Native American Heritage

We have taken occasion several times to speak freely and, as we think, impartially, of the contemplated removal of this aboriginal nation [Ojibwa/Chippewa]. In doing this, we have been impelled solely from sentiments of justice and humanity towards a people whose feeble voice is scarcely heard beyond their councils, whose grievances, unlike those of their pale-faced neighbors, seldom find utterance by the thousand-tongued heralds of the press. What we have or many say on this subject will not be likely to reach or influence in any manner either the Indians or the Government; but, when an act so manifestly unjust and uncalled for as this, is brought to our notice, it becomes a duty above all party or neutral considerations to direct public attention to it.

Petitions remonstrating against this removal; are being circulated for signatures around the lake [Superior], and they state the facts of the case so clearly and are so much to the point, that we make the following extract from one of them:

"We, Citizens of the United States, residing on the south coast of Lake Superior and connected with the mining operations of the country, having learned with deep regret of the intention of the Government to removal therefrom the Indians at present residing within the limits of the Territory, ceded by the Treaty of La Point, dated the 4th of October, 1842, would respectfully represent:

"That we unhesitatingly believe that such removal wholly uncalled for by any interest of the Government or people of the United States and that it would be in a high degrees prejudicial to the welfare of the Indians:

"That the small portion of country the Indians now occupy is mainly undesirable for agricultural purpose, and not demanded by any influx of white settlers: That if abandoned by the Indians it would for a long series of years remain almost wholly without inhabitants: That the most friendly feeling, strengthened by mutual kind offices, has at all times existed between the Indians and ourselves: That a removal would effectually arrest the rapid advances now making by many of them in the arts and habits of civilization, and would produce a bitter alienation from the Government and people of the United States, and possibly result in bloodshed."

Source: Editorial, Lake Superior Journal, June 6, 1850.

Lake Superior Journal

Excerpt from Voyage from Detroit to Michillimackinac 1721

June 20, 1850

In crossing Lake St. Claire, I had in my Canoe a young savage, strong and vigorous, and on the strength of whose arms I much depended, in granting him the passage, which he asked of me; but he gave me little assistance. In Recompense he diverted me much, till a storm, which rose over our heads, began to make me uneasy. This young man had been at his toilet before he embarked, and he did not give three strokes with his oar, but he took his looking glass to see if the motion of his arms had not disordered the dreaming of his hair; or if the scent had not altered the figures he had drawn on his face with red.

I know not whether he did not hope to arrive at the Village of Missisaguez before night, to be present at some feast, but we could not go so far. The storm began just as we got to an island at end of the traverse of the lake, and we were force to stay there. The young savage however did not appear to be much disconcerted at their disappointment, for these people are easily reconciled to ever accident: Perhaps also he intended to show himself to us in all his finery; but if this was his design he lost is labour, I had seen him a few days before in his natural appearance, and liked him much better than with this odd mixture of colours, which had cost him so much pains. We see few women paint their faces here, but the men, and especially the younger ones, are very curious in this ornament: There are some who employ half a day in painting themselves in this manner to go from door to door to be looked at, and who return mightily satisfied with themselves, though nobody ha said a word to them.

Excerpt from Voyage from Detroit to Michillimackinae 1721

Lake Superior Journal 1850

The Savages, by way of acknowledgement for the quantity of fish this lake affords them, and through the respect they are inspired with from its vast extent have made it a kind of deity, and offer sacrifices to it after their manner. But I think that it is not to the Lake itself, but to the Genius that presides over it, that they offer up their prayers: If we believe them, this Lake has a divine origin: ‘Twas Michabou, the god of the waters, who made it to take beavers. In the canal by which it discharges itself into Lake Huron, there is a torrent caused by some great rocks; our missionaries who once had here a very flourishing church called it the Fall of St. Mary. These rocks according to the tradition of the barbarians are the remains of a cansey or bank, which the god built to stop the waters of the rivers, and of the Lake Alimipegon, which have filled this Great Lake.

Copper Mines

Excerpt from Voyage from Detriot to Michillimackinae 1721

Lake Superior Journal 1820

On its borders, in some places, and about certain islands, they find great pieces of copper, which are also the object of the superstitious worship of the savages; they look upon them with veneration, as a present of the gods who live under the waters; they gather the smallest bits of it and preserve, them with care, but make no use of them. They say that formerly there was a great rock that stood high above the water all of the same matter; and as it does not appear at present, they say that the gods have carried it to another place; but it is very probable, that in length of time the waves of the lake have covered it with sand and mud; and it is certain there has been discovered in many places, a pretty large quantity of this metal, without being obliged to dig deep for it. At my first journey into this country, I knew one of our brethren, who was a goldsmith by trade, and who whilst he was in the Mission of St. Mary’s Fall, went thither to find copper, and had made candlesticks, crosses of it; for this copper is often almost entirely pure.

Excerpt from Voyage from Detroit to Michillimackinae 1721

Lake Superior Journal 1820

The Savages add, that when Michabou made the Upper Lake, he dwelt at Michillimackinac, where he was born; this Name is properly that of a little island, almost round, and very high, situated at the extremity of Lake Huron, and by custom it has given its name to all the neighboring country. The island may be about three or four miles round, and one may see it at the distance of twelve leagues. There are two islands to the south of it, the farthest of which is five or six leagues long, the other is very small, and quite round. They are both well wooded, and the lands are good; whereas that of Michillimackinac is only a barren rock, and scarely covered with a little moss and herbs. It is nevertheless one of the most celebrated places of Canada and was a long time, according to the ancient traditions of the savages, the chief abode of a nation of the same name, and of which they reclosed thirty villages in the environs of the island. They say, that the Iroquois destroyed them, but they do not say at what time, nor on what occasion. This is certain that there are no marks of them remaining. I have somewhere read, that our old missionaries have seen some remains of these people.

Removal of the Indians

Lake Superior Journal June 5, 1850

Great excitement and feeling are manifested among the Indians throughout the Chippewa county on the subject of this sudden order for the removal of their place of payment and, as a consequence, the removal of themselves, and whether the Governor will be able to pacify them and calm the angry storm that seems gathering, is a doubtful question.

The Chippewas are holding councils throughout the country on the subject, and none of the best feelings are manifested. And the bitter feeling, at this time, existing between their natural enemies, the Sioux … None have made so rapid and so much advancement in civilization as the natives of this region, and by another week we hope to have it in our power to lay before our readers a full description of their situation and present condition.

There will be a strong effort made by the Indians generally to have their place of payment located at Fond du Lac, if it must be removed form the present point; and may have taken a decided stand for this purpose; and it is barely possible that the commissioners, on the part of the Government, may conclude to locate it at that place for the present. Fond du Lac is central and convenient for the great majority of the Chippewas; and it is on their own land, on the little land they can call their own, and even their "Great Father," the President, until he has bought it of them, cannot remove them beyond this boundary.

At this point the Indian Territory commences, and it is claimed by them as right and just that they should receive their annuities at any place in their own Territory they may themselves designate. But as they are considered mere children, in all that relates to their government, it is not likely their voice will be listened to by their guardians, the United States, where it will come in conflict with the policy of a great nation. And still, as the government expects sooner or later to purchase the section of country to the north-west of Lake Superior, it may be thought expedient to conciliate the good will of these ancient people, until such a purchase has been made; and for this reason, if for no other, it may be thought expedient to go no farther, for the present, with the Indian payments, than the head of Lake Superior. In an economical point of view Fond du Lac is the best place they can go to. Besides being a central point, it is accessible by water to the most of the nation. The place itself is beautifully situated in a rich and healthy region, rich to them in game and fish, and on that account, a most desirable place of rendezvous. Going to or returning from "Payment" they would find a certain supply of food, a consideration of more importance that can be known to those unacquainted with their manner of life. The expense of transporting the Indian goods and supplies to Fond du Lac would be no more than it has been heretofore in taking them to La Pointe, the present Indian Agency, as it is but 80 miles beyond and as it is accessible by the largest class vessels without reshipment.

But should the place of payment be removed to Sandy Lake, as is proposed, the goods and supplies will have to be transported above the Falls of St. Antony, a distance of some 500 miles, in Fond du Lac by canoes to that place, a distance of 120 miles. The amount of goods and supplies of every description, taken annually up Lake Superior for making this payment, being the same hat must also be taken to the new Agency, has been about 200 tons or about 2000 barrels bulk. We are satisfied that this is too low an estimate, but it will give an idea of the great quantity of freight that will have to be boated up the Mississippi for 500 miles, where it can be boated, and carted through a perfectly wild country without, as yet, a single road, across the portages and around the countless rapids of that river. It is not possible to arrive at the exact cost of this tedious manner of transportation, but we venture to say that every barrel will cost the government at least ten dollars, not including the cost of transportation from New York to St. Antony’s Falls. There is a bad feature in the appearance of this business, that should be noted here; the very men who, it seems have brought about this removal, are also the very person who have secured the privilege of forwarding these Indian supplies and consequently the more it cost the better, and we learn form reliable authority, that the Agent of the Company, most interested in this speculation has been buying a very large number of ox and horse teams for the purpose of carting these supplies to the new place of payment. It would also appear that those interested had made a sure thing of it, for all this preparation is made before the Commissioners for this purpose have determined upon or at least made known the point at which the Indians are to be paid.

The plan of operations is doubtless complete-the Indian supplies will be boated, or carted, or packed into the interior via the Mississippi, at some rate or other; and the Indians themselves, who wish still to receive "their presents" from their "Great Father," may as well pack their traps and keep on their constant and never changing journey towards the setting sun.

The cost to the Government of this removal of the La Pointe Agency, the immense sacrifice of property attendant on it-the ruinous consequences to their improvement and civilization that must follow, the necessity or want of necessity for it, are considerations deserving more particular notice than we can give them at this time-we shall refer to them another week.

Lake Superior Journal 9-25-1850

We have frequently noticed in the Indian country the facility with which Indians built their bark lodges. Chancing, yesterday, to pass a place of encampment, we had a good opportunity of watching the whole process of building. As soon as a canoe landed the man, woman and children commenced unlading and carrying their "traps" to the place of encampment, the squaws having the privilege, as form time immemorial among them, of lugging all the heavy and burdensome articles.

The barks for the lodge consisting of spout a dozen pieces, of as many feet in length, and some four feet wide, rolled up like maps, were all taken by a squaw at one back load to the place selected. A dozen small poles, 10 or 15 feet in length, were taken from the bottom of the canoe and were planted in the ground in a circle of about 15 feet in diameter. The tops of those opposite were then bent over and tied with strings of bark, and over these light ribs were spread the sheets of birch bark and mats, with the exception of a small opening at the top for the escape of smoke—and the whole lodge was completed, being a perfect half sphere in shape.

Thus in the short space of half an hour from the time of landing, this aboriginal domicile was finished and its lazy proprietor was lounging and smoking on his mat, while his industrious help-mate was bestirring herself with the usual preparations for fire and cooking.