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Official Journal of the Indian Intercourse

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

28th. The wife of Metakoossega (Pure Tobacco) applied for food for her husband, whom she represented as being sick at his lodge, and unable to apply himself. The peculiar features and defective Chippewa pronunciation of this woman indicated her foreign origin. She is a Sioux by birth, having been taken captive by the Chippewas when quite young. A residence of probably thirty years has not been sufficient to give her a correct knowledge of the principles or pronunciation of the language. She often applies animate verbs and adjectives to inanimate nouns, &c., a proof, perhaps, that no such distinctions are known in her native tongue.

Chacopa, a chief of Snake River, intimated his wish to be heard. He said he had visited the agency in the hope that some respect3 would be shown the medal he carried. The government had thought him worthy of this honor; the traders had also thought him deserving of it; and many of the young men of Snake River looked up to him to speak for them. "But what," he asked, "can I say? My father knows how we live, and what we want. We are always needy. My young men are expecting something. I do not speak for myself; but I must ask my father to take compassion on those who have followed me, &c. We expect, from what our great father said to us at the treaty of Fond du Lac, that they would all be clothed yearly."

Ahkakanongwa presented a note from Mr. Johnston, Sub-agent at La Pointe, recommending him as "a peaceable and obedient Indian." He requested permission to be allowed to take a keg of whisky inland on his return, and to have a permit for it in writing. I asked him the name of the trader who had sold him the liquor, and who had sent him to ask this permit.

Wayoond's widow requested provisions to enable her to return to her country. Granted.

30th. Chegud, a minor chief of Tacquimenon River, embraced the opportunity presented by his applying for food for his family, to add some remarks on the subject of the School promised them at the signing of the treaty of Fond du Lac. He was desirous of sending three of his children. The conduct of this young man for several years past, his sobriety, industry in hunting, punctuality in paying debts contracted with the traders, and his modest, and, at the same time, manly deportment, have attracted general notice. He is neat in his dress, wearing a capot, like the Canada French, is emulous of the good will of white men, and desirous to adopt, in part, their mode of living, and have his children educated. I informed him that the United States Senate, in ratifying the treaty, had struck out this article providing for a school.

31st Shanegwunaibe, a visiting Indian from the sources of Menomonie River of Green Bay, stated his object in making so circuitous a journey. (He had come by way of Michilimackinac), to visit the agency. He had been induced, from what he had heard of the Lake Superior Indians, to expect that general presents of clothing would be issued to all the Chippewas.

"Nothing," observes the Sub-agent at La Pointe, "but their wretchedness could induce the Indians to wander."

Aug. 3d. Guelle Plat returned from his visit to Michilimackinac; states that the Agent at that post (Mr. Boyd) had given him a sheep, but had referred him to me, when speaking on the subject of presents, &c., saying that he belonged to my agency.

Finding in this chief a degree of intelligence, united to habits of the strictest order and sobriety, and a vein of reflection which had enabled him to observe more than I thought he appeared anxious to communicate, I invited him into my house, and drew him into conversation on the state of the trade, and the condition of the Indians at Leech Lake, &c. He said the prices of goods were high, that the traders were rigorous, and that there were some practices which he could wish to see abolished, not so much for his own sake4, as for the sake of the Indians generally; that the traders found it for their interest to treat him and the principal chiefs well; that he hunted diligently, and supplied himself with necessary articles. But the generality of the Indians were miserably poor and were severely dealt by. He said, the last thing that they had enjoined upon him, on leaving Leech Lake, was to solicit from me another trader. He had not, however, deemed it proper to make the request in public council.

He states that the Indians are compelled to sell their furs to one man, and to take what he pleases to give them in return. That the trader fixes his own prices, both on the furs and on the goods he gives in exchange. The Indians have no choice in the matter. And if it happens, as it did last spring (1828), that there is a deficiency in the outfit of goods, they are not permitted quietly to bring out their surplus furs, and sell them to whom they please. He says that he saw a remarkable instance of this at Point au Pins, on his way out, where young Holiday drew a dirk on an Indian on refusing to let him take a pack of furs from his canoe. He said, on speaking of this subject, "I wish my father to take away the sword that hangs over us, and let us bring down our furs, and sell them to whom we please."

He says that he killed last fall, nearly one thousand muskrats, thirteen bears, twenty martins, twelve fishers. Beavers he killed none, as they were all killed off some years ago. He says, that fifty rats are exacted for cloth for a coat (this chief wears coats) the same for a three point blanket, forty for a two-and-a-half point blanket, one hundred for a Montreal gun, one plus for a gill of powder, for a gill of shot, or for twenty-five bullets, thirty martins for a beaver trap, fifteen for a rat trap.

