These I Do Not Sell
8 Pages
English
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These I Do Not Sell

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8 Pages
English

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By Harry MillerHE Wisconsin Historical Society holds in its Archives manyresources relating to the native tribes of Wisconsin: the reports offederal Indian agents, the records of Indian schools, and the stateT attorney general’s records relating to treaty rights, as well as the let-ters, diaries, and recollections of early settlers. The vast majority of these doc-uments share a common viewpoint—a flawed viewpoint, some wouldsay—since they exclusively represent the perspective of the dominant white26 SUMMER 2001WISCONSIN MAGAZINE OF HISTORYsociety and culture. Such sources inevitably contain inherent transported by a delegation of chiefs to Washington duringcultural biases. At best, they present a one-sided view of trib- the closing months of the Civil War, where it was read to fed-al history and culture. Because the native tribes possess a eral officials. It was then left in the possession of George P.peculiar legal status as sovereign nations, and because they Warren, a Wisconsin soldier then convalescing at a Washing-historically relied upon oral tradition rather than written ton military hospital. Seventeen years later, Warren donatedrecords, documentary sources it to the State Historical Society.reflecting the Indian perspective The document is titled simply,are rare. “Statement Made by the Indians.”In his annual report for 1882, It is sixteen pages long, handwrit-Corresponding Secretary Lyman ten in ink on paper that has turnedC. Draper noted one ...

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T
HE Wisconsin Historical Society holds in its Archives many
resources relating to the native tribes of Wisconsin: the reports of
federal Indian agents, the records of Indian schools, and the state
attorney general’s records relating to treaty rights, as well as the let-
ters, diaries, and recollections of early settlers. The vast majority of these doc-
uments share a common viewpoint—a flawed viewpoint, some would
say—since they exclusively represent the perspective of the dominant white
By Harry Miller
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society and culture. Such sources inevitably contain inherent
cultural biases. At best, they present a one-sided view of trib-
al history and culture. Because the native tribes possess a
peculiar legal status as sovereign nations, and because they
historically relied upon oral tradition rather than written
records, documentary sources
reflecting the Indian perspective
are rare.
In his annual report for 1882,
Corresponding Secretary Lyman
C. Draper noted one document
that represented the Indian per-
spective. Cited among a long list of
recent acquisitions, Draper termed
it “a MS. statement of the treaties
between the Chippewas and the
United States, from 1825 to 1864,
from the Chippewa standpoint, as
presented to the Commissioner of
Indian Affairs.” (“Chippewa” is
the anglicized version of the
French pronunciation of “Ojib-
we”). These plain words describe
one of the rarest and most prized
treasures among the millions of
documents preserved in the Wis-
consin State Archives.
Draper was of course an old
hand at collecting and evaluating historical documents. He
had spent much of the preceding forty years assembling the
massive trove of letters, diaries, clippings, notes, and inter-
views of the heroes and villains of the American Revolution,
the various border wars, and the westward movement, all of
which would eventually become famous as “the Draper Col-
lection.” A voracious collector, Draper was also a scholar and
historian who knew wheat from chaff. He understood the
importance and uniqueness of this document, which con-
tributes significantly to our understanding of relations
between Wisconsin’s Indians and the state and federal gov-
ernments and which is valuable both for its content and for its
presentation. It was prepared in Wisconsin by a council of
Ojibwe chiefs and headmen, translated into English, and
transported by a delegation of chiefs to Washington during
the closing months of the Civil War, where it was read to fed-
eral officials. It was then left in the possession of George P.
Warren, a Wisconsin soldier then convalescing at a Washing-
ton military hospital. Seventeen years later, Warren donated
it to the State Historical Society.
The document is titled simply,
“Statement Made by the Indians.”
It is sixteen pages long, handwrit-
ten in ink on paper that has turned
pale blue with age, each page
measuring approximately 11 by 17
inches. It is presented in a two-col-
umn format, with the Ojibwe and
English texts for each passage
appearing side by side. It is a sum-
mary and interpretation from the
Ojibwe tribal perspective of a
series of treaties between the tribe
and the United States. But it is
more than this. It is also a petition
of grievances relating to broken
promises, missed payments, and
the failure of the United States to
carry out the intent of those
treaties as they were understood by
the Ojibwe. The treaties covered
in the Statement include those
signed at Prairie du Chien in 1825; at Fond du Lac (near the
western end of Lake Superior, not the current city of Fond du
Lac) in 1826 and 1847; at St. Peters (Fort Snelling in present
Minnesota) in 1837; and at La Pointe (on Madeline Island) in
1842 and 1854. The treaties of 1825 and 1826 were intended
to promote peace among various Indian tribes and to estab-
lish boundaries between Indian nations. Those of 1837, 1842,
and 1847 conveyed vast amounts of land in Wisconsin,
Michigan, and Minnesota from the Ojibwe to the United
States. The 1854 agreement returned some of the land ceded
in 1842 in order to create tribal reservations in Wisconsin.
