Louise Seymour Houghton.

Our debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States online

. (page 4 of 14)
Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 4 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

living amoug tliem in peace and amity), enforced by


The Original AmeriCxVN

St. Claire's expedition in 1791. The uprising of the
tribes was a determined and for a time successful at-
tempt to stop the occupation of their land by Ameri-
cans. The recital by Blue Jacket, the Shawnee chief,
in reply to St. Claire's demands, of the deeds of the
''Big Knives" could hardly have been pleasant hear-
ing, even to one so determined as was the American
officer to find bad qualities in the Indians only, and
none in the whites. The essential justice of the In-
dians' claim was admitted. The United States Com-
missioners, at a great meeting with these Confederated
Indians (twenty two tribes who, in accordance with
former definite treaties, had persisted in refusing to
consider anything but the Ohio River their boundary) ,
in 1793 acknowledged that they were in their right, but
urged that it was now impossible to move the whites,
and offered a large sum in payment. The Indians
fiercely rejected the offer, but suggested a way out:
''Divide this large sum of money which you have
offered us among these people (American settlers),
give them each a share of your proffered annual pay-
ments; further, give them all the United States must
spend in armies to fight Indians, and there will be

more than enough to satisfy them We want

peace. Restore to us our country and we shall be
enemies no more. ' ' No ruler, they insisted, had a right
to permit any one to buy Indian lands.

It was all a question of the point of view, if we
overlook for a moment the cruelties of the disagree-
ment. The Americans made no attempt to understand


Our Debt to the Red Man

the Indian view point, the Indians were incapable,
both by long tradition and by inexperience, of under-
standing that of the Americans.

It will do us no harm to remember, when learning
of the cruelty of the Indian, that the white man was
not above imitating him, even in the State founded
by the benevolent Penn, friend of Indians. Bounties
were offered for Indian scalps, not only in Penn-
sylvania, but also, in accordance with the example
there set, in Ohio ; not for those of men only but also
of women and children, if above ten years. '^For

males above ten years scalped and killed $134 for

females above ten years scalped and killed $50." In
both these states Christian Indians were hunted, and
murdered like dogs, shot in church as they knelt to
pray. (A. C. Parker, op. cit.).

In fact the ''treaties" by which Indians of many
tribes "ceded" lands to whites were not by them un-
derstood as giving absolute rights in perpetuity — an
act to an Indian absolutely unthinkable — but simply
the right of occupation and exploitation — a sort of
perpetual life-rent.

An instance in point occurred when in 1797 Great
Britain and the United States undertook to divide
between them the lands of the Ojibways (Chippewas)
on the border of what is now Minnesota, this being the
agelong home of this people. The bewilderment which
they felt at the proposal, so shocking to their religious
susceptibilities, would have given rise to war, but for
the explanations and persuasions of Jean Baptiste

[42 1

The Original American

Cadotte, whom they loved and trusted, and of whom
we shall hear later.

It is the opinion of the early annalist La Potherie
{Histoire) that ''the existence of a high ethical feeling
toward strangers (he is referring especially to cap-
tives) is often in evidence, even when no self interest
is to be served," an ethical feeling which easily allies
itself with the chivalry of the French.

In strong contrast with this ethical feeling was
the murder, by their white guests, of the Cherokees
who helped Washington in his later expedition against
Fort Du Quesne ; and the remonstrance of Chief Otta-
kullakulla, to those of his braves who urged retalia-
tion, should go down to our children 's children in their
school text-books. Urging them not to violate the
laws of hospitality, but to conduct those "who came
to us in the confidence of a pledged friendship safely
back within their own confines before we take up the
hatchet," he all unconsciously emphasized the woes
that our forefathers brought upon themselves by sheer
stupid treachery.

Indian loyalty to the pledged word is indeed pro-
verbial, and is all the more worthy of recognition in
view of frequent painful evidence of the contrary char-
acteristic, in its dealings with this people, on the part
of the American Government, which, as General Sher-
man said, has ' ' made a hundred treaties with Indians
and never kept one." It is worth while for us to re-
member with humiliation the action of Congress, which
in 1783 passed, and in 1789 confirmed (the action be-


Our Debt to the Red Man

ing reaffirmed by sixteen states when organized) the
following: ''The utmost good faith shall always be
observed toward the Indians ; their land and property
shall never be taken from them without their consent,
and in their property, rights and liberty they shall
never be invaded nor disturbed unless in just, lawful
ivars authorized hy Congress (italics mine) ; but laws
founded on justice and humanity shall from time to
time be made for preventing wrong done to them, and
for preserving peace and friendship with them."
(Cited by Moffett, op. cit. p. 36) ''The day will come,"
said that noble friend of the Indian, Bishop Whipple,
"when our children's children will tell with hushed
whispers the story of our shame, and marvel that our
fathers dared so trifle with truth and righteousness."
(Quoted by Moffett, op. cit.)