Speaking of the war, which has been so long waged between the Chippewas and Sioux, to the mutual detriment of both, he said that it had originated in the rival pretensions of a Sioux and Chippewa chief, for a Sioux woman, and that various causes had since added fuel to the flame. He said that, in this long war, the Chippewas had been gainers of territory, that they were better woodsmen than the Sioux, and were able to stand their ground. But that the fear of an enemy prevented them from hunting some of the best beaver land, without imminent hazard. He had himself, in the course of his life, been a member of twenty-five different war parties, and had escaped without even a wound, though on one occasion, he with three companions, was compelled to cut his way through the enemy, two of whom were slain.

These remarks were made in private conversation. Anxious to secure the influence and good-will of a man so respectable both for his standing and his understanding, I had presented him, on his previous visit (July 19), with the President's large medal, accompanied by silver wrist-bands, gorget, &c., silver hat-band, a hat for himself and son, &c. I now added full patterns of clothing for himself and family, kettles, traps, a fine rifle, ammunition, &c., and, observing his attachment for dress of European fashion, ordered an ample cloak of plaid, which would, in point of warmth, make a good substitute for the blanket.

On a visit which he made to Fort Brady on the following day, Dr. Pitcher presented his only son, a fine youth of sixteen, a gilt sword, and, I believe, some other presents were made by the officers of the 2d Regiment.

5th. Issued an invoice of goods, traps, kettles, &c. to the Indians, who were assembled in front of the office, and seated upon the green for the purpose of making a proper distribution. I took this occasion to remind them of the interest which their great father, the President, constantly took in their welfare, and of his ardent desire that they might live in peace and friendship with each other, and with their ancient enemies, the Sioux. That he was desirous to see them increase in numbers, as well as prosperity, to cultivate the arts of peace, so far as they were compatible with their present condition and position, to participate in the benefits of instruction, and to abstain from the use of ardent spirits, that they might continue to live upon the lands of their forefathers, and increase in all good knowledge. I told them they must consider the presents, that had now been distributed, as an evidence of these feelings and sentiments on the part of the President, who expected that they would be ready to hearken to his counsels, &c.

I deemed this a suitable opportunity to reply to some remarks that had fallen from several of the speakers, in the course of their summer visits, on the subject of the stipulations contained in the treaty of Fond du Lac, and informed them that I had put the substance of their remarks into the shape of a letter to the department (see Official Let., Aug. 2d, 1828), that this letter would be submitted to the President, and when I received a reply it should be communicated to them.

6th. Shingabowossin and his band called to take leave previous to their setting out on their fall hunts. He thanked me in behalf of all the Indians, for the presents distributed to them yesterday.

Wayishkee (the First Born), a chief of the home band, on calling to take leave for the season, stated that he had been disabled by sickness from killing many animals during the last year, that his family was large, und that he felt grateful for the charity shown to his children, &c.

This chief is a son of the celebrated war chief Waubodjeeg (the White Fisher), who died at La Pointe about thirty years ago, from whom he inherited a broad wampum belt and gorget, delivered to his grandfather (also a noted chief) by Sir Wm. Johnson, on the taking of Fort Niagara, in 1759.

The allusion made to his family recalled to my mind the fact, that he has had twelve children by one wife, nine of whom are now living; a proof that a cold climate and hardships are not always adverse to the increase of the human species.

7th. Annamikens made a speech, in which he expressed himself very favorably of our government, and said he should carry back a good report of his reception. He contrasted some things very adroitly with the practices he had observed at Red River, Fort William, and Drummond's Island. Deeming it proper to secure the influence of a person who stands well with the Indians on that remote frontier, I presented him a medal of the second class, accompanying it by some presents of clothing, &c., and an address to be delivered to the Chippewas, at the sources of the Mississippi, in which I referred to the friendly and humane disposition of our government, its desire that the Indians should live in peace, refrain from drink, &c.

Terns Couvert, in a short speech, expressed himself favorably towards Annamikens, corroborating some statements the latter had made.

Chacopee came to make his farewell speech, being on the point of embarking. He recommended some of his followers to my notice, who were not present when the goods were distributed on the fifth instant. He again referred to the wants and wishes of the Indians of Snake River, who lived near the boundary lines, and were subject to the incursions of the Sioux. Says that the Sioux intrude beyond the line settled at the Prairie, &c. Requests permission to take inland, for his own use, two kegs of whisky, which had been presented to him by Mr. Dingley and Mr. Warren. [This mode of evading the intercourse act, by presenting or selling liquor on territory where the laws of Congress do not operate, shifting on the Indians the risk and responsibility of taking it inland, is a new phase of the trade, and evinces the moral ingenuity of the American Fur Company, or their servants.]