A long history of conflict and mistrust exists between the
Indian nations of Wisconsin and both the federal and state
governments, manifested most recently in court cases and
political agitation over the tribes’ rights to off-reservation
hunting and fishing. At the height of public agitation over
Indian rights in the early 1990s, there occurred almost night-
ly confrontations between tribal spear-fishermen and white
protesters at boat landings on numerous lakes in northern
Copyright © 2001 by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft,
Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the
History
. . .
of the Indian Tribes
. . . , Vol. 1, 1851.
Lyman Copeland Draper served as Director (then called
Corresponding Secretary) of the Wisconsin Historical
Society from 1854 to 1886.
WHS lot # 1942.28
The “Symbolic Petition of Chippewa Chiefs (opposite) presented at
Washington . . . 1849” reflected a traditional form of communica-
tion for the Ojibwe. By 1864 the tribe saw the need to use the
written word to communicate with government officials.
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Wisconsin. Generally, the root of these conflicts
is disagreement over the meaning of treaties
concluded between the United States and the
tribes. The “Statement Made by the Indians” is
an early product of this same conflict and mis-
trust. Writing to Lyman Draper in November
1882, at least a year after donating the docu-
ment, George P. Warren described the origin of
the Statement:
During the winter of 1864, the principal
Inds. Of the Bad River Reservation State
of Wisconsin often & repeatedly met in
council at their homes, these councils were
held as preparatory to a contemplated
visit to Washington D.C. . . . They
reached at the details of their “Statement”
upon the strength of memory mostly,
though, however helped by some of their
young men who wrote down their state-
ment word for word.
Joseph Gurnoe, described by Warren as “a
Chippewa mixed blood,” acted as interpreter
and transcribed into a two-column format the
results of these councils. In February 1865, a
delegation of Ojibwe from Lac Court Oreilles
and Lake Superior, together with Gurnoe,
arrived in Washington with the Statement.
Apparently there was then some kind of falling
out with Gurnoe, for he seems to have left the
group. But somehow, by fortunate chance, the
Indian delegation encountered George P. War-
ren, whom Draper described in his 1882 report
as “an educated half-breed Chippewa.” While
we know little about Warren, he obviously was
known and trusted by the Indian delegation,
which invited him to act as their interpreter. He
was born in La Pointe in 1825, and in February
1864, when he enlisted in Company K of the
Thirty-sixth Wisconsin Infantry, he resided in
Chippewa Falls. One military source identifies
his occupation as “lumberman”; another, as “gentle-
man.” According to his service record, Warren was “a very
good soldier.” He was promoted to sergeant in April 1864,
before the regiment shipped out for northern Virginia, where
it was immediately thrown into combat. In February 1865
Warren was convalescing at the Emory Hospital in Washing-
ton, the result of a wound he sustained on June 3 at the dis-
astrous Battle of Cold Harbor. There he was at the time of his
chance encounter with the Indian delegation.
The delegation now met with Commissioner of Indian
Affairs William P. Dole, who had the Statement “booked”
but did not retain it. The Ojibwe next called upon U.S. Sen-
ator James R. Doolittle of Racine, who “wrote some lines” to
Commissioner Dole. After their visit with Senator Doolittle,
the delegation of chiefs left the Statement with George War-
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This portion of the “Statement Made by the Indians” deals with the
call to meet at Fond du Lac and registers Ojibwe surprise at the
need for such a meeting.
