Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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Treaty of La Pointe

The Treaty of La Pointe (1842) with the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) took place at La Pointe, Wisconsin, between the United States and 23 distinct bands of the Ojibwe, which represented two major groups called the Ojibwe of Lake Superior and the Ojibwe of the Mississippi. Like the 1837 treaty with the Ojibwe, the 1842 treaty involved the cession of lands to the United States in exchange for annuity payments, provisions, an agricultural fund, and, most important for the Ojibwe, the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the land they ceded. The land ceded in the treaty of 1842 included the western portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the last of the Ojibwe lands in northern Wisconsin. Although the U.S. government had a growing inclination to displace the Ojibwe from their homelands in the 1840s and early 1850s, the 1842 treaty continued the unique tradition of nonremoval established by the United States and the Ojibwe in the treaty of 1837.

Pressured by the profitability of the mineral deposits on the southern shore of Lake Superior, the United States commissioned Robert Stuart, former chief factor of the American Fur Company, to acquire the land that contained the valuable resources. Stuart was given instructions by the commissioner of Indian affairs to attempt to include a stipulation in the treaty that would remove the Lake Superior Ojibwe westward to lands held by the Ojibwe of the Mississippi, to form a common territory for both groups. This act of combining Native American groups into political entities that did not exist naturally was characteristic of U.S. policy of that time. The Ojibwe of Lake Superior and the Ojibwe of the Mississippi balked at the idea of being categorized together as well as at the notion of removal.

Recognizing the Ojibwe concern over the removal clause, Stuart did not force the issue, and the content of the treaty of 1842 was very similar to the treaty of 1837. The Ojibwe retained the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the land they ceded to the United States, but Stuart made it clear that future removal was a possibility. The discretion to remove the Ojibwe at a future date was given to the president of the United States. In exchange for the land in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and a portion of northern Wisconsin, the Ojibwe were given annual payments of $12,500 in currency, $10,500 in goods, $2,000 to support two blacksmiths, $1,000 to support two farmers, $1,200 to support two carpenters, $2,000 to support schools, $2,000 for tobacco, and money to settle debts with traders to whom the Ojibwe were in debt.

By supporting schools, carpenters, farmers, and blacksmiths, the United States was clearly attempting to inject elements of white society into the Ojibwe culture. Like the missionaries who had established themselves among the Ojibwe, the United States embarked on "civilizing" the Ojibwe by encouraging the Native Americans to adopt a lifestyle similar to that of white society. Paradoxically, the policy of the United States was also to threaten the removal of the Ojibwe, which did nothing to help incorporate them into "civilized" society. After the treaty of 1842 was signed, confusion over which Ojibwe would receive the annuity payments, as well as a growing threat by the United States to remove the Ojibwe, led to another treaty negotiation in 1854.

Troy Henderson


Further Reading
McClurken, James M., ed. Fish in the Lakes, Wild Rice, and Game in Abundance: Testimony on Behalf of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Hunting and Fishing Rights. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000; Cleland, Charles E. Rites of Conquest: The History and Culture of Michigan's Native Americans. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992; Danziger, Edmund Jefferson, Jr. The Chippewas of Lake Superior. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.
 

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