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Treaty Councils, from Prairie du Chien to Madeline Island

During August 1825, thousands of Indians representing all the Wisconsin tribes gathered in Prairie du Chien. Territorial governors William Clark of Missouri and Lewis Cass of Michigan facilitated discussions that produced a general treaty of peace among all the tribes. Henry Schoolcraft left a long account of this seminal event in chapter 23 of his memoirs (see below), and painter J.O. Lewis captured the scene and dozens of Indian leaders in color (all included here).

Although it granted no land to the United States, the Prairie du Chien treaty of 1825 opened the door for talks with individual tribes that were intended to do just that. Between 1829 and 1833 the first four of these transferred U.S. title to all lands south of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, and in five more councils over the next fifteen years the tribes ceded nearly all the rest of Wisconsin to the U.S. government. In a single generation, under the pressure of overwhelming military force, people who had lived here for centuries or millennia lost their rights to their native lands.

More than seventy treaties were negotiated with Wisconsin Indians between 1804 and 1854. Though compensation was always granted for ceded territory, it was often minimal as white negotiators took advantage of their Indian counterparts. "We are ignorant of the way you measure land," says a Menominee chief in one of the documents given here. "We do not know what you mean by the acres you speak of. What is it?" U.S. negotiators could be equally ignorant: they negotiated and signed more than one treaty with Indians who lacked authority to speak for their nation. In addition to ignorance, factors such as misplaced benevolence, romantic paternalism, simple racism, malice, and plain human greed all played roles in the legal dispossession of Wisconsin's first peoples.

For a complete list of all treaties and their texts, see Kappler's Indian affairs: laws and treaties (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1904-1979). The major treaties negotiated between Indian nations and the U.S. government that resulted in land cessions in Wisconsin are listed here:

1829 (July 29-Aug. 1) at Prairie du Chien with the Potawatomie, Ojibwe, and Ottawa (July 29) and the Ho-Chunk (Aug. 1). The tribes ceded the lead mining region of southwestern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Kappler vol. II, pp. 297-303

1831 (Feb. 8) at Washington, D.C. with the Menominee, who ceded the area from Milwaukee to Green Bay to Fox River, and settled the N.Y. Indians. Kappler vol. II, pp. 319-323

1832 (Sept. 15-21) at Fort Armstrong, Ill., on Rock Island, with the Ho-Chunk (Sept. 15) and the Sauk and Fox (Sept. 21). The Ho-Chunk ceded all their remaining territory south of the Wisconsin River; the Sauk & Fox ceded the Iowa shore of the Mississippi. Kappler vol. II, pp. 345-351

1833 (Sept. 26) at Chicago with the Potawatomie, Ojibwe, and Ottawa, who ceded all their remaining lands east of Mississippi; the Potawatomie agreed to leave Wisconsin for lands west of Mississippi. Kappler vol. II, pp. 402-415

1836 (Sept. 3) at Cedar Point, Wis., with the Menominee, who ceded lands in northeast Wisconsin roughly from Green Bay to the Wolf River. Kappler vol. II, pp. 463-466

1837 (Nov. 1) at Washington, D.C., with the Ho-Chunk, who ceded all their remaining lands east of Mississippi and agreed to western removal. Kappler vol. II, pp. 498-500

1837 (July 29) at St. Peters, Minn. (Fort Snelling) with the Ojibwe, who ceded the northern lands whose drainage flowed southwest toward the Mississippi, but retained fishing and hunting rights on it. Kappler vol. II, pp. 491-492

1842 (Oct. 4) at LaPointe, Wis. (Madeline Island), with the Ojibwe, who ceded all their remaining lands in Wisconsin and Michigan. Kappler vol. II, pp. 542-545

1848 (October 18) at Lake Poygan, Wis., with the Menominee, who ceded all their remaining lands. Kappler vol. II, pp. 572-574

1854 (Sept. 30) at LaPointe, Wis. (Madeline Island), with the Ojibwe; established the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, and Lac du Flambeau reservations. Kappler vol. II, pp. 648-652

[Sources: Wyman, Mark. The Wisconsin Frontier (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1998). The History of Wisconsin: volume 1, From Exploration to Statehood by Alice E. Smith. (Madison, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1973)]


Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: Gen. Joseph Street, Indian agent to the Ho-Chunk, Sauk and Fox.  Gen. Joseph Street, Indian agent to the Ho-Chunk, Sauk and Fox.
Link to article: Essays and speeches by Brothertown and Stockbridge leaders.  Essays and speeches by Brothertown and Stockbridge leaders.
Link to article: Menominee Vocabulary, 1893  Menominee Vocabulary, 1893
Link to article: Indian Versions of Some Early Wisconsin Events  Indian Versions of Some Early Wisconsin Events
Link to article: Ojibwe Place Names in Wisconsin, ca. 1890  Ojibwe Place Names in Wisconsin, ca. 1890
Link to article: John Shaw recalls Tomah, Black Hawk, Keokuk, and other Indian leaders.  John Shaw recalls Tomah, Black Hawk, Keokuk, and other Indian leaders.
Link to article: Walking Cloud recounts episodes of the Black Hawk War.  Walking Cloud recounts episodes of the Black Hawk War.
Link to article: The Oneidas claim land in New York  The Oneidas claim land in New York
Link to article: A participant tells how the Oneida, Stockbridge, and Brothertown came to Wisconsin in the 1820s.  A participant tells how the Oneida, Stockbridge, and Brothertown came to Wisconsin in the 1820s.
Link to article: A trader relates his family history and personal adventures, 1745-1857.  A trader relates his family history and personal adventures, 1745-1857.
Link to article: Ho-Chunk chief Spoon Decorah looks back over a long life.  Ho-Chunk chief Spoon Decorah looks back over a long life.
Link to article: Speeches of Pontiac (1763) and Souligny (1848) against white incursions.  Speeches of Pontiac (1763) and Souligny (1848) against white incursions.
Link to article: A memoir of Indian agent Joseph Street  A memoir of Indian agent Joseph Street
Link to article: Early History of the Brothertown Indians  Early History of the Brothertown Indians
Link to artifacts: Ojibwe ceremonial pipe given to Gov. James Doty, 1844  Ojibwe ceremonial pipe given to Gov. James Doty, 1844
Link to book: The Commissioner of Indian Affairs visits the Ojibwe in 1826.  The Commissioner of Indian Affairs visits the Ojibwe in 1826.
Link to book: Caleb Atwater describes the 1829 talks at Prairie du Chien  Caleb Atwater describes the 1829 talks at Prairie du Chien
Link to book: A guide to the Mohican language, 1789  A guide to the Mohican language, 1789
Link to book: The language spoken by the Brothertown Indians when Europeans arrived in America  The language spoken by the Brothertown Indians when Europeans arrived in America
Link to book: An Oneida prayer-book, 1816  An Oneida prayer-book, 1816
Link to book: The language of the Brothertown Indians' ancestors, 1722  The language of the Brothertown Indians' ancestors, 1722
Link to book: A missionary's speech in Oneida, 1815.  A missionary's speech in Oneida, 1815.
Link to book: The first book printed in Wisconsin, an Ojibwe almanac  The first book printed in Wisconsin, an Ojibwe almanac
Link to book: A religious primer in Mohican, 1818  A religious primer in Mohican, 1818
Link to book: A speech by Brothertown Indian leader Samsom Occom, 1771  A speech by Brothertown Indian leader Samsom Occom, 1771
Link to book: Report on the Menominee at Termination, 1958  Report on the Menominee at Termination, 1958
Link to book: A life of Jesus in Ottawa, 1837  A life of Jesus in Ottawa, 1837
Link to book: A Ho-Chunk grammar textbook, 1945  A Ho-Chunk grammar textbook, 1945
Link to book: Stockbridge and Munsee Testimony, 1892  Stockbridge and Munsee Testimony, 1892
Link to book: An Oneida spelling book for children, 1820  An Oneida spelling book for children, 1820
Link to book: Fr. Baraga's 1853 Ojibwe Dictionary  Fr. Baraga's 1853 Ojibwe Dictionary
Link to book: Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900  Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900
Link to book: A Munsee language edition of Methodist hymns, 1874  A Munsee language edition of Methodist hymns, 1874
Link to book: The Stockbridge-Munsee Constitution, 1857  The Stockbridge-Munsee Constitution, 1857
Link to book: The history and traditions of the Chippewa Valley  The history and traditions of the Chippewa Valley
Link to book: Menominee chiefs refuse to give up more land in 1832.  Menominee chiefs refuse to give up more land in 1832.
Link to collections: The Killing of Chief Joe White (Gishkitawag), 1894  The Killing of Chief Joe White (Gishkitawag), 1894
Link to images: Menominee Chief Oshkosh in 1858  Menominee Chief Oshkosh in 1858
Link to images: Pictures of the Ojibwe in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Pictures of the Ojibwe in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Link to images: Pictures of the Menominee in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Pictures of the Menominee in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Link to images: Pictures of the Ho-Chunk in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Pictures of the Ho-Chunk in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Link to images: Pictures of the Meskwaki (Fox) Indians in the 19th century.  Pictures of the Meskwaki (Fox) Indians in the 19th century.
Link to images: Pictures of the Potawatomi from the 1820's to the 1920's  Pictures of the Potawatomi from the 1820's to the 1920's
Link to images: Pictures of the Sauk Indians during the 1830's  Pictures of the Sauk Indians during the 1830's
Link to images: Ojibwe leaders represent their credentials to Washington in a picture  Ojibwe leaders represent their credentials to Washington in a picture
Link to images: Stockbridge Chief John W. Quinney in 1849  Stockbridge Chief John W. Quinney in 1849
Link to images: Oneida Chief Daniel Bread in 1856  Oneida Chief Daniel Bread in 1856
Link to images: Stockbridge Indian leader Austin E. Quinney, 1849  Stockbridge Indian leader Austin E. Quinney, 1849
Link to images: Wisconsin Indian leaders as they attended treaty councils in the 1830's.  Wisconsin Indian leaders as they attended treaty councils in the 1830's.
Link to manuscript: The U.S. government deceives the Ojibwe, 1850.  The U.S. government deceives the Ojibwe, 1850.
Link to manuscript: Ojibwe chiefs protest broken treaties to officials in Washington in 1864.  Ojibwe chiefs protest broken treaties to officials in Washington in 1864.
Link to manuscript: The new Indian agent describes tensions in the Lead Region in 1827.  The new Indian agent describes tensions in the Lead Region in 1827.
Link to manuscript: Wisconsin soldiers who served in the Black Hawk War (1832)  Wisconsin soldiers who served in the Black Hawk War (1832)
Link to manuscript: Brief Potawatomi Language Vocabularies, 1920-1932.  Brief Potawatomi Language Vocabularies, 1920-1932.
Link to manuscript: Brief Ho-Chunk Language Vocabularies, 1830-1930  Brief Ho-Chunk Language Vocabularies, 1830-1930
Link to manuscript: The Treaty of Prairie du Chien, 1825  The Treaty of Prairie du Chien, 1825
Link to manuscript: A French visitor describes the Menominee's 1838 annuity payment.  A French visitor describes the Menominee's 1838 annuity payment.
Link to manuscript: The Menominee and Ho-Chunk negotiate with the New York Indians in 1821.  The Menominee and Ho-Chunk negotiate with the New York Indians in 1821.
Link to manuscript: A Long Ho-Chunk Vocabulary, 1880  A Long Ho-Chunk Vocabulary, 1880
Link to manuscript: Chief Oshkosh protests U.S. government treatment, ca. 1848  Chief Oshkosh protests U.S. government treatment, ca. 1848
Link to manuscript: Wisconsin soldiers who served in the Winnebago War (1827)  Wisconsin soldiers who served in the Winnebago War (1827)
Link to places: Madeline Island Historical Museum  Madeline Island Historical Museum