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ren, perhaps hoping that he could somehow pursue the mat-
ter, and returned to Wisconsin. There is no way of knowing
the Indians’ thoughts on what they may have achieved by
making a long, arduous journey to the nation’s capital in the
midst of the war. But clearly the delegation’s efforts did not
resolve the major issues of conflict. The fact that the Com-
missioner of Indian Affairs did not even retain a copy of the
Statement suggests the level of importance he ascribed to the
complaints of the Wisconsin Indians. Still, the
delegation did meet with some success. One of
its specific grievances related to payments to
the Indians. During the Civil War years these
payments had been made in inflated paper cur-
rency, instead of hard money as mandated by
the treaties. On this issue the Ojibwe apparent-
ly prevailed, since the next round of payments
was made in gold.
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HATEVER the impact of the
Statement on the federal govern-
ment in 1865, its historical value is
indisputable. The unique two-column presen-
tation of the Statement makes it of great value
to linguists studying this aboriginal language.
While there exists a
significant number
of nineteenth-centu-
ry published exam-
ples of the Ojibwe
language, most are
phonetic transcrip-
tions done by non-
native
speakers.
Similarly,
while
petitions of griev-
ances by Indians are
numerous, few if
any others were pre-
pared by native
speakers and pre-
sented in both Eng-
lish and the Indian
language. Thus the
comparisons made
possible
by
the
bilingual Statement
can aid in understanding those nuances of lin-
guistic difference that contribute to conflict
over treaty interpretation.
More important, perhaps, the Statement allows the mid-
nineteenth-century Ojibwe to speak
in their own words
about
their relations with whites and their view of the land and its
resources. It addresses the history of the Ojibwe peoples’ con-
tact with whites by comparing their treatment at the hands of
the United States government with their earlier relations with
the British, who controlled the Upper Midwest until the close
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Chippewa Treaty Statement and Related Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
Joseph Gurnoe,
described by
Warren as
“a Chippewa
mixed blood,”
acted as
interpreter and
transcribed into
a two-column
format the
results of these
councils.
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of the War of 1812. Thus, as the Statement puts it,
There was an old woman who spoke to the Agent, in
this wise, My Father, truly I am poor, your Children
the Chippewas are poor. At the time when the Eng-
lish People were supporting me I had
plenty to wear; but when you
made your appearance[,] you
who are called ‘Big Knives’ and
come among us, you told me that
you would support me, that I
would not be poor, that I would
be better off than I had been
with the English. I am now
a good deal poorer than I
was then. You have made
me a great many promises
which you have not ful-
filled.
This old woman spoke the
truth. There is no per-
ceptible change in our
situation even when promises are made to us,
although they are often made to us, to effect a pur-
pose, but we never know them to be fulfilled.
The Statement also addresses specific grievances, such as the
payments and paper money issue mentioned above. For exam-
ple: “When I sold my Property you promised me the Coin the
hard Money, but it was not Paper that you promised me.” (This
last produced the one positive outcome of the Ojibwes’ journey
to Washington.) Finally, it addresses issues important in 1864
that still lie at the heart of the litigation and public conflict
between Indians and segments of the non-Indian population.
The court rulings of the early 1990s that paved the way for
expanded tribal off-reservation hunting and fishing rights
hinged on the conclusion that the Ojibwe had “reserved” those
rights in treaties that ceded land the United States. Writing in
1864, the Ojibwe chiefs and headmen presented this concept
very clearly in their account of the Treaty of St. Peters (1837):
So then Father, Our Great Father requests me to sell
him my Pine Timber, our Great Father is mighty,
therefore whatever he says would not be in vain, and
whatever he promises to do he will fulfill.
Very well, I will sell him the Pine Timber as he
requests me to, From [the] usual height of cutting a
At Fond du Lac in 1826, the United States sent a clear message to the
Ojibwe with a demonstration of military might.
Thomas L. McKinney,
Sketches of a Tour to the Lakes
. . . , 1827.
Thomas L. McKinney,
Sketches of a Tour
to the Lakes
. . . , 1827.
Draper’s handwritten analysis, which he wrote shortly after receiving
the statement from George P. Warren in the fall of 1881. Though
Draper here attributed authorship to Warren, a later letter from War-
ren to Draper on November 9, 1882, identified Joseph Gurnoe as the
individual who prepared the statement.
Chippewa Treaty Statement and Related Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
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tree down and upwards to top is what I sell you, I
reserve the root of the tree. Again this I hold in my
hand the Maple Timber, also the Oak Timber, also
this Straw which I hold in my hand. Wild Rice is
what we call this. These I do not sell.
That you may not destroy the Rice in working
the timber. Also the Rapids and Falls in the Streams
I will lend you to saw your timber. . . .
