Column: Reservations are more than just land
"Recently a student in an Indian Studies class I teach asked me what, exactly, is an Indian reservation. He had never been on one, he said, but had seen signs on the highway that indicated when cars were entering the Grand Portage and Fond du Lac reservations. Were there boundaries, he wondered, and what did that mean?

I thought his question was a good one.

Yes, I told the student, there are reservation boundaries, and within those boundaries our tribal governments do practice self-governance and self-regulation within some limits established by land acquisition treaties.

All over the United States, Indian reservations were established by a series of treaties, most during the 19th century, that were negotiated between two sovereign bodies: Indian tribes and federal or state governments.

Although both bodies had equal ability to participate in the process, the tribes were at a disadvantage in that the purpose of the treaties was the acquisition of their land by a more powerful entity. Under most treaties, the Indian tribes reluctantly agreed to cede, or sign away, vast areas of land. In return, our ancestors negotiated terms that included such things as payment for the land, household items (tools, plows, food commodities), and a much smaller area of land that would be reserved, or set aside, for the Indians and ceded back once the treaties were finalized."

Get the Story:
Linda Grover: Reservations preserve more than land (The Duluth Budgeteer 2/22)