By Leo Filipczak

When we last checked in with Joseph Austrian, or Doodooshaaboo (milk) as he was known in these parts, we saw some interesting stories and insights about La Pointe in 1851.  The later La Pointe stories, however, are where the really good stuff is.

Austrian’s brief stay on the island came at arguably one of the most important periods in our area’s history, spanning from a few months after the Sandy Lake Tragedy, until just after Chief Buffalo’s return from Washington D.C.  Whether young Joseph realized it or not, he recorded some valuable history.  In his memoir, we see information about white settlement and land speculation prior to the Treaty of 1854, as well as corroborating accounts of the La Pointe and Bayfield stories found in the works of Carl Scherzer and Benjamin Armstrong.

Most importantly, there is a dramatic scene of a showdown between the Lake Superior chiefs and Agent John Watrous, one of the architects of the Sandy Lake removal.  In this, we are privileged to read the most direct and succinct condemnation of the government, I’ve ever seen from Chief Buffalo.  It is a statement that probably deserves to be memorialized alongside Flat Mouth’s scathing letter to Governor Ramsey.    

So, without further ado, here is the second and final installment of Joseph Austrian’s memoirs of La Pointe, and fifth of this series.  Enjoy:

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Memoirs of Doodooshaboo

… continued from La Pointe 1851-1852 (Part 1).

 

Scherzer, Noted Traveller Pays Us a Visit.  1851.

Carl Scherzer and his companion Moritz Wagner recorded their travels in Reisen in Nordamerkia in der Jahren 1852 und 1853.  An e-translation of Chapter 21 appeared in English for the first time this fall on the Chequamegon History website.  You can read it here, here, and here.  The second installment records his time with Joseph Austrian.  From Austrian’s account, it appears Wagner did not accompany Scherzer through the Lake Superior country.  (Wikimedia Images)

During this summer a noted Austrian traveler Carl Scherzer arrived one Sept. night.  He had been commissioned by the “Academy of Science” of Vienna (a Government Institution) to make a tour of America to familiarize himself with the country and gather information to write a book for the Academy. This interesting book which he wrote is called “Scherzer’s Reisen.”  Mr. S. sent me a copy of this book which I have in my library.  In this book, mention is made of me and my cordial reception of him and his travelling companion, an Attache of the French Legation of Washington who accompanied him on his trip.  Scherzer was a highly educated gentleman, cultured and charming, tall and of imposing appearance.  Scherzer arrived at La Pointe at midnight coming from Ontonagan 90 miles in a small row boat.  To his dismay, he found that there was not a hotel in the place.  The boatman told him that he thought that one Austrian might give him shelter for the night, so he came to the house and knocked at the door.  Henry Schmitz, my fellow employee, who roomed with me opened the door and called out “Joe step auf freund von below sind da,” whereupon I cordially invited them to enter and made them as comfortable as possible.  They remained with us about three days and profoundly appreciated our hospitality.  Even making mention of it later on in his book.  Once on going to a fishing boat for our supply of fish, Scherzer went with me and begged the privilege of carrying two of the large fine white fish, one suspended from each hand.  He much enjoyed meeting the good Father Skolla, his country-mate, also an Austrian, and from him obtained more valuable and authentic information concerning that part of Lake Superior country that he could have otherwise gained.  From La Point Scherzer planned to go to St. Paul.  There were no railroads here at that time.  There were but two roads leading to St. Paul.  One was simply a footpath of several hundred miles through the woods.  The other led via St. Croix [Brule?] & St. Croix river shortening the foot travel considerably.  Scherzer chose the latter road.  I fitted out for him, at his request, a birch bark canoe and utensils and all necessary for the trip and Scherzer and his companion started on their way to St. Paul.

In Reisen in Nordamerika, Scherzer contradicts Austrian’s statement that the voyageurs who brought the travel writer from Ontanagon also brought him down the Brule and St. Croix.  The men who departed with him from La Pointe are identified only as Souverain, an older man, and Jean-Baptise, a young man.  Souverain Denis is the likely suspect for the captain, and if Austrian is correct here, it appears Jean-Baptise Belanger (Balange) was his partner.

He had engaged one “Balange” their voyageur who had brought them from Ontonoagan and a friend of his to take them through.  They were well acquainted with the route which at times necessitated their carrying the canoes around through the woods across the portage, where the river was inaccessible through rapids, obstacles and otherwise.  Scherzer arrived at St. Paul safely and wrote thanking me for my assistance and requesting me to send him a copy of the wording of a French rowing song (the oarsmen usually sang keeping time with their oars).  I sent it to him and received a letter of thanks from New Orleans whence he had gone from St. Paul by steamer via the Mississippi River.  This song is embodied in his book also.

A Steamer was a rare occurrence at La Point and when one did come, we often got up an Indian war dance or other Indian exhibit for the amusement of its passengers, and which they enjoyed greatly.  In the fall of the year steamers were sometimes driven there by the storms prevailing on the lakes, as the harbor offered the best of shelter.  We kept a good supply of cord wood on the dock which we sold to the steamers when they needed fuel.

 

Indians Decline to be Removed by Gov.  I attend Grand Council.  1851.

Although the Government had botched the previous year’s removal, leading to hundreds of deaths, John Watrous illegally told the Ojibwe chiefs in 1851 that they would have to remove to Sandy Lake again.  The Lake Superior bands adamantly refused.  Some of the details here, however, suggest that this may actually depict the Buffalo-Watrous showdown, over the same issue, that occurred at La Pointe in the summer of 1852.  Scherzer’s visit, described above, was in 1852, but Austrian (writing over fifty years later) puts it in 1851.  For more on the politics of the years following Sandy Lake, read (Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013.), and Bruce White’s section of (McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000).

During the first summer of my stay at La Point, the Indian Agent, Mr. Watrous was directed by the Secretary of the Indian Dept. at Washington to summon the chiefs of that part of the Chippewa tribe residing in the vicinity of Bad River, Bayfield, & Red River for a council.  The Agent accordingly sent runners around to the chiefs of the different lodges some of which were quite remote, summoning them to meet him on a certain day at La Point.  They came in obedience to the summons many bringing their squaws, papooses and their Indians of their lodges with them.  Near the lake shore the put up their wigwams, which were made of birch bark leaving an opening over hung with a blanket which served as a doorway.  It made an interesting Indian settlement.  The meeting was held on the appointed day, in my brother’s store which was a long wooden structure.  When the meeting opened the chiefs sat on the floor arranged along the left side of the room, with their blankets wrapped around them, and each one smoking a long stemmed pipe, which they make themselves, the sign of peace, many ornamented with paint and feathers.  On the other side of the room was seated the Indian Agent with an interpreter who translated what either had said.

I naturally felt greatly interested in witnessing their proceedings.  The President of the U. S. was known by the Indians as the Great Father and the Agent addressed them telling them what the Great Father wanted of them; namely that they remove from their reservations to interior points in order to make room for while settlers; pointing out to them that the proposed location was more suited for them, there being good fishing and hunting grounds.  The government offered to pay them besides certain annuities, partly in money and partly in Indian goods–such as blankets, cotton, beads, provisions, etc.  The proposition of the Government was met with murmurs of disapproval by the chiefs & Indians present, and Chief Buffalo made a most eloquent and impassioned speech saying,

“Go back to the ‘Great Father’ and tell him to keep the money and his goods.  We do not want them but we wish to be left in peace.  Tell him we will not move from the land that is our own, that we have always been peaceable and were always happy until the white man came among our people and sold ‘Matchie Mushkiki [majimashkiki (bad medicine)]’ (poison-whiskey) to them.“

(The real name of whiskey in Indian is “Ushkota wawa [ishkodewaaboo]” – fire water).

The Indians did remain and to this day are still occupying the same land.  I was present at this meeting and it so impressed me, that although it took place over fifty years ago it is still vivid in my mind.  Later on the Government encouraged the same Indians to engage in farming work on the reservation, and furnishing them with implements and seeds for that purpose, and in the course of a few years they had their own little farms on which they raised potatoes and other vegetables easily cultivated.  Schools also were established by the Government.  One of their large settlements today is on Bad River, and not far from Ashland Wis., known by the name of Odana.

 

Brother Marx Experience with Indians.  1851 .

Marx Austrian did not immigrate until 1853, or marry his first wife Malea until a year later.  His received a land patent for this claim from the General Land Office in Superior City during 1857.  This would date his pre-emption to the winter of 1855-1856, a few months before Bayfield was established by the Bayfield Land Company, not 1851.
Exciting research is being done on the land speculation and corruption in this area (much of it involving the Austrian brothers), just before and after the Treaty of 1854.  It was Henry M. Rice, richer and more powerful than even Julius Austrian, who eventually cashed in on the plots that became Bayfield.

Our blind brother Marx Austrian with brother Julius’ assistance at that time, preempted 160 acres of land near Bayfield from La Point, complying with preemption laws.  He built a small log house living there with his wife.  One night during their first winter in their new house, there was a knock at the door, and when opened they were confronted by a number of Indians, who were evidently under the influence of liquor and who swinging their tomahawks vigorously, making all sorts of threatening demands.  An old Indian who knew Marx interceded and enabled him and his wife to escape without injury who thoroughly scared fled panic stricken in the dark about two miles at night, over the ice, on the Bay which was covered with a foot of snow to La Point for safety.  The poor woman having the hazardous task of leading her blind husband over this long and difficult road, not to come back again and glad to escape with their lives and thus abandoning their right of preemption.  This place was later on platted and is now known as the Bayfield Addition.

 

My Experience in Lumbering

Brother Julius had a small saw mill operated by water power about two miles back of Bayfield on Pike’s Creek, near which were Pine lands.  In the winter I was sent with some woodsmen to look after the cutting and hauling of Pine logs for the mill.  These logs were hauled by ox teams to the mill.  In the spring I was again sent there to assist in the sawing of these logs into lumber.  We lived in a little log hut near by.  When the snow melted toward spring time, the creek was high and swollen.  One day the force of the waters burst through the dam, carrying it away and the great volume of water rushing down cut a new channel in the bed of which had become a river, and undermining to foundation of our little log house causing it to topple over into it, also carrying away the logs, many of which floated down into Lake Superior and were lost.

Jewish-immigrant brothers, Julius and Joseph Austrian, were prominent La Pointe residents at this time.

Pg. 218-219 (Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892).

In the winter when logging was going on, once I was sent across from La Point with a heavy load of provisions and supplies for the men.  This was loaded on a so called “Canadian flat sleigh.”  The road on the way to the mill led down a very steep high hill which half way down had a sharp bend and at this curve stood a tree.  After having started down the hill, the horse was not strong enough to hold back the load, which got the better of him, and pushed him swiftly down the hill with his hind legs dragging after him wedging him against and partly into the tree with his front legs up in the air.  I could not move the heavily laden sleigh with the horse wedged in so tightly I found it impossible to extricate him, and had to go to the mill for assistance.  The sled had to be unloaded before we could free the horse.  See Armstrong’s book in which mention and illustration is given of this as “Austrian up the tree.”  The book is in my library.

 

Ferrying Oxen Across the Bay in Row Boat.

