Governor Ramsey’s 1851 Treaty with the Chippewa and Half Breeds

Edited Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Pembina, in the Territory of Minnesota, on the twentieth day of September, eighteen hundred and fifty-one (1851,) between the United States of America, by Alexander Ramsey, governor and ex officio Superintendent of Indian affairs in said Territory, commissioner duly appointed for that purpose, and the Chippeways of Pembina and Red Lake, owning the country on the Red River of the North. ARTICLE 1. The peace and friendship existing between the United States and the Chippeways of Pembina and Red Lake shall be perpetual. ARTICLE II. The said Chippeways of Pembina and Red Lake do hereby cede and relinquish all their lands and all their right, title and claim to any lands whatever lying within the following described boundaries, to wit: Beginning on the east bank of the Red River of the north where it is intersected by the international boundary line; thence east along said line thirty miles; thence southwardly in a direct line to strike the Buffalo river "halfway from its source to its mouth;" thence along said river to its mouth; thence northwardly by the west bank of Red river, to the mouth of Goose river; up said river to its most westwardly source, following the south branch thereof; thence northwardly in a direct line to strike a point on the international boundary line five miles west of the Grand Cote; and thence east to the place of beginning. ARTICLE III. In full consideration of said cession and relinquishment, the United States agree to pay to said Indians the sums following, to wit: 1 st. To the chiefs of said bands for the purpose of making provision for their relatives of mixed blood, and to enable them to arrange their affairs (as soon as practicable after the appropriation of the same by Congress,) the sum of thirty thousand dollars. 2d. For twenty years, the sum often thousand dollars per annum: Provided, that so much of this sum as the President of the United States shall direct, not exceeding per year two thousand dollars, may be reserved and applied to agricultural, educational, and such other beneficial purposes calculated to promote the prosperity and happiness of said Indians as he may prescribe.

ARTICLE IV. It is hereby agreed that the lands claimed by either of the bands, parties to this treaty, shall be held in common, and that said lands as well as the benefits derived from all treaty stipulations shall be enjoyed in common with other bands of Chippeways, whenever the United States shall secure from such bands a reciprocal arrangement. ARTICLE V. The laws of the United States prohibiting the introduction and sale of spirituous liquors in the Indian country shall be in full force and effect throughout the territory hereby ceded, until otherwise directed by Congress or the President of the United States. ARTICLE VI. Rules and regulations to protect the rights of persons and property among the Indians parties to this treaty, and adapted to their condition and wants, may be prescribed and enforced in such manner as the President or the Congress of the United States from time to time shall direct. In witness whereof, the said Alexander Ramsey, commissioner on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen and braves of the Chippeways of Pembina and Red lake, have hereunto set their hands, at Pembina, in the Territory of Minnesota, this twentieth day of September, anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one. Chief: Kah-wah-shkee-nee-kay, (The Crooked or Broken Arm,) Gwee-wee-zhahnsh-eesh, (Little Bad Boy,) Zhah-bo-kah-mee-geeshk-kun, (Passing through the Earth,) Chief: Zhow-ozh-ko-go-nay-bee, ("Yellow Feather," or Little Chief of Pembina,) Zhow-ozh-ko-go-nay-bee, ("Yellow Feather," or Split Bottom,) Ah-bwaykwah-ung, (He the Returning Thunder,) Ee-tah-wah-nah-kwahd, (The clouds on each side,) Chief: Ay-see-nee-wahb, ("Sitting Stone," or Little Rock,) Headmen. Sah-wah-bee-kwah-ung, (Yellow Sounding Thunder,) Chief: Kwee-wee-ay, ("Little Boy," or Little Thunder,) Headmen. Nah-gah-nee-gwah-nay-bee, (The forward setting feather,) Jean Baptiste Wilkie, Headman of the Half Breeds Thomas Foster, Secretary. James Tanner, Interpreter. Council and principal men of the Half Breeds. Nonnan W. Kittson. D. Geo. Morrison. Jos. Rolette. Major Woods:
The half-breeds are much more numerous than the Indians in this Department. They are mixed bloods of different tribes which have spread themselves from the stony mountains to the Atlantic

ocean. We have counted the descendants of thirteen different bands. ... The half-breeds are mild, generous, polished in their manners, and ready to do a kindness; of great uprightness, not over anxious of becoming rich ... They are generally gay and fond of enjoyment; they affect music, there being but a few, comparatively speaking, who do not play the violin. ... We see but slight dissensions in their families, which are for the most part numerous. ... The half-breeds number over five thousand souls. They first established themselves at Pembina, near the mouth of the river of that name, about 1818, when they had with them a resident Canadian priest.

ALEX. RAMSEY. ST. PAUL, November 7, 1851. -Hon. A. H. H. STUART, Secretary Interior. Sir: On the successful conclusion of negotiations with the Sioux of the .St. Peter's and Mississippi rivers, in August last, the undersigned immediately made preparations to further obey your instructions of 16th May, 1851, directing him to visit and treat with the Indians at Pembina, on the Red river of the north, for the relinquishment of their lands in the valley of that river. The negotiations with the Sioux having occupied a longer time than was -anticipated, the season was full late, in so northern a latitude, to enter upon a journey of hundreds of miles through an uninhabited wilderness. But anxious that another year should not elapse without something being done to facilitate the acquisition of permanent homes by the large and growing population of those distant regions, I determined, at all events, to proceed with the expedition; and accordingly, the arrangements for the journey being hurried as much as possible, on the 18th of August, accompanied by Dr. Thomas Foster, secretary to the commission, and Hugh Tyler, esq., special agent and acting commissary, I left St. Paul for the rendezvous at Sauk rapids, 80 miles above, where we arrived on the evening of the 20th. The military escort of dragoons, under the command of Lieutenant Corley, having reached that point the same day, on the 21st following, our whole party crossed the Mississippi river, just above the rapids, and proceeded westward along the beautiful valley of Sauk river. Fording this stream near where it turns suddenly towards the north, we continued westward through a country principally fertile prairie, flat and rolling, with timber interspersed, and well watered by clear lakes or rapid streams; and on the 25th of August reached the first tributary of Red river, the Bois des &iour-, which, like the St. Peter's, has its source in Lake Traverse. This was the first stream we met too deep to ford, and we crossed it by rafting. Here our course changed, bending strongly northwest, until we- reached the Shian river, the largest and most important western tributary of the Red river within the borders of the United States. This we were fortunate in being able to cross by a bridge made by the Red river trading caravan last spring. Our course of travel from this river was nearly due north; and at length, on the evening of September 11th, we encamped on the south side of Pembina river, at its mouth, where the waters of the famed Red river of the north first met our view. The next day was occupied in ferrying over the Pembina river to the village and trading post of' the same name opposite, where we found the Indians and half-breeds claiming the country assembled in large numbers, awaiting our arrival, a special messenger having conveyed intelligence to the former some time previously, of the purpose of the Government to meet them there in council, by its commissioner, to

offer them terms for the relinquishment of a portion of their lands. Having appointed Joseph Nolin and the Rev. James Tanner, the latter a half-breed Chippewa, interpreters, it was ascertained that some of the principal men were not yet arrived; and to give time for them to be present, at the request of the Indians, the opening of council was delayed & until Monday following, the 15th. Meanwhile the half-breeds claimed to be made parties to the negotiations, and to participate in the council, alleging that it was they who possessed the country really, and who had long defended and maintained it against the encroachments of enemies. But on the policy of Government, and the impracticability of its treating with its own quasi citizens, being explained to them, they were satisfied that their demands could not be complied with; and were made further contented by the assurance that, to any just and reasonable arrangement or treaty stipulation the Indians might choose to make for their benefit, Government would interpose no objection. On Monday, therefore, the council was opened, and continued from day to day throughout the week. On Saturday, the 20th, a treaty was signed, by the terms of which a country, embracing some 5,000,000 of acres in the valley of the Red river of the north, was acquired for the very reasonable sum of $230,000 nominally; but, considering the manner of its payment, through a period of twenty years, without interest, it may be fairly estimated to cost but about $100,000, or at the rate of two cents per acre. Low as this is for lands fertile as those of Illinois, and as capable of settlement as any in this territory, it is not improbable the Indiana. might have been induced, under the pressure of their necessities, to part with them for a much less sum, had the representative of the Government thought it consistent with its dignity, or honorable to its humanity, to insist upon making the best bargain with poor, ignorant savages it was possible to obtain. I conceived, on the contrary, that, while restrained by my instructions, as well as inclinations, from paying an extravagant price for lands which, however fertile, are remote from the ordinary paths of emigration; yet that, as the guardian of these people-our "children," as they term themselves-we owed them forbearance, kindness, charity; and that, so far from taking advantage of their ignorance of the relative value of land and money, we should act in a liberal spirit when adjusting the price to be-paid for their country, and give them enough to subsist on now, and enablethem to improve hereafter. It was in this spirit I acted; and finding that the whole number of Indians at Pembina and Red lake did not exceed eight hundred souls; and aware, from experience in Indian payments and annuities, that $10 per head was as little as would do them any substantial good, enabling them each to procure a blanket for protection from the severities of a northern winter, if nothing more, I did not deem it right to insist upon reducing their annuity below that mark; at the same time, however, it was deemed expedient to set off a portion of their annuity, to the amount of $2,000, for agricultural and educational purposes. As, their hunting ranges are circumscribed by our purchasing their land and filling it with settlers, it is plainly a necessity, as well as our beneficent policy, to gradually school the race into different modes of thought and action, aiding them to substitute the improvements of civilization, and the certainties of an agricultural life, for the rude discomforts of a savage, and the precariousness of the hunter condition. It will be observed that no part of

