The McCumber Agreement (or 10 Cent Treaty) of Turtle Mountain
By the treaty of 1863 (13 Stats. 667) the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewa ceded certain territories. The cession left about 3,200,000 acres for use and occupancy by the Red Lake band in an area surrounding Red Lake and extending north to Lake of the Woods and Rainy River. The Pembina Band under Little Shell and Red Bear reserved for themselves a rich hunting ground to the west.
In the proceedings of the council, furnished by the commission who negotiated this treaty of 1863, it is stated that the Pembina Chippewa "…proposed to reserve all the country west of a line running from Poplar Grove to the head of Salt River, and thence due north to the British boundary, as a hunting ground." The commission reported that that "the Pembina bands who subsist by buffalo hunting also retain for themselves a tract of country claimed by them, embracing some of the present favorite pastures of that animal north and northwest of Devil's Lake."
Also party to the treaty, but not as composite members of the Red Lake and Pembina Bands specifically, were half-breeds (Metis) who were related by blood to the bands. Article VIII of the 1863 treaty set forth that the mixed-blood relatives of the Chippewa, who were US citizens and had adopted the habits and customs of civilized life, were permitted to take a homestead of 160 acres, or scrip (as provided by supplemental articles of April 12, 1864), that were to be located within the ceded territory, and to be accepted in-lieu of all future claims for annuities. The half-breeds received 464 pieces of scrip for 160 acres each, entitling them to 74,240 acres of land. A failed attempt was made in 1873 to remove the Pembina Band to White Earth in Minnesota, but only 263 Pembina Band members could be enticed to remove to the east.
In an effort to extinguish the claims of the Pembina to almost 10,000,000 acres of land, an Executive Order was passed on December 21, 1882, which set forth a reservation of 32 by 24 miles, which encompassed the majority of what is now Rolette County, North Dakota. Two subsequent Executive Orders in 1884 further restricted the Pembina Band (now known as the Turtle Mountain Band) to two townships of land that comprise the current Turtle Mountain Reservation.
Little Shell was not pleased with the developments surrounding the arbitrary creation and almost immediate reduction of the reservation, especially since the Band’s claim to the entirety of the land reserved, following the 1863 treaty, was not being dealt with honorably. In an attempt to appease Little Shell and to finally extinguish the claims of the Band to the almost 10,000,000 acres of land that were fast being settled by white men, a commission was established in 1891 and sent to Turtle Mountain to negotiate.
From day one the commission was destined for failure. Before the Chief and the headmen would meet with them, it was demanded that a customary feat should be held at each meeting so that Ojibwe traditions were met with everyone speaking while their hunger was satisfied. To this, the commission replied that it was not in the “feasting business." Once it was arranged to ensure food at the meetings, a committee of sixteen mixed-bloods and sixteen full-bloods was selected to negotiate tribal interests, and to determine who was a legitimate member of the Turtle Mountain band.
It was the hope of the McCumber Commission to disenroll as many Indians and half-breeds from the band as they could, so as to reduce the amount of land the tribe would require and to save the government money having to support so many Turtle Mountain people. This Committee of 32 immediately disenrolled 522 people. The white commissioners then went over the list of names remaining after this and disenrolled even more people who they felt shouldn’t be included as Turtle Mountain Indians. Notices were placed around the reservation with the names of those who would be disenrolled, but many people could not read and did not attend their hearings to defend their claim to membership in the tribe. Others who did attend their hearings, but with few exceptions almost all that were on the list were rejected and disenrolled. Once the list of persons who were disenrolled was complete, the McCumber Commission completed a census of those persons who were, in their opinion, Turtle Mountain Indians (what is now known as the 1892 McCumber Rolls).
Once the census was complete, the commission worked to try to remove the remaining Indians from Turtle Mountain. A team of local chiefs and headmen was established and sent to Fort Berthold to negotiate and select a place where the Turtle Mountain people might be relocated, so as to open up all of Rolette County for white settlement. The band selected four full-bloods and two mixed-bloods to travel there: Little Shell, Foggy Cloud, Clear Eyes, Kannick, Vandal, and Jerome. Even though the Turtle Mountain folks were on friendly terms with the people of Fort Berthold, no amount of persuasion could induce them even to consider the subject of disposing of any of their reservation or to allowing the Turtle Mountain people a home there. When this attempt failed, a proposal was made by Little Shell to seek a reservation in Montana near the Milk River, but this possibility was not entertained by the Commission.
After the failure of trying to find an alternate home for the Turtle Mountain people, Little Shell demanded that the current reservation (two townships) be expanded back to its original size. The Commission discounted this as impossible due to white settlement of the region surrounding Turtle Mountain. As an alternative, the Commission suggested an ‘Agreement’ that the reservation be allotted and that and that their interest be settled. Those persons who could not make an allotment in the country immediately surrounding the two townships would be allowed to take one under the Indian Homestead Act instead, whereby any head of a family (or person over 21 years of age) could select 160 acres on any vacant public land, and that those who did not desire to remove to any other section could take advantage of that act wherever they could find vacant lands.
