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Ojibwe leaders represent their credentials to Washington in a picture

An Ojibwe birch bark petition, ca. 1849

This picture was first copied by artist Seth Eastman in 1849 and printed in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's Historical and Statistical Information respecting the... Indian tribes of the United States... (Philadelphia, 1851). Schoolcraft says (pp. 414-416) that a birch bark version was carried by Ojibwe leaders to Washington in 1849 when they petitioned the U.S. to adjust boundaries of the 1842 LaPointe treaty. It was intended as a sort of letter of reference, depicting their authority to speak for the Lake Superior bands today called the Lac Courte Oreilles, St. Croix, Fond du Lac, Red Cliff and Bad River Ojibwe.

Lac Courte Oreilles oral tradition says that this image was used afterwards to interpret the story of the Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850-1851 (see the Dictionary of Wisconsin History at left for a synopsis). In this interpretation, the four lakes on the lower left represent the path to Sandy Lake. The double set of lines to the right of the lake mean that they traveled over land to the first body of water (St. Louis River). On the way back, the headmen of the Bands/Clans met at Fond du Lac. The line from this point to the Crane's eye reflects that this is what Chief Buffalo saw (chief Buffalo belonged to the Crane Clan). The lines from the hearts and eyes of the Catfish, Man-fish, Bear, and the three Martens to the heart and eye of the Crane, mean that all the headmen see and feel the same way. They all stand along a wide blue line that represents Lake Superior. The last line going out from the Crane's eye, indicates that the entire group has authorized Chief Buffalo to speak to President Fillmore and plead their case. Today it is thought that the Catfish represents Nadaugumbe (Lake Chetac in Sawyer County), the Man-fish represented Nenaangebi (Rice Lake, Barron County), and the Bear represents Ahkeywanzee (of Little Lac Courte Oreilles). The right-most Marten is thought to represent Shinogabe (of Fond du Lac, Minn.), the center Marten Wahbekasho (Big Bend of the Chippewa River), and the left-most Marten is thought to be Laubense (St. Croix River). Information from the oral tradition of Lac Courte Oreilles: Jerry Smith, James Pipemustache, Archie Mosay and George Oshogay, collected and provided through the courtesy of Timm L. Severud, Winter, Wis.

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Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island
Creator: Ojibwe Indians
Pub Data: Scanned, under the title below, from the reproduction by Seth Eastman in: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indians Tribes of the United States, vol 1. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851)
Citation: "Symbolic Petition of Chippewa Chiefs, presented at Washington, January 28, 1849, headed by Oshcabawis of Monomonecau, Wis." In: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indians Tribes of the United States, vol 1. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, 1851). Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 4/23/2014
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