We Have The Right to Exist, by Wub-e-ke-niew

[excerpt from the Introduction]:

            Bah-se-nos was about seventy when the Minnesota Chippewa Commission held meetings in July, 1889 at Red Lake.  He listened to the Commissioner's presentation of the U.S. Congress' Act of January 14, 1889, also known as the Nelson Act.  This unilateral United States statute mandated dividing up Ahnishinahbæótjibway land, selling most of it to White settlers, and breaking up the rest by issuing parcels of land to French Indians as allotments under U.S. trusteeship.  Bah-se-nos told the Commissioners that the Ahnishinahbæótjibway could not and would not sell our land,[i] but the Chippewa Creole in which the meetings were being interpreted was a hierarchical trade pidgin in which it was impossible to communicate Ahnishinahbæótjibway concepts.  Grandmother Earth, and Grandfather Midé are our identity: where we come from, who we are, where we go back to, our philosophy, everything that relates to us, connected together in harmony.  We cannot sell our philosophy or our religion, our identity or our relations who share the Earth with us.  We cannot sell land; the idea was sacrilegious then and it still is now.

            The Commissioners for the Minnesota Chippewa Commission wrote Bah-se-nos' name on the Signature Rolls, forged his "X" mark, and recorded their Métis interpreters' mistranslation of his name as "Brushing Off Flies."



[i].National Archives, RG 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Irregularly shaped papers, Item 104, Report of the Chippewa Commission, 1889-90.  These records, RG 75, Item 104, also contain the "signature rolls" of Chippewa assent to what many Indians call the "Rice Treaty."  My grandfather and great-grandfather's names were listed by the B.I.A. on these records, as are the names of many other Ahnishinahbæótjibway.  The "X" marks next to their names were all written by one person.




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