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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  4

Indian Treaties

(-As transcribed from pages 20 - 22)

The pine lands of the Chippewa were known to exist 150 years ago, but it was not until 1822 that the first sawmill was constructed to convert the timber into lumber, and to float it down the Mississippi to the markets on its banks. The fame of the resources of the valley in this respect spread far and wide, even to New England, and slowly the tide of emigration set in. Thus this now famous lumber region became peopled with the general exodus from the eastern states which began in 1835 and continued for many years. These were the sturdy pioneers who have made the valley what it is today. The men and women who endured hardships and privations in order to make the after years of their lives worth living, and to pave the way for others who would carry on the enterprise. The emigrants from Europe, especially from Sweden, came later until the population became a mixture of Americans, English, Scotch, Scandinavians, Germans, etc. The delta of the Chippewa and the territory lying between the Mississippi and the Menomonie (Red Cedar) rivers were claimed by Wabashaw's band of Sioux Indians, though it was in truth the neutral ground between the Sioux and the Chippewas, among whom a deadly feud existed. The whole of what is now Wisconsin was up to 1825 held by various tribes of Indians, in some instances by force of arms. Their respective rights in the land became so complicated and were the cause of such frequent bloodshed among them that the government determined to change this condition of things if possible. Under its direction and authority, a treaty was entered into at Prairie du Chien in 1825 by all the Indian tribes within a distance of 500 miles each way, and approved by General William Clark and Lewis Cass on behalf of the government, whereby the boundaries of the respective territories of the Indian nations represented were definitely fixed. The negotiation was continued at Fond du Lac in 1826 because not all the Chippewa bands had been represented at Prairie du Chien, notwithstanding thirty-six chiefs and headsmen had signed. At this time everyone was satisfied, and not only were the articles of Prairie du Chien confirmed, but a clause 20 was put in the treaty giving the United States the right to take any metals or minerals from the country. By the treaty of 1837, all the lands of the Sioux nation east of the Mississippi, and all the islands belonging to them in that river, were, for the considerations therein mentioned, ceded to the United States; also the lands claimed by the Chippewas back from Lake Superior in Wisconsin.

In October, 1842, To-go-ne-ge-shik with eighty-five chiefs and braves of the Chippewas executed a treaty at La Pointe on Lake Superior whereby all the Chippewa lands in Wisconsin became listed in the United States. For this kingdom the United States paid the Chippewas about one million dollars. The treaty granted in general terms eighty acres to each head of a family or single person over twenty-one of Chippewa or mixed blood, provided, for allotment in severalty by the President as fast as the occupants became capable of transacting their own affairs, gave the President authority to assign tracts in exchange for mineral lands, and allowed right of way, upon compensation, to all necessary roads, highways and railroads. The Indians were to receive $5,000 a year for twenty years in money, $8,000 in goods, household furniture and cooking utensils, $3,000 a year in agricultural implements, cattle, carpenter and other tools and building material, and $3,000 a year for moral and educational purposes, of which the Grand Portage band, having a special thirst for learning, was to receive $3,000. To pay all debts $90,000 was placed at the disposal of the chiefs. Here the Indians fared better than in earlier treaties. At Traverse de Sioux the fur traders were present with their old accounts equipped to absorb nearly everything paid the Indians. In one treaty their bills were rendered for $250,000, in another for $156,000, and about all the Indians got was the pleasure of seeing the money counted past them. It was also provided that the annuities thereafter should not be subject to the debts of individual Indians, but that satisfaction should be made for depredations committed by them. Next came a clause which probably did more to get the treaties signed than the three thousand dollars a year for educational and moral purposes. Also, said the treaty, two hundred guns, one hundred rifles, five hundred beaver traps, three hundred dollars in ammunition, one thousand dollars in ready-made clothing for the young men of the nation. That clause was reserved by the commissioners till they were ready to nail down the contracts, and it was effective. It was provided that missionaries and others residing in the territory should be allowed to enter at the minimum price the land they already occupied wherever survey was made. Also that a blacksmith and assistant should be maintained at each reservation for twenty years and as much longer as the President should approve.

Last of all came a clause that illustrates happily the Indian sense of justice, for old teachers say there was such a thing. The Bois Forte Indians, off the main trail, and a withered sort of tribe, were especially remembered. "Because of their poverty and past neglect," as the treaty ran, they were to have $10,000 additional to pay their debts, which suggests a friend at court and also $10,000 for blankets, clothes, guns, nets, etc., a suitable reservation to be selected afterward. The Indians made a better bargain than the Algonquins made when they sold Manhattan island for twenty-four dollars in trinkets. To be sure, the iron in this Chippewa country was worth above half a billion dollars, and the forest as much more, but they were not worth that to the Indians who sold only their hunting and fishing usufruct to which they had not exclusive nor undisputed right, and which in measure they still kept, since one of the after-thoughts of the treaty reserved to them the right to hunt and fish in the ceded portions.

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