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


Chapter  5 - The Red Man

by Miss A. E. Kidder


The Chippewa and Sioux Indians

(-As transcribed from pages 25 - 28)


When Jean Nicolet was sent by Champlain, governor of New France, to find the long-sought western route to China, he found on the shores of Green Bay the Menomonies, at the head of the bay the Winnebagoes, going on to the Fox river he met the Mascoutens, the warlike Sacs and Foxes, and still further west were the Kickapoos. Along the shores of Lake Superior he found the Chippewas, and to the southwest of these, on the St. Croix, were the Sioux. Powell said of this tribe, "By reason of their superior numbers the Sioux have always assumed, if not exercised, the lordship over all the neighboring tribes with the exception of the Ojibwa (Chippewa), who, having acquired firearms before the Sioux, were enabled to drive the latter from the headwaters of the Mississippi, and were steadily pressing them westward when stopped by the intervention of the United States Government. In warlike character the Sioux are second only to the Cheyenne and have an air of proud superiority rather unusual with Indians. The Chippewas were called by the French missionaries the bravest, most warlike, and at the same time the noblest and most manly of all the tribes. They were derived from the Algonquin race and the Jesuits spoke of the Chippewa language as the most refined and complete of any Indian tongue. In 1642 the Sioux possessed all the territory south of Lake Superior and west of Lakes Huron and Michigan, south as far as Milwaukee and west even beyond the Missouri river. About 1670 the Chippewas began their inroads upon the lands of the Sioux on the north and east, fighting their way south and west. The Sioux struggled to retain their hunting grounds, but were finally crowded back to the St. Croix. From that time there was unremitting war between the two great nations for a century or more, and their traditions tell of many bloody battles fought beneath the somber pines of the north. In the Chippewa tongue, Sioux means "the enemy." Meantime the Winnebagoes, a migratory tribe from Mexico to escape the Spaniards, came among the Sioux, who gave them lands and refuge. But Sacs and Foxes came from the south, took possession of the ground and were in turn crowded out by the Menomonies. In consequence of these predatory wars, the claims of the several nations to their respective territories became very complicated and caused incessant strife. To prevent this as much as possible the United States Government, in 1825, authorized a general treaty to be held at Prairie du Chien between all tribes within a district of 500 miles each way.  This was signed on the part of the government by Generals William Clark and Lewis Cass, on the part of the Sioux by Wabashaw, Red Wing, Little Crow and twenty-three other chiefs and braves, and for the Chippewas by Hole-in-the-Day and forty chiefs. By this treaty the eastern boundary of the Sioux began opposite the mouth of the Iowa river on the Mississippi, runs back two or three miles to the bluffs, following the bluffs to Bad-Axe, and crossing to Black river, from which point the line described is the boundary between the Sioux and the Winnebagoes and extends nearly north to a point on the Chippewa river, half a day's march from Chippewa Falls. From this point on the Chippewa river, which was fixed on the mouth of Mud creek (near Rumsey's Landing), the line becomes the boundary between the Sioux and Chippewas and runs to the Red Cedar just below the Falls, thence to the St. Croix river at the Standing Cedar, about a day's paddle in a canoe above the lake on that river; thence passing between two lakes called by the Chippewas "Green Lake" and by the Sioux "the lake they bury the eagles in," thence to the "Standing Cedar" that the Sioux split, thence to the mouth of Rum river on the Mississippi. The boundary line between the Chippewas and Winnebagoes was also defined as beginning at the same point (half a day's march below the Falls), thence to the source of the Eau Claire, thence south to Black river, thence to a place where the woods project into the meadows, and thence to the Plover Portage of the Wisconsin. Thus we see that the boundaries of the Sioux, Chippewas and Winnebagoes were brought to a point at the famous "half a day's march below the Falls," and very near the city of Eau Claire - in fact, at the bluff just above "little Niagara." On July 29, 1837, a treaty was signed at Fort Snelling between Governor Dodge on the part of the government and the Chippewa chiefs, ceding a portion of these lands to the United States. On September 29 of the same year, at Washington, D. C., a treaty was signed by Joel R. Poinsett on the part of the United States and Big Thunder and twenty other chiefs of the Sioux, at which the latter ceded to the United States their lands east of the Mississippi and all their islands in said river.

On October 4, 1842, at La Pointe, Robert Stewart on the part of the United States and Po-go-ne-ge-shik, with forty other Chippewa chiefs, held a treaty at which all the Chippewa lands in Wisconsin were ceded to the United States. But after the cession of the last named lands several bands of Chippewas became dissatisfied with the treaty and with the reservation set apart for them above Sand Lake, in Minnesota, and begged so earnestly to come back to Wisconsin that the government, in 1854, gave them several townships and half townships of the land on Court Oreilles and some other branches of the Chippewa, and established an agency there for the distribution of part of the annuities promised them. Guerrilla fighting had been the common mode of settling any difference of opinion among the tribes hitherto, but governmental interference had accomplished much and soothing measures were now in vogue.  In 1841, as related by the historian Randall, "a large party of Sioux came up by invitation of the Chippewas to Eau Claire, where they held a friendly meeting and smoked the pipe of peace.  This was repeated in October, 1846, when 150 braves, all mounted on ponies, came up to the Falls, thence to Chippewa City, and held a treaty of peace with their hereditary foes.  Among them were Wabashaw, Red Bird and Big Thunder. The writer was present, heard part of the reception address, and afterward learned from Ambrose-one of the interpreters-the substance of what was said on both sides. The Sioux remained mounted on their ponies during the entire interview. The Chippewa chiefs and braves were painted after the mode indicating peace and the head chief advanced with a large red pipe, made of stone from Pipe-stone mountain, in one hand, and in the other a hatchet, which was thrown with such force as to partly bury it in the earth; then taking a whiff or two from the pipe he turned the stem toward the Sioux chief, presenting it for his acceptance. All this was done in silence; the Sioux chief received the emblem of peace, also in silence, smoked a few whiffs, bowed respectfully as he handed the pipe, reined his pony one step to the right, and waited the next salutation, the substance of which was, "Friends, we are glad you have come, we are anxious to make peace with the Sioux nation. As you have seen us throw down and bury the hatchet, so we hope you are inclined to make peace." The Sioux chiefs then threw down whatever arms they held and declared their purpose to maintain permanent peace. They said their great father, the President, with whom they had never been at war, had requested them to conclude a lasting peace with the Chippewa nation, and although they had sold their lands on the east side of the Mississippi they still wanted to hunt there, and were glad that in the future they could do so without fear. This was all done through interpreters, several of whom were present on each side, and closed every sentence they repeated with the expression, 'That's what we say.' This meeting was at the Falls and the delegation met a still larger number of Chippewa chiefs and braves the next day at Chippewa City, where the ceremonies were still more imposing, and a dinner was served of which both parties partook."

After this interesting pageant of truce, a steady peace was well maintained between the nations, rarely disturbed by anything more than trifling quarrels soon settled by arbitration.

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