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Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

3d. Received an application for relief from the Black River Chippewas, near Fort Gratiot. It is astonishing how completely the resources of the Indians have failed with the game, on which they formerly relied. When a calamity arrives, such as a white settlement would surmount without an effort, they at once become objects of public charity. Kittemagizzi is their immediate cry. This is now raised by the Black River band, under the influence of small-pox.

14th. Received a copy of the treaty of the 29th of July last with the Chippewas. This tribe, like all the other leading tribes of the race, is destined to fritter away their large domain for temporary and local ends, without making any general and permanent provision for their prosperity. The system of temporary annuities will, at last, leave them without a home. When the buffalo, and the deer, and the beaver, are extinct, the Indian must work or die. In a higher view, there is no blessing which is not pronounced in connection with labor and faith. These the nation falter at.

18th. Finished my report on the additional debt claim, under the treaty of 1836, agreeably to the instructions of the Commission of Indian Affairs, of the 23d March last, and to the published notice of April 10th. These claims on the debt fund of the treaty have received the best consideration of the agent and the Indian chiefs, with the aid of a secretary authorized at Washington, and the result is forwarded with confidence to head-quarters.

19th. My arduous duties during the summer had thrown some of my private correspondence in the rear. It may now be proper to notice some of it. A letter (Aug. 20th) from St. Mary's says: "The schooner John Jacob Astor arrived on the 18th instant from the head of Lake Superior, and the captain brings us information of Mr. Warren's arrival at La Pointe. He attended the treaty at St. Peter's, concluded by Gov. Dodge. The Indians are to receive $700,000 in annuities for twenty years, $100,000 to the half-breeds, and $70,000 for Indian creditors."

"Captain Stanard brought down a specimen of native copper, similar to the piece of forty-nine pounds weight in your cabinet. It was at De l'Isle, fifteen leagues on the north shore from Fond du Lac."

Mr. John T. Blois, of Detroit (Sept. 20th), informs me that he is preparing a Gazetteer of Michigan. "Of the topics," he remarks, "I had proposed to submit to your consideration, one was the etymology of the Indian nomenclature, to the extent it has been adopted in the application of proper names to our lakes, rivers, and other inanimate objects. In the preparation of my work, this subject has frequently presented itself to my mind as one of interesting importance, and whose development is more auspicious, at the present time, than it may be at a future day. I had a particular desire to rescue the Indian names from that oblivion to which the negligence of the early settlers of other States has permitted them to descend, by the substitution, for no reasonable cause, of insignificant English or French names, without regard to either good taste or propriety.

"I wish, among other things, to ask of you the favor to inform me of the origin and signification of the name of our adopted State, Michigan."

A correspondent at Detroit (J.L.S.) writes (21st Sept.): "Bills have been introduced into both Houses to carry out the President's sub-treasury system, and 'tis said Calhoun will support the measure. These bills, which were introduced by Wright and Cambreleng, propose that treasury notes shall be issued not to exceed $12,000,000."

Mr. Palfrey (25th Sept.) suggests my reviewing Col. Stone's "Life of Joseph Brant," and the publishers (Geo. Dearborn and Co.) transmit me the proof sheets on sized paper. I sat down with enthusiasm to read them (as far as sent) preparatory to a decision. Many things are desirable, and most worthy of commendation. But there were some errors of fact and opinions, which I could not pass over without bringing forward facts which I felt no capacity to manage, without giving offence to one whom I had every reason to regard as a friend. Brant had been the scourge of my native State during all the long and bloody war of the Revolution; and his enormities had the less excuse to be plastered over on account of his having received a Christian education, and speaking and writing his own language. He was doubtless a man much above his red brethren generally, for mental conception and boldness. It is true, I had heard all the terrific details of his cruelties from the lips of my father, who was an actor in the scenes described, at an age when impressions sink deep. But I had outlived my youthful impressions, and felt disposed to regard him as one of the most celebrated individuals of his race, which race I had learned to regard as one of the peculiar types of mankind. But I thought it injudicious to lay the story of the Revolution on his shoulders--with the real causes of which his life had about as much to do as the fly on the wagon-wheel, in turning it. I therefore on broad grounds declined it.

The establishment of the University of Michigan and its branches over the State, now excited considerable attention, and I began to receive letters from various quarters on the subject. "At a meeting of the people of this county (Kalamazoo)," says A. Edwards, Esq., "very advantageous offers were made to the Board, in case it was by them deemed proper to establish here one of the two branches contemplated within the senatorial district."

Mr. Daniel B. Woods, Dorchester, Mass., writes me respecting an article for the "Christian Keepsake," which has passed to the hands of the Rev. Mr. Clark, of Philadelphia.

