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Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota

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A state senator says the Legislature should make good on a promise made more than a century ago. In 1893 lawmakers agreed to pay $500 to buy the oldest cemetery in North Dakota. But with tough times, the state couldn't afford the northeastern landmark in Pembina County, Sen. Tom Trenbeath, R-Cavalier, said. By the 1920s the Metis cemetery and a nearby Roman Catholic mission had disappeared into a wheat field. Now he wants $15,000 to repay Pembina County for its recent purchase of the property. The Metis, descendants of French fur trappers and local American Indian women, are a rich part of the state's early history and worth remembering, he said. The county wants to turn the cemetery over to the band for maintenance and upkeeping - a proposal which ran into resistance at a House Appropriations hearing March 12. Louis Ritchoutte said he is a Metis descendant and would like to see state or county supervision. The State Historical Society estimates as many as 800 people could be buried at the old mission which was once surrounding by a thriving trapping community of more than 1,000 people. Trenbeath said the band is the most logical choice since it is willing to pay for maintenance.