Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

November 10, 2011

The American ‘Northwest Territories’ began filling up with white settlers. The new republic clamoured for more and more land. Land speculators were greedy for profits. Legislation was being influenced by desires for statehood and statehood was dependent upon population requirements. Increases of American settlers degraded traditional hunting grounds thereby impoverishing its First Nation inhabitants. This poverty set off  a spiral of more land cessions and more poverty.

Between 1802 and 1805 the New Governor of Indiana Territory concluded no less than seven treaties by which the Delaware, Miami, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Sac and Fox ceded their rights to the southern part of Indiana, portions of Wisconsin and Missouri as well as most of Illinois. Huge tracts of land were dealt away for the paltry price of two cents or less per acre.

Not only was the land undervalued but it was secured by entirely fraudulent means. The Americans used such tactics as bribery, the supplying of huge amounts of liquor or the threat to withhold payments of annuities already agreed to. Treaties were negotiated with any First Nation individual that was willing to sign with no regard for his authority to speak for his people.

Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States at this time. He was a conflicted man as can be found in his writings on human rights versus his record of slavery. He admired the quality of character of the American Indian and of their culture but considered them inferior. He was of the belief that they could, however, be rehabilitated and ‘civilized’. However, during the revolution he relished the thought of displacing the Cherokee and taking their lands and during the Indian War for the Ohio he advocated the destruction of the Shawnee. During Harrison’s treaty negotiating spree Jefferson had written to him in private advising him to encourage the Indians to run up debts at the trading posts and then compel them to settle the debt by selling tribal lands. Although Jefferson tried to give the impression that America held no place for the Indian as Indian and he publicly advocated assimilation one wonders it privately he saw an America with no Indians at all. 

There was a population tsunami that was happening and it continuously overwhelmed First Nation territories.  In 1796 Ohio had a white population of 5,000. By 1810 it had jumped to more than 230,000. This overpowering agrarian culture would only make its way ever westward transforming pristine forests to barren farmlands. It appears the Shawnee warrior Chiksika was right, our land was being eaten up by a windigo!

The American success in their revolution put a tremendous strain for land resources on what was left of British North America. Approximately 4% of the population of the thirteen colonies were British Empire Loyalists and left America for other British territories. Some 5,000, which was the smallest of these groups of loyalists, came to Upper Canada. Governor Haldimand also had to deal with a large influx of Iroquois refuges who had been loyal to the Crown during the revolution.

During that war the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy’s loyalties split the league. Many of the Oneida and Tuscarora backed the rebels while the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca backed the British. Chief John Deserontyon and 200 Mohawks sought refuse near Lachine in Lower Canada while Chief Joseph Brant crossed over at Niagara. The population of these Iroquois and their allies fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000.

In the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, no mention was made of Iroquois lands in upstate New York. This angered the Iroquois who were now refugees from their homeland. Haldimand fearing they might take their frustrations out on the loyalist refugees ordered the Indian Agents to be extra generous in handing out supplies and presents to them. 

In 1783 the Mississauga ceded two large tracts of land to the British. One ran from  the Trent River to the Gananoque River. The other from the Gananoque to the Toniato River or present day Jones Creek near Brockville. Each tract was “as far as a man could walk in one day” deep. Out of these the British later  surveyed a township called Tyendiaga on the Bay of Quinte for Chief Deserontyon and his followers.

Chief Joseph Brant preferred the Grand River area of southwestern Ontario. The Mississauga also ceded to the British the whole of the Grand River valley from its headwaters to its mouth to a depth of six miles on each side. This tract was later transferred to Brant and his followers. At the same time the Mississauga ceded a large tract at the western end of Lake Ontario including the Niagara peninsula as well as a tract of land to the west of the Grand River as far as Catfish Creek. The aggregate acreage of these land surrenders came to over 1,000,000 hectares and the total cost to the British a mere 1,180 pounds sterling worth of trade goods.  

In 1790 the First Nations commonly known as the ‘Detroit Indians’, the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte also ceded a large tract of land from the foot of the St. Clair River to Lake Erie, east along the north shore to Catfish Creek. Reserved out of this huge tract were two small tracts on the Detroit River for the Wyandotte. The balance included all the land between the Thames River and Lake Erie and was ceded for a mere  1,200 pounds sterling.

The British also expected an influx of First Nation refugees who were displaced from Ohio by the Treaty of Greenville. In 1796 the Chippewa ceded a tract of land on the St. Clair River to be used by the Chippewa as well as any American Indians. This tract is present day Sombra Township. At the same time they ceded a tract of land over 3,000 hectares at the forks on the Thames River and called it London. The British said they needed it to establish a new capital of Upper Canada replacing York as it would be easier to defend. Both tracts of land were not used for the purposes stated but nevertheless the Chippewa still lost the land.

NEXT WEEK: Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3


A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 1

November 6, 2011

First let me apologize again for being MIA. The month of August was extremely busy for me. I did a series of literary arts workshops that took most of my time up. In the month of September I was busy putting the finishing touches on my new novel 1300 Moons. It is now in the production phase and will be available in the next couple of weeks, but more on this later. To make things even more hectic I had to deal with three different medical emergencies in the family. Things have settled now and I can get back to posting to this blog regularly. Thanks for all your patience.

Well it’s now “later”. 1300 Moons has been released and last Friday I had a successful launch. I’m also involved in a 200th anniversary War of 1812 project as a consultant. It’s a graphic novel aimed at the education sector. It will also be on-line and available on DVD with hypertext links to video of various ‘experts’ of which I am one. The videographers are coming in a couple of weeks to Aamjiwnaang for taping. So it looks like my hectic life is to continue! However, I am determined to do a couple of posts a week if I can.

We left off with the First Nations Confederacy under Blue Jacket being defeated by General Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794. The following year chiefs of the various First Nations began arriving at Greenville, Ohio to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. That summer over 1,000 First Nations people gathered around Fort Greenville. These included chiefs from the Wyandotte, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami and Kickapoo.

This treaty was primarily a peace treaty between George Washington, President of the United States, and chiefs representing the above mentioned First Nations. My great-great grandfather signed as one of the seven War Chiefs of the Chippewa. But not all former combatants were represented. Among those missing and vehemently against the peace were Shawnee chiefs Tecumseh and Kekewepellethe. Rather than deal the Americans Tecumseh with his followers migrated first to Deer Creek, then to the upper Miami valley and then to eastern Indiana.

Land cessation were also included as part of the terms for peace. Article 3 dealt with a new boundary line ‘between the lands of the United States and the lands of the said Indian tribes’. This effectively ceded all of eastern and southern present day Ohio and set the stage for future land grabs. Included in the United States’ ‘relinquishment’ of all ‘Indian lands northward of the River Ohio, eastward of the Mississippi, and westward and southward of the Great Lakes’ were cessations of sixteen other tracks of land, several miles square, located either were U.S. forts were already established or where they wished to build towns. However, the term ‘lands of the said Indian tribes’ had vastly different meanings to the two sides.

The First Nations wanted their own sovereign country but the United States dispelled any thought along these lines with Article 5. It defined relinquishment as meaning ‘The Indian tribes that have a right to those lands, are to enjoy them quietly…but when those tribes…shall be disposed to sell their lands…they are to be sold only to the United States’. In other words we had no sovereign country but only the right to use lands already belonging to the United States of America!

The Chippewa and Ottawa also ceded from their territories a strip of land along the Detroit River from the River Raisin to Lake St. Clair. It was six miles deep and included Fort Detroit. The Chippewa also ceded a strip of land on the north shore of the Straits of Mackinaw including the two islands of Mackinaw and De Bois Blanc. The stage was now set for further U.S. expansion.

As a footnote the metaphorical language changed at the conclusion of the peace agreement. First Nations had always used familial terms when referring to First Nations and European relationships. First the French and then the British were always referred to as father. The Americans, since their beginning, were referred to as brother. This continued through the negotiations at Greenville until its conclusion at which time the reference to Americans in the person of Washington changed from bother to father.

Unfortunately because of a clash of cultures this patriarchal term held different meanings to each side. To the First Nations a father was both a friend and a provider. The Wyandotte chief Tarhe spoke for all the assembly because the Wyandotte were considered an uncle to both the Delaware and Shawnee and he was the keeper of the council fire at Brownstown. He told his ‘brother Indians’ that they now acknowledge ‘the fifteen United States of America to now be our father and…you must call them brothers no more’. As children they were to be ‘obedient to our father; ever listen to him when he speaks to you, and follow his advice’. The Potawatomi chief New Corn spoke after Tarhe and addressed the Americans as both father and friend. Other chiefs spoke commending themselves to their father’s protection and asked him for aid. The Chippewa chief Massas admonished the assembly to ‘rejoice in acquiring a new, and so good, a father’.

Tarhe eloquently defined a father for the American emissaries: ‘Take care of your little ones and do not suffer them to be imposed upon. Don’t show favor to one to the injury of any. An impartial father equally regards all his children an impartial father equally regards all his children, as well as those who are ordinary as those who may be more handsome; therefore, should any of your children come to you crying and in distress, have pity on them, and relieve their wants.’

Of course American arrogance stopped up their ears and they could not hear Tarhe’s sage advice. Until this present day they continue to live out their understanding of the term father as a stern patriarch; one either to be obeyed or disciplined.

NEXT WEEK:  A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 2