I do not make you a present of this, I merely lend
it to you. This is my answer, My Great Father is
great, and out of respect for him I will not refuse
him, but as an exchange of civility I must see and
feel the benefits of this loan, and the promises ful-
filled.
With respect to the Treaty of La Pointe (1842), the Ojibwe
similarly emphasized that it was not their intention to transfer
title to the land to the United States:
Then the Commissioners spoke to us and said,
your Great Father requests you to sell him the
Mineral that is to be found on your lands, Copper
and Lead. He does not want to buy your lands, he
wants the Mineral.
I comply with the request of our Great Father
in what he expect from us. It was all he said. The
Chiefs along the Lake Shore did not say a word,
not being willing to sell or make any agreement.
Then it was that the Chief White Crow spoke,
he spoke in regard to everything, and all the busi-
ness being transacted at the time.
And said to him, My Father I understand you
and to say that you want the Mineral, well then I
will comply with the wish of our Great Father in
asking me to sell him the Mineral which he wants.
I do not give you the land, it is the Mineral only
that I sell if there is any to be found on my land.
I do not cede the Land, as he cried with a loud
voice turning to his fellow Indians in which they all
responded with Eh! Eh!
In his evaluation of the “Statement Made by the Indians,”
Lyman Draper was careful not to take sides. He shared many of
the common attitudes of his day, and it is worth remembering
that the Indian Wars were not quite over in 1882: The Battle of
the Little Big Horn had occurred in 1876, and Wounded Knee
lay a few years in the future. But Draper was by no means
unsympathetic toward the Native American point of view, and
throughout his career he collected materials relating to the lives
Veterans of the 36th Wisconsin pose on the steps of the Wisconsin State
Capitol in the late 1870s. As a member of this regiment, George P.
Warren was recovering from a wound in Washington, D.C., when he
came into possession of the “Statement,” which he later donated to the
Historical Society.
Wisconsin 36th Infantry Album 16:53a. Photo by J. M. Fowler.
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of Tecumseh, Joseph Brant, Gover-
nor Blacksnake, Nancy Ward, and
many other noteworthy figures. “We
have not the means of determining,”
he wrote in his annual report, if due
to the “ignorance of the Indians, they
may have misunderstood and mis-
comprehended some of their deal-
ings . . . with the General
Government; yet it is to be feared,
that unconscionable agents, with
[their] rascally ways, have often com-
bined to trick the poor Indian out of
his honest dues.” Instead Draper
stated an indisputable principle that
still guides the Wisconsin Historical
Society in collecting and preserving
controversial documents and the
issues to which they pertain: “The
complaints of the Chippewas,
according to their understanding of
the matter, deserves a record, as a
sample of their modes of thought and
expression, and to preserve it may be
a fragment of our Indian history.”
Lyman Draper’s evaluation of the
Statement Made by the Indians con-
veys a good part of his greatness, and
of his legacy to the Society. He
believed that good history demands
broad study and deep understanding,
encompassing not only the majority,
but also the minorities; not only the
mainstream, but also the controver-
sial. His ability to recognize impor-
tant historical trends before they
became obvious, coupled with his open-minded willingness to
seek out and preserve the records of all peoples, all parties, all
points of view, became the institutional credo and the driving
force behind the Society’s collecting for a century and a half. It’s
what has made the Society’s research collections great, rather
than merely good.
HARRY MILLER
is Senior
Reference Archivist at the
Wisconsin Historical Society,
a staff member since 1973,
and a Madison native. Of the
many treasurers in the
Archives collections, Miller
describes the treaty state-
ment, which is the subject of
this article, as his favorite.
The Author
Resources and Further Reading
The principle sources used in this article are the treaty statement itself, correspondence
between donor George P. Warren and Society Superintendent Lyman Draper, and Draper’s
notes on the statement. All are in a single Archives collection titled “Chippewa Treaty State-
ment and Related Papers.” The linguistic significance is assessed in John D. Nichols (ed.),
Statement Made by the Indians”: A Bilingual Petition . . .
, University of Western Ontario,
Canada, 1988. An excellent analysis of the history of treaty related conflict is Ronald N. Satz,
“Chippewa Treaty Rights, The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Histori-
cal Perspective,”
Transactions
, Vol. 79, No. 1, 1991.
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Thomas L. McKinney,
Sketches of a Tour to the Lakes
. . . , 1827.