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to book: Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society  Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society
Link to book: Maps and texts of all Wisconsin treaty cessions  Maps and texts of all Wisconsin treaty cessions
Link to book: Henry Schoolcraft's Personal Memoirs (1812-1842)  Henry Schoolcraft's Personal Memoirs (1812-1842)
Link to book: Black Hawk's autobiography (electronic text from Project Gutenberg)  Black Hawk's autobiography (electronic text from Project Gutenberg)
Link to book: A Scholarly Overview of Ojibwe Treaty Rights  A Scholarly Overview of Ojibwe Treaty Rights
Link to book: A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854  A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854
Link to book: An 1823 interview with a Sauk warrior  An 1823 interview with a Sauk warrior
Link to book: Texts of all the Indian treaties with Wisconsin tribes.  Texts of all the Indian treaties with Wisconsin tribes.
Link to book: A missionary recounts his experiences near Lake Superior, 1860  A missionary recounts his experiences near Lake Superior, 1860
Link to book: The full text of Caleb Atwater's book, excerpted above (1831)  The full text of Caleb Atwater's book, excerpted above (1831)
Link to manuscript: An Indian interpreter negotiates treaty payments in 1856  An Indian interpreter negotiates treaty payments in 1856
Link to manuscript: Diary of Oneida Indian John Archiquette, 1868-1874  Diary of Oneida Indian John Archiquette, 1868-1874

Related Links

Visit the Web site of the Menominee Indian Tribe
Visit the Web site of the Ho-chunk Nation
Discover the standard book about Wisconsin Indians, by Patty Loew
Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
The Menominee Tribe's history of treaty negotiations
Read more about the 1864 Ojibwe petition
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
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