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Startling News of the Massacre of Dade

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Florida war--Startling news of the Massacre of Dade--Peoria on the Illinois--Abanaki language--Oregon--Things shaping for a territorial claim--Responsibility of claim in an enemy's country--A true soldier--Southern Literary Messenger--Missionary cause--Resources of Missouri--Indian portfolio of Lewis--Literary gossip--Sir Francis Head--The Crane and Addik totem--Treaty of March 28th, 1836, with the Ottawas and Chippewas--Treaty with the Saginaws of May 20th--Treaty with the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewas of May 9th--Return to Michilimackinack--Death of Charlotte, the daughter of Songageezhig.

1836. The year opened with the portentous news of Indian hostilities. The massacre of Major Dade and his entire command on the waters of the Wythlacootche River in Florida, and the prospect of an Indian war in Florida, excited great sensation in all circles. I was at the Secretary of War's domicil one evening, when he first received and read out the shocking details. The same night troops were ordered to be put in motion from every point in the Union, to be concentrated in that territory; and the greatest activity pervaded the departments. Gen. Jackson expressed himself with energy on the subject. He had formerly conducted a successful campaign against the Seminoles, but he could not be persuaded that there were more than five hundred of this tribe in the whole territory. This led him to believe that the troops actually put in motion for the field of action, were fully adequate to cope with the enemy, and promptly to put them down.

Jan. 4th. The American Lyceum request me to prepare a paper for their sixth anniversary.

6th. I received a letter from my former pastor, Rev. J. Porter, at Peoria, Ill., denoting him to be in a new field of ministerial labor.

"I bade adieu to my dear people at Chicago, on the second Sabbath in November, and commenced my labors here on the fourth Sabbath of the same month--just four years from the day I first preached at the Sault.

"The town is on the north bank of Lake Peoria, which is an expansion of the Illinois. The site is one of the first in our land. The ground rises with a delightful slope from the water's edge for the distance of half a mile--then there is table land for another half mile back to a high bluff. The town began to be built about two years since; it has now a population of eight hundred and fifty."

A descendant of the great theologian Edwards, it is pleasing to note that this gentleman is destined to be employed in various fields, in diffusing Christianity through the great valley.

8th. Mr. Thomas L. Winthrop, of Boston, transmits me "the first volume of a new series of the Transactions of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This volume, amongst other valuable matter, contains a Dictionary of the Abinaki Language of North America, by Father Sebastian Rasles."

10th. I addressed a memoir to the Secretary of War on the state of Indian affairs in Oregon. My position at St. Mary's being on the great line of communication between Montreal and the principal posts at Vancouver, &c., north of the Columbia, has afforded me opportunities of becoming familiar with the leading policy of the Hudson's Bay factors in relation to that region. The means pursued are such as must influence all the Indian tribes in that quarter strongly in favor of the political power wielded by that company, and as strongly against the government of the United States, which has not a shadow of a power of any kind on the Pacific. Silently, but surely, a vast influence is being built up on those coasts, adverse to our claims to the territory, and it cannot be long till those intrepid factors, sustained by the government at home, will assert it in a manner not easy to be resisted. I embodied these ideas strongly in my paper. The Secretary was arrested by the justice of my conclusions, and seemed disposed to do something, but the subject was, apparently, weighed down and forgotten in the press of other matters.

13th. Hon. E. Whittlesey, Chairman of the Committee on Claims, House of Representatives, remarks in effect, in a letter of this date, that to create a just claim against the United States, it must be shown that property and provisions taken by the troops, when operating in an enemy's country, were applied to the subsistence or clothing of the army or navy, although it was private property, and the orders of the commandant were, in all cases, to respect "private property." Consequently, that the disrespect of such orders might make the commander or his troops personally liable to amercement; but the government is not justly liable. Certainly, that officer is to be pitied whose sovereign will not stand by him in the execution of written orders! Nor do I see how the strict legality and morality of the question is to be got along with. May the government turn pirate with impunity? Does it war against women and children, and the ordinary private and domestic rights guaranteed to the citizen by the original rights of society defined in Blackstone?

