The Killing of Chief Joe White (Gishkitawag), 1894

The Killing of Chief Joe White, 1894: articles & court documents

Treaties signed in 1837, 1842, and 1854 guaranteed the Ojibwe the right to hunt and fish without restriction on their ceded lands in northern Wisconsin. During the 1880s and 1890s, the State of Wisconsin enacted wildlife conservation laws that limited hunting and fishing, and applied them to the Ojibwe as well as to white settlers regardless of federal treaty stipulations. On Dec. 13, 1894, chief Joe White (ca. 1838-1894) was met at Long Lake, in Washburn Co., by a local game warden and law officer, who arrested him for hunting deer out of season. Although White agreed to come with them peaceably, they attempted to handcuff him and a scuffle broke out. The only eyewitness accounts, forensic analysis, and ballistics evidence show that the game warden clubbed White in the head with his rifle and that, as he ran away from his assailants, the deputy shot him at a distance of nearly 30 yards. Chief White died two hours later.

An inquest was held on Dec. 21, and the Washburn Co. district attorney filed murder charges against the two. In a highly publicized trial in March 1895, an all-white jury found that the officers had acted in self-defense and declared them innocent. The Lake Superior Ojibwe retained memories of the incident through succeeding generations as a flagrant example of treaty violation and racial injustice.

Given here (click "View the Document" below) are 13 newspaper articles, selected trial testimony, and a map of the shooting introduced as evidence. These were scanned from decades-old microfilm of fragile originals, and can sometimes be hard to read. To zoom in, click once or twice over any passage. The complete citations for these documents are given below.

"Game Warden Shoots." Shell Lake Watchman, Dec. 20, 1894.
"Is Very Much Mixed ." Spooner Register, Dec. 22, 1894
"Hicks Being Tried." Shell Lake Watchman, Dec. 26, 1894
"Slayers of Joe White." Spooner Register, Dec. 29, 1894
"The District Attorney's Fanfaronade." Spooner Register, Jan. 1, 1895
"Ghost of Joe White." Shell Lake Watchman, Jan. 24, 1895
"Joe White Again." Shell Lake Watchman, Jan. 31, 1895
"Jury List." Shell Lake Watchman, Feb. 21, 1895
The State Against S.M. Hicks (Washburn Series 27: Wisconsin. Circuit Court. Washburn County. Case files, 1886-1982):
  Testimony of Charles White, Dr. G.A. Barker, Joe Baker, Joe Naveash, Christian Sonstead, Horace Martin, and S.M. Hicks. 
 Map of the shooting introduced at the trial  
"About Finished!" Shell Lake Watchman, March 21, 1895
"Justifiable Homicide." Rice Lake Chronotype, March 22, 1895
"Session Finished." Shell Lake Watchman, March 26, 1895
"Martin & Hicks Trial." Hayward Republican, March 28, 1895
"Be Sure You Are Right." Shell Lake Watchman, March 28, 1895

Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
The Progressive Era
Wisconsin's Response to 20th-century change
Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island
The Conservation Movement
Indians in the 20th Century
Creator: Varies
Pub Data: See above.
Citation: The collection should be called, "Press reports & court documents concerning the killing of Chief Joe White, 1894." Individual articles and documents should be cited as listed above, followed by the phrase, Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 6/30/2022