My brother Julius had also a large tract of meadow land on Bad River, where he had a number of men employed in making hay, in order to gather this hay for stacking, a span of cattle and a wagon were needed to haul it.  There being no other means of ferrying them across the bay, one of the large Mackinaw boats of about twenty-five feet keel by six feet beam had to be used to get these over to the other side across a distance of about three miles to the mainland from where they could be driven to the meadow.  I was commissioned to attend to this assisted by four competent boatmen, we finally managed with coaxing and skill to get the two big oxen into the boat, standing them crosswise in it.  We tied their horns to the opposite side of the boat.  The width of the boat was not sufficient to allow them to stand in their natural position which made them restless.  The first thing we knew one of the oxen raised his hind leg and stuck it out over the side of the boat into the water, his other leg soon followed and we had aboard an ox half in the boat, with the weight of his body resting on and threatening to capsize the boat.  We quickly cut the rope which held his head and he fell backward overboard floundering in the water.  Little did I think that we would see the ox alive again.  Imagine my surprise on my return to the Island to find he had swam back to shore safe and sound.  When the other ox saw his mate go overboard, he tried to follow and it required much coaxing and extra feeding to restrain him and finally landed him all right on the opposite shore.

 

Lost in the Woods

Ervin Barnes Leihy was one of first American settlers of this area whose primary employment was not specifically the Indian trade or the missions.

I returned to the Island and the next morning I started for the meadow fields in a birch bark canoe with a Mr. Lehigh who had a little saw mill about five miles up Bad River.  We were obliged to sit in the bottom of the little boat in a most uncomfortable and cramped position, having been warned by the boatman in charge not to move as the least motion is apt to cause the frail craft to capsize.  On arrival at the meadow I found the men busily at work.  They were about to take dinner and I gladly consented to join them, and being hungry relished the spread of fried pork, crackers, and tea.  My companion Mr. Lehigh was bound for his little saw mill up the river where he lived, and I having business to attend to there started with him on a foot trail through the woods.  He loitered on the way picking wild raspberries, just ripe and tempting, but musquitos were thick and vicious and pestered us terribly.  I not being accustomed suffered more than my companion.  Asking him the distance we were still to go, and on his telling me three miles, I became impatient and went ahead alone to get away from the musquitos.  After walking on some time I came to a potato field into which the trail led, but was concealed by the high vines.  Crossing the field I struck a trail on the other side and took for granted it was the one leading to the mill.  On and on I went when it struck me that I had gone further than the three miles, and it dawned on me that I must have taken the wrong path from the potato field and I concluded to turn back and try to reach the meadow.  The sun had gone down, it grew dusk very soon amongst the tall pine and maple trees, in the dense forrest.  It grew so dark that I could not see my trail and became entangled in the underbrush and roots of trees, tripping and falling many times.  I had with me my double barrel shot gun, both barrels being loaded I shot these off to attract Lehigh’s attention. I listened breathlessly for some answer but there was no sign of a human soul and I became thoroughly frightened at the prospect of being lost in the woods but resolved to make the best of it.  I stumbled around and found a log hut near by, which had been put up for temporary use by the Indians in sugar making time.  I had neither matches nor ammunition, by feeling around, I discovered that what had been the doorway was closed up with birch bark. By climbing up I also discovered that the roof had been taken off the hut and I let myself down to see what might be inside.  I found there three rolls of birch bark and a rude bench made of rough poles laid along on one side lengthwise about a foot along the floor, which served as seats for the Indians while boiling the maple sap.  Being tired out I laid down on the rough bench and tried to rest, tying a handkerchief over my face, and with each hand up in the boot sleeves to protect myself from large and ravenous musquitos which tortured me nigh to desperation.  Having no matches with me to kindle a fire or create a smoke I was entirely at their mercy.  Presently I heard a noise on the outside as though of something stealthily climbing over the wall.  The moon was then shining brightly, the sky was clear and on looking up I saw the outlines of a young bear sticking his head over the wall looking down on me.  I sprang up and as I did so the bear jumped back and ran off.  No doubt the odor of the sugar attracted him more than I did.  Under these circumstances rest was out of the question.  I climbed out of the hut and made another attempt to find the lost trail by moonlight, crawling on hands and feet in some places.  In doing so, I placed my gun against a tree and had a hard time to find it again.  I decided there was no use to trip further and climbed back in the hut to stay there till day-light, then with renewed effort after repeated disappointment I finally struck a trail, but at this point I was confused and at a loss to know which direction to take.  I reached a steep hill that I did not remember having passed the day before.  As a last resort I ran up this hill and hallowed & yelled.  An answer came from the valley, from me working there.  Following the sound I reached the meadow.  My face was so swollen from the musquito bites that I was a sight to behold.  After resting and partaking of some food, I again started out for Lehigh’s place one of the me volunteering to show me the way and I arrived there a couple of hours after, and found that it was only one mile from the potato field where I had lost the trail.

For many miles in all other directions in this dense forrest there was not a single habitation nor likelihood of meeting with a soul and here a short time ago a man had been lost and never heard from again.  Hence I was lucky indeed to have found my way out of the woods.  Lehigh cooly informed me that when I saw him that he heard the report of my gun, but had paid no heed to it thinking I would eventually turn up.

 

Lost on the Ice and Night

Alexis was a common name among the mix-blooded families of La Pointe.  Alexis Carpenter Sr. was probably Julius Austrian’s trusted Frenchman.  This was probably Alexis Carpenter, Sr.

One time during the winter Brother Julius sent me with his trusted Frenchman Alexis, to look up certain Indians who owed him for goods and whom he thought would have considerable fur.  This tramp meant about ten miles each way through the woods on an Indian trail the ground being covered with snow.  Taking our faithful dog, who had been trained to hauling with the little toboggan sled, on which to bring back the fur which he hoped to get in payment for our debt.  We started from La Point, and I met with good success gathering quite a little fur.  On our return we reached the Bay shore late in the evening from where we had four or five miles to cross on the ice in order to reach the Island.  We rested for about an hour at an Indian wigwam and partook of some tea (such as it was) that the Indian squaw made for us and then started on. Alexis, acting as pilot went ahead, followed by the dog & then by me.  It was a clear cold night the moon shown brightly, but about half an hour afterwards snow clouds sprang up shutting out the moonlight, Still we pushed ahead.  Soon however Alexis lost his bearings and was uncertain as to direction, but on we went for several hours without reaching the Island.  Presently we encountered ice roughly broken and piled high by the force of a gale from the open lake, which indicated that we were too near the open water and that we had gone too far around the Island instead of the straight for La Point.  We stumbled along, and after having been out about two hours on the ice, with continued walking we managed to reach the shore and with guidance of Alexis tramped along toward La Point reaching there two hours afterwards almost exhausted by the hardships we had endured.

 

Trip to Ontonagon in Row Boat for Winter Supplies.  1851

It was in 1851 when brother Julius expected the last boat of the season would touch at La Point which was usually the case and deliver all his supplies but the quantity was not sufficient to induce the Captain to run in there and consequently he skipped La Pointe, thus leaving us short of necessary provisions for the winter, hence it was necessary to procure the same as best we could.  I was commissioned by my brother Julius to undertake the job which I did by manning a mackinaw boat with five voyageurs.  The boat was loaded with as many barrels of fish as we could carry.  We started for Ontonagon about the middle of November, intending to trade the fish for supplies required.  It was cold, the ground frozen and covered with snow. The wind was fair.  We hoisted our two sails and made good time reaching Montreal River late in the evening where we ran in and tied up for the night.  We had no tent with us but found a deserted log house by the river in which we spent the night.  There was a large open fire place, and my man cutting down a dry tree kindled a brisk wood fire in the fire place.  I slipped into a rough bunk in the room wrapped myself in my blankets and tried to sleep, but in vain.  The smoke from the fire was so dense it nearly suffocated me.  My met lighting a few tallow candles amused themselves playing cards until late at night.

The next morning early, we set sail and again had fair wind, reaching Iron River about noon and Ontonagon that night, next day succeeded in exchanging my fish for provisions and the following day started on our return trip to La Point.  We had mostly fair wind and reached there on the third day in good shape.

 

Another Trip to Ontonagon for Provisions.  1852.

The following year, in 1852, I agains made a similar trip for like reasons but did not have nearly as good luck as on the previous trip.  It was fraught with some danger and combined with a great deal of hardship.  The distance from La Point to Ontonagon is nearly 100 miles, all exposed to the storms of Lake Superior which in the Fall are generally very severe.  On our first day out we encountered a severe snow storm, which compelled us to make a landing near the mouth of Bad River to save the boat, which was threatened to be dashed to pieces on the shore or carried out into the open lake.  So she had to be beached and in order to do this her cargo of fish had all to be thrown overboard when we touched the beach, to lighten her and when this was done she was hauled up on the beach with a block and tackle and fastened to stump of a tree.  The boatmen had to go almost waist deep in the water and roll the heavy barrels up on the beach.  After completing the landing we sought shelter in the nearby woods from the raging storm, we were not equipped for camping, so we took the sail from the boat and stretched it over as far as it would reach for our own protection.  As before the men cut down a dead tree kindled a fire, hanging over it our camp kettle, made tea, tried some pork and this together with some crackers with which we were supplied composed our supper.  To get further away from the wind and snow we had gone further back into the woods to find some protection and there we rolled ourselves in our grey blankets and laid down keeping our faces under the protection of the sail as much as possible.  Being very much exhausted, we fell asleep, in spite of unfavorable conditions.  Toward morning when I awoke I tried to pull my blanket over me a little more but found I could not move it, and discovered that the snow had drifted over us to such an extent that we were fairly buried in it, nothing visible but part of our faces, our breath having kept that free for the time.  After daybreak we again started a fire, and this made things worse as the heat melted the snow on the trees around and water dripped down on our blankets, getting them wet.  We had to hang them near the fire to dry as we collected them later on.  They fairly steamed and we were delayed a whole day in getting arrangements completed to start again on our trip.  Toward morning the wind had subsided considerably, and the snow storm had abated somewhat and again we ventured on our trip.  After going through the same routine of reloading as on our previous occasion.  At 10 A.m. we started on our perilous voyage making good head way, the wind being favorable.  We reached Iron River after midnight.  We detected an Indian wigwam near by, thinking we might be able to get something to eat.  We tied up and investigated.  We peeped into the wigwam and found the same occupied with an Indian family.  The Indian squaw and papooses all tight asleep.  Not wishing to arouse them or to lose further time we moved on stopping early the next morning in a small bay on our route.  Kindling a fire as previously described, preparing a meager breakfast , the best scant supplies would permit.  These boatmen were accustomed to cooking (such as it was) as well as boating it being often a necessity, as they were accustomed to make long coasting trips in the pioneer days of the Lake Superior regions, which was sparsely settled and vessels were very scarce.  Supplies and all merchandise had to be transported all the way from Detroit to Lake Superior on those small Mackinaw boats.  After breakfast we set sail and continued our journey with fair wind enabling us to make good time, but it had grown bitterly cold and as we were but poorly protected for such severe weather.  It cost us untold suffering.

We finally reached Ontonagon River after dark, and to our great consternation found that the river was frozen over about an inch thick with ice.  This was not easy to break through with flimsy craft, but desperation gave strength to our men and they were equal to the situation.  With their heavy oars they pounded and broke the ice managing finally to get inside of the river to the dock of the merchant with whom I expected to do my trading in the town of Ontonagon, which was the Lakeport for the Minnesota and other copper mines in that vicinity, at that time being just developed.  On the following morning I attended to the selling of the load of fish, purchased our supplies and intending to start back for La Point the next morning.

 

Ordered to go to Eagle River.  1852.

Closely connected by marriage and business, the Bavarian-Jewish families Austrian and Leopold became titans of Great Lakes shipping.

In the meantime the propeller Napoleon arrived from there bringing for me a letter from brother Julius, instructing me if still in Ontonagon to take this steamer for Eagle River and to enter the employ of Mr. Henry Leopold, who had a small store there.  His man had left suddenly and he was anxious for my services.  I started for Eagle River just as I was and not until the following spring did I get my trunk.  I began working for Mr. Leopold as bookkeeper and general clerk, and thus abruptly terminated my business career at La Point.  My boatmen under direction of Mr. Henry Schmitz started without me on their return trip to La Point as planned when between Montreal River and Bad River, they encountered a terrific gale and snow storm.  It was so severe that to remain outside meant to be lost, and as a last resort, they ran their boat through the breakers, trying to beach her.  She was swamped with all the supplies, and tossed up on the beach and had to be abandoned for the time being.  Later on another boat was sent on from La Point to get the damaged cargo.  The Napoleon got abreast of Eagle River, this place being on the open shore of Lake Superior without any protection, it being too rough there for the boat to make a landing, therefore she went on to Eagle Harbor, about nine miles distant, where she could safely land.  On arrival there I put up at Charley King boarding house for the night.

To be continued after La Pointe 1852-1854

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Special thanks to Amorin Mello and Joseph Skulan for sharing this document and their important research on the Austrian brothers and their associates with me.  It is to their credit that these stories see the light of day.  This is the end of the La Pointe section, but the original handwritten memoir of Joseph Austrian is held by the Chicago History Museum and contains many interesting stories from the life of this brief resident of La Pointe.

Symbolic Petition of the Chippewa Chiefs:  This pictographic petition was brought to Washington D.C. by a delegation of Ojibwe chiefs and their interpreter J.B. Martell.  This one, representing the band of Chief Oshkaabewis, is the most famous, but their were several others copied from birch bark by Seth Eastman and published in the works of Henry Schoolcraft.  For more, follow this link.

Henry Schoolcraft.  William W. Warren.  George Copway.  These names are familiar to any scholar of mid-19th-century Ojibwe history.  They are three of the most referenced historians of the era, and their works provide a great deal of historical material that is not available in any other written sources.  Copway was Ojibwe, Warren was a mix-blood Ojibwe, and Schoolcraft was married to the granddaughter of the great Chequamegon chief Waabojiig, so each is seen, to some extent, as providing an insider’s point of view.  This could lead one to conclude that when all three agree on something, it must be accurate.  However, there is a danger in over-relying on these early historians in that we forget that they were often active participants in the history they recorded.

This point was made clear to me once again as I tried to sort out my lingering questions about the 1848-49 “Martell” Delegation to Washington.  If you are a regular reader, you may remember that this delegation was the subject of the first post on this website.  You may also remember from this post, that the group did not have money to get to Washington and had to reach out to the people they encountered along the way. 

The goal of the Martell Delegation was to get the United States to cede back title to the lands surrounding the major Lake Superior Ojibwe villages.  The Ojibwe had given this land up in the Treaty of 1842 with the guarantee that they could remain on it.  However, by 1848 there were rumors of removal of all the bands east of the Mississippi to unceded land in Minnesota.  That removal was eventually attempted, in 1850-51, in what is now called the Sandy Lake Tragedy. 

The Martell Delegation remains a little-known part of the removal story, although the pictographs remain popular.  Those petitions are remembered because they were published in Henry Schoolcrafts’ Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition, and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States (1851) along with the most accessible primary account of the delegation:

In the month of January, 1849, a delegation of eleven Chippewas, from Lake Superior, presented themselves at Washington, who, amid other matters not well digested in their minds, asked the government for a retrocession of some portion of the lands which the nation had formerly ceded to the United States, at a treaty concluded at Lapointe, in Lake Superior, in 1842. They were headed by Oshcabawiss, a chief from a part of the forest-country, called by them Monomonecau, on the head-waters of the River Wisconsin. Some minor chiefs accompanied them, together with a Sioux and two boisbrules, or half-breeds, from the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The principal of the latter was a person called Martell, who appeared to be the master-spirit and prime mover of the visit, and of the motions of the entire party. His motives in originating and conducting the party, were questioned in letters and verbal representations from persons on the frontiers. He was freely pronounced an adventurer, and a person who had other objects to fulfil, of higher interest to himself than the advancement of the civilization and industry of the Indians. Yet these were the ostensible objects put forward, though it was known that he had exhibited the Indians in various parts of the Union for gain, and had set out with the purpose of carrying them, for the same object, to England. However this may be, much interest in, and sympathy for them, was excited. Officially, indeed, their object was blocked up. The party were not accredited by their local agent. They brought no letter from the acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs on that frontier. The journey had not been authorized in any manner by the department. It was, in fine, wholly voluntary, and the expenses of it had been defrayed, as already indicated, chiefly from contributions made by citizens on the way, and from the avails of their exhibitions in the towns through which they passed; in which, arrayed in their national costume, they exhibited their peculiar dances, and native implements of war and music. What was wanting, in addition to these sources, had been supplied by borrowing from individuals.

Engraving of Henry Schoolcraft by Wellstood an...

Engraving of Henry Schoolcraft by Wellstood and Peters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martell, who acted as their conductor and interpreter, brought private letters from several persons to members of Congress and others, which procured respect. After a visit, protracted through seven or eight weeks, an act was passed by Congress to defray the expenses of the party, including the repayment of the sums borrowed of citizens, and sufficient to carry them back, with every requisite comfort, to their homes in the north-west. While in Washington, the presence of the party at private houses, at levees, and places of public resort, and at the halls of Congress, attracted much interest; and this was not a little heightened by their aptness in the native ceremonies, dancing, and their orderly conduct and easy manners, united to the attraction of their neat and well-preserved costume, which helped forward the object of their mission.

The visit, although it has been stated, from respectable sources, to have had its origin wholly in private motives, in the carrying out of which the natives were made to play the part of mere subordinates, was concluded in a manner which reflects the highest credit on the liberal feelings and sentiments of Congress. The plan of retrocession of territory, on which some of the natives expressed a wish to settle and adopt the modes of civilized life, appeared to want the sanction of the several states in which the lands asked for lie. No action upon it could therefore be well had, until the legislatures of these states could be consulted (pg. 414-416, pictographic plates follow).

I have always had trouble with Schoolcraft’s interpretation of these events.  It wasn’t that I had evidence to contradict his argument, but rather that I had a hard time believing that all these chiefs would make so weighty a decision as to go to Washington simply because their interpreter was trying to get rich.  The petitions asked for a permanent homeland in the traditional villages east of the Mississippi.  This was the major political goal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe leadership at that time and would remain so in all the years leading up to 1854.  Furthermore, chiefs continued to ask for, or go “uninvited” on, diplomatic missions to the president in the years that followed.

I explored some of this in the post about the pictograph, but a number of lingering questions remained:

What route did this group take to Washington?

Who was Major John Baptiste Martell?

Did he manipulate the chiefs into working for him, or was he working for them? 

Was the Naaganab who went with this group the well-known Fond du Lac chief or the warrior from Lake Chetek with the same name?

Did any chiefs from the La Pointe band go?

Why was Martell criticized so much?  Did he steal the money?

What became of Martell after the expedition?

How did the “Martell Expedition” of 1848-49 impact the Ojibwe removal of 1850-51?

Lacking access to the really good archives on this subject, I decided to focus on newspapers, and since this expedition received so much attention and publicity, this was a good choice.  Enjoy:

Indiana Palladium.  Vevay, IN.  Dec. 2, 1848

Capt. Seth Eastman of the U.S. Army took note of the delegation as it traveled down the Mississippi from Fort Snelling to St. Louis.  Eastman, a famous painter of American Indians, copied the birch bark petitions for publication in the works of his collaborator Henry Schoolcraft.  At least one St. Louis paper also noticed these unique pictographic documents.

Lafayette Courier.  Lafayette, IN.  Dec. 8, 1848.

The delegation made its way up the Ohio River to Cincinnati, where Gezhiiyaash’s illness led to a chance encounter with some Ohio Freemasons.  I won’t repeat it here, but I covered this unusual story in this post from August.

At Cincinnati, they left the river and headed toward Columbus.  Just east of that city, on the way to Pittsburgh, one of the Ojibwe men offered some sound advice to the women of Hartford, Ohio, but he received only ridicule in return.

Madison Weekly Courier.  Madison, IN.  Jan. 24, 1849

It’s unclear how quickly reports of the delegation came back to the Lake Superior country.  William Warren’s letter to his cousin George, written in March after the delegation had already left Washington, still spoke of St. Louis:

William W. Warren (Wikimedia Images)

“…About Martells Chiefs.  They were according to last accounts dancing the pipe dance at St. Louis.  They have been making monkeys of themselves to fill the pockets of some cute Yankee who has got hold of them.  Black bird returned from Cleveland where he caught scarlet fever and clap.  He has behaved uncommon well since his return…” (Schenck, pg. 49)

From this letter, we learn that Blackbird, the La Pointe chief, was originally part of the group.  In evaluating Warren’s critical tone, we must remember that he was working closely with the very government officials who withheld their permission.  Of the La Pointe chiefs, Blackbird was probably the least accepting of American colonial power.  However, we see in the obituary of Naaganab, Blackbird’s rival at the 1855 annuity payment, that the Fond du Lac chief was also there.

New York World.  New York.  July 22, 1894

Before finding this obituary, I had thought that the Naaganab who signed the petition was more likely the headman from Lake Chetek.  Instead, this information suggests it was the more famous Fond du Lac chief.  This matters because in 1848, Naaganab was considered the speaker for his cousin Zhingob, the leading chief at Fond du Lac.  Blackbird, according to his son James, was the pipe carrier for Buffalo.  While these chiefs had their differences with each other, it seems likely that they were representing their bands in an official capacity.  This means that the support for this delegation was not only from “minor chiefs” as Schoolcraft described them, or “Martells Chiefs” as Warren did, from Lac du Flambeau and Michigan.  I would argue that the presence of Blackbird and Naaganab suggests widespread support from the Lake Superior bands.  I would guess that there was much discussion of the merits of a Washington delegation by Buffalo and others during the summer of 1848, and that the trip being a hasty money-making scheme by Martell seems much less likely.

Madison Daily Banner.  Madison, IN.  Jan. 3, 1849.

From Pittsburgh, the delegation made it to Philadelphia, and finally Washington.  They attracted a lot of attention in the nation’s capital.  Some of their adventures and trials:  Oshkaabewis and his wife Pammawaygeonenoqua losing an infant child, the group hunting rabbits along the Potomac, and the chiefs taking over Congress, are included this post from March, so they aren’t repeated here.

Adams Sentinel.  Gettysburg, PA.  Feb. 5, 1849.

According to Ronald Satz, the delegation was received by both Congress and President Polk with “kindly feelings” and the expectation of “good treatment in the future” if they “behaved themselves (Satz 51).”  Their petition was added to the Congressional Record, but the reservations were not granted at the time.  However, Congress did take up the issue of paying for the debts accrued by the Ojibwe along the way.

George Copway (Wikimedia Commons)

Kah-Ge-Ga-Gah-Bowh (George Copway), a Mississauga Ojibwe and Methodist missionary, was the person “belonging to one of the Canada Bands of Chippewas,” who wrote the anti-Martell letter to Indian Commissioner William Medill.  This is most likely the letter Schoolcraft referred to in 1851.  In addition to being upset about the drinking, Copway was against reservations in Wisconsin.  He wanted the government to create a huge pan-Indian colony at the headwaters of the Missouri River.

William Medill (Wikimedia Commons)

Iowa State Gazette.  Burlington, IA.  April 4, 1849

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Weekly Wisconsin.  Milwaukee.  Feb. 28, 1849.

With $6000 (or did they only get $5000?), a substantial sum for the antebellum Federal Government,  the group prepared to head back west with the ability to pay back their creditors.

martellcongressspeech

It appears the chiefs returned to their villages by going back though the Great Lakes to Green Bay and then overland.

The Chippewa Delegation, who have been on a visit to see their “great fathers” in Washington, passed through this place on Saturday last, on their way to their homes near Lake Superior.  From the accounts of the newspapers, they have been lionized during their whole journey, and particularly in Washington, where many presents were made them, among the most substantial of which was six boxed of silver ($6,000) to pay their expenses.  They were loaded with presents, and we noticed one with a modern style trunk strapped to his back.  They all looked well and in good spirits (qtd. in Paap, pg. 205)

Green Bay Gazette.  April 4, 1849

So, it hardly seems that the Ojibwe chiefs returned to their villages feeling ripped off by their interpreter.  Martell himself returned to the Soo, and found a community about to be ravaged by a epidemic of cholera.

Weekly Wisconsin.  Milwaukee.  Sep. 5, 1849.

Martell appears in the 1850 census on the record of those deceased in the past year.  Whether he was a major in the Mexican War, whether he was in the United States or Canadian military, or whether it was even a real title, remains a mystery.  His death record lists his birthplace as Minnesota, which probably connects him to the Martells of Red Lake and Red River, but little else is known about his early years.  And while we can’t say for certain whether he led the group purely out of self-interest, or whether he genuinely supported the cause, John Baptiste Martell must be remembered as a key figure in the struggle for a permanent Ojibwe homeland in Wisconsin and Michigan.  He didn’t live to see his fortieth birthday, but he made the 1848-49 Washington delegation possible.

So how do we sort all this out?

To refresh, my unanswered questions from the other posts about this delegation were:

1)  What route did this group take to Washington?

2)  Who was Major John Baptiste Martell?

3) Did he manipulate the chiefs into working for him, or was he working for them? 

4)  Was the Naaganab who went with this group the well-known Fond du Lac chief or the warrior from Lake Chetek with the same name?

5)  Did any chiefs from the La Pointe band go?

6)  Why was Martell criticized so much?  Did he steal the money?

7)  What became of Martell after the expedition?

8)  How did the “Martell Expedition” of 1848-49 impact the Ojibwe removal of 1850-51?

We’ll start with the easiest and work our way to the hardest.  We know that the primary route to Washington was down the Brule, St. Croix, and Mississippi to St. Louis, and from there up the Ohio.  The return trip appears to have been via the Great Lakes.

We still don’t know how Martell became a major, but we do know what became of him after the diplomatic mission.  He didn’t survive to see the end of 1849.

The Fond du Lac chief Naaganab, and the La Pointe chief Blackbird, were part of the group.  This indicates that a wide swath of the Lake Superior Ojibwe leadership supported the delegation, and casts serious doubt on the notion that it was a few minor chiefs in Michigan manipulated by Martell.

Until further evidence surfaces, there is no reason to support Schoolcraft’s accusations toward Martell.  Even though these allegations are seemingly validated by Warren and Copway, we need to remember how these three men fit into the story.  Schoolcraft had moved to Washington D.C. by this point and was no longer Ojibwe agent, but he obviously supported the power of the Indian agents and favored the assimilation of his mother-in-law’s people.  Copway and Warren also worked closely with the Government, and both supported removal as a way to separate the Ojibwe from the destructive influences of the encroaching white population.  These views were completely opposed to what the chiefs were asking for:  permanent reservations at the traditional villages.  Because of this, we need to consider that Schoolcraft, Warren, and Copway would be negatively biased toward this group and its interpreter.

Finally there’s the question Howard Paap raises in Red Cliff, Wisconsin.  How did this delegation impact the political developments of the early 1850s?  In one sense the chiefs were clearly pleased with the results of the trip.  They made many friends in Congress, in the media, and in several American cities.  They came home smiling with gifts and money to spread to their people.  However, they didn’t obtain their primary goal:  reservations east of the Mississippi, and for this reason, the following statement in Schoolcraft’s account stands out:

The plan of retrocession of territory, on which some of the natives expressed a wish to settle and adopt the modes of civilized life, appeared to want the sanction of the several states in which the lands asked for lie. No action upon it could therefore be well had, until the legislatures of these states could be consulted.

“Kindly feelings” from President Polk didn’t mean much when Zachary Taylor and a new Whig administration were on the way in.  Meanwhile, Congress and the media were so wrapped up in the national debate over slavery that they forgot all about the concerns of the Ojibwes of Lake Superior.  This allowed a handful of Indian Department officials, corrupt traders, and a crooked, incompetent Minnesota Territorial governor named Alexander Ramsey to force a removal in 1850 that resulted in the deaths of 400 Ojibwe people in the Sandy Lake Tragedy.

It is hard to know how the chiefs felt about their 1848-49 diplomatic mission after Sandy Lake.  Certainly their must have been a strong sense that they were betrayed and abandoned by a Government that had indicated it would support them, but the idea of bypassing the agents and territorial officials and going directly to the seat of government remained strong.  Another, much more famous, “uninvited” delegation brought Buffalo and Oshogay to Washington in 1852, and ultimately the Federal Government did step in to grant the Ojibwe the reservations.  Almost all of the chiefs who made the journey, or were shown in the pictographs, signed the Treaty of 1854 that made them.

Sources:
McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Seth Eastman. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs per Act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851. Print.

         

             Vincent Roy Jr.                    (From Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst: Digitized by Google Books)

Chief Buffalo’s 1852 delegation to Washington D.C. is an iconic moment in the history of the Chequamegon region. As the story goes, the 92 year-old chief made the difficult journey by canoe, steamship, rail and foot all the way to the capital city, met with President Millard Fillmore, and came back with an order to stop the removal of the Wisconsin Ojibwe. Despite its continuing popularity, and its special importance to the Red Cliff community, recent scholarship has called into question several key details of this story.  Central to this controversy is whether or not Buffalo actually met the president.  However, I recently found a document in the archives of an early Red Cliff resident, Vincent Roy Jr.  It confirms what Red Cliff residents already know.  Chief Buffalo did travel to Washington and met the president in June of 1852.     

Benjamin Armstrong

According to the popular Buffalo story, some of the young men of the La Pointe Band were ready to fight the United States in early 1852.  The government removal efforts that led to the Sandy Lake Tragedy in the fall of 1850 were ongoing, and the future of the Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin was in doubt.  To maintain the peace, and gain title to reservations in Wisconsin, Buffalo and a small group of chiefs and headmen (including Oshogay Buffalo’s speaker and  Benjamin Armstrong his interpreter), left La Pointe that spring.  They encountered bad weather and negative government officials along the way, but they were able to gather signatures on their petition from several prominent Lake Superior whites.  In New York and Washington, they ran short on money and had to count on the kindness of wealthy Americans who were amazed by the culture and appearance of the Ojibwe from the western country. In Washington, the Indian Affairs department refused to hear their petition and ordered them to return to La Pointe, but through luck, they met a congressman who arranged a special meeting with the president.  As the story goes, Buffalo smoked with Fillmore and Oshogay delivered a long speech laying out the Ojibwe grievances.  In a second meeting, Fillmore declared the removal efforts over.  The delegation then returned to La Pointe via St. Paul and stopped at several Ojibwe villages causing “great rejoicing” as they announced the news.  Two years later the Treaty of La Pointe (1854) confirmed forever the promises made to Buffalo by Fillmore.

Washington Delegation, June 22 1852:  The man in the upper right is assumed to be Armstrong. (Engraved from unknown photograph by Marr and Richards Co. for B. Armstrong Early Life Among the Indians). Look for an upcoming post about this image

The hero, along with Buffalo, in this version story is often Benjamin Armstrong.  That shouldn’t be too surprising because all the details of it come from Armstrong’s 1891 memoir Early Life Among the Indians.  This entire work is freely available online on the website of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Another well-made website, chiefbuffalo.com, has several additional primary documents related to Buffalo and Armstrong. I consider Early Life required reading for anyone who lives in the Chequamegon Bay area.  However, the reader has to be careful with Armstrong.  As I mentioned in the post on Hanging Cloud, the female warrior of the Chippewa River country, the memoir should be treated like a work of literature rather than scholarly piece.  It wasn’t unusual for 19th-century autobiographies to contain fictional parts, and Early Life is no exception.  The details that the elderly Armstrong (who admitted to a fuzzy memory) dictated to Thomas P. Wentworth in 1891, don’t always match the details found in the documents of the 1850s.  This is the case with the Buffalo-Fillmore story.  

Recent Scholarly Work and Primary Sources about the 1852 Delegation

 In his extremely thorough scholarly overview of the pro-Treaty Rights position, Chippewa Treaty Rights (1991), Ronald Satz admitted that “Armstrong’s reminiscences contain some factual errors” and that anti-Treaty Rights anthropologist James Clifton attacked Armstrong’s credibility in an attempt to undermine the Treaty Rights argument.  Still, Satz’ story of the 1852 delegation is straight out of Armstrong with the admission that “Scholars have not located a decree by Fillmore specifically rescinding President Taylor’s removal order.”  Patty Loew’s Indian Nations of Wisconsin (2001) also gives the story Chief Buffalo’s journey largely the way it appeared in Armstrong.  At that time, it appeared that the popular story, the Armstrong story, and the mainstream scholarship all matched up.

However, recent years have seen a shift in the interpretation of the Buffalo story  Bruce M. White’s The Regional Context of the Removal Order of 1850, published in Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance:  Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights (2000; Michigan State University Press), is a highly comprehensive account of the time period and the players involved.  He devotes an entire chapter to the 1852 delegation.  He does not dismiss Armstrong entirely, writing:

Some questions have been raised about the accuracy of Armstrong’s account.  Some details, including dates, in Armstrong’s memories of events that had occurred 40 years before, appear to be mistaken.  This, of course, is true of many autobiographical accounts written without the benefit of written documentation.  Nonetheless, many key features of Armstrong’s account find corroboration in Indian office records, though not always in the exact way or order in which Armstrong describes them.  (pg. 245)

Despite this nod to Armstrong, White’s examination of historical records from the National Archives, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, Minnesota Territorial records, and other sources, paint a different picture from that in Early Life Among the Indians.  He produces letters from federal officials saying the Indian Office sent the delegation home “with a flea in their ear,” while John Watrous, the Indian Agent the delegation came to complain about, received “flying colors.”  White also uncovered a letter that Bad River missionary Leonard Wheeler wrote after Buffalo’s return to La Pointe.  It stated the delegation “accomplished nothing.”  Most significantly, on page 253, White reproduces a letter from Buffalo and Oshogay to Minnesota Territorial governor Alexander Ramsey.  The letter is written in July 1852, after the delegation returned.  The chiefs inform the governor that the decision is his whether or not to remove the Ojibwe.  They plead with Ramsey to let them stay on the lake shore.  This a far cry from the situation described by Armstrong where Buffalo received a promise from Fillmore and spread “rejoicing” to all the Ojibwe bands. 

In fact, the very existence of the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting is called into question.  For all the documents White produces saying the delegation was unsuccessful, he fails to produce one that even speaks of a meeting with the president.  He leaves the possibility open for such a meeting, using some notations indicating chain of custody of the delegation’s petition as circumstantial evidence.  However he uses language like “Whether or not the Ojibwe actually met with Fillmore…” for an important symbolic event taken for granted in Ojibwe history up until that point.

If White’s investigation of the original sources calls into question the success of the delegation and its ability to meet the president, Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren:  The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader (2007; U. of Nebraska Press) makes one question Armstrong’s importance in the group.  In Early Life Among the Indians, Armstrong is the star of the show.  He claims the delegation was his idea, that he conducted it, made all the arrangements along the way, and was generally responsible for its success.  The historical record does not back these claims up.  Even before the Sandy Lake Tragedy, Ojibwe chiefs were doubting the truth of the removal order as stated by Agent Watrous and Governor Ramsey.  They demanded to hear it directly from the president himself.  By the end of 1852, after seeing hundreds of their fellow Ojibwe die in two botched removal attempts, and having missed out on two crucial years of annuity payments, the demands of the chiefs for a meeting with the president grew louder.  It was William Warren who wanted to lead and interpret for an officially-sanctioned delegation.  As Ramsey used stalling tactics, Warren’s health failed, and the hope of official approval waned, Buffalo took matters into his own hands and arranged his own delegation.  The elderly chief wanted to bring Leonard Wheeler along, but the missionary objected to the inclusion of a certain “half-breed” who was “incapable of doing justice to their affairs.”  White speculates that Wheeler meant Armstrong, but Armstrong was a white man from Alabama.  A June 24, 1852 letter, from William Warren to his cousin George, reveals who the mix-blooded interpreter likely was.  This letter, as quoted in Schenck (2007) reads:

…Old Beauf [Buffalo] with others having V. Roy Jr for Intpr have gone on to Washington.  All nonsense.  They can effect nothing going off like fools with poor interpreters and representing only the Lapointe band (pg. 162).

Warren had included Vincent Roy Jr. in his original plan for a Washington delegation, so it seems his objections to Buffalo’s choice of interpreter have more to do with the chief not following Warren’s plan than on any reflection on the merits of Roy himself.  Roy, who later in life was described as a man of outstanding character, may have earned the enmity of Wheeler because he was a strong Catholic.  Wheeler and the other ABCFM missionaries were working intensely at this time to counter Roman Catholic influence in the area.  In either case, Armstrong isn’t even mentioned.  Though his presence isn’t supported by these documents, I believe the details of Armstrong’s memoir show he was part of the delegation.  However, the claims that he “conducted” it seem grossly exaggerated. 

Local Response to the Questioning of the Chief Buffalo Story

Bruce White’s primary goal was to argue the Mille Lacs Treaty-Rights case rather than maintain the popular history of this area, and Theresa Schenck has never been one to shy away from challenging long-cherished myths, but what do scholars with a bigger stake in the Chief Buffalo story say?

On the Chequamegon History website, I’ve written a lot on Buffalo, and I’ve taken part in various projects related to Buffalo’s trip, so I was disappointed when I first heard from Dr. Schenck that our region’s defining historical event may have never happened.  Unfortunately, my primary research only seemed to confirm that the 1852 trip was a failure.  The only new document I could find was an untranslated German travelogue Reisen in Nordamerika in den Jahren 1852 and 1853 (Travels in North America in the Years 1852 and 1853) by the noted Austrian travel writers Moritz Wagner and Karl Ritter von Scherzer.  On page 336 of Volume 2, Wagner and Scherzer describe meeting Buffalo.  I don’t read German, so I had to work through Google Translate:

From page 336 of Reisen in Nordamerika Vol. 2 by Wagner and Scherzer. Look for an upcoming post with more from this obscure 19th-century travelogue (Digitized by Google Books).

 “The Indian chief, worthy by his age, heredity, and his imposing figure, told us he was born near the island and left the area only once to travel in the matters of his tribe to the Great Father [president] in Washington.  His stay was accompanied by words of comfort but little success.”   (My rough Google-aided translation of above)

This source, combined with the work of Schenck and White, and other issues I’ve had with Armstrong, led me to believe that perhaps the Chief Buffalo story was just a myth.  Then, this summer saw two locally-linked authors publish works.

This summer, Patty Loew released an updated version of her fantastic introduction to Wisconsin Indian history, Indian Nations of Wisconsin.  It revises the Armstrong-based section on the 1852 trip from the first edition to admit that Buffalo may not have met the president.  Loew lives in Madison but is a Bad River tribal member and a Chief Buffalo fan.

Howard Paap, who is married into the Red Cliff community, has written extensively about it.  His new book, Red Cliff, Wisconsin:  A History of an Ojibwe Community, also came out this summer He extends White’s arguments and thoroughly evaluates Armstrong’s story against the other primary sources.  Paap’s conclusions are bold for someone writing a history on behalf of a reservation community established for Buffalo’s descendants:

We are left with the question of whether or not the Buffalo and Oshaga delegation really did have an audience with President Fillmore in the summer of 1852, and if so, what actually transpired during such a meeting…  

…perhaps the easiest solution to the question of whether or not such a meeting occurred is to believe Benjamin Armstrong’s recollections, along with contemporary Ojibwe oral traditions about the trip, and leave it at that.

However, given the reality of the errors in Armstrong’s memoir, and much more importantly, the hard evidence of the trip’s paper trail as recently uncovered by Charles Cleland and Bruce White, we are confronted with a dilemma.  In today’s popular history the scene of Buffalo and President Fillmore standing eye to eye, as crafted in the Carl Gawboy painting wherein Fillmore is handing Buffalo a paper canceling the removal order, is compelling, but the surviving papers that document another scenario cannot be ignored (pg. 241).

Paap goes on to describe the Buffalo story as “folkloric,” but he suggests that while the 1852 delegation did not single-handedly end the threat of Ojibwe removal, the most symbolic part of the myth remains the meeting with the president.  Following White, Paap admits the possibility that the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting happened, reiterating that primary sources suggested the delegation did not achieve its objectives, but there was nothing that explicitly said there was no meeting with the president.

The Vincent Roy Jr. Account of the 1852 Trip   

In browsing the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society archives this spring, I discovered the society had some of Vincent Roy Jr.’s papers.  The catalog description mentioned a fur trade journal, a description of early ships on Lake Superior, and some manuscript biographies of Roy from some Catholic priests.  Roy, who was raised in an Ojibwe-French mix-blood family, was a fur trader and government interpreter in his early years.  Still a young man at the time of the Treaty of 1854, he lived into the 20th century and was notable for several reasons including making multiple trips to Washington with Ojibwe delegations, being the namesake of Roy’s Point in Red Cliff, leading area mix-blooded Ojibwe in the cause of the “half-breed land claims,” and being one of the earliest and wealthiest settlers of Superior.  He was a commanding figure in the Catholic Church and Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and there is a lot out there about him.  

The wonderful staff at Wisconsin Historical Society Research Center in Ashland agreed to have the papers sent up from Madison for me.  The arrived in early August, mere days after I had the chance to read Paap and Loew.  Since the scope of Chequamegon History is pre-1860, I went in mostly interested in seeing the fur trade journal.  I assumed the biography would be identical to the biographical information about Roy published in Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga by Chrysostom Verwyst.  The Holland-born Verwyst was a priest who knew Roy personally and considered him “The Greatest Indian of the Northwest.”  I didn’t think there would be anything new in this part of the archive, but I was wrong:

[Letter accompanying manuscript biography written in Verwyst’s hand]

St. Agnes’ Church

205 E. FRONT ST.

Ashland, Wis., June 27, 1903

Reuben G. Thwaites,

Sec.  Wis. Hist. Soc.  Madison, Wis.

Dear Sir,

I herewith send you personal memories of Hon. Vincent Roy, lately deceased, as put together by Rev. Father Valentine O.F.M.  Should your society find them of sufficient historical interest to warrant their publication, you will please correct them properly before getting them printed.

Yours very respectfully,

Fr Chrysostom Verwyst O.F.M.

[From Page one of manuscript biography in Valentine’s handwriting]

~ Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy ~

~ T. Apr. 2. 1896 – Superior Wis. ~

[Sections 1-3 (Roy’s early years) omitted.  Transcription picks up on page 5 (section 4).  Valentine lists his sources in the left margin.  I will put them in parentheses before each paragraph]. 

(Mr. Roy to V.)           

IV.            His first Visit to Washington, D.C. – The Treaty of La Pointe.

At the instance of Chief Buffalo and in his company Vincent made his first trip to Washington, D.C.  It was in the spring of the year 1852.  Buffalo (Kechewaishke), head chief of the Lake Superior Ojibways had seen the day when his people, according to indian estimation, was wealthy and powerful, but now he was old and his people sickly and starving poor.  Vincent referring once to the incidents of that time spoke about in this way “He (Buffalo) and the other old men of the tribe, his advisers, saw quite well that things could not go on much longer in the way they had done.  The whites were crowding in upon them from all sides and the U.S. government said and did nothing.  It appeared to these indians their land might be taken from them without they ever getting anything for it.  They were scant of food and clothing and the annuities resulting from the sale of their land might keep them alive yet for a while.  The desire became loud that it might be tried to push the matter at Washington admitting that they had to give up the land but insisting they be paid for it.  Buffalo was willing to go but there was no one to go with him.  He asked me to go with him.  As I had no other business just then on hand I went along.”

(Sources: Cournoyer or Mr. Roy to V.) [Vincent Cournoyer was V. Roy’s brother-in-law]

They went by way of the lakes.  Arriving in Washington, they found the City and the capitol in a garb of mourning and business suspended.  Henry Clay, the great statesman and orator, had died (June 29) and his body was lying in state.  Vincent said:  “we shook hands and spoke with the President (Fillmore) and with some of the headmen of the government.  They told us that they could not do anything at the moment, but that our petition should be attended to as soon as possible.  Unable to obtain any more, we looked around a few days and returned home.”  The trip had entailed a considerable drain on their private purses and the result towards the point at issue for them, the selling of the land of the indians, was not very apparent.

(the treaty doct.)

After repeated urging and an interval of over two years, during which Franklin Pierce had become President of the United States, the affairs of these Indians were at last taken up and dealt with at La Pointe by Henry C. Gilbert and David B. Herriman, commissioners on the part of the United States.  A treaty was concluded, September 30th 1854.  The Lake Superior Ojibways thereby relinquished their last claims to the soil of north west Michigan, north east Wisconsin, and an adjoining part of Minnesota, and, whilst it was understood that the reserves at L’Anse Michigan, Odanah, Court Oreille Wisconsin and Fondulac Minnesota were set apart for them, they received in consideration of the rest the aggregate sum of about four hundred and seventy five thousand dollars, which, specified as to money and material, ran into twenty years rations.

(Cournoyer)

Chief Buffalo in consideration of services rendered was allowed his choice of a section of land anywhere in the ceded terrain.  The choice he made, it is said, were the heights of the city of Duluth, but never complying with the incident law formalities, it matters little that the land became the site of a city, his heirs never got the benefit of it.  Of Vincent who had been also of service to the indians from the first to the last of the deal, it can only be said that he remained not just without all benefit from it.  A clause was inserted in the treaty (Art. 2. n. 7.) by which heads of families and single persons over twenty one years of mixed blood were each entitled to take and hold free of further charge eighty acres of the ceded lands:- this overruled in a simple and direct way the difficulties Vincent had met with of late in trying to make good his claim to such a property.  The advantages here gained was however common to others with him.  For the sacrifices he made of time and money in going with Chief Buffalo to Washington he was not reimbursed, so it is believed, and is very likely true judgeing from what was the case when later on he made the same trip a second time.

[End of Section 4, middle of page 7 of Valentine’s manuscript]

In my mind, this document is proof that the Buffalo-Fillmore meeting did happen.  We know Roy went on the trip, and his account (unlike Armstrong’s) supports rather than contradicts the documents from the time period.  It wasn’t two scheduled ceremonial meetings that permanently settled the removal question.  In fact, it may have only been a handshake and a few words, but the central image of the two leaders, ogimaa and president, meeting remains part of the Chief Buffalo story.

Vincent Cournoyer and Vincent Roy Jr. c. 1880 (Charles Bell, Washington:  Collections of the Smithsonian Institution)

Identified as Vincent Cournoyer and Vincent Roy Jr. c. 1880 in photo at Bayfield Library.  See the Photos, Photos, Photos post for an alternative identification. (Charles Bell, Washington: Collections of the Smithsonian Institution)

For Vincent Roy Jr., I hope this inquiry will lead to more attention.  His life spanned two key eras in Ojibwe history and he was often at the center of it.  His name is all over the primary sources, but compared with Armstrong, the Warrens, and the Beaulieus, we don’t see him much in the secondary scholarship.

For Benjamin Armstrong, I think the Roy documents require us to take a fresh look at Early Life Among the Indians.  If the Fillmore meeting can be verified after a long look, there’s a good chance some of the other details in the memoir can be as well.  I’m a Benjamin Armstrong fan, and he’s taken a beating in this post and some of the recent scholarship, but I still maintain that there is a lot of truth in Early Life.

For Chief Buffalo, it is gratifying to find out that the 1852 meeting with the president isn’t complete fiction.  Buffalo may not have been satisfied with the results of his trip, but I feel the ultimate appeal of his story is the fight to keep an Ojibwe homeland in Wisconsin.  We may not be able to point to a single event and say, “That’s where the removal died,” but ultimately, the Ojibwe leadership prevailed.  For that reason, we should continue to celebrate the 1852 delegation, all the people who were part of it, and all those who were part of the larger struggle for justice it represented.

Sources:
Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892. Print.
Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2001. Print.
———— Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. 2nd ed.  Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2013. Print.
McClurken, James M., and Charles E. Cleland. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights / James M. McClurken, Compiler ; with Charles E. Cleland … [et Al.]. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UP, 2000. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1991. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Verwyst, Chrysostom and Father Valentine.  Biographical Sketch – Vincent Roy Jr. 1896-1903. MS. Vincent Roy Jr. Papers. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, n.p.
Verwyst, Chrysostom. Life and Labors of Rt. Rev. Frederic Baraga: First Bishop of Marquette, Mich., to Which Are Added Short Sketches of the Lives and Labors of Other Indian Missionaries of the Northwest. Milwaukee, WI: M.H. Wiltzius, 1900. Print.
Wagner, Moritz, and Karl Von Scherzer. Reisen in Nordamerika in Den Jahren 1852 Und 1853. Leipzig: Arnold, 1854. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

Thank you to Theresa Schenck, Howard Paap, Linda Mittlestadt, Pam Ekholm, Larry Balber, and Betty Johnson for help and encouragement in this research.

Oshogay

August 12, 2013

At the most recent count, Chief Buffalo is mentioned in over two-thirds of the posts here on Chequamegon History.  That’s the most of anyone listed so far in the People Index.  While there are more Buffalo posts on the way, I also want to draw attention to some of the lesser known leaders of the La Pointe Band.  So, look for upcoming posts about Dagwagaane (Tagwagane), Mizay, Blackbird, Waabojiig, Andeg-wiiyas, and others.  I want to start, however, with Oshogay, the young speaker who traveled to Washington with Buffalo in 1852 only to die the next year before the treaty he was seeking could be negotiated.

Two hundred years before Oshogay went to Washington D. C., the Jesuits of New France recorded the Outchougai (Atchougue) as a distinct nation among the many Anishinaabe peoples of the Western Great Lakes along with the Amikouet (Beavers), Nikikouet (Otters), Noquet (Bears), Monsoni (Moose), Marameg (Catfish), and several others.  By the 19th century, these nations were seen no longer seen as distinct nations but as clans of the Otchipoek (Cranes).  According to Schoolcraft and others, the Outchougai (Oshogays) were the Osprey or Fish Hawk clan.  However, others identified them with the Heron (zhashagi  in Ojibwe; Osprey is piichigiigwane).  I am far from being an expert on the Ojibwe clan system, but it seems by the 1800s, the Oshogay clan was either gone from the Anishinaabe of the Lake Superior country or had been absorbed into the Cranes. However, the word Oshogay continued to be a personal name. 

I debated whether to do this post, since I don’t know a lot about Oshogay.  I don’t know for sure what his name means, so I don’t know how to spell or pronounce it correctly (in the sources you see Oshogay, O-sho-ga, Osh-a-ga, Oshaga, Ozhoge, etc.).  In fact, I don’t even know how many people he is.  There were at least four men with that name among the Lake Superior Ojibwe between 1800 and 1860, so much like with the Great Chief Buffalo Picture Search, the key to getting Oshogay’s history right is dependent on separating his story from those who share his name.

In the end, I felt that challenge was worth a post in its own right, so here it is.

Getting Started

According to his gravestone, Oshogay was 51 when he died at La Pointe in 1853.  That would put his birth around 1802.  However, the Ojibwe did not track their birthdays in those days, so that should not be considered absolutely precise.  He was considered a young man of the La Pointe Band at the time of his death.  In my mind, the easiest way to sort out the information is going to be to lay it out chronologically.  Here it goes:

1)  Henry Schoolcraft, United States Indian Agent at Sault Ste. Marie, recorded the following on July 19, 1828:

Oshogay (the Osprey), solicited provisions to return home. This young man had been sent down to deliver a speech from his father, Kabamappa, of the river St. Croix, in which he regretted his inability to come in person. The father had first attracted my notice at the treaty of Prairie du Chien, and afterwards received a small medal, by my recommendation, from the Commissioners at Fond du Lac. He appeared to consider himself under obligations to renew the assurance of his friendship, and this, with the hope of receiving some presents, appeared to constitute the object of his son’s mission, who conducted himself with more modesty and timidity before me than prudence afterwards; for, by extending his visit to Drummond Island, where both he and his father were unknown, he got nothing, and forfeited the right to claim anything for himself on his return here.

I sent, however, in his charge, a present of goods of small amount, to be delivered to his father, who has not countenanced his foreign visit.

Oshogay is a “young man.”  A birth year of 1802 would make him 26.  He is part of Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village in the upper St. Croix country.

2) In June of 1834, Edmund Ely and W. T. Boutwell, two missionaries, traveled from Fond du Lac (today’s Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet) down the St. Croix to Yellow Lake (near today’s Webster, WI) to meet with other missionaries. As they left Gaa-bimabi’s (Kabamappa’s) village near the head of the St. Croix and reached the Namekagon River on June 28th, they were looking for someone to guide them the rest of the way.  An old Ojibwe man, who Boutwell had met before at La Pointe, and his son offered to help. The man fed the missionaries fish and hunted for them while they camped a full day at the mouth of the Namekagon since the 29th was a Sunday and they refused to travel on the Sabbath.  On Monday the 30th, the reembarked, and Ely recorded in his journal:

The man, whose name is “Ozhoge,” and his son embarked with us about 1/2 past 9 °clk a.m. The old man in the bow and myself steering.  We run the rapids safely.  At half past one P. M. arrived at the mouth of Yellow River…  

Ozhoge is an “old man” in 1834, so he couldn’t have been born in 1802.  He is staying on the Namekagon River in the upper St. Croix country between Gaa-bimabi and the Yellow Lake Band.  He had recently spent time at La Pointe.

3)  Ely’s stay on the St. Croix that summer was brief.  He was stationed at Fond du Lac until he eventually wore out his welcome there. In the 1840s, he would be stationed at Pokegama, lower on the St. Croix.  During these years, he makes multiple references to a man named Ozhogens (a diminutive of Ozhoge).  Ozhogens is always found above Yellow River on the upper St. Croix.

Ozhogens has a name that may imply someone older (possibly a father or other relative) lives nearby with the name Ozhoge.  He seems to live in the upper St. Croix country.  A birth year of 1802 would put him in his forties, which is plausible.

capt

Ke-che-wask keenk (Gichi-weshki) is Chief Buffalo.  Gab-im-ub-be (Gaa-bimabi) was the chief Schoolcraft identified as the father of Oshogay.  Ja-che-go-onk was a son of Chief Buffalo.

4) On August 2, 1847, the United States and the Mississippi and Lake Superior Ojibwe concluded a treaty at Fond du Lac.  The US Government wanted Ojibwe land along the nation’s border with the Dakota Sioux, so it could remove the Ho-Chunk people from Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Among the signatures, we find O-sho-gaz, a warrior from St. Croix.  This would seem to be the Ozhogens we meet in Ely.

Here O-sho-gaz is clearly identified as being from St. Croix.  His identification as a warrior would probably indicate that he is a relatively young man.  The fact that his signature is squeezed in the middle of the names of members of the La Pointe Band may or may not be significant.  The signatures on the 1847 Treaty are not officially grouped by band, but they tend to cluster as such. 

5)  In 1848 and 1849 George P. Warren operated the fur post at Chippewa Falls and kept a log that has been transcribed and digitized by the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.  He makes several transactions with a man named Oshogay, and at one point seems to have him employed in his business.  His age isn’t indicated, but the amount of furs he brings in suggests that he is the head of a small band or large family.  There were multiple Ojibwe villages on the Chippewa River at that time, including at Rice Lake and Lake Shatac (Chetek).  The United States Government treated with them as satellite villages of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band.

Based on where he lives, this Oshogay might not be the same person as the one described above.

6)  In December 1850, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in the case Oshoga vs. The State of Wisconsin, that there were a number of irregularities in the trial that convicted “Oshoga, an Indian of the Chippewa Nation” of murder.  The court reversed the decision of the St. Croix County circuit court.  I’ve found surprisingly little about this case, though that part of Wisconsin was growing very violent in the 1840s as white lumbermen and liquor salesmen were flooding the country.

Pg 56 of Containing cases decided from the December term, 1850, until the organization of the separate Supreme Court in 1853: Volume 3 of Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin: With Tables of the Cases and Principal Matters, and the Rules of the Several Courts in Force Since 1838, Wisconsin. Supreme Court Authors: Wisconsin. Supreme Court, Silas Uriah Pinney (Google Books).

The man killed, Alexander Livingston, was a liquor dealer himself.

Alexander Livingston, a man who in youth had had excellent advantages, became himself a dealer in whisky, at the mouth of Wolf creek, in a drunken melee in his own store was shot and killed by Robido, a half-breed. Robido was arrested but managed to escape justice.

~From Fifty Years in the Northwest by W.H.C Folsom

Several pages later, Folsom writes:

At the mouth of Wolf creek, in the extreme northwestern section of this town, J. R. Brown had a trading house in the ’30s, and Louis Roberts in the ’40s. At this place Alex. Livingston, another trader, was killed by Indians in 1849. Livingston had built him a comfortable home, which he made a stopping place for the weary traveler, whom he fed on wild rice, maple sugar, venison, bear meat, muskrats, wild fowl and flour bread, all decently prepared by his Indian wife. Mr. Livingston was killed by an Indian in 1849.

Folsom makes no mention of Oshoga, and I haven’t found anything else on what happened to him or Robido (Robideaux?).

It’s hard to say if this Oshoga is the Ozhogen’s of Ely’s journals or the Oshogay of Warren’s.  Wolf Creek is on the St. Croix, but it’s not far from the Chippewa River country either, and the Oshogay of Warren seems to have covered a lot of ground in the fur trade.  Warren’s journal, linked in #4, contains a similar story of a killing and “frontier justice” leading to lynch mobs against the Ojibwe.  To escape the violence and overcrowding, many Ojibwe from that part of the country started to relocate to Fond du Lac, Lac Courte Oreilles, or La Pointe/Bad River.  La Pointe is also where we find the next mention of Oshogay. 

7)  From 1851 to 1853, a new voice emerged loudly from the La Pointe Band in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  It was that of Buffalo’s speaker Oshogay (or O-sho-ga), and he spoke out strongly against Indian Agent John Watrous’ handling of the Sandy Lake payments (see this post) and against Watrous’ continued demands for removal of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  There are a number of documents with Oshogay’s name on them, and I won’t mention all of them, but I recommend Theresa Schenck’s William W. Warren and Howard Paap’s Red Cliff, Wisconsin as two places to get started. 

Chief Buffalo was known as a great speaker, but he was nearing the end of his life, and it was the younger chief who was speaking on behalf of the band more and more.  Oshogay represented Buffalo in St. Paul, co-wrote a number of letters with him, and most famously, did most of the talking when the two chiefs went to Washington D.C. in the spring of 1852 (at least according to Benjamin Armstrong’s memoir).  A number of secondary sources suggest that Oshogay was Buffalo’s son or son-in-law, but I’ve yet to see these claims backed up with an original document.  However, all the documents that identify by band, say this Oshogay was from La Pointe.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has digitized four petitions drafted in the fall of 1851 and winter of 1852.  The petitions are from several chiefs, mostly of the La Pointe and Lac Courte Oreilles/Chippewa River bands, calling for the removal of John Watrous as Indian Agent.  The content of the petitions deserves its own post, so for now we’ll only look at the signatures.

xcv,

November 6, 1851 Letter from 30 chiefs and headmen to Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  Multiple villages are represented here, roughly grouped by band.  Kijiueshki (Buffalo), Jejigwaig (Buffalo’s son), Kishhitauag (“Cut Ear” also associated with the Ontonagon Band), Misai (“Lawyerfish”),  Oshkinaue (“Youth”), Aitauigizhik (“Each Side of the Sky”), Medueguon, and Makudeuakuat (“Black Cloud”) are all known members of the La Pointe Band.  Before the 1850s, Kabemabe (Gaa-bimabi) and Ozhoge were associated with the villages of the Upper St. Croix.

antiwatrous2

November 8, 1851, Letter from the Chiefs and Headmen of Chippeway River, Lac Coutereille, Puk-wa-none, Long Lake, and Lac Shatac to Alexander Ramsey, Superintendent of Indian Affairs:  This letter was written from Sandy Lake two days after the one above it was written from La Pointe.  O-sho-gay the warrior from Lac Shatac (Lake Chetek) can’t be the same person as Ozhoge the chief unless he had some kind of airplane or helicopter back in 1851.

antiwatrous3

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition to “Our Great Father”:  This Oshoga is clearly the one from Lake Chetek (Chippewa River). 

antiwatrous4

Undated (Jan. 1852?) petition:  These men are all associated with the La Pointe Band.  Osho-gay is their Speaker.

In the early 1850s, we clearly have two different men named Oshogay involved in the politics of the Lake Superior Ojibwe.  One is a young warrior from the Chippewa River country, and the other is a rising leader among the La Pointe Band.

Washington Delegation July 22, 1852 This engraving of the 1852 delegation led by Buffalo and Oshogay appeared in Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians.  Look for an upcoming post dedicated to this image.

8)  In the winter of 1853-1854, a smallpox epidemic ripped through La Pointe and claimed the lives of a number of its residents including that of Oshogay.  It had appeared that Buffalo was grooming him to take over leadership of the La Pointe Band, but his tragic death left a leadership vacuum after the establishment of reservations and the death of Buffalo in 1855.

Oshogay’s death is marked in a number of sources including the gravestone at the top of this post.  The following account comes from Richard E. Morse, an observer of the 1855 annuity payments at La Pointe:

The Chippewas, during the past few years, have suffered extensively, and many of them died, with the small pox.  Chief O-SHO-GA died of this disease in 1854.  The Agent caused a suitable tomb-stone to be erected at his grave, in La Pointe.  He was a young chief, of rare promise and merit; he also stood high in the affections of his people.   

Later, Morse records a speech by Ja-be-ge-zhick or “Hole in the Sky,” a young Ojibwe man from the Bad River Mission who had converted to Christianity and dressed in “American style.” Jabegezhick speaks out strongly to the American officials against the assembled chiefs:

…I am glad you have seen us, and have seen the folly of our chiefs; it may give you a general idea of their transactions.  By the papers you have made out for the chiefs to sign, you can judge of their ability to do business for us.  We had but one man among us, capable of doing business for the Chippewa nation; that man was O-SHO-GA, now dead and our nation now mourns.  (O-SHO-GA was a young chief of great merit and much promise; he died of small-pox, February 1854).  Since his death, we have lost all our faith in the balance of our chiefs…

This O-sho-ga is the young chief, associated with the La Pointe Band, who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

9)  In 1878, “Old Oshaga” received three dollars for a lynx bounty in Chippewa County.

It seems quite possible that Old Oshaga is the young man that worked with George Warren in the 1840s and the warrior from Lake Chetek who signed the petitions against Agent Watrous in the 1850s.

10) In 1880, a delegation of Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau chiefs visited Washington D.C.  I will get into their purpose in a future post, but for now, I will mention that the chiefs were older men who would have been around in the 1840s and ’50s. One of them is named Oshogay.  The challenge is figuring out which one.

Ojibwe Delegation c. 1880 by Charles M. Bell.   [Identifying information from the Smithsonian] Studio portrait of Anishinaabe Delegation posed in front of a backdrop. Sitting, left to right: Edawigijig; Kis-ki-ta-wag; Wadwaiasoug (on floor); Akewainzee (center); Oshawashkogijig; Nijogijig; Oshoga. Back row (order unknown); Wasigwanabi; Ogimagijig; and four unidentified men (possibly Frank Briggs, top center, and Benjamin Green Armstrong, top right). The men wear European-style suit jackets and pants; one man wears a peace medal, some wear beaded sashes or bags or hold pipes and other props.(Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian).

This same image is on display at the Bayfield Public Library.  The men in the picture are identified, presumably by someone in the early 20th century with some firsthand knowledge, but the identification doesn’t correspond to the names identified by the Smithsonian.  Osho’gay is the only name common to the Smithsonian’s information (in bold for reference) and the library’s information as follows:

Upper row reading from the left.
1.  Vincent Conyer- Interpreter 1,2,4,5 ?, includes Wasigwanabi and Ogimagijig
2.  Vincent Roy Jr.
3.  Dr. I. L. Mahan, Indian Agent   Frank Briggs
4.  No Name Given
5.  Geo P. Warren (Born at LaPointe- civil war vet.
6.  Thad Thayer      Benjamin Armstrong
Lower row
1.  Messenger    Edawigijig
2.  Na-ga-nab (head chief of all Chippewas)   Kis-ki-ta-wag
3.  Moses White, father of Jim White          Waswaisoug
4.  No Name Given         Akewainzee
5.  Osho’gay- head speaker     Oshawashkogijig or Oshoga
6.  Bay’-qua-as’ (head chief of La Corrd Oreilles, 7 ft. tall) Nijogijig or Oshawashkogijig
7.  No name given  Oshoga or Nijogijig

The Smithsonian lists Oshoga last, so that would mean he is the man sitting in the chair at the far right.  However, it doesn’t specify who the man seated on the right on the floor is, so it’s also possible that he’s their Oshoga.  If the latter is true, that’s also who the unknown writer of the library caption identified as Osho’gay.  Whoever he is in the picture, it seems very possible that this is the same man as “Old Oshaga” from number 9.

11) There is one more document I’d like to include, although it doesn’t mention any of the people we’ve discussed so far, it may be of interest to someone reading this post.  It mentions a man named Oshogay who was born before 1860 (albeit not long before).

For decades after 1854, many of the Lake Superior Ojibwe continued to live off of the reservations created in the Treaty of La Pointe.  This was especially true in the St. Croix region where no reservation was created at all.  In the 1910s, the Government set out to document where various Ojibwe families were living and what tribal rights they had.  This process led to the creation of the St. Croix and Mole Lake reservations.  In 1915, we find 64-year-old Oshogay and his family living in Randall, Wisconsin which may suggest a connection to the St. Croix Oshogays.  As with number 6 above, this creates some ambiguity because he is listed as enrolled at Lac Courte Oreilles, which implies a connection to the Chippewa River Oshogay.  For now, I leave this investigation up to someone else, but I’ll leave it here for interest.

This is not any of the Oshogays discussed so far, but it could be a relative of any or all of them.

In the final analysis

These eleven documents mention at least four men named Oshogay living in northern Wisconsin between 1800 and 1860.  Edmund Ely met an old man named Oshogay in 1834.  He is one.  A 64-year old man, a child in the 1850s, was listed on the roster of “St. Croix Indians.”  He is another.  I believe the warrior from Lake Chetek who traded with George Warren in the 1840s could be one of the chiefs who went to Washington in 1880.  He may also be the one who was falsely accused of killing Alexander Livingston.  Of these three men, none are the Oshogay who went to Washington with Buffalo in 1852.

Credit where credit is due, Theresa Schenck is the person who first told me about the strong St. Croix-La Pointe connection and the movement of many St. Croix families to Bad River in the 1850s. In his 2012 dissertation, The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin, Erik M. Redix identifies the “La Pointe” Oshoge as being a “St. Croix chief.”

That leaves us with the last mystery.  Is Ozhogens, the young son of the St. Croix chief Gaa-bimabi, the orator from La Pointe who played such a prominent role in the politics of the early 1850s?  I don’t have a smoking gun, but I feel the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests he is.  If that’s the case, it explains why those who’ve looked for his early history in the La Pointe Band have come up empty. 

However, important questions remain unanswered.  What was his connection to Buffalo? If he was from St. Croix, how was he able to gain such a prominent role in the La Pointe Band, and why did he relocate to La Pointe anyway?  I have my suspicions for each of these questions, but no solid evidence.  If you do, please let me know, and we’ll continue to shed light on this underappreciated Ojibwe leader.

 

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Benj G., and Thomas P. Wentworth. Early Life among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong : Treaties of 1835, 1837, 1842 and 1854 : Habits and Customs of the Red Men of the Forest : Incidents, Biographical Sketches, Battles, &c. Ashland, WI: Press of A.W. Bowron, 1892. Print.
Ely, Edmund Franklin, and Theresa M. Schenck. The Ojibwe Journals of Edmund F. Ely, 1833-1849. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2012. Print.
Folsom, William H. C., and E. E. Edwards. Fifty Years in the Northwest. St. Paul: Pioneer, 1888. Print.
KAPPLER’S INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES. Ed. Charles J. Kappler. Oklahoma State University Library, n.d. Web. 12 August 2013. <http:// digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/>.
Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995. Print.
Paap, Howard D. Red Cliff, Wisconsin: A History of an Ojibwe Community. St. Cloud, MN: North Star, 2013. Print.
Redix, Erik M. “The Murder of Joe White: Ojibwe Leadership and Colonialism in Wisconsin.” Diss. University of Minnesota, 2012. Print.
Schenck, Theresa M. The Voice of the Crane Echoes Afar: The Sociopolitical Organization of the Lake Superior Ojibwa, 1640-1855. New York: Garland Pub., 1997. Print.
———–William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers: With Brief Notices of Passing Events, Facts, and Opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842. Philadelphia, [Pa.: Lippincott, Grambo and, 1851. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

      

In the Fall of 1850, the Lake Superior Ojibwe (Chippewa) bands were called to receive their annual payments at Sandy Lake on the Mississippi River.  The money was compensation for the cession of most of northern Wisconsin,  Upper Michigan, and parts of Minnesota in the treaties of 1837 and 1842.  Before that, payments had always taken place in summer at La Pointe.  That year they were switched to Sandy Lake as part of a government effort to remove the entire nation from Wisconsin and Michigan in blatant disregard of promises made to the Ojibwe just a few years earlier.

There isn’t enough space in this post to detail the entire Sandy Lake Tragedy (I’ll cover more at a later date), but the payments were not made, and 130-150 Ojibwe people, mostly men, died that fall and winter at Sandy Lake.  Over 250 more died that December and January, trying to return to their villages without food or money.

George Warren (b.1823) was the son of Truman Warren and Charlotte Cadotte and the cousin of William Warren. (photo source unclear, found on Canku Ota Newsletter)

If you are a regular reader of Chequamegon History, you will recognize the name of William Warren as the writer of History of the Ojibway People.  William’s father, Lyman, was an American fur trader at La Pointe.  His mother, Mary Cadotte was a member of the influential Ojibwe-French Cadotte family of Madeline Island.  William, his siblings, and cousins were prominent in this era as interpreters and guides.  They were people who could navigate between the Ojibwe and mix-blood cultures that had been in this area for centuries, and the ever-encroaching Anglo-American culture.

The Warrens have a mixed legacy when it comes to the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  They initially supported the removal efforts, and profited from them as government employees, even though removal was completely against the wishes of their Ojibwe relatives.  However, one could argue this support for the government came from a misguided sense of humanitarianism.  I strongly recommend William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and Times of an Ojibwe Leader by Theresa Schenck if you are interested in Warren family and their motivations.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has also digitized several Warren family letters, and that’s what prompted this post.  I decided to transcribe and analyze two of these letters–one from before the tragedy and one from after it.

The first letter is from Leonard Wheeler, a missionary at Bad River, to William Warren.  Initially, I chose to transcribe this one because I wanted to get familiar with Wheeler’s handwriting.  The Historical Society has his papers in Ashland, and I’m planning to do some work with them this summer.  This letter has historical value beyond handwriting, however.  It shows the uncertainty that was in the air prior to the removal.  Wheeler doesn’t know whether he will have to move his mission to Minnesota or not, even though it is only a month before the payments are scheduled.     

Bad River

Sept 6, 1850

Dear Friend,

I have time to write you but a few lines, which I do chiefly to fulfill my promise to Hole in the Day’s son. Will you please tell him I and my family are expecting to go Below and visit our friends this winter and return again in the spring. We heard at Sandy Lake, on our way home, that this chief told [Rev.?] Spates that he was expecting a teacher from St. Peters’ if so, the Band will not need another missionary. I was some what surprised that the man could express a desire to have me come and live among his people, and then afterwards tell Rev Spates he was expecting a teacher this fall from St. Peters’. I thought perhaps there was some where a little misunderstanding. Mr Hall and myself are entirely undecided what we shall do next Spring. We shall wait a little and see what are to be the movements of gov. Mary we shall leave with Mr Hall, to go to school during the winter. We think she will have a better opportunity for improvement there, than any where else in the country. We reached our home in safety, and found our families all well. My wife wishes a kind remembrance and joins me in kind regards to your wife, Charlotte and all the members of your family. If Truman is now with you please remember us to him also. Tomorrow we are expecting to go to La Pointe and take the Steam Boat for the Sault monday. I can scarcely realize that nine years have passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward[?] we came into the country.

Mary is now well and will probably write you by the bearer of this.

Very truly yours

L. H. Wheeler

By the 1850s, Young Hole in the Day was positioning himself to the government as “head chief of all the Chippewas,” but to the people of this area, he was still Gwiiwiizens (Boy), his famous father’s son. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Samuel Spates was a missionary at Sandy Lake.  Sherman Hall started as a missionary at La Pointe and later moved to Crow Wing.

Mary, Charlotte, and Truman Warren are William’s siblings.

The Wheeler letter is interesting for what it reveals about the position of Protestant missionaries in the 1850s Chequamegon region.   From the 1820s onward, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent missionaries, mostly Congregationalists and Presbyterians from New England, to the Lake Superior Country.  Their names, Wheeler, Hall, Ely, Boutwell, Ayer, etc. are very familiar to historians, because they produced hundreds of pages of letters and diaries that reveal a great deal about this time period.  

Leonard H. Wheeler (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Ojibwe people reacted to these missionaries in different ways.  A few were openly hostile, while others were friendly and visited prayer, song, and school meetings. Many more just ignored them or regarded them as a simple nuisance.  In forty-plus years, the amount of Ojibwe people converted to Protestantism could be counted on one hand, so in that sense the missions were a spectacular failure.  However, they did play a role in colonization as a vanguard for Anglo-American culture in the region. Unlike the traders, who generally married into Ojibwe communities and adapted to local ways to some degree, the missionaries made a point of trying to recreate “civilization in the wilderness.”  They brought their wives, their books, and their art with them.  Because they were not working for the government or the Fur Company, and because they were highly respected in white-American society, there were times when certain missionaries were able to help the Ojibwe advance their politics.  The aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy was such a time for Wheeler.

This letter comes before the tragedy, however, and there are two things I want to point out.  First, Wheeler and Sherman Hall don’t know the tragedy is coming.  They were aware of the removal, and tentatively supported it on the grounds that it might speed up the assimilation and conversion of the Ojibwe, but they are clearly out of the loop on the government’s plans. 

Second, it seems to me that Hole in the Day is giving the missionaries the runaround on purpose.  While Wheeler and Spates were not powerful themselves, being hostile to them would not help the Ojibwe argument against the removal.  However, most Ojibwe did not really want what the missionaries had to offer.  Rather than reject them outright and cause a rift, the chief is confusing them.  I say this because this would not be the only instance in the records of Ojibwe people giving ambiguous messages to avoid having their children taken.

Anyway, that’s my guess on what’s going on with the school comment, but you can’t be sure from one letter.  Young Hole in the Day was a political genius, and I strongly recommend Anton Treuer’s The Assassination of Hole in the Day if you aren’t familiar with him.

c

I read this as “passed away since in company with yourself and Pa[?] Edward we came into the country.”  Who was Wheeler’s companion when a young William guided him to La Pointe?  I intend to find out and fix this quote.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

The second letter I transcribed from the Warren Papers is from La Pointe Indian Agent John Watrous to William in August 1851.  This was the summer after the tragic removal attempt, which Watrous had been in charge of.  The government was trying to force the Ojibwe to remove again less than a year after the first removal attempt claimed 400 lives.  Needless to say, the Ojibwe were refusing to go back to Sandy Lake.

In 1851, Warren was in failing health and desperately trying to earn money for his family.  He accepted the position of government interpreter and conductor of the removal of the Chippewa River bands.   He feels removing is still the best course of action for the Ojibwe, but he has serious doubts about the government’s competence.  He hears the desires of the chiefs to meet with the president, and sees the need for a full rice harvest before making the journey to La Pointe.   Warren decides to stall at Lac Courte Oreilles until all the Ojibwe bands can unite and act as one, and does not proceed to Lake Superior as ordered by Watrous.  The agent is getting very nervous.

Clement and Paul (pictured) Hudon Beaulieu, and Edward Conner, were mix-blooded traders who like the Warrens were capable of navigating Anglo-American culture while maintaining close kin relationships in several Ojibwe communities.  Clement Beaulieu and William Warren had been fierce rivals ever since Beaulieu’s faction drove Lyman Warren out of the American Fur Company.  (Photo original unknown:  uploaded to findadagrave.com by Joan Edmonson)

For more on Cob-wa-wis (Oshkaabewis) and his Wisconsin River band, see this post.

Perish?

“Perish” is what I see, but I don’t know who that might be.  Is there a “Parrish”, or possibly a “Bineshii” who could have carried Watrous’ letter?  I’m on the lookout.  (from original in the digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

La Pointe

Aug 9th 1851

Friend Warren

I am now very anxiously waiting the arrival of yourself and the Indians that are embraced in your division to come out to this place.

Mr. C. H. Beaulieu has arrived from the Lake Du Flambeau with nearly all that quarter and by an express sent on in advance I am informed that P. H. Beaulieu and Edward Conner will be here with Cob-wa-wis and they say the entire Wisconsin band, there had some 32 of the Pillican Lake band come out and some now are in Conner’s Party.

I want you should be here without fail in 10 days from this as I cannot remain longer, I shall leave at the expiration of this time for Crow Wing to make the payment to the St. Croix Bands who have all removed as I learn from letters just received from the St. Croix.  I want your assistance very much in making the Crow Wing payment and immediately after the completion of this, (which will not take over two days[)] shall proceed to Sandy Lake to make the payment to the Mississippi and Lake Bands.

The goods are all at Sandy Lake and I shall make the entire payment without delay, and as much dispatch as can be made it; will be quite lots enough for the poor Indians.  Perish[?] is the bearer of this and he can tell you all my plans better then I can write them.  give My respects to your cousin George and beli[e]ve me

Your friend

       J. S. Watrous

W. W. Warren Esq.}

P. S.     Inform the Indians that if they are not here by the time they will be struck from the roll.  I am daily expecting a company of Infantry to be stationed at this place.

                                                                                                                        JSW

As far as we can tell, no one set out to murder 400 people during the Sandy Lake annuity payments in the winter of 1850-51.  Mistakes and oversights were made by various government officials during the process with deadly consequences.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can call the Sandy Lake Tragedy an accident.  The Ojibwe were lied to, manipulated, and their wishes were ignored throughout the process.  The removal was not only unethical, it was probably also illegal.  However, no one served time for it, no one was fired for it, and while accusations and criticisms were leveled, no one was ever officially reprimanded.  

There are individuals who history needs to hold accountable for what happened.  Minnesota Territorial governor Alexander Ramsey has been justifiably given a large portion of the blame, but what about the people who were directly involved in carrying out the removal?  How much blame does William Warren deserve for being on the government payroll?  What about Watrous?  Chief Buffalo of La Pointe and other prominent Ojibwe leaders put the fault squarely on him, but others (including Warren) defended the agent’s actions in that horrible winter.  Watrous didn’t order the removal.  He didn’t cause congress to send the payments late.  He wasn’t even hired until the removal was already in the works, so how do we judge him?
Ultimately, we have to determine guilt by the way these men acted during the second removal attempt in the summer and fall of 1851.  Letters like the one transcribed above show that Warren was attempting to do right by his Ojibwe relatives even though he was working for the government.  His hands aren’t completely clean, but he maintained the trust of the Ojibwe leadership and ultimately worked to get them their desired audience with the president.  Watrous, however, was calling for troops and threatening to kick people off the annuity rolls less than a year after all that death occured under his watch.  To me, that has to put him among the most guilty in this dark chapter of history.   
Sources:
Schenck, Theresa M., William W. Warren: The Life, Letters, and times of an Ojibwe Leader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2007. Print.
Treuer, Anton. The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul, MN: Borealis, 2010. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.