Tribal Relations

Chippewa National Forest employees and dancers together

Map showing the areas of the forest and reservation.The ancestors of the Dakota and Ojibwe occupied this region for thousands of years before the Chippewa National Forest was created. Today, nearly half of the National Forest falls within the boundaries of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation.

Several locations on the Forest illustrate the long term and current use of the land. The Knutson Dam Recreation Area, located off of the Scenic Highway (Beltrami County Highway 39) in the Blackduck District, is currently a campground and boat launch where people gather to camp and fish. Archaeological excavations at this site have found stone tools and fish bone that show people have camped and fished here for as many as 10,000 years.

The South Pike Bay Campground, on the Walker District, and the Williams Narrows Campground, on the Deer River District, are also places were people have camped for thousands of years. If you get a chance visit one of these sites, you’ll be part of this long historical journey too!

The Headwaters region of the Mississippi River includes parts of the Chippewa National Forest and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

It is interesting to learn that Lake Winnibigoshish retains much of its Ojibwe name (Wiinibiigoonzhish-zaaga’igan/Little Stagnant Murky Lake), as does the Mississippi River (Misi-ziibi/Great River), and that there are at least six names for the Mississippi in Ojibwe. Leech Lake also retains its name except that it is a translation of the Ojibwe name (Ozagaskwaajimekaag-zaaga’igan/Abundant with Leeches Lake).


Logo for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe


Did you know:

  • The Leech Lake Indian Reservation and the Chippewa National Forest share almost 2,000 miles of boundary. About 90% of the reservation is situated within the National Forest and the reservation makes up nearly half of the National Forest. This unique geographic relationship directly links the National Forest with the social, economic and cultural well-being of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act, signed into law by the President on December 23, 2020, transfers 11,760 acres of public land, currently managed by the Chippewa National Forest, to the Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the benefit of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

The legislation language makes provisions for continuing to honor any existing private property rights such as easements, permits, or other encumbrances. The language of the legislation does not identify what specific land will be transferred, only the number of acres.

The Forest Service is actively researching policy that will provide more specific direction on how to implement this legislation. The Forest and the Band are now working to identify what specific lands will be transferred. After those lands are determined, maps and associated material will be created.

The Chippewa National Forest will communicate significant progress updates during the implementation of the Act.

For additional information in regards to the bill and the passage of it into law, please visit the associated link at


2019 Memorandum of Understanding between the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe​

Signing of the MOU

 Leech Lake Band Of Ojibwe and Chippewa National Forest Staff

Signing of the MOU

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairman Faron Jackson Sr (Left) and USDA Forest Service Acting Regional Forester Bob Lueckel (Right) sign memorandum of understanding.