The faction headed by Little Shell, Red Thunder, Yellow Bird, Young Man, and others, complained bitterly of the action of the Committee of thirty-two and the Commission in cutting down the membership roll and disenrolling families—leaving them to starve. Kakenowash, chairman of the Committee of thirty-two; Beaver, Yellow Day, Foggy Cloud, Offers-the-Pipe, Circling Hawk, Elevated, Red Bear, and many others also complained much about the treatment that the Turtle Mountain Band, who had always maintained peace with the Americans, were receiving at the hands of the Government. Kakenowash asked the commission: "Have we or our ancestors ever ceded the lands we claim? If we have, there must be some record of it on the files in Washington, and we ask the commission to show it to us. If we have ceded this land we will no longer make a claim to it, but if we have not, we ask the Government to deal rightly with us. The Government has not taken the lands of other Indians, even its worst enemies, without securing the Indian title. What right, then, has the Government to reduce us to two townships? We are unlearned and cannot read or write and we ask the commission not to deceive us, but to inform us truly whether or not this land has ever been ceded to the Government”. The McCumber Commission replied that it found no relinquishment of the territory from them, but that there was a question about their territory, and that the Government had already paid the Sioux and Assiniboine money for some of the land claimed by Turtle Mountain.
Little Shell and his headmen declared that if this was the decision of the Commission to ignore their request for a larger reservation and adequate compensation, that they would leave as they would never consent to any treaty which would not give them what was rightfully theirs. Once Little Shell and his men had left the negotiations, the Commission worked hard to gain agreement from the Committee of thirty-two and the others who were present. A final agreement was reached which set forth significantly reduced payment for the cession of the land claims of the Band (earning it the title the “Ten-Cent Treaty”), the cession of the reservation selected under the 1863 Treaty by Red Bear, and the ability of tribal members to select lands on the Public Domain. The Agreement was signed by the Indians on October, 22, 1892. However, the Agreement was never ratified by congress.
In the years following, Little Shell returned to the Turtle Mountains and re-asserted his leadership of the Band. He spent years working with the other leaders and with J.B. Bottineau, tribal attorney, to seek settlement of the Band’s claims. He finally passed away and a watered down version of the Agreement was finally signed and ratified in 1904 (the Davis Agreement) which allowed for Indian allotments to be taken on the Public Domain. Because so many years had passed, many of these allotments had to be selected in western North Dakota and Montana, rendering them useless to those who selected them, as they generally did not want to leave their friends and relatives in the Turtle Mountains and farm in some far-away place.
Thus, the Turtle Mountain people were decimated by the McCumber Commission, which disenrolled hundreds of people—robbing them of their identity and birthright as Indians—and stealing the land from the people, leading to over a century of poverty and hardship.
Report to the Secretary of Interior for the year of June 30, 1891. USGPO, Washington, DC
A Report of the Turtle Mountain Indian Commission, Executive Documents of the US House of Representatives, 1892-1893. USGPO, Washington, DC.
When possible, all parts of the buffalo were used
In processing buffalo, the Ojibwe, Cree, and half-breed (Metis) hunters were quite systematic in how they handled the animals, what parts were used for meat, and what would be processed for trade.
First, the buffalo tongue was processed. The tongue of even an old bull was regarded as a delicate morsel, and was almost always saved first. The hump was generally considered to be next in delicacy and tenderness and would be saved for eating rather than processing as pemmican or for sale.
Next, the meat was cut by the women into long strips about a quarter of an inch thick. These strips were hung upon the lattice-work prepared for that purpose, to dry in the sun and smoke with small fires. This lattice-work was formed by bending small pieces of wood horizontally and vertically to form a grid that was supported by large poles.
After a few days, the meat was thoroughly desiccated from the sun and smoke. It was then folded into proper lengths, and tied in bundles of sixty or seventy pounds of dried meat called a 'viande seche'. These bundles would be transfered to the trading posts for sale and future processing.
The smaller portions of meat which were also dried were not bundled, but rather were dried until brittle and reducible to small particles by the use of a hammer, with the buffalo-hide serving the purpose of a clean threshing-floor. Next, the tallow was cut up and melted in large kettles of sheet-iron and poured upon the pounded meat, and the whole mass was worked together with shovels and hoes until well-mixed. Berries or cherries might be added if available. Then, the mixture was pressed, while still warm, into bags made of buffalo-skin, which were sewn up tightly. The pemmican was allowed to gradually cool and it soon became almost as hard as a rock.
Pemmican without berries or cherries was called 'fine pemmican'; pemmican that contained them was called 'seed pemmican'. People who remember what old-time pemmican tasted like described fine pemmican to be very palatable, but seed pemmican was described as excellent in taste and a delicacy to partake in.
A processed block of pemmican would usually weigh from about one-hundred to one-hundred and ten pounds. A whole cow buffalo might yield one half a bag of pemmican, and three fourths of a bundle of dried meat; so that the most economical calculate that from eight to ten cows are required for the load of a single Red River cart. The robes were, of course, processed and bundled for eventual sale or use.
