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

excerpted from Chapter IV, Indian treaties

            The negotiations were translated by Paul H. Beaulieu, a  Frenchman whose patrilineal ancestor was French immigrant Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu.[i]  Paul H. Beaulieu's father was a French Canadian who came from Montreal to Wisconsin in the early nineteenth century, to manage the fur trade post at Lac du Flambeau.  Ramsey mentions[ii] that Paul H. Beaulieu, had a "thorough acquaintance with the Chippewa [Métis Creole] language."  He neither spoke nor understood the Ahnishinahbæótjibway language, and he had no inkling of what the Midé religion was about.  The transcripts of the proceedings were written in English only, by Governor Ramsey and Indian Agent Morrill.

            The same Paul H. Beaulieu had been employed by the Bureau as a part of the forcible relocation of Chippewa Indians and Ahnishinahbæót­jibway from Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota in the 1850's.[iii]  Paul H. Beaulieu and his relatives played an important role for the United States Government in subsequent dealings as proxies for the Ahnishinahbæótjibway, and with the United States' subject Chippewa Indi­ans.[iv]

            Pembina Trader Norman Kittson had been running steam-boats up and down the Red River: cutting forests as fuel for the wood-fired steam-boilers, starting forest fires.  These steamboats had a tendency to blow up--and they were operating in an area which was at that time hotly contested by rival factions of Europeans.[v]  Part of the Indian stereotype of the Euro-Americans was to blame Indians for the Whites' mishaps and misdeeds.

            Ramsey himself does not admit doing so, but he referred quite forcefully to "depredations" committed by "Pembina Indians" against the steamboats, making threats of retaliation against both the Indians and the Ahnishinahbæótjibway for the alleged attacks on the steamboats.[vi]

            Indian Trader Norman Kittson was allocated one hundred thousand dollars in the 1863 Treaty--at a time when the common working man earned less than a hundred dollars per year.  Ramsey used the Euro-Americans' execution by hanging of the Lakota people in Mankato as an example of possible United States action if Kittson were not paid for the steamboat through ratification of the treaty.

            In the European concept of war and peace, there has to be a confrontation in order to have a treaty.  Throughout the history of the Indian treaties the Europeans created confrontations in order to push their agenda.  Over and over (the Boston Tea Party is one of countless examples), people under European Sovereignty, whether White colonists, Cavalry, or Euro-Indians, precipitated incidents for which the Aboriginal Indigenous people were held liable.  Tanner's Narrative records "danger of attack by North-West [Fur] Company employees, disguised as Indians."[vii]  Also, many of the so-called Chippewa Indians who were involved in the 1863 and other Chippewa treaties were French Métis who had been defeated in the French-and-Indian wars, and relocated as a conquered people.

            In spite of Governor Ramsey's classical Treaty strong-arm tactics, the Ahnishinahbæótjibway categorically rejected the proposed treaty of 1863.[viii]  As Little Rock explained to the Treaty Commissioners (and was inaccurately translated), Aboriginal Indigenous people cannot sell our sacred relationship to the land nor our religion:[ix]

            What I am to say I speak with truth and confidence.  I want the earth to listen to me, and I hope also that my grandfa­ther may be present to hear what I have to say, and I invoke the Master of Life [sic.  This is a mistranslation--he said Grandfather and meant Midé] to listen to the words I have to speak.  I hope there is not a single hole in the atmosphere in which my voice shall not be heard.  My friend, the question you have laid before us is of great importance to us.  We have heard the words you have uttered, and under­stood them partially. ... Now, my friend, I am going to show you how we came to occupy this land.  The Master of Life [sic] placed us here, and gave it to us for an inheritance.  ... The Master of Life [sic] gave us the river and the water thereof to drink, and the woods and the roads [sic] we depend on for subsistence, and you are mistaken if you think we derive no benefits from them.  The Master of Life [sic] gave it to us for an inheritance ...

            Now, my friend, I am going to show you a little.  You know partially what I am going to say.  Here, on this track [sic], is where my grandfather was placed--the one who made the soil.  The Master of Life [sic], when he put you here, never told you that you should own the soil; nor, when the Master of Life [sic] put me here, did he tell me that you should own the soil.  I see the place that was made for you on the other side of the great sea. ... The words that were told to my great-grandfather you shall hear, but not comprehend. ...

            And now that which he has given to his children for an inheri­tance has been shaken to the winds.  You have trodden it under your feet.  My friend, at the time I speak of they put four doors (pointing to the four cardinal points) for my great-grandfather's house.  They put persons to guard the doors--a guard at each door.  This is what was spoken by my great-grandfather at the house he made for us.  He was the one who spoke it.  And these are the words that were given to him by the Master of Life [sic]: 'At some time there shall come among you a stranger, speaking a language you do not understand.  He will try to buy the land from you, but do not sell it; keep it for an inheritance to your children.'"

Little Rock spoke from the heart.  I ask my Euro-American readers, would you sell an heirloom which had been in your family for nearly a million years?  Would you sell your identity, your religion, the graves of your ancestors, the very foundation of your lives?  I don't need to ask the Indians, because I know what they did.  The land was not theirs.  Would they have sold it, for less than two cents an acre, if it had been theirs?  I think not.

            According to Governor Ramsey's version of the proceedings, Little Rock is quoted as saying later in the Treaty proceedings, on Tuesday, September 29,[x] that he, Little Rock, had decided on boundaries for the land that was to be ceded--boundaries which just happen to be exactly the same boundaries as the Treaty Commission intended when the negotiations began.  Little Rock is further quoted, by Ramsey, as saying that he "speak[s] on behalf of the chiefs, braves, young men, women, and children."

            As an Ahnishinahbæótjibway who knows how our people think, I find it improbable beyond the remotest vestiges of credibility that the same person made both of the speeches which Ramsey attributed to Little Rock.  A Chippewa Indian would not have known (and they still don't know) enough about the Midé to give the earlier speech, and the Chippewa interpreters did a very bad job of translating it.  An Ahnishinahbæótjibway would have never claimed that they spoke on behalf of other Ahnishinahbæótjibway in agreeing to sell land, even under the threat of imprisonment and hanging from the gallows which Ramsey apparently made.[xi]  What the White man writes as American History, including his version of Red Lake history, is filled with references to Indians speaking on behalf of everybody--that these Indians would do so is one of the reasons Lislakh people were used as Indians and Indian Chiefs.  For an Ahnishinahbæótjibway to behave in this way would be a sacrilegious violation of our fundamental principles including that of personal Sovereignty.  Claiming to speak for others in the way that Ramsey alleges Little Rock did was, as Noam Chomsky terms it,[xii] beyond "thinkable thought" for Ahnishinahbæótjibway.



[i].Bureau of Indian Affairs, White Earth Land Settlement Act Documents, Beaulieu Genealogy.

[ii].Alexander Ramsey, Op. cit., page 21.

[iii].National Archives Microfilm Publications, Microcopy No. 234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-81, Roll 168: Chippewa Agency, 1880 and Chippewa Agency Emigration, 1850-59, and Chippewa Agency Reserves, 1853-55.  N.A.R.A.

[iv].His son, C.A.H. "Clem" Beaulieu translated for the U.S. Government during the 1889 negotiations.  His grandson, also named Paul H. Beaulieu, played a critical part in getting the Indian Reorganization Act onto Red Lake, and this younger Paul H. Beaulieu was the father-in-law of the first Tribal Chairman of the Indian Reorganization Act Tribal Council at Red Lake.  There were more than one hundred legitimate patrilineal descendants of the Beaulieus who received allotments on the White Earth Reservation.

[v].According to the documents of the Indian Claims Commission, it is also possible that the steamboat incident was precipitated, using Métis, to generate conflict which could be used as a lever to force concessions in the Treaty negotiations planned for the next year.

[vi].National Archives Microfilm, Op. cit., page 42.

[vii].James, Tanner's Narrative, page 227, as cited in the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin and Harold Hickerson, Chippewa Indians I, The Red Lake and Pembina Chippewa, Garland Press, 1974, pages 69-70.

[viii].38th Congress, 1st Session, Confidential Executive Papers, Message of the President of the United States, A treaty [sic] between the United States and chiefs, headmen, and warriors of Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewa Indians, concluded on the 2d of October, 1863; January 8, 1864--Treaty read the first time, referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs, and ordered to be printed in confidence for the use of the Senate.

[ix].Ramsey, Op. cit., pages 18, 23.

[x].Ibid, page 30.

[xi].Ibid, page 29.

[xii].Noam Chomsky, "The Bounds of Thinkable Thought," The Progressive, October 28, 1985, pages 28-31.


< HOME >
< NEXT >
< NEXT >