14th. A soldier, in garrison at Fort Mackinack, writes to me, wishing, on the expiration of his term of enlistment, to become "a soldier of Christ," and to enter the missionary field. That is a good thought, Sergeant Humphrey Snow! Better to fight against human sins than to shoot down sinners.

18th. Dr. C.R. Gilman inquires, "Is the rock at Gros Cap granite? Can you give me particulars about the Indian fairies?"

27th. I am requested, from a high quarter, to furnish an article for the Southern Literary Messenger. "You are in for a scrape," says a gay note on the subject. "I have told Mr. White all about it. I am greatly obliged to you for relieving me." Truth is, I have never regarded the employment of literary time as thrown away. The discipline of the mind, induced by composition, is something, and it is surprising what may be done by a person who carefully "redeems" all his time. It does not, in the least, incapacitate him for business. It rather quickens his intellect for it.

Feb. 1st. My former agreeable guest at Mackinack (Rev. Geo. H. Hastings) writes me from Walnut Hills, Ohio: "There is a missionary spirit in our institution (Lane Seminary) that responds to the wants of the world. The faculty have pressed upon the minds of us all the duty of examining early the question, 'Ought I to be a missionary?'"

16th. My brother James writes from St. Mary's, foot of Lake Superior: "The month has been remarkably cold, the thermometer having ranged from 13 deg..23 to 38 deg. below zero. Snow we have had in great abundance."

17th. Hon. Lewis F. Linn, U.S. Senator, writes respecting the scientific character and resources of Missouri, in view of a project, matured by him, for establishing a western armory: "Your intimate knowledge of the Ozark Mountains, its streams descending north and south, and those passing through to the east, with its unequaled mineral resources, would be, to me, of infinite service, to accomplish the purpose I have in view, should you be so kind as to communicate them, in reference to this particular measure, and by so doing you would confer a lasting obligation."

The resources of Missouri in iron, lead, and coal, to which I first called attention in 1819, are of such a noble character as surely to require no bolstering from the effects of particular measures.

March 4th. Mr. J.O. Lewis, of Philadelphia, furnishes me seven numbers of his Indian Portfolio. Few artists have had his means of observation of the aboriginal man, in the great panorama of the west, where he has carried his easel. The results are given, in this work, with biographical notices of the common events in the lives of the chiefs. Altogether, it is to be regarded as a valuable contribution to this species of knowledge. He has painted the Indian lineaments on the spot, and is entitled to patronage--not as supplying all that is desirable, or practicable, perhaps, but as a first and original effort. We should cherish all such efforts.

9th. A shrewd and discriminating judge of literary things in New York, writes: "Have you seen the last number of Hoffman's Magazine? There is a pretty thing of his in it about Indian corn, and an Indian story by the author of 'Tales in the North-west,' which I do not, think good. The number generally is indifferent. Some one recently told me, that the true orthography of Illinois is Illinwa, like Ottawa, &c. Do you think that the fact1? By the way, why have you, and all other Indian travelers, used the French word 'lodge,' instead of the Indian wigwam? Don't you think the latter the better term? I do, and if my book was to print again, I would always use wigwam instead of lodge. We have so few relics of the poor Indians, that I am unwilling to part with any one, even so trifling as adopting the red man's name for the red man's house."

We have no news here. Paulding's book on slavery has been little noticed. Dr. Hawk's 'History of Episcopacy in Virginia' is good--very good, so they say, for I have not read it. Some Jerseyman has written a bad novel called "Herbert--" something or other--I forget what. What do they say at Washington, and what do you say about Gen. Macomb's 'Pontiac2?' Is the Indian Prince, who was traveling in these parts a while ago, one of the getters up of this affair? I suspect him. Does the prince go to 'profane stageplays and such like vanities,' as the dear old Puritans would say?

"I hear nothing of Mr. Gallatin and his Indian languages. Do you? I see, by the English magazines, that Willis and his 'pencilings' get little quarter there; they deserve none. The book is not yet published here. Walsh, they say, will kill it, unless it should chance to be still-born. Hoffman is a friend of it, or rather he has made up his mind to join hands with the 'Mirror' set. I think he has made a mistake. They will sink him before he raises them. I suppose, however, if he will praise them they will praise him, and praise is sweet, we all know."

9th. Rev. William McMurray writes, from the Canadian side of Sault St. Marie: "Our excellent governor, Sir John Colbourne, has resigned his situation, which is at present filled by Sir Francis Head, who has recently arrived from England. As far as I can learn, he is rather a literary character, and is the same person who, some years ago, visited South America on a mining expedition. The most correct intelligence I have received respecting him is by an express from Toronto. From it I learn that he is disposed to be kind and good towards the poor Indians. As an instance of which, he intends visiting every Indian mission next summer, in order that he may see for himself their secret wants, and how their condition may be best ameliorated."

My brother James gives a somewhat amusing account of Indian matters at the Sault after the leaving of their delegates for Washington.

"Since Whaiskee's departure, the whole Sault has been troubled; I mean the 'busy bodies,' and this, by the way, comprises nearly the whole population. A council has accordingly been held before the Major-Agent, in which the British chief, Gitshee Kawgaosh, appeared as orator. The harangue from the sachem ran very much as follows:--"

'Father, why and for what purpose has the man Whaiskee gone to the home of our great father? Why did he leave without notifying me, and the other men of influence of my tribe, of the nature of his mission? Why should he, whose totem-fathers live about Shaugawaumekong (La Pointe), be, at his own will, made the representative of the ancient band of the red men whose totem is the lofty Crane? Say, father? Father, we ask you to know; we ask of you to tell why this strange man has so strangely gone to smoke with the great chief of the "long knives?" Kunnah-gakunnah!'

"Here the chief, drawing the folds of his blanket with perfect grace, and extending his right arm with dignity to the agent, seated himself again upon the floor, while, at the same time, a warrior of distinction, whose eagle-plumed head spoke him the fiercest of his tribe, gave to the sachem the lighted pipe. The eyes of the red men, like those of their snowy chief, were now riveted to the floor."

'Sons of the forest,' answered the American agent, 'I, like yourselves, know nothing of this strange business! I, the father of all the red men, have not been consulted in this man's going beyond the lakes to "the great waters!" I am the man through whom such messages should come! I, the man who should hand the wampum, and I, the man to whom the red men should look for redress! Friends, your speech shall reach the ears of our great father, and then this strange man of the far-off totem of Addik shall know that the Crane totem is protected by me, the hero of the Southern clime! Men of the forest, I am done.'

"Tobacco was then distributed to the assembly, and, after many hoghs, the red men dispersed."

24th. Mr. Bancroft, bringing a few lines from the Secretary of War, came to see me to confer on the character of the Indians, which he is about to handle in the next volume of his History. This care to assure himself of the truth of the conclusions to be introduced in his work, is calculated to inspire confidence in his mode of research.

