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
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.
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
"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
"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:
with an oration about the 'wickeness and perfidy of the Sioux,'
referring to the U.S.-Dakota
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
[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
| 84 half-breeds
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
"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
vestiges of credibility that the same person made both of the speeches
Ramsey attributed to Little Rock. A
Chippewa Indian would not have known (and they still don't know) enough
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
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
to Indians speaking on behalf of everybody--that these Indians would do
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
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
"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
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
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
page 47 - "[Conferene with the chiefs of the
Mississippi bands. October
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
eleven million acres. The people who
actually agreed to the land cessions and payment to the fur traders in
treaty were not Ahnishinahbæótjibway,
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
"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
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]
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,
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
not to touch that thing [whiskey] which has killed so many of our
people. Had you paid attention to my
would not be where now you are."
Whipple was at the 1864 Amendment meetings as unpaid counsel to those
Indians. He is quoted by a historian
who knew him personally as saying he "might as well have whistled
wrote that the role he played in Washington was "one of the severest
personal conflicts" of his life.[v]
Microfilm Series 233, Roll 70, Indian Scouts, 1866-74.
[ii].William Watts Folwell, A
History of Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society, Volume 4, pages
[iii].Ibid, footnote number 41.
[iv].Folwell, page 477, Op.
[v].Ibid, quoting a November 14,
1866 letter to Joel Bassett.