THE TREATY OF SAGINAW, 1819
INDIAN CESSION OF 1819, MADE BY THE TREATY OF SAGINAW
BY WILLIAM L. WEBBER
Before America was discovered by any Christian nation, so far as authentic history gives record, the doctrine was firmly settled among all Christian nations that no one had any title or right to life or property except under and in accordance with the regulations made by some Christian nation. So that, if it should happen that an adventurous spirit, or a band of adventurous spirits, should find some portion of the earth’s surface not before then discovered and taken possession of, under the authority of some Christian nation, the discoverers were at liberty to take possession of this territory thus discovered, and of all the uncivilized, savage and barbarous people over who they could acquire control, and make such disposition of the territory, and of the people found there, as might accord with the views of the sovereign under whose auspices the discovery was made. It was in accord with this well settled doctrine–well settled among those who settled it for themselves–that the king and queen of Spain, under date of April 30, 1492, gave to Christopher Columbus a commission “to discover and subdue some islands and continent in the ocean,” and which commission, by its terms, conferred upon Columbus the power of absolute control over the country and the people discovered, subject only to the king and queen of Spain. The other Christian nations gave like commissions and authority, and under such commissions, or charters, the various portions of the continent were discovered, and the power to govern them and their people, when discovered, conferred. It does not seem to have occurred to any of those Christian nations, that the people inhabiting the territory for unnumbered generations should be consulted or that they had any rights, which the powers issuing those commissions, were bound to respect. The fact that with these commissions were sent out skilled warriors, armed with weapons against which the savages could not for a moment stand, was sufficient to ensure the success of the white man’s claim, and so sure was the white man that he had the approval of divine providence, that among the early settlers of Massachusetts they made record, as a cause of congratulation and a mark of special divine guidance and over-sight that the Almighty had, shortly before, sent a pestilence which practically exterminated some of the Indian tribes, so as to leave the country free for the occupancy of the white man.
The only disputes arising concerning the occupancy of the country were between different Christian nations, but as the facilities for discovering and conquering far distant lands were limited, these disputes seem to have been settled harmoniously–that is, each recognized the right of the other to the possession of the territory first discovered, so that the discovery was made effectual by continued occupancy.
While the territory northwest of the river Ohio was yet covered with native Indian tribes, with no communication from one part thereof to another, except by an occasional missionary or by the Indian runner, the war of the revolution was fought. In that war the English represented the established government, and the Indians naturally took part with the established government, as against its enemies.
When the treaty of 1783 was made, by which Great Britain recognized the United States of America as an independent nation, and provided for a surrender to it of claims to territory, as agreed upon, it was but natural that the Indians should ally themselves to the British, and that they should fail to recognize the United States as a government having the right of control, so far as white men could have that right, over the territory of the Indian. Indian affairs were very much unsettled, and what were termed Indian outrages, were frequent. Perhaps it would be only fair to assume that the Indian considered that he was upon his own territory, and that he was only defending his own lands against forcible occupancy by those who were regarded by him as hostile. But the United States held to substantially the same views as the Christian nations of Europe had before them entertained and enforced-that the Indian has no right except such as the white man sees fit to recognize, and if the white man sees fit to treat with the Indian, he will do it only, as being an easier method of obtaining undisturbed possession, than to proceed to a war of extermination.
General Anthony Wayne, having made a successful campaign against the Indians, and punished them to such an extent as to lead the Indians to recognize the United States as a proper authority to treat with, a treaty was made, dated August 3, 1795, between Anthony Wayne, representing the United States, and the following tribes of Indians, to whit: The Wyandottes, Delawares, Shawanoes, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawatamies, Miames, Eel River, Wecas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws and Kaskaskias. This treaty was made at Greenville, in Ohio, then the head-quarters of the army, and was a general treaty of peace. I*t was agreed that the Indians should surrender their prisoners to the headquarters of the army, and should leave hostages to secure the performance of their promises. By this treaty the Indians recognized the title of the United States to those lands lying east and south of a line which commenced on the south shore of Lake Erie, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River and running thence southerly and westerly to a point on the Ohio River about half way between Cincinnati and Louisville. It will be remembered that it was not quite one hundred years ago when this treaty was made. I understand preparations are being made to celebrate the centennial anniversary of this treaty on the third day of August next, at Greenville, in Ohio, and it will be a memorable celebration. Consider where Greenville is located. Consider where this line from the mouth of the Cuyahoga to a point on the Ohio River, fifty miles above Louisville or thereabouts, is drawn, and then think of the great Northwest from that line-all a wilderness. This treaty recognized the right of the Indians to all this great Northwest as still continuing, except so far as some small parcels might have been selected out as the sites for forts or military settlements. From time to time, as the whites pressed more and more into the wilderness, new treaties were made, and the Indians were called upon to relinquish additional portions of their territory.
It was not until the treaty of November 17, 1807, made by William Hull, governor of the Territory of Michigan, for the United States on the one part, and the Ottawas, Chippewas, Wyandottes and Pottawatamies, on the other, that any considerable portion of the Territory of Michigan was ceded to the United States, and thus the Indian title extinguished. By this treaty, so much of what is now Michigan as lies north of the Maumee River up to the mouth of what was then called the Great Auglaise River, thence running due north upon what was afterwards adopted as the Meridian line in Michigan, to a point about the North line of Township seven north, thence running in a northeasterly direction to White Rock, at the southeast corner of Huron County, on Lake Huron, and thence to the center of the lake, and so down the lake to a point opposite the place of beginning, was cided to the United States, but all the remainder of Michigan, with the exception of a small parcel at Mackinaw, and one or two other places for military posts, still belonged to the Indians.
The Government, by treating with the Indians and taking from them a cession, recognized the Indian’s right, so that we may fairly say the Indian had a right to assume that the United States recognized him as the owner of this land until he had parted with the title.
When the war of 1812 broke out the Indians of the Northwest, as was natural, again allied themselves to the British. Through the fur traders, the attachment of the Indians to the English, and through the system of making presents, which had been pursued in the interest of the fur trade, this alliance was strengthened.
At the close of the war of 1812 a second treaty was made at Greenville between General Harrison and General Cass acting for the United States, and the Wyandottes, Delawares, Shawanoes, Senecas and Miames, of the Indians. This, it may be observed, does not include the Pottawatamies, the Ottawas, nor the Chippewas. By this treaty of 1814 there was no Land cession; it is merely a treaty of peace, by which the United States agrees to give peace to the Indians, and the Indians, thereafter, agree to fight for the United States against Great Britain. By a subsequent treaty, made between Lewis Cass and Duncan McArthur as Commissioners, dated September 29, 1817, the Wyandottes, Senecas, Shawanoes, Pottawatamies, Ottawas and Chippewas of the Indians, a cession of land was made to the United States. The greater part of this cession, however, is outside the State of Michigan, the only cession in Michigan made by this treaty, is so much as now constitutes the southern three-fourths of Hillsdale county.
By a treaty made October 2, 1818, the Indians relinquished their title to the State of Indiana.
White settlements were crowding into the Indian territory to such an extent that it was desirable that there should be a still further cession of land by the Indians, in Michigan, and to that end negotiations were set on foot, and as had been usual in these cases, and as had been usual ever since, in like cases, influences were set at work among the Indian traders and among the Indian Agents, to secure the consent of the Indians to this cession. There had been arrangements under previous treaties by which certain annuities were to be paid to the Indians, and it seems that through financial difficulties the Government had been remise in the payment of these annuities. John C. Calhoun was then Secretary of War, and Lewis Cass, the Commissioner, resident at Detroit. On September 11, 1819, General Cass writes to the Secretary of War: “I shall leave here on Monday next to meet the Indians at Saginaw, and endeavor, agreeable to your instructions, to procure a cession of that valuable territory. It would be hopeless to expect a favorable result to the proposed treaty, unless the annuities previously due are discharged. Under those circumstances I have felt myself embarrassed and no course has been left me but to procure the amount of the Chippewas annuity upon my private responsibility. By the liberal conduct of the Directors of the bank at this place I have succeeded in procuring that annuity in silver, and shall thus be able to comply with past engagements before I call upon the Indians to perform others. I trust the receipt of a draft will soon relieve me from the situation in which I am placed, and enable me to perform my promise to the bank.”
Before General Cass came to Saginaw, he sent others. There was an Indian trader located where the city of Flint now stands, named Jacob Smith. Mr. Joseph Campau, of Detroit was an Indian trader, and he had in his employ Mr. Louis Campau, until lately a resident of Grand Rapids, as Indian trader. Louis Campau had been trading at Saginaw. The Indian chiefs moved about from time to time, and frequently visited Detroit, where their minds could be prepared for this coming request.
In a trial which was had at Saginaw in 1860, in a case between George M Dewey and Rufus J. Hamilton as plaintiffs, and Joseph Campau and Alexander McFarlan as defendants, there were examined many witnesses-all, in fact, whether Indian, half-breed or French, who could be found anywhere in the country then living, who were present at the treaty of Saginaw, to settle a question in dispute as to the identity of a reserve in the treaty, called Taw-cum-e-go-qua. This trial continued some two weeks before a jury, and very many interesting incidents connected with the treaty and illustrative of the habits and manners of the Indians, and of the habits and manners of those who, by dealing between the Indians and the white men, sought to make profit out of both, were developed.
The writer was one of the counsel employed in this case, and the following statements from the testimony of witnesses is taken from his own notes, kept by him, during the trial. The testimony of the Indians was given through sworn interpreters. Mr. Campau testified in English. I give these extracts from the testimony at considerable length as matter having historical value. In this connection I desire to say that the secretaries who acted at the making of the treaty do not appear to have taken much pains to make the spelling of the Indian names correspond with the sound, in fact these names were all written by the secretaries, and the Indians touched the pen, and the cross followed the name. To illustrate what I say about Indian names: “Neome” is not found as signed to the treaty, and yet he was one of the principal chiefs; but we find “Reaume” signed to the treaty, doubtless intended for “Neome.” So of “Okemos,” in the treaty it is written “Okemans,” and “Kishokah-ko” is written “Kish-kau-kou.” The treaty was signed with 114 Indian names, being the chiefs and warriors of the tribe. I now give extracts from the testimony, as follows:
Kaw-ga-ge-zhic said: I was at the treaty with Gen. Cass. I was then a chief. Perhaps Neome told them to put my name down. I remember having touched a pen. I then lived far up above Mus-ca-da-wain. I then knew Neome; he was my older brother; I knew his children. They all had their families at the treaty; they brought them to have a reserve made for them. I heard, while at the treaty, that lands were reserved for Neome’s children. I heard Neome say, at the Council, to Gen. Cass, “Deny me not; grant my request that a reserve be made for my children.” The children were present at the time; the children’s mother brought them in; their father was also present; the children were brought before Cass. Their names were given. I do not know how many times the Indians met Gen. Cass in the big wigwam, but it was very often. The Indians were in groups talking together. The principal orator of the treaty was Neome. I only heard him speak once. I did not hear Kish-kah-ko went, in the night, to the tent, without the knowledge of the other Indians, to cede the land. Jacob Smith interpreted for Neome; and a good many others also acted. I knew Peter Riley and John Riley-they were half-breeds. There were about six sections of land reserved at Pe-wa-na-go-wink a long time ago.
Q. Who married her?
A. Nobody but Mixe-ne-ne- (her father). I do not know whether Mixe-ne-ne was a magistrate; he was not a priest. When Mix-e-ne-ne, Tone-an-dog-a-ne and Neome went into Gen. Cass’s room and talked with him, they each stated to Smith what they wanted, and Smith interpreted it to Gen. Cass. The usual mode of marrying among the Indians was that the parties consented, then they went to love together as husband and wife.
George Wain-je-ge-zhie said: I live in Isabella; I formerly lived at Nippissing. I remember the treaty made at this place by Gen. Cass. I was then about ten or twelve years old, about five feet high-nearly a man grown up. I knew Neome and Mix-e-ne-ne and other chiefs; knew their children. I knew Taw-cum-e-go-qua. Neome said, “Idesire you that these, my children, may have land.” He spoke to Gen. Cass. The children were then there at that time. I think I am now fifty years old. I remember there was a great reserve made at Mus-ca-da-wain for the children, and one at Pe-wa-na-go-wink for the band. The treaty lasted a long time; maybe ten days or more. The Indians went into the big wigwam, I don’t know how many times, and met Gen. Cass. I don’t know the name of the principal orator at the treaty. I don’t know how old I am; at the treaty I was about as high as I am now to where my chin is. I reckon my age by so many springs of the year. I do not know how old my oldest child is; I have grandchildren grown up; the oldest one is four or five feet high.
Sa-gos-a-qua said: My full name is Sa-gos-a-qua; my father was Neome. I remember the treaty with Gen. Cass at this place. My father then lived at Pe-wa-na-go-wink. I had a sister Ah-won-non-o-guod-a-qua; I had a brother O-jib-wock. Knew Mix-e-ne-ne. He had a child, Taw-cum-e-go-qua. My sister was larger than I; she had a child before the treaty. My self and Taw-cum-e-go-qua were here at the treaty. While at the treaty I heard Neome speak about getting land for myself and my sister and Taw-cum-e-go-qua; this was at the Council Room where General Cass was. My father was talking to General Cass. I heard Neome say to General Cass, “ I reserve these lands for my children at Mus-ca-da-wain.” We then stood by the side of our father, and Gen. Cass was very near us. I was about three feet high at the treaty, perhaps ten years old, but think I was older than Taw-cum-e-go-qua; I was a little taller than she. Neome Neome said, “Ireserve these lands for my children.” There was lands reserved for Neome’s people also at Pe-wa-na-go-wink. Cannot tell anything else. O-non-gush-ka-wa said: I was at the treaty. I was a boy large enough to hunt some. I knew Neome; he was the chief of our band; knew the other chiefs; knew their children; they had their families at the treaty. At the treaty I was told that Taw-cum-e-go-qua would have land. I heard Neome say so in the Council room where Gen. Cass was. It was under a shelter made of boards where the Council was held. I had no particular business at the treaty; my mother requested me to be present to hear what was going on.
Okemos was a witness. He said: I am 76 years old; have lived in Michigan 48 years; I knew Gen. Cass well. I was at the treaty of 1819. I was at that time a chief of a certain band among the Ottawa tribe-apart of the band I was chief over were Chippewas. The treaty was signed at Saginaw, on the west side of the river, back of Mr. Campau’s house, in a long shed. I signed the treaty as one of the Chippewa chiefs. At the time I signed the treaty my residence was at a place about six miles above Lansing, on the Red Cedar River. I was born in Michigan, near Pontiac, on an island in a lake. From that time to the time of the treaty I lived at Okemos City, near Lansing. I was 30 years old when I left the palce where I was born. Min-e-to-gob-o-way, my mother’s father, and Kob-ko-no-ka, my uncle, were my chiefs. The first named was a Chippewa Indian and the last named an Ottawa. They were no connection to each other. I was first a chief when I was 20 years old, and was about 50 at the time of the treaty. I knew Kaw-ga-ge-zich; he was at the treaty. He lived about six miles from the present village of Flint, at Tobosh’s trading house; he was a chief at that time. I know Noc-chic-o-me; he is acting as chief now; he is down the Saginaw River; he had two children at the time of the treaty, and lived at that time at the Big Rock, on the Shiawassee, called Chesaning.
Ka-zhe-o-be-on-no-qua said: My husband’s name is Antoine Peltie; I live at O-pin-con-ning; my husband is a Frenchman; I do not understand much French; my first husband’s name was Archie Lyon; I am a half-breed; I do not know my age for certain, think it is 67 years; I was present at the treaty. I was present the day the treaty ended. They were writing, but they would not tell me what they were writing about. This was in the Council room, put up with branches and forks, with a table in the center, where they took a vote about agreeing to the treaty. I have been to Malden for presents. At the time of the treaty I was about 17 years of age. I belonged to Kish-kah-ko’s band; I was born here. The treaty lasted nearly a month; they met very often, not all day, sometimes only in the morning; it is so long a time ago that I cannot tell how many times they met; it was nearly every day; Neome was there all the time; it lasted longer than ten days. Wah-ba-zence (Jacob Smith) had a tent and saw each other every day; he took not much part, he was not a great favorite with the Indians. I knew Neome’s children at that time. Mix-e-ne-ne had one girl at that time, her name was Taw-cum-e-go-qua; her name was mentioned when Wah-ba-zence had her in the Council to get land; people were writing at the same time. I saw Neome there, and Mix-e-ne-ne there, but not with his girl. Smith took her there. They put some new clothes on her, yet she showed in herself that she was full-blooded; she had calico for skirts, a long dress and pantalets, and smoked skin for moccasins. Neome’s children were dressed the same way, and Smith took the whole of them forward to Gen. Cass and tried to get land for them and the boy; and the boy was taken forward, and Smith said this is my boy.
Noc-chic-o-me said: I live at Bah-wa-a-gin-ing. I am chief. I was at the treaty; I was a man grown. Mix-e-ne-ne and Neome and their families were there. Neome was then chief. (Witness then gives the names of their children and grandchildren). I heard at the treaty that these children would have grants of land. I heard the Indian chiefs speak of it. It was in the place where the Council was being held, not far from where the large building (Court House) now is. There were individuals reserves made at the treaty. There was one for John Riley near the mouth of the river, and one for Peter just below here on this side of the river, and one for James Riley on the other side of the river. There was another for Kaw-akw-ish-ko, the Crow, opposite the Island in the river below here. There were also some reserves at Flint River for the children I have spoken of. Gen. Cass was in the Council room when they were talking about giving lands to these children. Kish-kah-ko was present and other chiefs. When the children were brought forward by Neome before Gen. Cass, and he asked land for them, Neome talked and the other chiefs consented that these children should have land. I knew the children after the treaty, as they come up, Taw-cum-e-go-qua and the others. I am 60 years old. At the time of the treaty I think I was 20 years old. I came to the treaty because I was invited by the Indians to come with them. At that time Taw-cum–go-qua was about three feet high; she was old enough to run about; she was taken by the hand and brought to where Gen. Cass was. The Indians met Gen. Cass in the big wigwam every day, and Cass met them there. Cass wanted to talk with them about the surrender of their lands, and they were met ten times or more; they were a long time at it. Neome had a reserve made at Pe-wa-na-go-wink. I did not see Gen. Cass put his hand on the heads of the children; they sat on the other side of the table, by Neome. I was not then a chief, I took no part in the treaty; I was there to see and to hear. There were half-breeds there. John, James and peter Riley were half-breeds. Do not know of any others that got land. There were many half-breeds there, and some of them were desirous of getting land, but I did not hear of their getting any.
Louis Campau: I live at Grand Rapids, am 68 years old last August. I remember the treaty 1819. I then reside here. I had then resided here four years before the treaty. I was trading with the Indians. Joseph, one of the defendants, is my uncle. I had a trading house; this was opposite the lower end of the bayou; the house now there I built in 1822; it was farther up that my store was. I was at the treaty. I was then acquainted at Detroit, and about there. I used to spend summer in Detroit and winters here. I was here at the treaty. There was old Mr. Riley, Conner, Beaufait, Knaggs, Godfrey, Whipple, Visger, Forsyth, Tucker, Hersey, and a half-bread named Walker, brought from Mon-a-qua-gon. I have seen the treaty and know the witnesses without looking at the treaty book. If any of those are alive it must be Mr. Hersey; I heard this summer that he was alive; I saw him in 1836 in Chicago; we traded then together; think he is the only one living. I was requested by Cass to come on ahead and make suitable provisions for a store-house and dining room and Council room, etc. The most of the business was at Gen. Cass’s office, going in and going out. There was a long table in the dining room, and the private council as held there-the office and the dining room were separated only by a store-house. There were four log buildings all together end to end. These were six to eight rods from the room where the grand Council room was. I think Cass arrived in the afternoon, and sent his agents for the Indians to gather next morning at ten o’clock; this was after all the departments had got here-all the principal officers had go here. The next morning they met at the Council house. The first council was to let them know that he was sent by the great father to make a treaty with them, that he wanted to buy their lands, stating the points, and for them to go back and smoke and think about it; they then worked at private business for three or four days, when he called them together again. After he had got the will of the principal chiefs there was much trouble to get the consent of all. At the second Council there was great difficulty, hard words; they threatened General Cass among the rest.
The object of the Council after they had consented to treat, was to state the terms on which he was authorized to treat. From the second to the third Council was five or six days. They stayed nine or ten days in all. The last Council was to read the treaty to them, it was read and interpreted to them. Harry Connor was the interpreter. I was present at the last Council; went in the morning, and did not leave until they all left. I cannot tell everything that was done there for it is impossible to recollect them all. Tribal reservations were first made. Gen. Cass sat at the northeast corner of the shanty, the table was next to him, then a row of logs, and beyond that the Indians-women, children and all. Then after the reservations for the tribes were made, the reservations were made for the half-breeds-first the Riley, then a Campau, and then mentioned Mrs. Coutant; she was right opposite Gen. Cass, and Conner, when reading the treaty, pointed her to the Indians as their relative, and when her name was said they responded as though pleased. After the treaty was read and approved by the Indians and signed by them, which was as soon as read, Gen. Cass ordered the money to be brought to the table; it was all in half dollars-for the payment. After the treaty was made, it was sundown, and the Indians all got drunk, and nothing could be said by anyone, and Gen. Cass gave the order to be off. The Crow was a good looking young fellow-looked like a half-breed; he had a little log house, a store-house and a hen house, and tried to imitate the whites as much as he could in cooking, etc. He had a tent he made himself. I knew LaParle, he was my hired man; he came around by water in my boat. I know every one of the Riley boys; Peter was not here, John and James were; Jim was my clerk, and remained such until he was killed. I left here in the spring of 1826, and have lived at the Rapids ever since; the Riley I spoke of was the father of the three boys. I traded here till 1826; I knew Neome and his band after the treaty; knew him well; he traded with me as long as I sold here; knew Neome before the treaty from the time I came here in the spring of 1815; knew his hunters; he never had any children that I knew of; I paid no attention to any of them unless they were able to trade with me. Neome was very ignorant, but he was very good, honest and knid. I knew Ton-dog-a-ne well, as well as I did Neome; he was the second chiel of Neome at the time, and afterwards head chief. I knew all the head men of the band who was a hunter; heard them after the treaty converse about the treaty, and Mix-e-ne-ne; also he used to trouble me. I understood the Chippewa language at that time; I was brought up with them from the time I was seven years old. I was 68 last August; I never was in the office; I was in the Council room from the morning till the evening, and this is a statement of the facts as they took place before my eyes, as I saw them after the treaty was signed, and the goods and money distributed, and the I ndians were all drunk. Cass and his party left before daylight next morning; the troops at about ten o’clock. The whole talk was previous to the day of the treaty. On the day of the treaty my attention was all taken up with my own business; I saw them when they left the day of the treaty and after that I had no talk with anybody; all that I have said was done before the last day of the treaty. I was a clerk of Joseph Campau before the war. My memory is very good on this subject. I think it has failed me much in many things. At the time of the treaty there was no Flint Village where Flint now is; where Neome lived was called Neome’s Village. Where Flint now is was called Mus-ca-da-wain. The English called it Grand Traverse. Neome was a short, thick man, a little stooped at the time of the treaty; he must have been from forty-five to fifty-five years old. When we spoke of Flint Village in the early times we meant what the French called Lapeer. Don’t know that Capt. Marsac was at the treaty or acted as interpreter; I know his brother and his father; his father’s name was Francis Marsac; I was here when Cass arrived; I was here five or six days when he got here; do not recollect of Marsac being with me any part of the way. Col. Beaufait started to come with me and came to near Royal Oak; do not recollect of Marsac being with me. There were none of my buildings of mine here. The Government had a number of men here to influence the Indians outside, but they were not sworn as interpreters.
Nau-gun-nee said: I now live in Isabella; before lived in Nippising. Before I lived in Nippising I lived on the Shiawassee River. I remember the treaty made with Gen. Cass. The treaty was made just below this place.* There were no houses there at that time. I was present at the treaty. Neome was my Chief; his band lived at Pe-wa-na-go-wink, on the Flint river. There were other chiefs and head men in Neome’s band. I knew Mix-a-ne-ne. They were at the treaty. There were four chiefs at that time; Neome and Pe-na-ze-ge-we-zhic were present at that treaty. There were no principal men of the band at that time; all moved like one mass with their chiefs. There were many present at the treaty-I cannot remember all their names. All those I have mentioned were at the treaty, and others with them: they all came with their families-there was no one left at home. Neome’s family consisted of four persons. At the time of the treaty Mix-a-ne-ne had two children-Taw-cum-e-go-qua and Nah-tun-e-ge-zhic. At the time of the treaty Taw-cum-e-go-qua was about four feet high. Neome was my grandfather. I heard at the treaty who got land-that Taw-cum-e-go-qua and others got land. The Indians did not know what to do in the case. Just before the treaty was concluded Jacob Smith came one night to Neome and suggested that a reservation should be made to the children, and gave four names, of which Taw-cum-e-go-qua was one. After that suggestion was accepted by Gen. Cass, he suggested that the children should be brought forward to whom land was reserved that he should see them. The crowd made room for the children to come in, and the children came forward and their names were taken; the names were given in and Neome and Jacob Smith stood together and gave in Ah-won-non-wa-to-qua, Taw-cum-e-go-qua and the others. While Neome was here I did not lodge in the same tent, but the tent I was in was close to Neome’s. While Smith and Neome were talking in the evening or in the night at Neome’s tent, Smith said to Neome it will be difficult to secure any place or future home for you children, and Neome said “I know not what to do in the case,” and Neome requested Smith to assist him in trying to get a reservation for his children, and Smith agreed. Smith said that reservation had been made for the band generally, and it would be better for him to get a special reservation for his children. When the children came into the council room I was standing side of Neome; Gen. Cass was near by; I stood so near Neome because I had by past experience learned that the white man generally takes away what he bought of the Indians, and I was anxious to see what this would lead to of this treaty, and I thought it might be possible if this land were sold to the white man that he would take away the country, or that the Indians would be driven away from the country; I did not know how the white man sold ground or land, and I had a curiosity to see. I also stood by him for I was afraid and wanted to see what was done. After the treaty Taw-cum-e-go-qua lived at Pe-wa-na-go-wink, and at Flint, where the village now is. I knew her husband; they had children; their oldest boy was called in English, “James Nicholson;” have known him since I was a little boy. Taw-cum-e-go-qua and her husband were married and lived together till she died. I am fifty-four years old; I can’t tell how high I was a the time of the treaty; I was large enough to catch fish along the river. The Indians had assembled here a long time before Gen. Cass came to hold the treaty. As soon as he came and the council commenced I was into the Council all the time. Gen. Cass sat at one end of the Council room. We camped all around here. Gen. Cass put his hands on the heads of the children when they were presented to him. They were before him just long enough to take down their names. Mix-ane-ne was my uncle; Neome was my grandfater. My father had five brothers. We-ba-zince (the Indian name for Jacob Smith) was a man who had no particular occupation at the treaty; he had been an Indian Trader, but was not trading at the treaty. He then lived at Detroit. He resided at Flint, on both sides, and finally located himself in trading on this side of Flint River, at Flint. Wa-ba-zince was very friendly with Neome. The treaty took a long time because the Indians were unwilling to cede their lands; it was many days; do not know how many times the Indians met Gen. Cass in the big wigwam-a good many times. White man always persevering to accomplish his object. There were more than ten meetings; they were summoned by Gen. Cass to talk about the surrender of their land the first tie; then the second time for the same purpose, and the third and fourth, and the fifth and sixth, and so, ten times or more-all being for the same object.
This treaty was signed on the 24th of September, 1819. Gen. Cass reached Detroit and made report to the Secretary of War under date of September 30, 1819, in which he transmitted the treaty which he had made. He says in this letter of transmittal, among other things:
The boundaries of the tract ceded may be easily traced upon any good map of the United States; but, owing to our ignorance of the topography of the interior of this territory, it may be eventually found, when the lines are run, that the southeastern** corner of the tract ceded is in the possession of the Grand River Indians; if so, there will be no difficulty, and very little expense in quieting their claims.
That portion of the Chippewa Indians which owned this land have not made the necessary advances in civilization to appreciate the importance of education for their youth. It was, therefore, hopeless to expect from them any reservation for this object, or to offer it as an inducement for a cession of their country. Some consideration more obvious in its effects, and more congenial to their habits, was necessary to insure a successful termination to the negotiation.
In acceding to the propositions which they made upon this subject, I endeavored to give such form to the stipulations on the part of the United States, for the payment of annuities, as would be permanently useful, and, at the same time, satisfactory to them.
Their own wishes unquestionably were, that the whole sum stipulated to be annually paid to them should be paid in specie. With the habitual improvidence of sages, they were anxious to receive what they could speedily dissipate in childish and useless purchases, at the expense of stipulations which would be permanently useful to them.
The opinions advanced in your letter of instructions of March 27, 1819, respecting the injurious tendency of large annuities to the Indians are correct; and the effect of these annuities upon the Indians is stated with as much precision as they could be were they the result of daily intercourse with these unfortunate people.
Viewing the subject in this manner, I finally concluded to admit a stipulation conformable to their wishes, for an annuity of $1,000, but to secure the payment of whatever additional sum the Government of the United States might think they ought to receive, in such manner as would be most useful to them.
A stipulation, therefore, was inserted that the United States should provide and support a blacksmith for them, and should furnish them with cattle, farming utensils, and persons to aid them in their agriculture.
The amount which shall be expended for those objects by the United States, the term during which this expense shall continue, and the mode in which it shall be applied, are left discretionary with the President.
In taking this course, I was influenced by the consideration that the negotiator of an Indian treaty is not always the best judge of the value of the purchase or of the amount which should be paid for it. Sometimes too much has been allowed, and at other times too little. He is not sent upon such a negotiation to ascertain the lowest possible sum for which the miserable remnant of those who once occupied our country are willing to treat, and to seize with avidity the occasion to purchase. Certain I am that both you and the President would censure me and justly, too, were I governed in my intercourse with the Indians by such principles. The great moral debt which we owe the can only be discharged by patient forbearance and a rigid adherence to that system of improvement which we have adopted, and the effects of which are already felt in this quarter.
It is due to the Indians and myself to say that the sum which it was expected by us would be expended for the objects which I have mentioned is from $1,500 to $2,500 annually. But they distinctly understand that the amount of this expenditure is entirely discretionary with the President. Of course the Government can now apply such a sum to these objects as the value of the cession and the wants and population of the Indians may justify. Although I am firmly persuaded that it would be better for us and for these Indians that they should migrate to the country west of the Mississippi, or, at any rate, west of Lake Michigan, yet it was impossible to give effect to that part of your instructions which relates to this subject without hazarding the success of the negotiation. An indisposition to abandon the country so long occupied by their tribe, an hereditary enmity to many of the western Indians, and a suspicion of our motives are the prominent causes which for the present, defeat this plan. When they are surrounded by our settlements, and brought into contract with our people, they will be more disposed to migrate.
In the meantime, we may teach them those useful arts which are connected with agriculture, and which will prepare them, by gradual progress, for the reception of such institutions as may be fitted for their character, customs and situation.
Reservations have been made for them to occupy; and I indulge the hope that they will appreciate the advantages which are now offered to them, and will aid, by their own efforts, the plans of improvement which have been adopted by the Government. Reservations have also been made for a few half-breeds. It was absolutely necessary to our success that these should be admitted into the treaty. Being only reservations, and the fee of the land remaining in the United States, I trust that it will not be thought improper that I admitted them.
Gen. Cass then proceeds in his report to speak of a supplemental article involving additional private grants which was acceded to by him at the treaty, but with the understanding that unless it should be approved by the President and the Senate the same might be annulled without prejudice to the treaty, at large. Pursuant to this authority the President and Senate annulled this supplemental article.
There were tribal reservations in this treaty in various locations, in some cases as small as 640 acres, and the highest running up to 40,000 acres in one tract, the whole aggregating more than 100,000 acres of land, where the Indians could have their villages and make their homes, until such time, as by subsequent treaty, these should be relinquished. They wee, in the main, relinquished by a treaty made in 1837, negotiated by Henry R Schoolcraft.
In the accounts which were rendered by Gen. Cass of his expenditures connected with the treaty at Saginaw we find one item for money disbursed by him in the purchase and distribution of provisions and expenses for persons to and from Saginaw, and for various presents, etc., to the Indians at the treaty ground and subsequently in consequence of promises made to them at the treaty, and the consequent expense going to and coming from the treaty, $6,406.77.
In another item it seems that he disbursed to Jacob Smith for his services and for the use of buildings at the Saginaw treaty, $104.00; also that he paid Jacob Smith for services during the summer in relation to the treaty at Saginaw, $500.00, and that he paid Henry Connor, also an Indian interpreter, the sum of $80.00. It also appears that he paid Mr. Louis Campau the sum of $1,046.50 for many small items which seem to have been presented to the Indians-spades, shovels, scythes, rings, calico, tobacco, canoes, mats, cotton cloth and one gun delivered to an Indian and sundry other articles. To J. And A. Wendell, who were Indian traders, was paid the sum for $998.03 ½ for various purchases-crosses, camp-blankets, handkerchiefs, etc., given to the Indians. He paid Joseph F. Marsac, whom many of the old settlers will remember as so long a resident at Lower Saginaw, $61.00 for his services as interpreter at the Saginaw treaty-sixty one days at $1.00 per day. He paid to John Riley for his service as interpreter, $244.00, and Peter Riley $300.00.
It will be remembered that John and James and Peter Riley were three of the half-breeds who received special reservations of land at the treaty. There were many other disbursements, all of which demonstrates clearly the methods that were used to operate upon the minds of the Indians to secure their assent to the treaty.
The land which was embraced in this treaty of 1819, was about six millions of acres. Take a map of Michigan, find White Rock, on the shore of Lake Huron, at the southeast corner of Huron County, trace a line thence southwest to where the North side of Township seven north intersects the meridian line, thence south to a point six miles south and twelve miles west of the northeast corner of Jackson County, thence run west about sixty miles to a point in Kalamazoo county, about four miles north from where the city of Kalamazoo now is located, thence run a little east of north to a point in Montmorence County, near the headwater of Thunder Bay River, thence down the river to Alpena on the shore of Lake Huron, thence southeasterly in Lake Huron to the boundary line, and thence down the boundary line opposite the point of commencement, and you will have its boundary.
It is difficult to imagine that the entire Saginaw Valley, with the present site of the city of Lansing, and all other towns and cities were, until 1819, the property of the Indians, with no right, on the part of the white man, to settle within it. Where the city of Grand Rapids now stands, and all the territory south of the Grand River, and west of the line fixed by the treaty of 1819, was ceded by the Indians by a treaty negotiated by Gen. Cass in 1821, and north of Grand River, including the site of the city of Muskegon, Ludington and Manistee, and all up the west shore, and around by the way of Old Mackinaw to Alpena, except a small site at Old Mackinaw ceded as a military post at an early date, was the property of the Indians until 1836.
It was in 1831 that the French Philosopher, De Tocqueville, visited the Saginaw Valley. He was told by Major Biddle, the Register of the Land Office, at Detroit, that he should not think of looking in that direction; he said, “Toward the northwest is the point where the current of immigration has least tended. About Pontiac and its neighborhood some pretty fair establishments have lately been commenced. But you must not think of fixing yourself further off; the country is covered by an almost impenetrable forest, which extends uninterruptedly towards the northwest, full of nothing but wild beasts and Indians. The United States proposes to open a way through it immediately, but the road is only just begun, and stops at Pontiac. I repeat, that there is nothing to be thought of in that quarter.”
DeTocqueville came, for he wanted to see nature in its primitave state; be crossed the Saginaw River, and landed at what is now the west bank of the river, in fact his landing was within a few rods of the rite where the treaty held with Gen. Cass was signed, which was near where the present Court House stands, a little south and a little east, say about the junction of Hamilton street with Cass street. Concerning Saginaw, DeTocqueville, writing in 1831 says:
“ In a few years these impenetrable forests will have fallen; the sons of civilization and industry will break the silence of the Saginaw; its echoes will cease; the banks will be imprisoned y quays; its current, which now flows on unnoticed and tranquil through a nameless waste, will be stemmed by the prows of vessels. More than a hundred miles sever the solitude from the great European settlements, and we are, perhaps, the last travelers allowed to see its primitive grandeur.”
A few years later and Henry R. Schoolcraft, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, visited Grand Rapids in June, 1838. He proceeded from Detroit to Grand Rapids by going by steamer to Mackinaw and thence to Chicago, and there he found a schooner for Grand River, where he had to wait some days for a conveyance to Grand Rapids, which, he say in his diary, gave him time to ramble about the neighborhood and to pick early spring flowers in the valley. He then took the Washtenong, a small stern-wheel steamer, and by it was carried up to Grand Rapids, stopping by the way to land an emigrant English family from Canada, who had a log house in the woods for their occupancy. On reaching Grand Rapids he was invited by Mr. Louis Campau, the proprietor of the village, to take lodging with him. Concering Grand Rapids, he says: “The fall of Grand River here creates an ample water power; the surrounding country is one of the most beautiful and fertile imaginable, and its rise to wealth and prosperousness must be a mere question of time, and that time hurried on by a speed that is astonishing. This generation will hardly be in their graves before it will have the growth and improvement which in other countries are the result of centuries.”
What DeTocqueville foresaw with reference to Saginaw; what Schoolcraft predicted for Grand Rapids, have been in fact, realized during the life of many of the members of this society, many of us here present, and some of us residents of the territory since the date of these prophecies. The marvelous development of the Northwest, including all the territory embraced in the ordinance of 1787, as indicated by this sketch, is almost beyond comprehension.
Instead of going from this country to Europe and Asia by the thousands yearly to visit the wonders of the old world, the marvel is that all Europe and Asia do not rush to the United States to see the marvelous developments of a single century. The story that cities like Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis, to say nothing of the scores of other large cities within the territory, and the solid population of farmers, together with the thousands of miles of railway, would be built and made as the work of a single century, would have taxed the imagination of the most enthusiastic as to great for credence, had this story been told by prophecy one hundred years ago. He it been suggested to De Tocqueville, in 1831, that in sixty years the journey from Detroit to Saginaw could have been made in three hours, or to Schoolcraft, in 1838, that in less than sixty years the journey from Detroit to Grand Rapids could have been made in four hours, it would not have seemed possible.
The pioneers have done their work rapidly and well; it is about finished, but they can lay aside their labors and rest in the full consciousness that their duty has been well done.
Saginaw, June, 1895
*NOTE-This testimony was being taken in the old Court House on the same cite where the present Saginaw Court house stands.
**Probably a misprint for “southwestern.”
© 2004 - 2012 of transcription by Karen L. Brooks,
graphics and html
by Donna Hoff-Grambau
Volunteers hold copyright to the material they have donated for this site. Not to be copied and used in any format to any other site or in any other media.
This server space page is provided by Michigan Family History Network genealogical server.