History of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

According to oral traditions, the Ojibwe first lived on the Atlantic coast of North America. About 500 years ago, the ancestors of the Mille Lacs Band began migrating west.

By the mid-1700s, the Ojibwe had established themselves in the region around Mille Lacs Lake in what is today East Central Minnesota. They supported themselves by hunting deer, bear, moose, waterfowl, and small game; fishing the area’s lakes and streams; gathering wild rice, maple sugar, and berries; and cultivating plants.

But it wasn’t long before the Mille Lacs Ojibwe’s self-sufficient way of life was affected by a new presence in their homeland. Europeans started arriving, and as their numbers grew, they began taking more and more of the Mille Lacs Band’s land and natural resources in violation of treaties, statutes and agreements.

Because of new diseases and federal policies, by the end of the nineteenth century, only a few hundred Ojibwe remained on the Mille Lacs Reservation. Band members’ religion was banned, the teaching of their language and culture was often forbidden, their right to govern themselves was virtually taken away, and their traditional means of making a living was made nearly impossible.

Over the next century, the Mille Lacs Band struggled with poverty and despair. Finally, in the early 1990s, the Band opened Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley. Since then, casino revenues have allowed the Mille Lacs Band to strengthen its cultural identity, return to economic self-sufficiency, rebuild its reservation, and increase the prosperity of the entire region.