By Jesse Wells
Recently, the Chippewa/Cree tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation met the end of what has been referred to as "18 money." The phenomenon of "18 money" has been a major concern for all enrolled members who did not meet the deadline to receive these funds, leaving many skeptical to why these funds are no longer available. The public, as well as students, wants to know exactly what "18 money" was and why it is no longer there.
I can speak for myself on this issue, for I was one who received a Pembina Chippewa award. I knew hardly anything about these funds and why I was getting this money, so upon getting the opportunity to research this topic, I jumped at it right away. I always wondered why I was receiving these funds when I hadn't done anything to deserve them or even work for them. This is what drove me to write this article.
I asked a few of my fellow students here at Box Elder School who received their Pembina Chippewa award about whether or not they knew the history of "18 money" and why they were receiving these funds, and I came to the conclusion that the majority knew the funds came from a treaty that was signed sometime in the past. Most of them, however, were just waiting for a big check when they turned eighteen.
In my mission to find out the facts, I spoke with James Montes, Field Representative of the BIA for the Rocky Boy Reservation, and he explained to me the basis of the Pembina Chippewa Award. Many years ago, caucasian settlers along with the government took millions of acres that belonged to the Pembina Chippewa Indians. Of course, the tribes were very unhappy, and to avoid war with the Chippewa, the United States government signed what was known as the 10-Cent Treaty in 1895 in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. This treaty stated that the federal government had to pay a dime an acre for the Chippewa land in northeastern North Dakota that had been taken from them.
However, it wasn't until Dec. 31, 1982, that Congress signed the Pembina Chippewa Act, creating the judgment claim and stating how such funds were to be distributed equally among the tribes. Under this act, the four bands receiving these funds were the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, the Chippewa/Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy's Reservation, the Chippewa of White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, the Little Shell Band "Landless Indians" of the Chippewa Indians, and the nonmember Pembina descendants who were not enrolled in any tribe. In order for the nonmembers to participate in the distribution of funds, all individuals had to prove at least one-quarter Pembina Chippewa blood, be citizens of the U.S., born on or before the date of the enactment of this act, and not be a member of the other bands.
This act stated that eighty percent of the funds were to be distributed in the form of per capita payments to all enrolled members who were living on the date of the act. This meant 32,410 Pembina Chippewa received the first payment on May 27, 1988, totalling $1,720.48 apiece. The second, and final payment was made on February 1, 1994, in the amount of $1,266.28. The enrolled members of these tribes that were not yet 18 at the time of the payments had their money put into a trust until they turned 18, hence the term "18 money."
This claim also stated that twenty percent of the funds were to be held in trust and invested by the Secretary of Interior for the benefit of the members of each tribe. The tribes could deplete the interest from the funds invested, but could not touch the principal. Therefore, there had to be a budget approved by the BIA in order to utilize these interest funds for three tribal purposes: economic programs, education/recreation, and tribal administration. If individuals receiving their per capita share of funds became deceased, the beneficiary received these funds. These funds were not subject to any taxes or considered income for any tax purposes.
Now, the answer to the question of why these funds are no longer available to tribal members who turn eighteen? If they were not born on or before Congress passed the Pembina Chippewa Act on Dec. 31, 1982, they were not eligible to receive these funds. So, if you were one of those people wondering what "18 money" was, now you know!