“Considerable Altercation Ensued”

March 11, 2017

By Leo

Here is another gem from Wheeler.  It appears to be a short description of a meeting in Odanah that quickly devolves into absurdity.  It appears without any associated documents in the chronological professional papers of the Wheeler Family Collection at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.  For what it lacks in length and context, it makes up for in insight into the personalities of some prominent Chequamegon residents. 

Odanah July 6, 1856

Council of Indians called by Mr Warren to make regulations in regard to the partitions of Domestic Arrivals & crops here.  Mr S. C. Collins was appointed chairman & L. H. Wheeler Secretary.

Mr Warren presented some resolutions stating the object of the meeting , which was interpreted to the Indians.

After reading the paper Mr. Warren added remarks explaining the importance of some such regulations for the good of both the Whites & Indians.

After he stopped Blackbird spoke.  The substance of his remarks was that the commissioner & agent told him to be still and do nothing till the agent should come, and therefore he should have nothing to do with what was proposed to them.  

Out of contempt to Mr Warren he proposed that he should be made chief.  He said it was treating them like children for Mr W to pass laws & rules for them to observe, just as though they were not able to take care of their own interests.  He was asked more fully  Mr Stoddard regarding the concluding remarks of Black Bird in substance, as a motion, to drop the whole subject, seconded the motion upon which considerable altercation ensued.  The result of which was that the question should be considered still open for discussion and free remarks be allowed on both sides.

Odanah in 1856, just two years removed from the Treaty of 1854, was a community in flux.  The cities of Ashland and Bayfield were growing rapidly with white American settlers.  Being the largest of the newly-created reservations, Bad River was also growing as some of the Ojibwe bands from the Island, Ontonagon, St. Croix and the Chippewa River relocated there.  In contrast to the Buffalo Bay (Red Cliff) reservation whose population included numerous mix-blood and Catholic families, the people of Bad River were largely full-bloods practicing traditional ways.

A handful of mix-blood and white families did live in Odanah, sponsored by the US Government and eastern missionary societies for Christianizing and “civilizing” the Ojibwe.  These included the families of Reverend Leonard H. Wheeler founder of the Odanah mission, Truman A. Warren the government farmer, and John Stoddard the government carpenter.  At this point in history, each of these men had lived in or around Odanah for several years and were well-known to area residents. 

 

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Truman A. Warren, brother of William W. Warren (Wisconsin Historical Society).

From the document, it appears that Warren called a meeting to create rules for the distribution of crops and goods to the Bad River Band.  Warren was born at La Pointe in the mid-1820s to fur-trader Lyman Warren and Marie Cadotte Warren.  Most Ojibwe men of the era avoided farming as it was considered women’s work.  Warren, however, did not appear to share this view. He was a Christian mix-blood whose grandfather, Michel Cadotte, planted numerous crops on the Island.  As a teenager, Truman, spent several years at school in New York learning English and doing farm labor.

 Getting the farmer position, which had been created by the Treaty of 1842, was seen as a stroke of good fortune.  His sister, Julia Warren Spears later described it as such:

My brother Truman A. Warren was the government farmer for the Indians, who lived at Bad River about 15 miles on the main land from La Pointe. That is where they made there garden and what other farming they did. The government farmer, carpenter, and blacksmith all had good houses to live in and received good salaries. (Spears to Bartlett; October 26, 1924) 

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Leonard H. Wheeler (Wisconsin Historical Society)

S. C. Collins is listed as the chairman of the meeting.  I have been unable to find any other information about his connection to this area. I suspect he may have been a visitor or brief resident enlisted by Leonard Wheeler as a neutral party to conduct the meeting.

 

The Wheelers and Warrens were very close.  Truman’s father was the original force behind bringing the Protestant missions into the area and Leonard and Harriet Wheeler helped raise Truman’s younger sister.  

John Stoddard, the government carpenter has been identified by Amorin Mello as the most likely author of the mystery journal found in the Wheeler Collection.  He was also close to Wheeler.  As was Blackbird, the most prominent chief of the Bad River Ojibwe.

I’ve written before on how Blackbird and Wheeler were an odd couple.  Wheeler was dedicated to the destruction of Ojibwe culture while Blackbird was perhaps the strongest advocate for maintaining traditional ways.  Even so, the primary sources seem to indicate the men had a strong respect for one another.  

Blackbird’s affections for Wheeler, however, don’t appear to extend to Warren.  This isn’t overly surprising.  Truman, and his deceased brother William, had run counter to the chief’s wishes on multiple occasions.  William Warren criticized Blackbird directly at the time of the Martell Delegation.  Blackbird also wanted to limit the power of Henry Rice’s “Indian Ring,” which employed numerous La Pointe mix-bloods including the Warrens.  

In Theresa Schenck’s excellent William W. Warren:  The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader, the Warrens occasionally betray a paternalistic attitude toward their Ojibwe relatives.  For example, William and Truman both initially supported the tragic Sandy Lake Removal of 1850-51 even though the Ojibwe leadership was rightfully opposed to it.  Blackbird, of all the chiefs, seemed the least willing to accept condescension and threats to tribal sovereignty so it’s not surprising that a “considerable altercation ensued.”

For Wheeler’s part, I haven’t found any evidence he tried to force Robert’s Rules of Order on this area again.      

 

 

Davidson, John N. In Unnamed Wisconsin. N.p.: Nabu, 2010. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star of St. Cloud, 2013. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln, Neb.: U of Nebraska, 2009. Print.

 

 

 

 

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