If You Do Not Help Us, We Will Die in Our Poverty. Flat Mouth (II), Little Rock (Asinewub), and White Cloud, 1877
Each summer from 1873 through 1877, a disastrous cloud of locusts invaded the Minnesota farm country, devouring almost everything green in sight. By the winter of 1876-77 the situation was drastically affecting the Ojibwe reservations in northern Minnesota. Various chiefs began to write to their foremost influential friend, Bishop Henry Whipple, for assistance. Flat Mouth II wrote from Leech Lake on January 13, 1877:
My people are starving and freezing, and no work is being done for us. We received at our annual payment a very few goods, and our children are consequently suffering. Within the last two or three years the administration of our affairs have been such as to show no improvement, and we appear in a worse condition than formerly. We desire you to write to Washington to explain our situation and to control our affairs.
A month later Whipple received a letter from Little Rock on the Red Lake reserve:
Our friend, we met in council today--[and] thought of you in our necessities. You are our friend and you are one whom we know would help us. You know very well our poverty. We have never had any help since we went to see our Great Father at Washington and we would like very much to go and see him once more before our annuities expire, and thought only of you who would help us to go on, and we wish to borrow money from you out of monies due us from the government next fall, or sooner, if we get help from our Great Father.... We wish to bear our own expenses. If you can help us in this matter, it will show us that you are our friend.... if you do not help us, we will die in our poverty. You know we cannot follow any religion naked. We must have help from our Great Father.
Then, in May 1877, Whipple heard from White Cloud at the White Earth reserve:
When you were here last summer, you saw the grasshoppers, and now their children are among us, threatening to destroy everything again this year as they did last. The last time I saw you, you said you would come here soon and see us again. I looked and watched for you, but you came not. I afterwards heard that the Great Father had sent you to see the Sioux and heard of the success of your work among them. I would like to have you write and advise me in my new mode of life. Maybe you may not think me worthy, but I shall deem it my duty to advise my people.
Sources: Flat Mouth to Whipple, Jan. 13, 1877, Red Lake chiefs to Whipple, Feb. 13, 1877, and White Cloud to Whipple, May 18, 1877, Whipple Papers. One result of the complaints was that the White Earth agent, Lewis Stowe was replaced by the old trader and mail route operator, Charles A. Ruffee. White Cloud's activities in getting Stowe replaced caused missionary J. A. Gilfillan to give him a poor historical reputation. See Frederick W. Hodge, ed. Handbook of American Indians, Part 2 (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1979), 885.
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