Other parts of the buffalo would also be used. While the pemmican was being processed, the men would separate and break the bones. The broken bones would be placed into boiling water to extract the marrow. The marrow would be poured into the bladder of the buffalo, which was able to contain about twelve pounds of marrow. Stored marrow was used for frying and for other culinary purposes. A bull could yield forty-five pounds of clean rendered marrow, while a fat cow might yield about thirty-five pounds.
During the autumn months, a few hunters would kill buffaloes for the purpose of curing the meat for winter instead of processing it for pemmican. The best pieces only, from young and tender animals, were selected, and when properly cured were considered fully equal to the best dried and smoked beef found in the eastern markets.
Adapted from Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zool̈ogy at Harvard College (1874)
The Red Lake Ojibwe get revenge twice against the Dakota
As part of a Pillager War party that was routed at Battle Lake, an old Red Lake warrior named Uk-ke-waus was killed along with his sons during the fight. Word reached the villagers at Red Lake of the news of their death. In response to the news, a war party was of about 130 warriors was raised.
It was the middle of the winter, and the warriors all donned their snowshoes and marched for days towards where they knew they would find the Dakotas. While this war party left Red Lake on snowshoes, the ground was covered with deep snow. However, as they marched directly westward, and having reached the prairies, they found bare ground, left their snow shoes, and walked whole days through immense herds of buftalo.
The troop marched to the southern base of O-ge-mah-mi-jew, or Chiefs Mountain (near present day Sisseton, SD), where they made a night attack on a large camp of Dakota, consisting of over fifty lodges. Several volleys were fired into the defenseless, sleeping lodges, and many of the Dakota were killed and wounded in the wake of this surprise attack. Eventually, the Dakota warriors were able to rally and shoot back at the Ojibwe, who retreated.
In the aftermath of the battle, a young PIllager chief who had accompanied the war party, and two Red Lakers, stayed hidden to spy on the Dakota. They silently remained for some hours in the vicinity of the camp. Here they vividly heard the plaintive wailing of those who had lost relatives in the late attack. There was deep mourning in the camp of the Dakota that bloody night!
After a while, these three Ojibwe stealthily approaching the lodges in the darkness, only to once more discharge their guns at the weeping and sorrowful enemies. After this second surprise attack, they left and turned homeward, running all night to rejoin their fellows in their trek back to Red Lake.
Adapted from. Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Volume 5 (1885)
Metis mail carrier George Keplin Meets his end
In July of 1870, a small contingent of soldiers under the command of Major Dickey, of the 22nd U.S. Infantry, at Fort Stevenson was traveling to Fort Buford. The command consisted of twenty men, and the first day they encamped near a small stream twenty-five miles up the Missouri River trail from Ft. Berthold. While encamped they were met by two Metis mail riders coming down from Fort Buford: George Keplin and Scotty Richmond, two of the most fearless of the frontier mail carriers. While the soldiers were encamped, they noticed three Indians coming over the bluffs from the direction of the Fort Berthold agency, mounted and riding at full speed. Upon seeing the soldiers, the Indians dashed toward some timbered ravines. Seeing the Indians doing this unaccountable move, Major Dickey ordered some soldiers and Mr. Keplin to go investigate.
George Keplin was a decendant of Scotsman and a Cree Indian woman, born at the Selkirk settlement. Keplin was fluent in several languages and was considered one of the most trustworthy mail carriers on the northern plains. However, on this occasion, Keplin had spent his evening drinking whiskey and he was under influence when he led the charge. He strayed too far in advance of the soldiers and went up to the strange Indians by himself. "Who are you?" yelled Kiplin (in Dakota Sioux) to the Indians. One of the Indians replied, "I am Bad Hand, a Sissetonwan!", and pointing his hand to his companions he added, "These are my friends. I see you are with the white soldiers. My people are good friends of the whites. Why do you bother us?" To this, the belligerent Keplin replied, “I have come to fight you!" To this, Bad Hand raised his gun and shot Keplin off his horse with a rifle ball through his heart. He then ran forward and stole Keplin’s gun and bullets before retreating back into the trees.
The soldiers witnessed this killing and suddenly saw more Indians riding furiously towards them from over a line of bluffs. At first they feared a larger attack, but it was soon ascertained that these were Hidatsa warriors who were pursuing the Sioux. At once, the Hidatsa surrounded the grove of trees in which the Sioux were hiding. The leader of the Hidatsa, a man named Poor Wolf, cried out, "We have come to kill you, Bad Hand! You have killed our people; stolen our horses. You do not deserve to live, therefore prepare to die!" Immediately, the Hidatsa fired volley after volley into the trees. After a while, a Hidatsa boy was chosen to try to sneak forward. As he started forward, a shot rang out from the brush and the young man was dead. Two hundred shots followed this killing and soon Bad Hand and his friends were dead. One of the Sioux was able to escape and was later reported at Fort Buford.
Adapted from "Sketches of a Frontier Life" by Joseph Henry Taylor (1897), Bismarck.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities