The U.S. government deceives the Ojibwe, 1850.

United States Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents, 1801-1906

Starting in the 1830s, U.S. officials employed treaties, deception, and force to try to 'remove' all eastern Indian nations onto lands west of the Mississippi. In 1850, the government decided to apply this policy to the Lake Superior Ojibwe. To induce them to leave their Wisconsin homeland, agent J. S. Watrous and other officials moved the location of the 1850 Ojibwe annuity payment, required by the Treaty of 1842, to Sandy Lake, Minnesota, rather than holding it at La Pointe, Wisconsin, as usual. In late November, about 3,000 Ojibwe traveled the 500 miles to Sandy Lake only to find no payment and no provisions for their return trip: the government had hoped to strand them west of the Mississippi. By the time they were able to make it home, about 400 people had died of hunger, disease, or exposure (more than 10% of the entire nation). These shameful actions by the government set the Ojibwe and many non-native citizens of the region against removal. Because of the uproar, the government dropped the removal order and the 'Reservation Treaty' of La Pointe was negotiated in 1854. The link below opens photostats of several contemporary handwritten documents in the National Archives relating to the Sandy Lake Tragedy. These include protests against removal by Ojibwe leaders and sympathetic white neighbors, descriptions of the journey and conditions at Sandy Lake by Ojibwe chiefs, and petitions in which Ojibwe leaders explain their grievances to President Zachary Taylor. Note that the Fond du Lac mentioned in these documents is Fond du Lac, Minnesota, on the St. Louis River near Duluth. We are grateful to the Lac Courte Oreilles Historic Preservation Office for helping us make transcripts of these documents available. To see a typed transcript of any page, click "Page & Description" while viewing it.

Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island
Creator: varies
Pub Data: The original documents are in the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the National Archives. These photostats were made by Wisconsin Historical Society staff in the early 20th century (U.S. Mss BN).
Citation: United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Photostats of documents in the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, made by Wisconsin Historical Society in the early 20th century (U.S. Mss BN). Online facsimile at Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 2/1/2023