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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 II. — Official Intercourse is Extended, by Establishing an Agency Among the Chippewas, in the Basin of Lake Superior.

THE exploratory expedition through the Great Lakes, to the
sources of the Mississippi, in a few years led to the introduction, of an agency among the widely-dispersed Chippewa nation, on that frontier. Owing to the rapid establishment of settlements in the valley of the Wabash, the Indian tribes inhabiting it found the middle and lower parts of it, which they had reserved for hunting-grounds, of but little or no value. As early as the year 1820, the Kickapoo and Wea tribes entered into treaty stipulations with the agent at Vincennes, by which they ceded their reservations and transferred their interests, in consideration of annuities to be paid to them at locations farther south and west. The Miamies residing on the head-waters of the Wabash had for many years reported themselves to, and received their annuities from, the superintendent of the agency at Fort Wayne. The old Vincennes agency being no longer necessary, the President, by virtue of the power vested in him to remove such agencies to new fields of duty, in the spring of 1822 transferred it to the Sault Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior, and appointed Mr. Schoolcraft as agent, with directions to establish an intercourse with the Chippewa nation. This officer accompanied a detachment, comprising a full battalion of the second regiment of infantry, to that remote position, arriving there on the 6th of July. Fort Brady was erected at this point, Sault Ste. Marie, the ancient seat of the Chippewas, had been occupied by the French as early as 1644, and became the site of one of the earliest Jesuit missions. It was from this point that D'Ablon and Marquette had, at successive periods, explored the country around Lake Superior; and the latter returned from the shores of the Great Lake to this place, prior to the establishment of the mission at Point St. Ignace and Michilimackinac. At the period of the capture of Quebec, and of the occupation of Canada by the British, in 1760, the missionary operations had been transferred to another locality; but,

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from the narrative of Alexander Henry's visit thither in 1760, 553 we learn that a military post was still maintained there, to protect the operations of the Indian traders, and to preserve general friendly relations with this branch of the Algonquin family of tribes. The accession of the United States to the sovereign power in this part of the Union was greatly retarded. When the lake posts were surrendered in 1796, after Wayne's war, the American flag replaced that of St. George at Michilimackinac; but the authority of the Republic was not acknowledged at Sault Ste. Marie, and, in 1806, Pike found the entire Indian trade in the hands of British factors. The St. Mary's river and Lake Superior, indeed, formed the line of demarcation between the British colonies and the United States, agreeably to the original treaty of 1783, which was re-affirmed by that of Ghent, in 1814; but the line remained unsurveyed, and, consequently, many portions were disputed. Major Holmes, who visited the place in August, 1814, finding that the North-West Company, whose factory was situated at the foot of the falls, on the north shore, was exerting an influence adverse to the United States, plundered and burnt the establishment. The large private trading establishment of John Johnston, Esq., a gentleman from the north of Ireland, located on the opposite, or American shore of the falls, suffered severely at the same time; an impression prevailing that it was either connected with the North-West Factory, or that an unfriendly feeling was generated against the Union among the Chippewas, over whom Mr. Johnston had much influence. It was not until 1816, that Congress perceived that it was necessary to the preservation of peace on the frontiers, to pass an act placing this trade exclusively under the control of Americans, and forbidding its being carried on by British subjects, or the employment of British capital therein. The purpose contemplated by this measure was one which required time to accomplish. The Indians, being attached to the British rule, were slow to give their confidence to Americans.

The first important enterprise, in connection with this trade, was that of John Jacob Astor, of New York, who visited Montreal in 1816, and purchased all the property, consisting of trading-houses, boats, &c., &c., belonging to the North-West Company, located between St. Joseph's Island, and the parallel of 49° north latitude. He organized the American Fur Company, which established its central depôt and place of outfit, at
Michilimackinac. An important feature in the inauguration of this new commercial enterprise, was, that the Canadian boatmen, interpreters, clerks, and subordinates employed by the company, were precisely the same persons who had previously served the North-West Company. The feelings of the Indians were not easily changed, and they were deeply prejudiced against the American character. As an illustration of this feeling, we may mention that, when Generals Brown and Macomb came to this place to reconnoitre it, in 1818, and were gratifying their taste by a short exploratory trip on Lake Superior, their boat was fired on by Indians, above the falls. On a previous page,

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we have evidence that, so late as the year 1820, the Chippewas, from their ancient camping-ground, on the American side of the river, attempted to resist the passage of the exploring expedition into their country.

It was not, therefore, an ordinary task, to induce this important tribe to acknowledge fealty to the American government. Firmness of purpose, combined with mildness of manner, were eminently necessary. The establishment of an agency, a smithy, and an armorer's shop, the supply of food to them in their necessity, and the bestowal of presents, were important means. The display of so considerable a force on the frontier, as the garrison of Fort Brady, enabled the agent to act efficiently. By acting in concurrence with the military, an effective controlling power was established. Murderers of white men were demanded from the Indians; the country was cleared of freed men, or discharged boatmen, who had taken up a permanent residence among the Indians; and none but licensed traders, with their boatmen, were permitted to pass into the country. Ardent spirits were excluded. The remote chiefs soon began to visit the agency. The Indians are very fond of making visits to distant parts of the country, and are always gratified with the comity and ceremony of diplomatic attention. The pacific results of this intercourse soon began to appear.

The agent rendered himself acceptable to the Indians by other means, which were merely incidental. He came to the country with a strong predilection for the studies of a naturalist; and, as the natives are close observers of the species of animals, birds, and organic forms, existing in their country, by requesting them to bring him any specimens of this kind which impressed them as being new, he aroused their interest, and afforded them a pleasurable, and not wholly unprofitable, method of making their visits agreeable. Another cause of sympathy existed. Commencing, immediately, an ardent study of the language, it furnished a theme for inquiry in intervals when the details of official business had ceased to interest; and researches into their customs, traditions, and antiquities, were made.

The principal chief at Sault Ste. Marie, was a tall and dignified man, called Shingabawassin, a term (vide Plate herewith) used to designate a species of abraded stones found on the lake shores, which assume various imitative forms, and are connected, in their minds, with superstitious or mythological influences. His armorial badge was the Crane totem, the distinguishing mark of the reigning clan. Shingabawassin had, in his youth, been on the war-path; but he was at this period principally respected for his prudence and wisdom in council. He was about six feet three inches in height, straight in form, having a Roman cast of countenance, and mild manners; he was a good speaker, but prone to repetition. He had three brothers, likewise chiefs, and a large retinue of cousins-german, and other relatives, who generally followed him. The attainment of his good will ensured the friendship of the tribe, through whom an extensive influence was established with the interior bands.

One measure was found to be efficacious in establishing a systematic mode of doing

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business; this was to exclude from an interview, and to refuse to transact any business at all with drunken Indians, and not to allow any one in a state of intoxication to enter the office, or the dwelling of the agent. As whiskey was freely sold in the village, intoxication was a very prevalent vice; and, when excited, the Indian is noisy, and will endeavor to force his way into any part of the private dwelling in which he may chance to be. The agent told the Indians in a quiet way, that the President had not sent him to transact business with drunken Indians, and that such persons must never enter his office or house. He enforced this precept, soon after, by taking Shingabawassin by the shoulders, when he was in liquor, as well as very noisy, leading him to the door, and giving him a sudden push forward, which prostrated him on the ground at a little distance. If the king of the Chippewas could be so treated, it was naturally inferred that the subject might meet with harsher usage. The resulting effect was that no further trouble ever arose from this cause.

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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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