The Bois Forte reservation is located in extreme northern Minnesota, about 45 miles south of the Canadian border. The reservation is divided into three sectors, Nett Lake, Vermilion, and Deer Creek. The largest section is around Nett Lake located in St. Louis and Koochiching counties. 50% of the Nett Lake sector is wetland and is said to be the largest producer of wild rice in the United States. The Nett Lake sector is home to the majority of the Bois Forte Band members and the Band’s primary government offices. Bois Forte, or “strong wood”, was the French name given to the Indians living in the densest forests of what is now extreme northern Minnesota.
The Vermilion sector of the reservation is located on Lake Vermilion, near Tower in St. Louis County. Vermilion is home to additional Band members and to Fortune Bay Resort Casino. The third section of the reservation is Deer Creek, which lies in Itasca County, and currently, no Band members reside in this section.
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa (also referred to as Ojibwe) has lived in northern Minnesota for centuries, but they did not originate there. The people journeyed from the east coast up the Saint Lawrence River, around the Great Lakes and followed rivers and lakes inland.
The community first entered into a treaty with the United States in 1854 that set aside an undefined region around Lake Vermilion as a reservation. The regions at Nett Lake and Itasca County – Deer Creek – were officially established in an 1866 treaty, and the Lake Vermilion lands were defined in an 1881 executive order. In 1997, the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council assumed full responsibility for the delivery of all government programs and services to its people.
The Bois Forte Band has carefully reinvested their revenues and diversified their business portfolio as part of their commitment to strengthening the region’s economy and increasing Band member employment. Under the management of the Bois Forte Development Corporation, the Band now owns and operates Fortune Bay Resort Casino, The Wilderness Golf Course, WELY- End of the Road Radio, the Y-Store, the C-Store, and Bois Forte Wild Rice. Fortune Bay Resort Casino officially opened in August of 1986 and currently employs over 500 people, annually injecting more than $30 million into the economy of northern Minnesota
The Bois Forte people have seen many changes, the great forests are gone, and there are more people and far fewer animals. Despite these alterations, Bois Forte has endured and preserved their ancient traditions; harvesting wild rice, tapping maple trees, and picking berries to name a few.
As Bois Forte enters the Information Age, they still hold and cherish their traditions and culture. Balancing and weaving everything together – a sense of community is expressed in gatherings, celebrations in powwow, and sacred ceremonies. Keeping things in balance Bois Forte embraces education, keeping ancient traditions alive as well as planning and preparing for the future.