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Starvation at Turtle Mountain (1888)

Starvation at Turtle Mountain (1888)

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Father Genin reports on the starvation of the Chippewa and Metis band members at Turtle Mountain and the resistance of Chief Red Thunder.
Father Genin reports on the starvation of the Chippewa and Metis band members at Turtle Mountain and the resistance of Chief Red Thunder.

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Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Nov 11, 2013
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12/26/2013

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Starvation at Turtle Mountain, 1888
It is chronicled in the Duluth papers of a later date, in May 14, that Red Thunder was the only Indian in the whole Turtle Mountain outbreak who refused to surrender. It is recorded that it took six strong and actie deputy !arshals to put the handcuffs on his wrists. "e is ## years old $ on the erge of the grae $ and walks bent nearly double fro! age and infir!ity. "e is a %ree Indian, was born in the &e!bina !ountains and has spent all his life there and in the Turtle !ountains. "is bearing under arrest was lofty, and when inited, while a prisoner in the Ra!sey county 'ail, to go for a walk with the sheriff for exercise, replied with dignity that he would not leae the 'ail as a prisoner, but would walk out only as a free !an. The article concludes with these words( )"e is suffering fro! pleurisy, and his spirit is broken. It is *uite *uestionable if he eer leaes the Ra!sey county 'ail alie.) +t a later date the following letter appeared in the Duluth ournal ( DI-D / 0T+R+TI2. )er 13 in the Turtle Mountains 0tared in 1#0#. $ 2o I!proe!ent 0ince Then. $ 5ittle 6onder, then, They Disregarded a 7oundary 5ine, 0ays /ather 8enin. To the -ditor of the ournal( 99It is now too late that I !ay hae ti!e to look for the official report I had to !ake in une, 1###, about the deplorable state of affairs and the intolerable suffering of the Turtle Mountain Indians, and send it to you. ):et, reading in your colu!ns the state!ents of a ;nited 0tates !arshal to the effect that he had to pay out of his own pocket funds to the a!ount of <1, for arresting alie, or without killing outright, nine persons $ two Indians and seen half=breeds $ destitute and stared al!ost unto death, and that, too, with such a terrific posse of assistants as he !entions he had spread about, cautioning the! carefully, like old 8ranny McDonald used to caution her grandchildren, not to go too near the fire, for it was hot and their flesh tender. I cannot refrain fro! stating that the actual condition of the Turtle Mountain Indian people is about the sa!e today as it was in the spring of 1###. )In the winter of 1##> to 1### there were counted 131 persons, big and s!all, who died there of staration. I buried a nu!ber of the! !yself, taking three, the !other and two grown children, out of one single fa!ily. The 0isters of Mercy, who support there a large nu!ber of orphans and destitute boys and girls, depried their house of all they could in order to help !e to carry pork, flour, sugar, tea, bread, etc., to all those we could reach. There were lots of young !others who, after giing birth to their children, had to wait  patiently for a !eal until their husbands would return ho!e fro! the hunt with a gopher or two, nothing else being found. 1
 
)I state facts, re!e!ber. I do not put up stories. ):ou will ask( 6hy did not the la?y creatures proide the!seles with proisions b cultiating the land@ 6hy did not they@ 99In the first place they had no seed of any kindA and where the ;nited 0tates goern!ent was !ade to beliee so !any bushels of wheat, corn and potatoes had been distributed. If you had been there you !ight hae found that so !any things neer reached the unfortunateA or, if any at all was obtained, it was only by a few faorites, while the others were rebuked and sent to do for the!seles. ne of the pleas was that so !any Indians did not belong to that reseration, but had co!e fro! Manitoba and the north=west. It is no wonder that the staring people would not consider the !agical cage line, called the international boundary, but would look for fish, ga!e, etc., een if they had to cross that great line. I hae seen in so!e instances, and bae handled !yself, hoes and other hand!ade wooden instru!ents of agriculture the naties were using so they could plant so!ething, being refused assistance at the agency. I will cite one instance especially, that of old oseph allet BuelletteC, oer # years of age, who, unable to get as !uch as a hoe at the agency, !ade hi!self one of oak wood, with which, before !y eyes, he  planted a garden with his children, haing procured so!e garden seed fro! a hu!ane disposed storekeeper in the neighborhood, thus showing his earnest desire to work to help hi!self, if there was any way to do so. )+re the people better today@ 2o, no. 6hy, then, did not our heroic !arshal go forth with his !ighty posse to distribute that <1, of his to the poor, suffering creatures, who, alas were trying to sae their staring children fro! the 'aws of death. The !arshal9s action would be blessed today, and he would appear a !uch greater and nobler citi?en of a %hristian country. 99The lands of the Turtle !ountains are yet unceded, and while the poor Indians are so long waiting for the good pleasure of our goern!ent officials to settle the affairs of the cession of their property, is it a wonder that they would try to keep the!seles by cutting and selling so!e of the ti!ber@ )6e beliee it to be a true !axi! that necessity has no law. In this, their extre!ity, the Indians had hardly a chance to hesitateA and who will bla!e the!@ )6e read now the report that the !arshal9s life was in dangerA that Red Thunder was hot. 0hould not Red Thunder be at least as hot as our !arshal@ It is good enough for the !arshal that Thunder was alone and that there was no lightning. I do hope the !arshal and his !en will see to it that the children of their capties are not let die of hunger, while the law will take its course and a faithful inestigation 'ustify the !arshal9s icti!s. ). 7. M. 8enin, M. +. )7athgate, 2. D., May 11, 1###.) E

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