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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter V. — The Chippewas, Pottawattamies, and Ottawas Cede Their Territory in Illinois and Southern Michigan.

REFERENCE has been previously made to the immigration which commenced after the close of the war of 1814; such a transfer of population had never then been known to have occurred. In all other countries, prior to this era, civilization had proceeded with slow and measured steps; but here it moved forward with such rapid strides that the expedition of the Argonauts, the march of the Huns, or the Scythians, into Europe, sink into insignificance, when contrasted with it. Unlike those efforts, it was not a hostile inroad backed by the spear and the sword, but a peaceful movement of agriculturists, artisans, and artists. The plow, the hammer, the sickle, and the hoe, were the means of extending this vast empire, which was conquered in a very short period. Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana, were matured, and entered the Union at an early day, though not without some little delay; but Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, and Missouri, seemed to spring into existence as if by magic, and were admitted into the confederacy within six years after the conclusion of the treaty of Ghent. Owing to this cause the demands made on the Indians for new territory were continuous; and the circle of civilization was constantly expanding, while that of the hunter was proportionally contracting. It would be anything but a light task to trace the resulting sequence of treaties, cessions, annuities, and stipulations for the payment of coin, merchandise, seeds, implements, and cattle, to the savage, in return for his land; but, while any section of their territories abounded in game, the Indians elected to retire thither, and bestowed but little attention on either grazing or agriculture. There was, therefore, a singular concurrence in the desire of the emigrants to buy, and in the willingness of the Indians to sell, their lands.

Some of these treaties merit notice, on account of the wide-spread and beneficial influence they exercised. In the month of August, 1821, the Pottawattamies, Chippewas, and Ottowas, of Illinois and western Michigan, having been summoned to attend a council at Chicago, about 3000 persons assembled at that place. On the 17th of that month, the public conferences were opened with the chiefs, when the

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commissioners laid before them the business, for the transaction of which the council had been convened. Having held the appointment of Secretary to the Board of Commissioners, I have, in another work, 547 related in detail the proceedings which took place at the negotiation of this treaty. The venerable chief, Topinabee, who had been present at Greenville in 1795, where he signed the treaty then concluded, and who had also appended his name to that formed at the Rapids of the Miami in 1817, was the principal personage among the sachems and counsellors. The most conspicuous speaker was METEA, a Pottawattamie, from the Wabash, whose tall and slender person was disfigured by a withered arm, and his sullen dignity of manners relieved by sparkling black eyes, a good voice, and ready utterance. He was the popular speaker on this occasion, and, as he possessed considerable reflective powers, his opinions and sentiments may, perhaps, justly be regarded as those of the Algonquin tribes of his day. "My father," he said, addressing the delegated authority of the Government, "you know that we first came to this country, a long time ago, and when we sat ourselves down upon it, we met with a great many hardships and difficulties. Our country was then very large, but now it is dwindled to a small spot, and you wish to purchase that. This has caused us much reflection, and we bring all our chiefs and warriors, and families, to hear you.

"Since you first came among us, we have listened with an attentive ear to your words; we have hearkened to your counsels. Whenever you have had a favor to ask of us, our answer has been, invariably, Yes!

"A long time has passed since we came upon these lands. Our old people have all sunk into their graves; they had sense. We are all young and foolish, and would not do anything they could not approve, if living. We are fearful to offend their spirits, if we sell our lands. We are fearful to offend you, if we do not. We do not know how we can part with the land.

"Our country was given to us by the Great Spirit, to hunt upon, to make corn fields to live on, and, when life is over, to spread down our beds upon, and lie down. That Spirit would never forgive us if we sold it. When you first spoke to us at St. Mary's, 548 we said we had a little land, and sold you a piece. But we told you we could spare no more; now, you ask us again. You are never satisfied. * * *

"Take notice, it is a small piece of land where we now live. It has been wasting away ever since the white people became our neighbors. We have now hardly enough to cover the bones of our tribe." 549

Such figures of speech and expressions were very popular among the Indians, but they were delusive. They were the usual arguments employed by the hunter to justify his

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tetention of millions of acres, for no higher purpose than to hunt the wild animals existing thereon. A critical examination has proved that, not a single acre of the land ceded by the Indians of this latitude was under cultivation, nor fifty acres of that lying between the banks of the Wabash and Chicago; and not one solitary cornfield could be found on the tract explored between Peoria and the same place. The aboriginal population occupied the banks, not only of the Illinois, but also of its tributaries, with a few meagre villages. To the northward, their lands stretched along the shores of Lake Michigan to those of the Menomonees of Milwaukie, and the Winnebagoes of Green Bay; and westward, their undivided territories were bounded by those of the Sacs and Foxes of the Mississippi. It was pertinently remarked by one of the commissioners, after taking an elaborate survey of the vast tracts which they possessed, that the portion actually under cultivation bore no greater proportion to the whole, than two or three flies did to the surface of the long table before them. 550 After examining the arguments adduced by the chiefs in the course of the conference, the commissioners terminated their analysis of them by alluding to the complaints made by the Indians because all persons were debarred from selling any liquor during the session of the conference. "If we wished to get your lands without paying a just equivalent for them, we have nothing to do but to get you all intoxicated, and we could purchase as much land as we pleased. You perfectly know, that when in liquor you have not your proper senses, and are wholly unfit to transact any business, especially business of so weighty a nature. When intoxicated, you may be induced to sign any paper, you then fall asleep, and, when you awake, find you have lost all your lands. But, instead of pursuing this course, we keep the whiskey from you, that you may make the best bargain for yourselves, your women, and children. I am surprised, particularly, that your OLD men should come forward, continually crying, whiskey! whiskey! whiskey!" 551

The discussions of the conference were principally sustained by Topinabee, Metea, Metawa, and Keewaygooshkum, with more spirit, freedom, and justice of reasoning, than the Indians generally evinced. Full two weeks were devoted to the discussion of the treaty, which was finally signed on the 20th of the month. By it these nations ceded 5,000,000 of acres lying within the southern boundaries of Michigan; 552 but from this tract 484 square miles were reserved for the Indians. A permanent annuity of $1000 in coin was granted, as also a limited annuity of $1500 per annum, which was designed to be used for the promotion of agriculture and the advancement of the useful arts.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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