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Welcome to experience the exhibit


What are sovereignty and treaties?

Treaties are agreements between self-governing, or sovereign, nations. Native Nations existed long before the formation of the United States. European powers recognized the sovereign status of Native Nations, when they made treaties with us, as did the United States.

– Kevin Leecy, Chairman,
Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and
Chair of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council

Treaties, affirmed in courts, have not given, but retained for native people the right to hunt, fish and gather as they have for hundreds of years. These rights are often called usufructuary rights, which is just a legal term for the right to use something. You can sell a piece of land, but retain the right to use the dock. You can have an easement put in place where two neighbors share the same driveway. This concept was written right into the treaties between native tribes and the U.S. Government.

Dr. Anton Treuer
Professor of Ojibwe, Bemidji State University

sov·er·eign·ty  |  noun
independent of all others, and in the case of government, self-governing nations

trea·ty  | noun: treaty; plural noun: treaties
a formal agreement between separate nations

Invitation to a treaty 


Treaties are agreements between self-governing, or sovereign, nations. The story of Native nations within Minnesota is the story of making treaties—from the time before Europeans came to this land, through treaty making with the United States, to the growth of tribal self-determination in our time.

Dakota and Ojibwe Treaties


We Have Always Been Sovereign Nations

There are seven Ojibwe and four Dakota reservations in Minnesota. In the 19th century, the tribes signed treaties with the United States that recognized their status as self-governing nations. Over time Ojibwe and Dakota people have had to defend their treaty rights, enabling contemporary tribes to celebrate and enhance their strength as sovereign nations.

Our sovereignty is not something that anyone gave to us, or can take away. It is inherent: something Indian tribes have by virtue of the fact that we existed long before there were places called the United States or Minnesota.

— Kevin Leecy
Tribal Chairman, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa