Old Crossing treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa

38th Congress, 1st Session - CONFIDENTIAL - Executive P.

        Message of the President of the United States, transmitting a treaty between the United States and the chiefs, headmen, and warriors of Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa Indians, conlcuded on the 2nd of October, 1863 - page 1

       January 8, 1864, from the Department of the Interior: "Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a treaty made at the Old Crossing of the Red Lake River, in the State of Minnesota, on the 2d day of October, 1863, between Alexander Ramsey and Ashley C. Morrill, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and warriors of the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewa Indians ..." - page 2

    Articles of a Treaty made and concluded at the Old Crossing of Red Lake River ...

                Article I          - page 3
                Article II         - page 3
                Article IIII      - pages 3, 4
                Article IV       - page 4
                Article V        - page 4
                Article VI       - pages 4
                Article VII      - page 5
                Article VIII     - page 5
                Article IX        - page 5
                Signatures       - pages 5, 6

    Narrative description of treaty-making by Alexander Ramsey to Hon. William P. Dole, Commisisoner of Indian Affairs

       page 6 - "St. Paul, Minnesota, October 1863.  Having, in compliance with your instructions, succeeded in effecting a treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewa Indians for the extinction of their title to the large and important district of country known as the Red River Valley, I have the honor to make the following report of the circumstances connected therewith:
          "My departure from St. Paul was postponed, by various causes ..."

       page 7 - "This place, which, by the route travelled, is about four hundred miles from Saint Paul, was selected as the most conveient rendezvous for the contracting parties, as it was nearly equidistance between the Red Lake and Pembina Indians, and some time before I left St. Paul messengers had been despatched to notify the chiefs and principal men of those Indians to meet the comissioners at this point.  Accordingly, the Red Lake Indians were already encamped on the ground, this unexpected punctuality ..."

       page 8 - "Accordingly, on Wednesday, the third day after my arrival, we held our first general council, a report of which, as of all subsequent proceedings, carefully prepared by the secretary of the commission will be found in the annexed journal.  I addressed them at length upon the object of our visit, endeavoring especially to impress upon them the fact that their Great Father desired to make a treaty with them - not in order to obtain possession of their lands, but chiefly with a view to their benefit ... "

       page 9 - "[... I deemed it advisable, under the discretionary powers conferred upon me by your letter of instructions, to direct the negotiations with] a view ot an absolute purchase of their lands - at least of such of their lands as could, for many years, fall within the possible exigencies of trade, emigration, or settlement.
          "The failure of previous negotiations for this object warned me that its accomplishment was a task of considerable difficulty and delicacy, owing to the preposterous ..."

       page 10 - "[... Red Lake.  With the exception of a narrow border of fertile 'hardwood' lands around the shores of that lake,] where these bands now have their homes and raise small crops of corn and potatoes, the tract reserved for their future occupancy, while abounding in game, fish, fields of wild rice, and other resources adapted to the primitive wants of the Indian, is, from the nature of the surface, which may be generally described as a series of impassible swales, entirely valueless ..."

       page 11 - "[An important object of the treaty was the improvement of the Indians.  One-quarter of the amount of annuities is to be reserved as a fund for this purpose,] to be converted into such articles, or to be applied to such beneficial objects, as the President may direct; this general phraeology, which admits of such adaptation to special circumstanes as may be required from time to time, being regarded as more expedient ..."

       page 12 - "[A line of transcontinental telegraph is about to be constructed, under the auspices of the great corporation, from Pembina to the Pacific coast, which will, undoubtedly, be cto connect on the Asiatic coast with the great lines of telegraph which Russia is establishing from St. Petersburgh to the mouth of the Amoor.
          "The line of the St. Paul and Pacific railroad, now in the course of construction, runs for two hundred miles northwesterly across the ceded tract, as located by Congress, by which it was endowed with a valuable land grant, with a view to its ultimate extension of to the Pacific coast.  Ant it is not the least of the advantages of the treaty that it will now make these lands available for construction ..."

       page 13 - "[My impression is, that their dissatisifaction is in some degree the mere effect of wounded pride, arising from their not having been consulted in framing the provisions of the treaty.  This feeling might be readily removed by some slight concessons, in addition to that above indicated, and for this object I would recommend taht two or three of the more influential chiefs be invited to Wash-]ington.  The intimation that I would urge these points in their favor was received by them with great satisfaction, but no circumstance of my interview with the Indians had a happer effect in assuaging their discontent than the address made by Hole-in-the-Day, of Gull Lake, to the chiefs, which was marked by a breadth and elevation of views which are rare among his race.  He advised them to submit cheerfully to the provisions of the treaty, since their Great Father willed it.  The chiefs who signed the treaty ..."

Journal of the proceedings connected with the negotiation of a treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewas, concluded at the Old Crossing of Red Lake River, on the Second of October, 1863, by Alexander Ramsey and A.C. Morrill

       page 13 - "September 4 - Commissioner Ramsay [sic] and the gentlemen accompanying him arrived at St. Cloud last evening en route for the proposed treaty rendezvous ...
          "September 5 - The party left St. Clous this morning, and met General Siubley's expedition camped at Richmond, twenty-five miles from St. Cloud.  The afternoon was spent in arranging with General Sibley for an escort and transportation for the expedition, and the general's hopsitalities were accepted for the night.
          "September 6 - Reached Sauk Centre yesterday, and to-day was occupied in the organization and outfit of a cavalry detachment under Lieutenant -----, which was to form a part of our escort.
          "September 8 - We reached Alexandria, where a company of mounted infantry was added to our escort, of which Captain Rockwood took command. ..."

       page 14 - "[September 11 - Reached Fort Abercrombie to-day, where, although it lay out of a direct route, it was necessary to go in order to obtain a lot of flour and other] artiches which were designed for the contemplated treaty with the Red Lake and Pembina Indians last year, but which were arrested on their way to the treaty ground by the Sioux outbreak and stored at this point.  We were also to obtain here a portion of our escort, of which Major George H. Camp now took command.  Our escort and train had now grown to imposing proportions, the former consisting of 180 mounted men, and the latter of 58 army (six-mule) wagons, 13 ox wagons, and half a dozen other vehicles."

       page 15 - "September 23 - At 2 o'clock p.m. the Indians assembled in council in front of the commissioner's headquarters to the number of perhaps a hundred, comprising the chiefs and principal men representing all the bands.  The chiefs were named as follows ..."

       page 16 - [Governor Ramsey's speech, interpreted by Mr. Paul Beaulieu:
            (Ramsey began with an oration about the 'wickeness and perfidy of the Sioux,' referring to the U.S.-Dakota war in August - September 1862, about 300 miles southeast of Pembina.  1,250 Dakota people were imprisoned, many more were exiled to 'Dakota Territory' and Canada, and three hundred and three were sentenced to death by hanging.  U.S. President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution of thirty-nine of those condemned to death, thirty-eight of whom were hung at a mass gallows in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862.  They were buried in a mass grave, but then their bodies were taken from the grave by area doctors, including Dr. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic, for medical research.  Little Crow, among the leaders of the Dakota rebellion, fled to Canada, but returned to Minnesota in June, and on July 3,1862 was shot while picking berries with his son near Hutchinson.  The farmer who killed him received $500 'bounty' for Little Crow's scalp.  The 177 Dakota prisoners who survived until March 22, 1866 were released by U.S. President Andrew Johnson, and 'relocated' to the Santee Reservation in Nebraska.  The U.S. treatment of the Dakota people, and the ongoing atrocities of the U.S. Civil War - a number of regional Métis fought in the Union Army - set the backdrop for the treaty negotiations in October, 1863.)
            " ... of treaties, and because, whatever other difficulties have arisen, no white man's blood has been shed by a Chippewa.  ... You know that, within the last fifteen years, all the country south of you has been peopled by whites.  ..."

       page 17 - "... very liberal price, say twenty thousand dollars; or, if you want to sell your lands and retain a reservation for yourselves, say so.  That is all we have to say at present."

       page 18 - "[This incident, illustrating the state of feeling between Hole-in-]the-Day and the Red Lake chiefs, though irrelevant to the proceedings of the treaty, is deemed worth recording in view of the suggestions contained in the instrutions of the department to Mr. Ramsey, that it might be expedient or feasible to set apart a reservation for Hole-in-the-Day and his band in the Red Lake Country ..."

       page 19 - "[Red Bear:] I do not see any obstacle on my back track toward my village.  I look upon myself in the same light as you do upon yourself.  You are here upon a visit to lands that do not belong to you.  It is just the same with me.  I am on a visit on lands that do not belong to me.  I did not bring my land to lay it before you ..."

       page 20 - "[Mr. Ramsey, to the interpreter:] ... I thought it would be worth to us.  I stated to them very plainly, that if the offers were not agreeable to them they should make another proposition.  The Great Father had several times offered to purchase the land, not because he wanted it for settlement -- at least during the lifetime of the youngest of them, but beause he wanted a free passage over it ..."

       page 21 - "[Little Rock's response.  ... It seems now that the white man is passing backward and forward, and wresting these prairies from our hands, and taking this food from my mouth.]
          "My friend, when we take anything which has been left upon the ground, even though it be of small value, we feel bad.  We are afraid to look the owner in the face until we restore it. ..."

       page 22 - "Saturday, September 26.  - One object of these notes of the treaty proceedings is to preserve the highly characteristic and original specimens of Indian rhetoric and diploacy, which were brought out in the course of the negotiations.  These illustrations of Indian oratory have at least one merit, which does not always belong to the current and popular specimens of aboriginal eloquence -- they are genuine.  We were fortunate in our interpreter, Mr. Paul Beaulieu, whose thorough acquaintance with the Chippewa language, and ready command of English, enabled him to give as close and faithful a rendering of the Indian] forms of expression, and the current of his ideas, as is possible in so different an idiom.  Thre are two reasons which give a special interest to the speeches made in behalf of the Red Lake Indians ..."

[Editor's note: many Ahnishinahbæótjibway believed that the translations were grieviously inaccurate.  For example, Ah-show-aush testified to the inaccurate and misleading translations of the same U.S. interpreter, Paul H. Beaulieu, in a U.S. Court of Claims case; Wub-e-ke-niew also addresses the issue.]

       page 23 - "[Little Rock's oration: ... In looking] back on my trail that I have made in following them from teh other side of the ocean, I find the tracks of that foot-print everywhere, and the ravages it has made, (meaning the white race and its aggressions on Indian territory.)  I will follow him ..."

       page 24 - "[Little Rock's oration: ...(He means, in this obscure manner ...] for crime which obtain among the whites, probably inspired by a sense of deserving some punishment for past offenses, and by a recollection of the trial and execution of the Sioux.)  My friend, my young men are not all of the same disposition, nor are your young men of the same disposition.  We cannot always control them.  My friend, I was not higher than that (lowering his hand to the height of a small boy) when I last said 'father' to the one I used to call my father.  When I was young and nothing but a child, I was crazy and foolish as a child.  When my father cut a switch and broke it over me ..."

[Editor's note: given the extremely strong feelings in objection to physical punishment among Ahnishinahbæótjibway, and consistent cultural context of nonviolence, this is almost certainly not what Little Rock actually said.]

       page 25 - "[Mr. Ramsey to the Interpreter. ... Tell] them that the silver voice which Little Rock heard was the sound of the twenty thousand dollars I offered them for the road and rivers.  That is undoubtedly the sound which took him on the trail.  Tell him that we know very well that the Great Spirit originally placed them here, and our ancestors on the other side of the ocean.  But the Master of Life ..."

       page 26 - "[Little Rock's reply.  ... If you had wanted a right of way over the roads and rivers you would have consulted us first before you took it.  We know you hate crime, you hate lying, you hate] theft, all wrong-doing.  That is just the way, wit us.  We hate these things.  My friend, it is a candid fact, there is not an instance of that kind which can be brought against me ..."

       page 27 - "[They were counted in their lodges,when they were assembled by their chiefs for the purpose, with the following result:]

By whom numbered
Name of Chief
Mr. Thompson
Little Chief
  442 half-breeds
    27 Indians
Mr. Ottman
Red Bear
  325 Indians
  221 half-breeds
Capt. Rockwood
Moose Dung
  210 Indians
Capt. Davy
Little Rock

    92 Indians

  193 Indians

    24 half-breeds
Broken Arm

    84 half-breeds


             Pembina Indians ..........................................352
             Pembina half-breeds.....................................663
             Red Lake Indians.........................................579
             Red Lake half-breeds.................................... 24
       The Indians were now apprized of the result of this enumeration, which was to form the basis of future issues of rations..."

       page 28 - "[To the suggestion that they should send out scouts to hunt for traces of Sioux, they] responded that that was just what they wanted to do. A small supply of ammunition was given them, and they returned to their camp.  Soon after, a party of their young men went out in the bright moonlight on a scouting expedition, and for further security, they put a patrol around their camp. ..."

       page 29 - "[Mr. Ramsey's reply. ... In reference to the depradations which they had committed, I told them that if they did not make a treaty they would be held answerable for the wrongs they had done;] but that in the event of an arrangement being made, all the past would be blotted out; that arrangement I wished to make with them came from the Great Father, who foresaw that unless an arrangement should be made, troubles will come upon them ..."

       page 30 - "[Mr. Ramsey to the interpreter: Tell them ... I promise also that the 'tree' of which he speaks, with the cross-stick on it, and the 'dark hole' in the ground, shall not, if they] will make a treaty and live up to it,to be known hereater; that there shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the whites and them, and that no bad liquors shall be allowed to come among them if the government can prevent it, and with their assistance it can be effectually prevented."

       page 31 - "[Little Rock's speech.  My friend: The way you understood me, what I told you yesterday, is what you about to listen to.  I want to speak in behalf of the chiefs, braves, young men, women, and children ... That piece of land (pointing eastward) is the place where I intend to live.  I follow that line down the Tamarack river; and from there I follow it up to Salt river to the head of Salt river; and from there I follow it to the Place of Stumps; and from there I strike down to Poplar Grove; and from there I go to the Sheyenne, and follow the Sheyenne river down its channel to its mouth; which I claim as our line.] 
          "Now, my friend, if you pick up courage to buy that piece of land, that is the piece I intend to cede to you, and I think, my friend, that the price I intend to ask is small enough for this piece of land ..."

[editor's note: Wub-e-ke-niew writes in We Have The Right To Exist about this particular speech that Little Rock allegedly made: "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.  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, beyond "thinkable thought" for Ahnishinahbæótjibway."

       page 32 - "[Mr. Ramsey (interrupting Red Bear, of Pembina) ... Tell Red Bear this.  He and his friends are better friends to the Sioux than to the whites.  They harbor the Sioux, and the gold that was red with the blood of the whites was traded in their country.  While our men and women were murdered in cold blood by the Sioux, the assassins were received and harbored in the lodges of the Pembina Indians and half-breeds, and the gold and horses which the Sioux had stolen were traded in their camps.]
          "Red Bear. I do not harbor them.
          "Mr. Ramsey.  He does not harbor them?  They are in his country, on friendly terms with his people-- receiving all their supplies from his country ..."

       page 33 - "Red Bear. I did not harbor any Sioux.
          "Mr. Ramsey.  Tell him I did not speak of him personally.  I have great respect for him personally.  I spoke of those who occupy the country. ..."

       page 34 - "[Mr. Ramsey. ... Now, though the Pillagers sold us a very much larger and more valuable] tract of country, we are willig to put them on the same footing, as regards annuities, with the Pillagers.  That is the utmost we can do, and I want their answer upon that.  Tell them I find all this councilling comes to nothing. It is all talk, talk, talk, and no business.  This is now the ninth day since our arrival ..."

       page 35 - "[Tuesday evening. (narrative description) ... but if I were a chief of one of their bands, and one of their young men should talk to] me against the treaty, that is the way I should answer him.  I would say to them, 'Though you young men did this mischief down here, it is left for us to settle, and you ought to be glad that it is done ..."

       page 36 - "[Wednesday, September 30. (narrative descripton) ... He would tell them that 'a treaty is no new thing.  All Indian tribes make treaties.  We lose nothing that we now have, and we would be foolish not to take what they offer us for our lands, when we can hunt over them as usual.  We foresee that difficulties will occur if we don't make] this treat; and if troubles arise, where will you be?  It is we who will have to bear the responsibility.  We foresee, also, that if we do not sell now, we may never have so good an offer again ..."

       page 37 - "[Little Chief said he was going to speak, but as the weather is blustery, it is better to be in here where it is warm.  He had, he said, picked out a soldier of his who could speak for him.
          "Little Chief's Soldier: He said, I am just the interpreter of the words of Little Chief.  We have had a smoking council together, and dicussed the subject.  Now we want to ask yu (the commisisoner) for clothing for ourselves and children ..."

       page 38 - "[Little Rock's Speech. ... I] instilled into their minds, too, a point that we had gained, that all the past should be forgotten and wiped out.  I showed them also the propositions that you had made, and their voice was unanimous that it was good, and they have left it all to be settled by their chiefs.  Now is the time to come to an understanding.  Now I want to make a proposition to see if we cannot agree.  I don't want to withhold what you came after. ..."

       page 39 - "[Moose Dung's Speech.  ... I sometimes think that when I speak to a man of rank,] that he shall listen to me with pity.  My father, is this the last proposition that you have to make?  Is this all you can give your children?  I wish to see it clearly before my eyes.  I wish to know if you cannot change it a little, and make it a little nearer what would make us comfortable? ..."

       page 40 - "[Moose Dung resumed: ... This makes me feel very] much thankful.  We were very glad to hear you make so good an offer over and above what you offered for the country east of the line we had fixed.  As to the country west, he expected another offer.  That was all he had to say to that ..."

       page 41 - "Moose Dung.  My father, I arise once more.  I come here to meet you as a chief.  I do not consider myself a chief as high as you are, but I have a right to speak freely.  My father, I think when I look upon this land, and compare it with other lands, that I have a very fine tract [in the present-day Thief River Falls, where the 'seven clans' casino is located] ..."

       page 42 - "Mr. Ramsey.  I don't want a history of that affair.  I want an answer on the subject of the depradations.  That is all.  The Great Father is required to compensate the injuried parties for the damages inflicted by the Indians on their property. Now, what compensation are they going to give him.  That is what I want to know."

       page 43 - "[Moose Dung.  ... there, my father, I have spoken those few words that you] may not b displeased with me.  I speak loud when I want to gain a point.  That is my doing when I want to gain a point.  I like to fight it to the end.  ..."

       page 44 - "[Friday, October 2.  When the council broke up last evening, all hope of effecting a treaty with the Red Lake Indians seemed to be at an end.  ... Moose Dung, Broken Arm, and Leading Feather, on the other hand, had from the very first taken an equally decided stand in favor of a treaty ... But they were by no means willing to lose the oppor-]tunity to make a treaty by too obstinate a persistence in their first demands.  One after another of the chiefs was won over to Moose Dung's side by the arguments of the commissioner.  On Thursday they held long and earnest councils among themseles, and in the morning it was announced that they were again ready to meet the commissioners ..."

       page 45 - "[Mr. Ramsey.  ... $20,000 per year, to be divided among them in equal amounts per head; $100,000 to pay damages for the robberies committed by their young men, and for their debts to their traders; $150 annually to their chiefs, to enable them to maintain their dignity, to be taken out of the annuity fund; $500 to each chief to enable him  to build a house, and to set an example of industry and comfort ..."

       page 46 - "[Saturday, October 3. (narrative description) ... May-dwa-gon-on-ind himself, it was understood, was anxious to go to Washington, and Mr. Ramsey so far assented to these requests as to promise to use his influence to procure the permission of the President.
          "Sunday, October 4. - Early this morning, on the fourteenth day from our arrival at the treaty ground, the edpedition started on its return home ..."
          "Wednesday, October 14. -Arrived in St. Paul.

       page 47 - "[Conferene with the chiefs of the Mississippi bandsOctober 29. ... ]  Little Frenchman, from Pokegama.  My father, what that old man has stated as his feelings, are my feelings and views exactly.  We have not been able to learn what was done at Washington.  One of the reasons we feel bad is, the chiefs that made the last treaty have never told us what they did at Washington. ..."

       page 48 - "[Mr. Ramsey.  ... I am glad to hear the] chiefs say they will live up to it, and be content with such modifications as their Great Father may be willing to concede, as the best thing they can do now.
          "Now, as I understand them, they have appointed two chiefs to carry out their wishes, if the President will cosent, and that this is the wish of all of them.  If this is consented to ..."


            What began as a right-of-way negotiation was taken to Washington D.C., where it was re-written as a boilerplate land cession treaty with which the U.S. unilaterally took about eleven million acres.  The people who actually agreed to the land cessions and payment to the fur traders in the treaty were not Ahnishinahbæójibway, and were not indigenous to this Continent.  Two of the people who allegedly agreed with X-marks as "Pembina Warriors" actually used their French names--Joseph Gornon and Joseph Montreuil.  Another, who the U.S. Government appointed as a Red Lake Indian Chief, was a Frenchman named Racine who used the name Kah-nun-dah-wah-wenzo as a professional treaty-signer, and who also helped "sell" land at the treaties of Sandy Lake, Gull Lake, and Boise Fort.  All of those who assented to this fraudulent treaty were European subject people who had no claim to Ahnishinah­bæótjib­way land.  Some of the Chippewa Indian Chiefs who helped legitimize the theft of Ahnishinahbæótjibway land were Scouts in the U.S. Army[i] (including Chief White Cloud and Chief Red Bear); some had been Civil War draftees.

            In the winter of 1863-4, May-dwa-gan-on-ind, the "Red Lake Chief [sic] who had refused to sign the treaty ... walked a hundred and fifty miles [to White Earth] to lay his troubles before Bishop Whipple."[ii]  Whipple recorded in his diary that he left for Washington to inform the U.S. government that the Red Lake Indians [sic] did not know the character of the treaty they had made and that it was "from beginning to end a fraud..."[iii]

            The U.S. Senate took the 1863 Treaty and amended it in New York so that more land could be alienated with the use of Halfbreed Scrip.  One of the so-called Red Lake Indian Chiefs who was taken East to agree to the April 12, 1864 Amendments died of the persuasion he was given there.  Rotgut whiskey was used by the U.S. Government as standard procedure to procure "agreement" to Indian treaties.  As the widow of another victim of deadly Eastern treaty persuasion said over the body of her husband, "I told you not to touch that thing [whiskey] which has killed so many of our people.  Had you paid attention to my warning you would not be where now you are."

            Bishop Whipple was at the 1864 Amendment meetings as unpaid counsel to those he called Indians.  He is quoted by a historian who knew him personally as saying he "might as well have whistled against the wind,"[iv] and later wrote that the role he played in Washington was "one of the severest personal conflicts" of his life.[v]

-- Wub-e-ke-niew

[i].National Archives, Microfilm Series 233, Roll 70, Indian Scouts, 1866-74.
[ii].William Watts Folwell, A History of Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society, Volume 4, pages 476-7, Op. cit.
[iii].Ibid, footnote number 41.
[iv].Folwell, page 477, Op. cit.
[v].Ibid, quoting a November 14, 1866 letter to Joel Bassett.

< HOME >
< NEXT >