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1836 Report of Investigation by Kintzing Pritchette

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Modified: 2008/10/31 14:01 by plhamp - Categorized as: Miscellaneous
To His Excellency
Steven T. Mason
Acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs.


Having completed the investigation required by your letter of instructions bearing date September 15, 1825 directing me to visit the Indian Tribes residing on the Saginaw and Grand Rivers, and ascertain the cause of the grievances complained of by them, and also, to collect information relative to their Farms, Farmers, Traders and Missionaries residing among them and all matters connected with their general welfare and conditions I have the honor to Report:

That the Farming guaranteed to the Chippewas under the treaty of Saginaw, concluded on the 26th day of September, 1819, is apportioned, and allotted amongst the several Indian Farmers as follows:

Thomas Simpson, the principal Farmer resides at the town of Saginaw and has the general superintendence of the other Farmers and the directions of their labors. He ploughs certain fields at the Forks of the Titibawssee (sic) River about 25 miles from Saginaw, and at the several villages on the said River between its mouth and the Forks.

Leon Tremble ploughs several fields on the margins of the Saginaw River, between the town of Saginaw and the mouth of the River.

Benois Tremble confines his labors to the Reserves, which he on the Flint and Cass Rivers.

On visiting the Fields farmers by Mr. Simpson at the Forks of the Titibawassee containing from 25 to 30 acres, on a point of land formed by a sudden bend in the River, it appeared to have been sufficiently well ploughed, but was encumbered entirely unimproved and untouched by the shore. A log fence forming a sufficient enclosure on the remaining sides. The several other fields farmed by Mr. Simpson were found deficient in enclosures in most instances there were no fences at all. Consequently the loss from the trampling and feeding upon the crop by cattle and horses, was very great, and in one instance the destruction of the corn was absolute and entire. The whole amount of ploughing done by this Farmer may be 50 acres.

It seems proper here to remark, that a general misapprehension seems to exist among those to whom these duties have been entrusted as to the services for which they have been employed. They appear to consider it only necessary to plough the land, the remainder of the labor is entirely abandoned to the Indians themselves.

Little or no attention is paid to the enclosures; and the planting as well as the aid necessary to perfect the crop is considered – beyond their legitimate duties.

The work of Leon Tremble next received my attention and examination. It was found that about 20 acres on the margin of the Saginaw River had been ploughed, only eight or ten of which had been at all cultivated by the Indians. The crop in these few acres had entirely failed. The Indians have therefore received no advantage whatever this year from the services of this farmer, upon enquiry of Mr. Tremble for the reason of this neglect of the greater portion of the ploughed lands and the failure of the crop upon the remainder, he alleged that it was entirely attributable to the Indians in not having attended to their field. That his duty alone consisted in ploughing a certain portion of the soil and that the Indians themselves the remaining labor of the agriculturalist properly belonged.

The Chiefs on the other hand complained of the serious injury they had suffered from the refusal of Mr. Tremble to plough for them at more suitable and convenient places, alleging that the lands ploughed by him were in the old fields and at inconvenient points. It is but justice however to the Indian Farmers to state that the corn was injured generally, throughout the peninsula by a very early frost, which will in some degree account for its almost complete destruction in many of their fields when their defective mode of agriculture is likewise considered. Notwithstanding these circumstances however, I consider that justice to the Indian required me to report: That they are much and justly dissatisfied with the work of Mr. Leon Treble. My observation has convinced me that his duties are greatly neglected upon the portion of lands under his charge and thereby the benefits intended by the Treaty are in thus instance entirely lost and defected.

The work of Benois Tremble will require but as few remarks. The principal field of his labor is on the Cass River, the number of acres ploughed may amount to 25. But the work is imperfectly done and the enclosures are so bad, that they afford no protection from cattle or hogs. On examining the fields under his charge on the Flint it was ascertained that they had not received the slightest attention from him during the present year. The ploughing of the past year if it deserved the name appeared to have been performed in so shameful a manner that the furrows in some places were six feet asunder. The Indians seemingly observed that they supposed he had considered his ploughing so well done the previous year. That he thought his attention unnecessary during the present. I found it exceedingly difficult to elicit answers from them on subject of work done by their Farmers. They are apprehensive of their revenge if they make any complaints against them. How well founded is this fear, may be determined by an instance which came to my knowledge. A chief residing upon the Cass River reserve, complained to Lieutenant Brush of the Army, who was engaged in paying the annuities for the present year of the neglect of the Farmer Benois Treble. On the first opportunity Mr. Tremble revenged himself by severely beating and maltreating the Chief who had expressed his dissatisfaction at his work.

The present laws are so defective that they afford but little if any protection to the Indians from violence and injustice. Their inability to testify before the ordinary tribunals exposes them to shameful abuse, without the possibility of address. Some remedial Statute upon this point is much demanded.

Strenuous application was made by a portion of the Chippewa Tribe residing at the Big Rock Village for a share in the benefits of the agricultural aids afforded to their brethren. Their Reserves at this point includes rich and extensive bottom lands well cleared which with a small degree of labor would afford them an abundant supply of corn. This assistance seems due to them as partners in the Treaty of Saginaw under which, as yet, they have received no similar benefits.

While at Saginaw my attention was given to the manner in which the services of the Indian Blacksmiths were performed. The result of my observations and enquiry satisfied me that the duty of Mr. Couchois, is faithfully performed to the Indians, while his conduct generally meets the approbations of the citizens of that place, in which he exhibits a strong contrast to the conduct of Mr. Simpson the principal farmer, whose habits of intemperance are much and I have reason to believe deserved by censured.

On my visit to the Ottawas of Grand River I was waited upon by a deputation of the principal Chiefs. They made many and severe reflections upon the conduct of the Reverend Mr. Slater the Superintendent of the Missionary station at the Grand Rapids. These they desired to be conveyed to you. After exploring their dissatisfaction at the intrusions of the Whites upon their lands, and desiring that measures should be taken to remove them. They proceeded to state, that the Revd. Mr. Slater had not fulfilled the object for which they had been willing to receive him among them, which was to instruct their children. This had not been done. The time, for which he had been established there having expired, they no longer desired him among them. His conduct was displeasing to them and the (sic) wished his removal. He claimed a portion of their Reserve and the village should be his property. Among the conditions upon which they had sold their land, were there that two farmers should be furnished during ten years together with a Blacksmith for the same period. No benefits had been received from the Treaty in these particulars except at the village where Mr. Slater resides. From the manner in which the Blacksmith had been employed he was useless to them. He was not there half the time, and when there, they could get no work done by reason of his being constantly employed for Mr. Slater.

During the past years about fifty six head of cattle had been received from the Government, from which they received little benefit, except where two of their villages had insisted upon and forcibly possessed themselves of their shares. They wished also to be informed to whom the increase of Stock belonged, since they had been deprived of it. The whole of the stock of cattle had lately been disposed of and at this time there was none, one the reserve belonging to the Government. This they desired should be explained to them. They likewise complained that they received no benefit from the mill, which has been erected on their lands, at their expense. In conclusion, they expressed their gratification at the satisfactory replies which you had made to the complaints when they visited you in Detroit. They reiterated their accusations against Mr. Slater, who they said artfully prevented the effect of their complaints by ascribing them to the influence and distation (sic) of their Traders. This deputation consisted of the following chiefs and Head men, who desired their words to be taken down and their names attached thereto viz. – Muck-a-to-sha, No-nom-e-te-pe, Mos-wa, Ka-ta-se, Nub-ben-a-ke-shiek, Kou-o-to- nish-kum, Col-e-nau, She-was, Cut-a-be-na, Na-o-ge-mau, Pe-na-de, Ming-au-be, and Mick-sin-e-ne.

How for the Revd. Mr. Slater is justly obnoxious to these charges, is a difficult, as well as delicate matter upon which to express an opinion. I saw the Mill referred to by the Indians, in operation, and although small, must be profitably employed.

I was informed by an individual residing in the vicinity that had paid a bill for lumber obtained there by him, to the amount of $500, and this during the last season. Considerable sums of money from the Indian Department under the Treaty with the Ottawas of Grand River have as I am informed passed into the hands of Mr. Slater during the last ten years. How far and in what manner he has applied those funds to the objects intended, he alone is able to explain. They do no appear to have produced any adequate effects upon the comforts or conditions of the Indians, so far as I could judge from observation and investigation.

In conversation with Mr. Slater he informed me that he had understood that complaint had been made. He attributed them to the jealousies of the Traders and others, and said that he had written a satisfactory explanation to the Department. Those who had complained of not having received any benefit from the mill were not in his opinion entitled to it, as the mill was – originally built by the contribution of several villages of their portion of the years annuity. Those who had contributed were alone entitled he thought to its benefits, although it had in many instances been further extended. These reasons I stated to the Chiefs in reply to that branch of their complaint and received for answer, a denial and a Chief named Paw-mau-swa, stated that he had contributed but had been refused the benefit of the Mill.

I have not been able to form a decided judgment upon the merits of this controversy as there are so many latent interests which might effect the questions. I have therefore thought it proper to content myself with detailing the alleged causes of complaint and reporting it as a case requiring the careful investigations of the Department. This course appears to me equally demanded by the reputation of Mr. Slater and the interest and rights of the Indians.

The result of my observation upon Indian Farms and Farmers has satisfied me that the mode in which the farming is at present conducted is but little else than a waste of money. If the whole duty was entrusted to a single individual with authority to hire the necessary labor and whose business it should be to attend to the proper cultivation of the fields and the raising and protecting the crops, the same disbursement at present made would obtain quadruple the amount of work and afford a decided benefit to these improvident children of nature. If this were not thought advisable, it would be far preferable is such a course could be sanctioned by the provisions of the Treaty, to purchase a certain quantity of corn, and place it in the hands of some responsible person for periodical distribution and in seasons of scarcity and want.

This opportunity seems a proper one to make known to you the information I have obtained regarding a subject of momentous and vital importance to this state. It is, upon the probability of being able to effect the total extinguishment of the Indian title to land within its limits. From a careful and general of the principal Chiefs and Headmen of the Chippewa tribe, I am satisfied that they might by induced to unite in such a measure with the Ottawa.

By this means a general Treaty may be effected with all the Indians residing within the peninsula of Michigan. The Ottawa of Grand River are it is believed not only willing but desirous to treat. They have had the measure, long under consideration, and made it the subject of frequent council and such has been the result of their mature deliberation. That the present is the propitious period to effect the purchase, not only as it regards the state itself, but also the true Interests of the Indians themselves, may be readily made manifest.

The sagacity which the Indians have displayed in receiving the best lands: and most important points is generally acknowledged. Their possessions are therefore, all calculated in a serious manner to obstruct the posterity of a rapidly settling country. To Michigan then, these lands are of the first importance. To the Indians they are comparatively useless, as they cannot avail themselves of their value, either for agricultural or other purposes. The rapid progress of population daily diminishes the quantity of game, and upon their cornfields they place but little reliance for p support. Independent of these considerations, there is one still more important which is, that the moral condition of this unfortunate race depreciate in the ratio of the increase of the white population.

By consequent association they lose their native virtues, and adopt the most degrading vices of the civilized man. The traffic in ardent spirits becomes general, by the barter of whiskey, for the game and peltries so valuable to the settlers and which the Indian will not dispose of for any other medium of exchange, while this can be obtained. There fondness for a?? spirits increases with the facility of procuring it and they become a drunken, idle, thievish race: a nuisance to the settlements and a burden to themselves. The decrease of game in a populous district increases the necessity of strenuous exertion, for which their intemperate habits so enfeebling to the mind and body utterly incapacitate them. They resort to the traders who supply their wants and gratify their increased propensity for dress and finery. As the risks of the Trader is great, and his return in some degree dependent upon a future Treaty, the profit demanded are exorbitant. The prices of the most ordinary articles are doubled to the Indians. A few years exercise of this system plunges the tribe in irretrievable debt and the claims of the Trader, part real, part artificial are enormous. The effect of all which is to make them entirely dependent upon these men for the supply of their wants, they become absolutely under their control and they dictate entirely in the sale of their lands. At their instigation they demand large sums in order to cover the amount of their claims, and to leave an important surplus in the hands of the Indians as well for the purpose of future trade, as to satisfy that they lose nothing by the allowance of their inflated account.

The example of Indians, and the difficulty he experienced in effecting the purchase of the lands from the Miamis, through which the Wabash canal is located, is sufficient, independent of many instances in other states equally striking, to indicate the importance of the speedy and absolute extinction of the Indian title within our borders. In view of this object, and of sustaining the policy of the general government in a removal of the Indian Tribes beyond the Mississippi, it is respectfully submitted whether is were not advisable that a delegation of Chiefs from the Chippewa and Ottawa nations, chosen from the most important village should be sent with suitable persons early in the coming Spring to visit and examine the places of their proposed abode beyond the Mississippi.

Connected with this subject it may not be irrelative to express an opinion that the payment for lands to the Indians in the usual form of annuities is not only worse than useless but a most deleterious tendency. The trifling amount usually paid to each individual or family is of little moment, and by no means sufficient to repay them for the time lost and the distance frequently travelled to obtain it. It is an universal sentiment among the traders in this section of the country, that the time wasted in obtaining their annuities if occupied by the Indians in hunting would enable them to realize a much lower amount than their share of annuity, and that if not a single cent were received from that source it would be infinitely more advantageous to the interests of both. No one who had witnessed an Indian payment, and its disgusting concomitants, but will assent to the opinions that the injury inflicted by this show of justice is far more disastrous to the Indians, than if his land had been reft from him, by the strong hand of violence without remuneration, and that the sword would be less destructive than the annuity table. A simple detail of facts will fully support this position……………….

The problems of whiskey being traded follows and is not included in this copy online as it contains no names……….

Kintzing Pritchette

SOURCE: National Archives Microfilm Publications RG 75 M 268P
Records of the Michigan Superintendency of Indian Affairs.
Roll 41 page 51
Letter Received 1836-1851
Vol. 1 July – December 1836
Henry Schoolcraft 1836-1841

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