The White Earth Indian Reservation is the largest and historically poorest reservation in Minnesota.
White Earth stretches across Mahnomen, Becker and Clearwater counties in the northwest part of the state, along the Wild Rice and White Earth rivers. It is about 225 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul and roughly 65 miles from Fargo-Moorhead.
The reservation had 3,378 residents as of the 2000 census.
White Earth originally covered 1300 square miles, but in the late 19th century and early 20th century, much of the community’s land was improperly sold or seized by outside interests, including the U.S. federal government. This largely was because of the Dawes Act of 1887 and Nelson Act of 1889, which allowed land to be divided up. In the latter half of the 20th century, state and county land was transferred to the reservation in compensation.
In 1989, Winona LaDuke formed the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which slowly has been pushing for the recovery of more land. The project claims that only 15 percent of the reservation’s land is owned by tribal members.