the annuity is to be paid in goods, experience in latter years having taught us that cash annuities are, in the end, more beneficial to the Indian; and, in this instance, the cost of trans-porting goods to so distant a point would have imposed upon Government, annually, an additional burden, perhaps equal to the sum of the original purchase. To satisfy the half-breeds-the actual occupiers of the country-the Indians desired $30,000 might be paid in hand, to be mainly turned over by them to their relatives of mixed blood; and as the claim of the half-breeds for remuneration in this case appeared to have unusual force, I did not think proper to object to the arrangement, deeming it justly and fairly their due. Besides fixing the price and mode of payment, I deemed it my duty, in adjusting the other details of this treaty with the Chippewas, to keep in view the same leading feature of Government policy which dictated man of the stipulations of the Sioux treaties at Mendota and Traverse des Sioux, to wit, to induce their early adoption of the habits of civilized life, as their only guarantee against utter extinction at a not very remote period, as well as the only effectual means of lessening the cares of Government in regard to them. The first step towards bringing about this desirable result was, unquestionably, to put a final stop to their old hereditary war with the Sioux. But it was apparent that, so long as their territories joined, these tribes would have constant pretexts for hostilities in alleged or actual encroachments upon each other's lands. It was considered, therefore, important, in determining the boundaries of the new purchase, that the lands thereby acquired on the east side of the Red river should connect on the south with the country recently ceded by the Sioux. This, with much difficulty and opposition from the Indians, was accomplished, though nearly at the risk of effecting no treaty at all, they alleging the injuries- they had received from the Sioux, and contending that they ought not to be "fenced in," as they termed it, from the opportunity of retaliating. I regard this as one of the most desirable features of the treaty. To facilitate further the grand leading object before mentioned, namely, their civilization, it has been a favorite scheme of Government to collect the scattered bands of Chippewas, both east and west of the Mississippi,. and concentrate them in the country about the heads of that river. Here they could be permanently settled for all time to come, their lands being entirely unsuited and undesirable for white occupation. Here Government could deal with them as one people; easily restrain them from war, remote, --.No as they would be from all opportunity of engaging in it; and merging all annuities received by isolated bands into a common fund, and the lands claimed by each band into a common property of the nation, the work of civilization and improvement could then proceed with some reasonable hope of success. In furtherance of this scheme the article was inserted which provides for the union of the bands, parties to this treaty, with other bands of Chippewas, and for holding all lands and annuities in common, whenever the United States shall secure from the latter a reciprocal arrangement. Not more than three hundred Chippewas roam beyond the western boundary of the present purchase, and it is thought it would not be difficult to induce them to unite with the rest of the tribe, whenever it is concentrated in the manner proposed.

Convinced that the articles of the recent treaties with the Sioux which interdict the introduction of liquor into the ceded country, and which extend to the industrious and peaceable Indian the protection of law against the idle and vicious, are among the most judicious that have ever formed part of an Indian treaty, I secured their insertion in the present one, and respectfully refer to the report of Colonel L. Lea and myself, in August last, for the reasons which sustain their propriety. In conclusion, it will not be out of place to say a few words respecting the quality of the land purchased, and the reasons why the treaty should receive the sanction of the President and Senate. In 1849, a party of dragoons, commanded by Major Wood, and accompanied by Captain Pope, of the Topographical engineers, visited Pembina, traversing the valley of the Red river of the north, in the heart of which lies the country purchased by this treaty. Captain Pope, in his report, (page 6,) thus speaks: "The valley of the Red river of the north is about 300 miles in length from north to south, and 150 in breadth from east to west, and is bounded on the west by the dividing ridge between its waters and those of the Missouri, called the 'Coteau des Prairies;' and on the east by a line from the head of Red river through the most northern part of Red lake. In this whole extent it presents an almost unbroken level of rich prairie, intersected at right angles byall the heavy timbered tributaries of the Red river from east to west; the Red river itself, running due north through its centre, and heavily timbered on both banks with elm, oak, maple, ash, &c., &c. This valley, from its vast extent, perfect uniformity of surface, richness of soil, and supply of wood and water, is among the finest wheat countries in the world." "The principal tributaries from the 'Coteau des Prairies,' are the Wild Rice, Shayenne, Elm, Goose, Turtle, Park, and Pembina rivers; almost all these streams are navigable in the spring and summer 50 or 60 miles for flat boats, and probably in high water for vessels of much larger draught, and are well timbered with elm, oak, ash, &c., &c. With their tributaries, and the smaller streams which flow into Red river, they intersect the valley at distances of 10 or 12 miles apart; and although on the west side of the river the greater proportion of the country is level prairie, I am satisfied a sufficient quantity of timber can be found for all the uses of cultivation." "The east side of the valley, I have been informed by the half- breeds who have traversed portions of it, is equally fertile with the west. side, and is much better timbered." My own observation of the country, so far as it was passed over on our route to and from Pembina, and all the information we could obtain from those acquainted with the valley, fully sustains this description. No finer country exists any where in the Union, and few capable of subsisting a denser population. All the cereal grains and vegetables are produced in abundance, and for grazing purposes it is nearly unrivalled in its advantages. But though the quality of the country 's thus favorable as could be wished, its remoteness from the ordinary track of emigration would long have postponed its purchase, had not a powerful reason for its acquisition existed in the necessity for giving the large and rapidly increasing half-breed population of that distant region, the opportunity they crave, of obtaining a fee simple title to the lands they live upon, and of abandoning the hunter life entirely and becoming tillers of the soil. Ever since the organization of this territory, and my residence in it, the people, by frequent petitions,

and by special committees, despatched hundreds of miles to represent their condition, have earnestly urged upon Government to give them the opportunity of making homes for themselves in their own lands, to grant them the protection of our laws, and furnish them with the facilities for the administration of justice amongst them. Made by our statutes citizens, represented in the territorial legislature, they complain that they have been uncared for by Government, treated with less attention than even the Indians, standing in the false attitude of tenants at will, as trespassers upon the soil they often defended with their blood from savage foes. It is, I earnestly urge, the duty of Government to do something for this interesting and peculiar people; and, as a beginning, to throw the country open to their enterprise and industry, by confirming the present treaty. Their peculiar situation demands even further favor from Government, situated as they are on a remote frontier, which they may be said to guard, and invaluable in a military point of view, should a certain exigency ever occur. Themselves, and the region they live in, present a case similar to that of Oregon Territory, in which the free gift of a quarter section of land to each person would be a judicious policy, and I respectfully recommend its adoption to the consideration of the President and Congress. All of which is respectfully submitted. It was Kittson who invited the Woods-Pope reconnaissance of the Red River Valley in 1849 and the initial sounding out of the Ojibwe about their willingness to part with their land for United States settlement purposes, who met the expedition and provided critical information about the lay of the land and its inhabitants, and whose clerk, the younger Rolette, provided Woods and Pope lodgings and entertainment while they engaged the Red Lake and Pembina bands in "discussions" in 1849. John Pope's report produced after the 1849-50 Woods-Pope expedition extolled the agricultural potential of the Red River Valley.[3]:69-90 This led directly to Ramsey's first negotiation with the Ojibwe to obtain a cession of the Red River Valley—the unratified Pembina Treaty of 1851—which had been directly facilitated by Henry Sibley's securing of a Congressional allocation of funds to finance Ramsey's negotiations in Pembina and by Kittson's urging of treaty negotiations to obtain Red River Valley lands for white settlement from the "reluctant tribesmen" of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands.[6]:17 In that case, also, Kittson had stood to gain $30,000 in payments for alleged debts owed to him by the Ojibwe. In 1851, two years after Major Woods had done the groundwork, Governor Alexander Ramsey of Minnesota Territory went to Pembina to make a treaty with the Pembina and Red Lake Chippewa. He was accompanied by an escort of dragoons from Fort Snelling, commanded by Second Lieutenant James L. Corley of the Sixth United States Infantry, and "equipped in excellent style for active service." The expedition's guide was Pierre Bottineau, who sometimes wore a White man's hat and sometimes a half-breed's chapeau. The 1851 Treaty Session began September 15 at Norman Kittson's fur trade post at Pembina. According to Willoughby M. Babcock, who recorded the proceedings, "some two hundred and fifty members of the Pembina and Red Lake bands of Chippewa" were present.

There may have been a few Ahnishinahbæótjibway who were present as third-party observers; however the Chippewa Métis and French Métis were the Indian principals of the treaty. Babcock wrote that, "in addition there were several hundred half-breeds--the actual occupants of the land in question, who were not slow to press their claims for compensation should the government agree to purchase it," as well as other Indians. Although Woods had informed the half-breeds, two years earlier, that they were to be treated as Indians, at that point the "United States barred them from 'participation in the treaty council', so during the negotiations they stood around the negotiating table."[xxi] The treaty was made by Alexander Ramsey and Reverend J.P. Bardwell during two days of "holding informational interviews with the chiefs and headmen" who had been appointed by U.S. Government officials, after which Alexander Ramsey abruptly adjourned. It provided for the cession of a tract approximately thirty miles wide on each side of the Red River, annuity payments (some of which had already been spent at Kittson's trading post), and consolidation with "other bands of Chippewa." This 1851 Treaty was rejected by the U.S. Senate during the Spring of 1852.


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