25th. Letters were received to-day from the Secretaries of the Presbyterian, and from the Methodist Boards of Missions at New York, proposing the establishment of missions for the Ottawas and Chippewas, under the fourth article of the treaty of 1836. I advised Mr. Lowry, the organ of the former, and also the Methodist Society, to select positions south of this island in Lake Michigan.

27th. The first snow falls for the season.

30th. The chiefs of the Ottawas at L'Arbre Croche request that I would procure and send them vaccine matter, having heard that the small-pox existed at Grand River, and at Maskigo,

An Ottawa Indian, called Mis-kweiu-wauk (Red Cedar) brought a counterfeit half dollar, saying that he had received it at the payments, from Major Garland. It seemed to me that such was not the fact, but that he had been sent by some saucy fellow. But I thought prudent to give him a good half dollar in its place.

Nov. 4th. Information was received, that a strong party of Boisbrules and Indians, who went west from Red River early in the fall, to hunt the buffalo agreeably to their custom, were met and attacked by the Gros Venters and Sioux of the plains, and one hundred of their number killed in the affray.

10th. Completed arrangements to leave the office during the winter in charge of Mr. F. W. Shearman.

11th. Embarked at Mackinack on board the steamer "Madison," for the lower country.

18th. Arrived at Detroit, and resumed the duties of the superintendency at that point. Charles Rodd reports that three hundred Saginaws have taken shelter on the St. Clair, from the ravages of the small-pox, that they will pass the winter in the vicinity of Point au Barques; and that, consequently, they will not attend the payments at Saginaw this fall.

17th. Asked H. Conner, Esq., the signification 'of "Monguagon," He replied, the true name is Mo-gwau-go [nong], and was a man's name, signifying dirty backsides. It was the name of a Wyandot who died there. Mo, in the Algonquin, means excrement; gwau is a personal term; o, the accusative; and nong, place. I observe that, in the Hebrew, the same word Mo, denotes semen. The mode of combination, too, is not diverse; thus, mo-ab, in Hebrew, is a substantive of two roots, mo, semen, and ab, father.

Paukad [Hebrew], Hebrew, means to strike upon or against any person or thing. Pukatai Chip, is to strike anything animate or inanimate. Paukad, in the same tongue, means a stroke of lightning.

17th. Judge Riggs, who has charge of affairs at Saginaw, reports that about twenty Indians have been carried off by the small-pox, on the Shiawassa, and the same number on the Flint River. Says the disease was first brought to Saginaw by Mr. Gardiner D. Williams, and it was afterwards extended to the Flint by Mr. Campau.

21st. Rev. J. A. Agnew, of N.Y., addresses me as one of the Regents of the University, under a belief that the Board will, very soon, proceed to the election of a chancellor and professors. He takes a very just view of the importance of making it a fundamental point, to base the course of instruction on a sound morality, and of insuring the confidence of religious teachers of evangelical views,

25th. Mr. Conner brought me, some days ago, a cranium of an Indian, named B-tow-i-ge-zhig (Both Sides of the Sun), who was killed and buried near his house in a singular way.

It seems that another Indian, a young man, had fallen from a tree, and, in his descent, injured his testicles, which swelled up amazingly. Etowigezhig laughed at him, which so incensed the young fellow that he suddenly picked up a pot-hook and struck him on the skull. It fractured it, and killed him. So he died for a laugh. He was a good-natured man, about forty-five, and a good hunter. I gave the skull to Mr. Toulmin Smith, a phrenological lecturer.

26th. Mr. Cleaveland (Rev. John) preached his farewell sermon to the First Presbyterian Church, Detroit, from Jonah iii. 2: "Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This message he has faithfully and ably delivered to them for about five years that he has occupied this pulpit.

27th. A letter of this date, from Fort Union, on the Missouri, published in the St. Louis Bulletin, gives a frightful account of the ravages of the small-pox among the Mandans, Aurickerees, Minitares and Gros Venters, of the Missouri. This disease, which first broke out about the 15th of July, among the Mandans, carried off about fifteen hundred of that tribe. It left about one hundred and thirty souls2. It spread rapidly, and during the autumn carried off about half of the two tribes mentioned. It was carried to the Blackfeet, Crees, and Assinaboines, who also suffered dreadfully. Upwards of one thousand of the Blackfeet perished, and about five hundred Minitares. Whole lodges were swept away, and the desolations created were frightful.

