A sign identifying the Turtle Mountain Reservation, home to one of the five Tribes in North Dakota

Need to Know: North Dakota Tribes

Our “Need to Know” blog series explores important Tribal governance-related concepts in detail. In this installment, we take a look at the Tribes located in North Dakota.

North Dakota is home to five federally-recognized Tribes. (If you’re curious to learn more about sovereignty and what it means to be a Native nation, see our previous post on Minnesota Tribes.) Native Americans make up 5% of North Dakota’s population; almost 40% of the Native population in North Dakota is under the age of 20.

An Overview of North Dakota’s Five Native Nations

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is the largest Tribe in North Dakota, with over 30,000 enrolled members. Over 16,000 of these enrolled members live on or adjacent to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, which is located about 25 miles from the United States-Canadian border. Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians are Anishinaabe and are primarily members of the Pembina Band of Chippewa.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is the next largest, with approximately 16,000 enrolled members. The Standing Rock Indian Reservation spans the border between North and South Dakota and is the fifth largest reservation (land area) in the United States. Standing Rock is also the birthplace of Sitting Bull, a notable leader who fought against the United States government’s efforts to erase Native culture and steal Native land. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is comprised of both Lakota and Dakota people.

Spirit Lake Nation and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate are the two Dakota Tribes in North Dakota. Spirit Lake has about 7,200 enrolled members, while Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate has about 13,000. The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate call the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation home, which is largely located in South Dakota; a small portion occupies part of the southeastern corner of North Dakota. The Spirit Lake Indian Reservation is located in east-central North Dakota.

Finally, the Mandan, Hidatsa Arikara Nation (also referred to as MHA Nation or Three Affiliated Tribes) has over 12,000 enrolled members who are primarily Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish. (The Arikara call themselves Sahnish, which means the original people from whom all other tribes sprang.) While the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish people all reside on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation together and have shared culture and histories, they’ve also retained their individual cultures, histories, and Tribal relationships.

The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission

Cohort 1 Native Nation Rebuilder Scott Davis directs the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. The Commission is a state agency that serves as a resource center for Tribes and seeks to improve state-Tribal relations in North Dakota. It took an historic step toward improving relationships by hosting the Strengthening Government to Government Relationships and Partnerships Conference in January 2018. The conference, the first of its kind in North Dakota, drew more than 300 Tribal, state, and federal officials with the goal of rebuilding relationships between Tribes and the state in the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

To learn more about North Dakota Tribes, visit our Native Nations Resource Page.