8th. Grosse Guelle stated that, as he was nearly ready to return, he wished to say a few words, to which he hoped I would listen. He complained of the hardness of times, high prices of goods, and poverty of the Indians, and hoped that presents would be given to them5. He alleged these causes for his visit, and that of the Sandy Lake Indians generally. Adverted to the outrage committed by the Sioux at St. Peters, and to the treaty of Prairie du Chien, at which his fathers (alluding to Gen. Clarke and Gov. Cass) promised to punish the first aggressors. Requested permission to take in some whisky--presses this topic, and says, in reply to objections, that "Indians die whether they drink whisky or not." He presented a pipe in his own name, and another in the names of the two young chiefs Wazhus-Kuk-Koon (Muskrat's Liver), and Nauganosh, who both received small medals at the treaty of Fond du Lac.

Katewabeda, having announced his wish to speak to me on the 6th instant, came into the office for that purpose. He took a view of the standing his family had maintained among the Sandy Lake Indians from an early day, and said that he had in his possession until very lately a French flag, which had been presented to some of his ancestors, but had been taken to exhibit at Montreal by his son-in-law (Mr. Ermatinger, an English trader recently retired from business). He had received a muzinni'egun6  from Lieut. Pike, on his visit to Sandy Lake, in 1806, but it had been lost in a war excursion on the Mississippi. He concluded by asking a permit to return with some mdz. and liquor, upon the sale of which, and not on hunting, he depended for his support7 I took occasion to inform him that I had been well acquainted with his standing, character, and sentiments from the time of my arrival in the country in the capacity of an agent; that I knew him to be friendly to the traders who visited the Upper Mississippi, desirous to keep the Indians at peace, and not less desirous to keep up friendly relations with the authorities of both the British and American governments; but that I also very well knew that whatever political influence he exerted, was not exerted to instil into the minds of the Indians sentiments favorable to our system of government, or to make them feel the importance of making them strictly comply with the American intercourse laws, &c. I referred to the commencement of my acquaintance with him, twenty days after my first landing at St. Mary's, and by narrating facts, and naming dates and particulars, endeavored to convince him that I had not been an indifferent observer of what had passed both within and without the Indian country. I also referred to recent events here, to which I attributed an application to trade, which he had not thought proper or deemed necessary to make in previous years.

I concluded by telling him that he would see that it was impossible, in conformity with the principles I acted upon, and the respect which I claimed of Indians for my counsels, to grant his request.

11th. Guelle Plat came to take leave preparatory to his return. He expressed his sense of the kindness and respect with which he had been treated, and intimated his intention of repeating his visit to the Agency during the next season, should his health be spared. He said, in the course of conversation, that "there was one thing in which he had observed a great difference between the practice of this and St. Peter's Agency. There whisky is given out in abundance; here I see it is your practice to give none."

12th. Invested Oshkinahwa (the Young Man of the totem of the Loon of Leech Lake), with a medal.

15th. Issued provisions to the family of Kussepogoo, a Chippewyan woman from Athabasca, recently settled at St. Mary's. It seems the name by which this remote tribe is usually known is of Chippewa origin (being a corruption of Ojeegewyan, a fisher's skin), but they trace no affinity with the Chippewa stock, and the language is radically different, having very little analogy either in its structure or sounds. It is comparatively harsh and barren, and so defective and vague in its application that it even seems questionable whether nouns and verbs have number.

18th. Visited by the Little Pine (Shingwaukonce), the leading chief on the British shore of the St. Mary's, a shrewd and politic man, who has united, at sundry periods, in himself the offices and influence of a war chief, a priest, or Jossakeed, and a civil ruler. The giving of public presents on the 5th had evidently led to his visit, although he had not pursued the policy expected from him, so far as his influence reached among the Chippewas on the American shores of the straits. He made a speech well suited to his position, and glossed off with some fine generalities, avoiding commitments on main points and making them on minor ones, concluding with a string of wampum. I smoked and shook hands with him, and accepted his tenders of friendship by re-pledging the pipe, but narrowed his visit to official proprieties, and refused his wampum.

22d. Magisanikwa, or the Wampum-hair, renewed his visit, gave me another opportunity to remember his humane act in the spring, and had his claims on this score allowed. The Indians never forget a good act done by them, and we should not permit them to surpass us in this respect.

3: This term was not meant to apply to personal respect, but to presents of goods.

4: He was flattered and pampered by them.

5: By visiting Drummond's Island contrary to instructions, this chief and his band had excluded themselves from the distribution made on the 5th of August.

6: A paper; any written or printed document.

7: This is one of the modern modes of getting goods into the country in contravention of law, Mr. Ermatinger being a foreigner trading on the Canadian side of the river.

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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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