CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Native American Rehabilitation - North Dakota

North Dakota

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Turtle Mountain Comunity College
P.O. Box 340
Belcourt, North Dakota 58316

Section One - Descriptive Information

1. Describe the reservation in terms of geography, people, language and government.

The Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation is located in north central North Dakota. The Reservation is located near the geographical center of North America, its top edge less than ten miles from the United States/Canada boundary. The land base measures nine by twelve miles making it one of the smallest federally recognized reservations in the United States.

The Plains Ojibway consider Turtle Mountain the original beginning place. Chippewa people belong to the Algonquin speaking group of North American Indians. The Algonquin family of Indians is the largest group in North America. Once inhabiting the northeastern part of the continent stretching as far westward as the Rocky Mountains they are now relegated by treaties and executive orders to small segments of land located in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. We also call ourselves Anishinabe or "the original people."

Prior to white contact, the Chippewa had always hunted and trapped for survival. This being so, the transition to commercial hunting and trapping for the fur trade industry was easily accomplished. The fur trade industry also created the era of the voyagers. The voyagers, in search of furs, portaged canoes through the vast wilderness of rivers, lakes, and seaways in the Northwest Territory. Close association between the French voyagers and Chippewa developed through sharing of common economic, social, and physical survival activities. Young voyager men married Chippewa women and thus created a distinct new culture and language. Cultural and language similarities between the

Plains Cree and the Chippewa also resulted in intermarriage between the two tribes. As a result the Chippewa-Cree French dialects resulted in a unique language which is still spoken today.

In 1864, white settlers demanded that the U.S. government move the Turtle Mountain Chippewa further west of their landbase. The Turtle Mountain tribe sent a delegation to protest the impending removal of their people but the expansion could not be forestalled. In 1882, the U.S. government designated the official reservation of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa to twenty townships and than later reduced it to two townships. In 1921, the Bureau of Indian Affairs furnished a model constitution and bylaws to set up the structure for the new tribal government. The Tribal Council formed was advisory but a starting point and provided a measure of limited influence. Today, 110 years after reservation status, the Indian Self- Determination and Education Assistance Act (1975) allows us autonomy in managing our own affairs. The elected Tribal Council is now charged with the responsibility and administration of government programs.

2. Describe the major health issues addressed by the rehabilitation and medical services on the reservation.

The Turtle Mountain Vocational Rehabilitation Project will extend much of its efforts toward addressing two disabilities of high prevalence on the Turtle Mountain Reservation: alcoholism/drug abuse and specific learning disabilities. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians experiences severe alcohol and drug problems in its community. There is also strong indication through interviews with local educational agency staff that a high percentage of high school and college level students are learning disabled.

3. Describe the employment/economy, education system and the cultural kinship systems in place.

The majority of the locally employed individuals work at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Community Schools, the Turtle Mountain Manufacturing Plant, Turtle Mountain Community College, or Turtle Mountain Tribe. At the present time, the unemployment rate is at 40% on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. However, this figure continues to decline with the recent opening of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Casinos. One casino opened in 1992 and another in 1993.

Forced assimilation became an obsession of the U.S., as evidenced by the separation of children from their families and sending them away to boarding schools. The schools, through government mandate, ruled that Indian languages and traditional culture were to be discouraged in the interest of "civilizing" us. White educators believed that an Indian child removed from all traces of his/her heritage would grow up in the "Euro American" culture. The idea that one might develop a greater sense of self-worth and pride through knowing one's self and heritage was unknown to U.S. officials, many who were themselves minimally educated. In 1921, the federal government built the first Bureau of Indian Affairs school on the reservation. Today that school has expanded to three schools with a enrollment of over 2,000 in grades K-12. The majority of teachers are local Indians. We also have one of the grassroots Indian controlled community colleges with the doors opening in 1973 to serve the local population. The Turtle Mountain Community College is now 21 years old and is fully accredited, offering seven certificate programsl nine Applied Science degrees, 16 Associate of Science degrees, and 12 Associate of Arts degrees.

Members of the Tribe are making an effort to salvage what they can of their traditional Indian heritage. Tribal members are making an effort to preserve a language which is spoken little in the current generation but has been recorded in books and tapes and is being taught within the education system. The native religious practices are now being revived. The music, songs, dances, sweat lodge healing, and arts and crafts have again become a part of life with the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. The Turtle Mountain Community College, Roundhall Traditional Culture, Nimiwiwin Powwow Committeel Heritage Center, the Anishinabaug Cultural Development Projectl and tribal members who live a traditional lifestyle are sharing their knOwledge with other tribal members as the means by which the Turtle Mountain Chippewa are perpetuating and preserving their cultural heritage.

Section Two - Program and Services

4. How is rehabilitation viewed by the community, culture, consumers, hmily and social structure?

Families are very anxious to help with the rehabilitation of their family member. Several family members have been actively involved with their loved ones rehabilitation process. The community helping agencies have referred very often "defined disabilities" as mentioned above. A total of 58 consumers have come in at this point. An important part of our rehabilitation program entails the Red Road to Recovery/Aicohol Treatment Program Concept which incorporates traditional Native American culture and teaches balance in all things.

5. How is rehabilitation different today from the practices five years ago? Twenty years ago?

It is different because the client is more involved with their own rehabilitation and cultural concepts are included in local agencies

6. What makes rehabilitation unique or exemplary on your reservation?

As stated previously, we incorporate the "Red Road" concept.

7. What are the characteristics of persons with disabilities on your reservation?

As stated previouslyl the average program participant is middle-aged with a family and most likely has chemical dependency or diabetes related disabilities.

8. What do you see as the needs and wants of individuals with disabilities on the reservations? What are the immediate concerns of persons with disabilities on your reservation?

Most clients want services centrally localized. Due to poor economic conditions, income maintenance is a concern.

9. what is the future of rehabilitatiOn on your reservation and, from your perspective, for the Native American Nations?

We see rehabilitation growing on a broader scale. For Native American Nations, we would hope to see on-going legislation to fund 130 Projects like the states agencies.

10. What roles does technology play in the lives of individuals with disabilities on your reservation?

The area of technology Is a high need area and much needs to be addressed on our reservation. I would like to see a special workshop for technology.

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