19th century Efforts in agriculture were discouraged
One of the main threats to the desire and schemes of nefarious white men to steal Indian land in Minnesota during the middle 1800s was the growing reliance and increasing efforts of the Ojibwe efforts at self-sufficient agrarianism.
Many of the white fur traders were discovering that there was money to be made from treaties and land speculation. They realized that their land speculation schemes could be dashed once the Ojibwe took up agriculture en-masse. Their worry was that if the Ojibwe became successful farmers they would not be as dependent on annuities and would gain a more stringent understanding of the value of their land. If this happened, they would not part with it so easily.
The traders and speculators saw both their prosperity and their political ambitions threatened by the Ojibwe bands and their progressive efforts at economic farming. In response, most of the traders who had ties to the Minnesota Republican party pushed hard for one-sided treaties to be negotiated as soon as possible so that they could stop the Ojibwe from implementing farming efforts that could lead to economic success. They were (by and large) successful, thereby creating a climate of dependency and poverty that is still felt to this day.
Adapted From Kugel, Rebecca. 1985. “Factional Alignment Among The Minnesota Ojibwe, 1850-1880.” American Indian Culture And Research Journal 9 (4). Los Angeles: 23–47.
A red Lake Recollection
In the old days, no family neglected to put in its supply of maple sugar. When the sap began to rise, groups of families moved into maple groves—unless their winter camp was located in one, which was not unusual.
The time for tapping trees varied with the years and the localities; sap flow might be affected by an early spring, by nearness to Lake Superior, or by latitude. Informants were certain that at the present time tapping is never begun before mid to late March, with the season ending by the end of April.
In general, maple groves were not claimed by any particular family, but it was well understood that no one tapped trees that were customarily tapped each season by the same family. Should a family neglect to tap its trees for a season, another family might then do so the following season, making certain, however, that the first family did not intend to do so. Often, too, a family, knowing that it was unable to tap trees because of sickness or taboos related to death, invited another to tap its trees. Seasonal homes were erected in sugar bushes, each family usually having three—one for a family dwelling, one for making sugar (this one might be shared), and one for storage of utensils. Frameworks were permanent and at times coverings also.
Once sap began to flow, maple trees were tapped; sap was collected, boiled, evaporated, and refined. In boiling the sap, it was said that the sap must be closely watched. Just as soon as it begins to make “eyes”, it is taken off the fire and worked with a small paddle that looks like a canoe paddle. Sometimes the children would wait for this stage in the boiling, beg for a little sap on a piece of birchbark, drop it into the snow and let it turn to gum. It was also customary to place a little pinch of tobacco in the fire before eating the first maple sugar. After all families in a group had completed the first boiling of the sap, a feast was held in which all participated; maple sugar formed the chief food.
from Hilger, M. Inez (Mary Inez). 1951. “Chippewa Child Life And Its Cultural Background.” Bulletin. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
Bureau of American ethnology 1877
Below is a listing of prominent men of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa with photographs, taken in 1877 by the Bureau of American Ethnology. You can click the photos to enlarge them.
From Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians, W.H. Jackson. USGPO 1877
1973 Report on the Pembina Band defines Metis
"Metis (French for "half") does not merely mean "half blood" or "half breed", but has a much broader connotation, referring to a large cultural and sociological element formed during the buffalo hide trading era in the northern Plains. The Metis have French and other European ancestry, and Plains Chippewa, Plains Cree and other Indian ancestry. By the early part of the last century the Metis had developed a distinct culture, marginal to that of the tribal peoples and the anglicized societies of both the United States and Canada. They were also linguistically distinct, having developed the "Metis jargon" which is sometimes called "Cree" but is predominantly French with many Chippewa and Cree elements."
A readable copy of the entire document is provided below.
A sad tale of life in the early 1800s
During a cold winter in the early 1800s, Little Shell the first had returned from a successful hunting trip to his camp near Pembina. He had killed two elk and he instructed his wife where they were, and she set out the next morning to skin the elk and cut the meat. Her young son was with her and they had traveled quite a ways form their camp, when the boy saw some Sioux coming towards them. He told his mother, “The Sioux are coming!”
Little Shell’s wife took her knife and cut the boy’s blanket from his body so he could run faster, and she instructed him to run home and tell his father that the Sioux were coming. He left and ran home as fast as he could, while she grabbed her knife and went to confront the approaching war party.
The boy was still running when he heard several gunshots and knew his mother was dead. He ran as hard as he could, fearing his pursuers were near and eventually lost consciousness; and when he arrived at camp, the Sioux were about 150 yards behind him. The Ojibwe fought the Sioux off and the attackers left.
Little Shell’s son vomited blood for days and never recovered his health or strength. He died about a year later.
Adapted from Walsh, R. (1830). American quarterly review volume 8. Carey, Lea & Carey.
A collection of distinguished men
Above is a studio portrait of the Pembina Chippewa delegation of 1874. Seated, left to right: unidentified (possibly Louis Lenoir); unidentified; Little Shell (Es-En-Ce); Something Blown Up By The Wind (Ka-Ees-Pa). Back row, left to right: unidentified; The Man Who Knows How To Hunt (Ke-Woe-Sais-We-Ro); Little Bull (Mis-To-Ya-Be). The men wear a combination of European-style and traditional dress. Little Shell wears a peace medal around his neck.
A description of each identified man, as described by the Bureau of American Ethnology, is provided below:
Little Shell, Es-En-Ce
Little Bull, Mis-to-ya-be
Ka-ees-Pa, Something Blown up by the wind (Joseph Gourneau)
Ke-woe-sais-we-ro, The Man Who Knows How to Hunt
From A Descriptive Catalog of North American Indians by W.H. Jackson. US General Printing Office, 1877
US House of Representatives, APRIL 26, 1904.
That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to pay to the widow of Chief Little Shell, to provide for a home for herself and three children, one thousand dollars, and four thousand dollars, or as much thereof as may be necessary, to liquidate damages to Hubert Brooks and others for ammunition and supplies taken from their stores for their defense against the raid upon them by designing white men under the guise of officers of law in eighteen hundred and eighty-five: Provided, however, That all such claims be approved by the council of said tribe.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities