traditional Grand Council of 24 members under the hereditary leadership of Chief Little Shell.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.