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Odd Wisconsin Archive

American Icons through Indian Eyes, 1830

When the Oneida and other eastern Indian nations were dispossessed of their homelands, government officials attempted to settle them on the Wisconsin frontier. They began negotiating for Menominee and Ho-Chunk territory in 1821, but those tribes were naturally reluctant to part with their own lands or to trust the U.S. government. Revisions, protests, and negotiations went on for more than a decade, well into the 1830s.

During one of those disputes, Menominee chief Grizzly Bear went to Washington for talks. Grizzly Bear, or Kaush-kau-no-naive, was an influential leader of his people. He fought with the British and Tecumseh against the Americans in the War of 1812, but he fought with the U.S. against Black Hawk and the Sauks in 1832.

In December of 1830, he journeyed to Washington with Menominee and Oneida leaders in an effort to reach an agreement about the disputed lands. During the visit, the Menominee leaders were shown around the U.S. Capitol with a guide who was supposed to explain the meaning of the historical sculptures in the rotunda. But looking at the images that adorned the building, the Menominee elder drew different conclusions than his hosts intended.

"The chief Grizzly Bear turned to the eastern door-way," the press reported, "over which there is a representation of the landing of the Pilgrims, and said, 'There Ingin give white man corn;' and to the north, representing Penn's treaty, 'There Ingin give him land;' and to the west, where Pocahontas is seen saving the life of Captain John Smith, 'There Ingin give him life;' and lastly to the south, where the hardy pioneer Daniel Boone is seen plunging his knife into the breast of one red man while his foot rests on the dead body of another, 'There white man kill Ingin."

Without meaning to, the architect had summed up American Indian relations with white settlers quite nicely.

:: Posted in Curiosities on October 31, 2013
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