28th. Washington. My reception here has been most cordial, and such as to assure me in the propriety of the step I took, in resolving to proceed to the capital, without the approval of the secretary and acting governor (Horner), who was, indeed, from his recent arrival and little experience in this matter, quite in the dark respecting the true condition of Indian affairs in Michigan. The self-constituted Ottawa delegation of chiefs from the lower peninsula had preceded me a few days. After a conference between them and the Secretary of War, they were referred to me, under authority from the President, communicated by special appointment, as commissioner for treating with them. It was found that the deputation was quite too local for the transaction of any general business. The Ottawas, from the valley of Grand River, an important section, were unrepresented. The various bands of Chippewas living intercalated among them, on the lower peninsula, extending down the Huron shore to Thunder Bay, were unapprized of the movement. The Chippewas of the upper peninsula, north of Michilimackinack, were entirely unrepresented. I immediately wrote, authorizing deputations to be sent from each of the unrepresented districts, and transmitting funds for the purpose. This authority to collect delegates from the two nations, whose interests in the lands were held in common, was promptly and efficiently carried out; and, when the chiefs and delegates arrived, they were assembled in public council, at the Masonic Hall, corner of 4-1/2 street, and negotiations formally opened. These meetings were continued from day to day, and resulted in an important cession of territory, comprising all their lands lying in the lower peninsula of Michigan, north of Grand River and west of Thunder Bay; and on the upper peninsula, extending from Drummond Island and Detour, through the Straits of St. Mary, west to Chocolate River, on Lake Superior, and thence southerly to Green Bay. This cession was obtained on the principle of making limited reserves for the principal villages, and granting the mass of Indian population the right to live on and occupy any portion of the lands until it is actually required for settlement. The compensation, for all objects, was about two millions of dollars. It had been arranged to close and sign the treaty on the 26th of March, but some objections were made by the Ottawas to a matter of detail, which led to a renewed discussion, and it was not until the 28th that the treaty was signed. It did not occur to me, till afterwards, that this was my birth-day. The Senate who, at the same time, had the important Cherokee treaty of New Echota before them, did not give it their assent till the 20th of May, and then ratified it with some essential modifications, which have not had a wholly propitious tendency.

Liberal provisions were made for their education and instruction in agriculture and the arts. Their outstanding debts to the merchants were provided for, and such aid given them in the initial labor of subsisting themselves, as were required by a gradual change from the life of hunters to that of husbandmen. About twelve and a half cents per acre was given for the entire area, which includes some secondary lands and portions of muskeegs and waste grounds about the lakes--which it was, however, thought ought, in justice to the Indians, to be included in the cession. The whole area could not be certainly told, but was estimated at about sixteen millions of acres.

About the beginning of May a delegation of Saginaws arrived, for the purpose of ceding to the government the reservations in Michigan, made under the treaty of 1819. This delegation was referred to me, with instructions to form a treaty with them. The terms of it were agreed on in several interviews, and the treaty was signed on the 20th of May, 1836.

A third delegation of Chippewas, from Michigan, having separate interest in the regions of Swan Creek and Black River, presented themselves, with the view of ceding the reservations made to them by a treaty concluded by Gen. Hull, Nov. 17th, 1807. They were also referred to me to adjust the terms of a sale of these reservations. The treaty was signed by their chiefs on the 9th of May, 1836.

As soon as these several treaties were acted on by the Senate, I left the city on my return. It was one of the last days of May when I left Washington. A new era had now dawned in the upper lake country, and joy and gladness sat in every face I met. The Indians rejoiced, because they had accomplished their end and provided for their wants. The class of merchants and inland traders rejoiced, because they would now be paid the amount of their credits to the Indians. The class of metifs and half-breeds were glad, because they had been remembered by the chiefs, who set apart a fund for their benefit. The citizens generally participated in these feelings, because the effect of the treaties would be to elicit new means and sources of prosperity.

I reached Mackinack on the 15th of June, in the steamer "Columbia." I found all my family well and ready to welcome me home, but one--Charlotte, the daughter of Songageezhig, who had been brought up from a child as one of my family. Her father, a Chippewa, had been killed in an affray at the Sault St. Marie in 1822, leaving a wife and three children. She had been adopted and carefully instructed in every moral and religious duty. She could read her Bible well, and was a member of the Church, in good standing at the time of her death. A rapid consumption developed itself during the winter of my absence, which no medical skill could arrest. She had attained about her fifteenth year, and died leaving behind her a consecrated memory of pleasing piety and gentle manners.

            A forest flower, but few so well could claim
            A daughter's, sister's, and a Christian's name.

1: No.

2: Fudge!

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

Thirty Years with the Indians


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