28th. Mr. F. Ayer writes from Pokegoma, on Snake River, of the St. Croix Valley of the Upper Mississippi: "Shall we be molested by government soon, or at a future time; or, in case the government sell the land to a company, or to individuals, will they consider our case and make any reservation in our favor?"

Dec. 2d. Rev. Oren O. Thompson writes in relation to Michilimackinack:--

"1. Have you a missionary engaged for that station?

"2. Do you feel the importance and necessity of obtaining one who is already acquainted with the Indian language?

"3. Do you wish to engage one for that station, who is in sentiment a Presbyterian?

"4. Are there appropriations for his support?

"5. What will be his business particularly?

"6. How long will he probably be wanted there?

"7. What, in your opinion, is the prospect of his usefulness there?"

Dec. 1st. Mr. Hamill, of Lawrenceville, N.J., responds to my inquiry for a suitable school for my son--a matter respecting which I am just now very solicitous.

13th. Set out by railroad for Flint River, accompanied by Major Garland and Mr. Conner. Weather very cold, and the snow forming a good road. At Pontiac, we took a double sleigh, and drove out to Flint Village. I was invited to his house by Mr. Hascall, who did everything to render the visit agreeable. Between 400 and 500 Indians were assembled. They appeared poorly clad, and needy, having suffered greatly from the small-pox during the autumn and winter. About 40 had died on the Shiawassa River, and some 30 on the Flint. After the Major had completed the payment of their annuities and delivery of goods, I opened a negotiation with them to complete the sale of their reservations.

16th. In a letter of this date, Dr. Greene, Sec. of the A.B.C., for F. Missions, adverts to the positions heretofore taken, by that board, respecting the missionary establishment at Mackinack. The moral position of that Board, with respect to that Mission, appears to me to be wrong. This mission involves the mission cause, in some important respects, with the entire question of missionary operations over the North-west--reaching from lat. 42 deg. to 49 deg., with many degrees of longitude; for, from all this region, the Indian boys and girls of the mission have been collected. It began operations with them, I think, in 1822; and having, in this interval, expended many thousand dollars, and erected expensive buildings, it now drops the thing, just at the point when the Indians have commenced important cessions, and when their condition is such that they are not only inclined to receive interior teachers and evangelists, which have been raised at that central point, but, by these cessions to the government, they have provided funds for schools and teachers.

Merely because the excellent superintendent determined, two or three years ago, to leave this important point and enter into secular business, to provide for a growing family; and because the attraction of foreign fields carries young clergymen abroad, to the detriment of the home field, it does not, I think, fulfil the highest requisitions of duty to abandon the field, and thereby to leave it to be said that the Board doubts God's purposes with regard to the red man. If the missionary himself, who has so many years conducted the concern with approbation, was not willing to trust his rewards to a higher power, but aimed, as it were, to steady himself by stretching forth his hand, it seems to me the race ought not to be the sufferers for such a course. They constitute a vastly more appropriate field of labor than the "millions of foreign lands," who sit, to a large extent, unaffected by the Gospel. Not, indeed, that those fields should be neglected; but the Indian race, and these large families of it, are worthy of a warmer sympathy than I can see in Dr. Greene's letters, or the decisions of the Board by whom he is governed.

20th. Signed a supplementary treaty with the Saginaws at Flint. By this treaty the Saginaws relinquish their reserves in this valuable and rapidly settling portion of the country, and agree to accept a location on the head waters of the Osage, which their chiefs, have explored. They are to occupy two of their reservations on the west shores of Saginaw Bay, for five years. The government is to pay them the entire proceeds of the land, as sold in the public land offices. They set apart funds for schools, and to pay their debts. This tribe has now no instructors. They have the reputation of being turbulent, and averse to all plans of improvement. Their history is fraught with deeds of violence. They made bloody inroads on the settlements of Western Virginia and Pennsylvania, after the close of the war of the Revolution, and brought away captives. One of these was the notorious and infamous John Tanner. They lived under a perfect dictator, in the person of Kish-ka-ko, who made and altered laws to suit a strong-willed savage mind. They were originally a band of Chippewa refugees. They settled here when the Sauks in the 17th century were driven off. Their name is derived from this. The true sound of the word is Saukinong, or Place of the Sauks. It has been improperly assimilated to Saganosh, i.e., Englishman.

23d. Rev. John A. Clark, of Philadelphia, writes, requesting a contribution to the "Christian Keepsake," which denotes the interest in the Indian subject to be unabated.

2: The report that they were entirely extinguished was an error. The survivors fled to their relatives, the Minnitares, where they increased rapidly, when they returned to their ancient villages on the Missouri, where they now (1851) reside, numbering about five hundred souls.

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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

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