A letter written in 1898 from Little Shell to J.B. Bottineau expressing the need for the Band Council to travel to Washington, DC, to push their claims for assistance in the face of ongoing starvation and the unequal distribution of funds and rations to the band.
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota, Belcourt, N. Dak., January 26, 1898.
From the Chief and all the Councilmen to John Bte. Botttneau, at Washington, D. C.:
The Chief Little Shell here speaks: We are tired, fatigue, since so long waiting for the settlement of our claim. Even though we are so fatigue we keep strong, firm, to stay by you and your efforts in our cause; we are always ready to go or do as you say, to hell pushing our case.
In regard to the affairs and doings of the three commissioners – the Ten-Cent Treaty commissioners – we are very much troubled in here about it; but I repeat to you here again I did say while in Washington to the House Committee of Indian Affairs, that I would never sign their affairs, the ten-cent treaty. I am all the same yet and now.
My greatest fatigue is to see my people so poor and going so hungry. In regard to our proposed amendment to secure fifteen thousand dollars for relief pending the settlement of our claim, I would like to see all the members of our tribe (the Turtle Mountain) get some of it equally, and not like they have done with the appropriation of 1895, and give it only to those favored ones which were put on the list (rolls) by the commissioners. Have this appropriation so arranged to protect us all equally.
In regard to the conditions of our affairs, we have asked your uncle Charles for your attention to get some means from the Government which will help us to go to Washington. It will give you more force to push our case through, even if you have to do so yourself as you have done, to bring our delegation to Washington. The last time we were there in May and June, 1896. It is the greatest hope and desire of the chief and all the councilmen of the tribe, because we know we could help you and help our cause greatly, and we would accomplish something; and it is important we should go now because our pecuniary condition and the necessity demands it, and we know we could accomplish something for the benefit of the tribe through our friends in Congress, with the help of our present Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who, you say, is the true friend of the Indians. We wish to see him and talk to him ourselves now, and we ask you to help us in some way which will give us means to bring us to Washington as soon as possible.
The chief, Little Shell, and all the councilmen send you their best respects.
Little Shell, Chief (his x mark).
Sasswain, Henri Poitra (his x mark).
Gourneau, Baptiste Champagne (his x mark).
Bayriss, Cuthbert Grant (his X mark).
John B. Reno, Secretary of the Council and of the Turtle Mountain Indians
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians to Court of Claims, House and Senate Reports: Reports on Public Bill, March 24, 1898, Committee on Indian Affairs. US House of Representatives