It was of the original American, not of the white
man who is now in possession of his heritage, that
Wendell Phillipps was speaking when he said, "Neith-
er Greece nor Germany, nor French nor Scotch can
show a prouder record than the Indian in his heroic
stand for justice and right." Far too many conflicts
between our government and the Indians have arisen
from their deep recognition of the importance of jus-
tice and right, coming in conflict with the blindness of
the ruling race to the essential nature of these prin-

The present Secretary of the Interior (1915),
whose clear appreciation of the essential elements of
the present state of the Indian problem augurs well


The Original American

for both parties to it, has said that for one hundred
years the Indian has been spun round like a blinded
child in a game of blind man \s buff. ' ' Treated as an
enemy at first, overcome, driven from his lands, nego-
tiated with most formally as an independent nation,
given by treaty a distinct boundary which was never
to be changed while water runs and grass grows, ^ he
later found himself pushed beyond that boundary line,
negotiated with again, and then set down upon a reser-
vation, half captive, half protege — What could an
Indian, simply thinking and direct of mind, make of
all this?"

Nothing, surely could he make of "all this" than
that ethical confusion of mind which, as Dr. Carlos
Montezuma suggests, is the greatest of all the wrongs
which his people have suffered at the hands of the
whites. ''Originally the Indian only knew that truth
and righteousness governed all things, but the deceit
and hypocrisy of the whites have made him doubt ....
I challenge any paleface who can meet the fidelity even
unto death that exists today and always has existed in
the heart of every Indian in this country."^

1 The usual formula found in countless early treaties. See American
State Papers passim.

' An illustration not only of fidelity unto death but of the capacity to
be fired by the desire for freedom may be found in the Wappin-
gers of the Hudson who were friendly to the Patriots. A writer
in the Quarterly Journal S. A. I. (I. p. 83) says that the first
blood shed in the Revolution was that of these Indians. They
were at Bunker Hill.



Indians of Mixed Blood — A General View


1 6/- I AHE French mixed-blood," said the Seneca In-
dian and Indian Commissioner, General Ely
Samuel Parker, a man of note in whose veins
ran both English and French blood — "stands out as
superior to the full blood or the Anglo-Saxon mixed
blood ; not so much in the present generation, perhaps,
but in the former he was a man of mark. ' '

It would, however, be unjust to some Indians of
Anglo-Saxon blood to make this assertion too sweep-
ing. That the intermarriage of Indians with men or
women of British, and later of American stock, has not
in general resulted well, is no doubt in some degree to
be accounted for by certain adverse circumstance pre-
vailing in the Colonies and later in the United States.
But to the writer it appears chiefly to be due to the in-
herent lack of sympathy between these and the Indian.
The French, as I hope to show, were better adapted by
natural characteristics to understand and be under-
stood by the native peoples of this country (and the
history of recent French colonization enables us to add,
of any country) than men of other nationalities.

Mixed-bloods descended from Scotch or Irish
fathers appear as a general thing to be of a higher
grade than those of English or American parentage
(especially in the Canadian Northwest, says Dr.


Indians of Mixed Blood — A General View

Speck). We learn that there are more characters of
importance among the Cherokees (relatives of the
intelligent Iroquois) than among other tribes, their
mixed-bloods being as a rule of Scotch and Irish, with
a little Huguenot blood. The noted Cherokee chief,
John Ross, who took his Scottish father's name, stout
defender of the rights of the tribe in their national
territory, is a case in point. The Hon. Elijah Sells,
former superintendent of Indian Affairs, found
among the Cherokees ''many persons of culture who
would be ornaments to any circle, not excluding the
halls of Congress." It was of the Cherokees, while
they were still in their ancestral homes on the Atlantic
seaboard, that William Bartram wrote, ' ' as moral men

they stand in no need of European civilization ;

they are just, honest, liberal and hospitable to
strangers, considerate, loving and affectionate to their
wives and relations, fond of their children, industrious,
frugal, temperate and persevering." After spending
' ' weeks and months ' ' among them he had ' ' never seen
the least contention or wrangling among them, " . . . .
' ' never saw one cross to his wife. " ' ' In this case, ' ' he
observes, ''they stand as examples of reproof to the

most civilized nations indeed their wives merit

their esteem and the most gentle treatment, they being
industrious, frugal, careful, loving and affectionate."
Each adult member of this largest tribe in the
United States (41,798 souls) has at last been given
his allotment of land, and now perhaps for the first
time in eighty years they may forget that ' ' journey of


Our Debt to the Red Man

horror, starvation and death, ' ' during which one quar-
ter of the tribe was left in graves along the w^ay, when
the United States Government, forgetting its solemn
confirmation to the tribe of the remnant of their vast
eastern lands ' ' as long as rivers run and grass grows, ' '
drove them from the Atlantic seaboard to the Indian

Alexander Robinson (Chee-chee-long-way), son of
a Scotch officer in the British army, who had been
elected by his mother's tribe Chief of the Potawato-
mies, — those Potawatomies whom English and Amer-
icans thought fierce and cruel, but whom the early
French settlers had found to be " the most docile and
affectionate toward the French of all the savages of
the west ; ' ' whose ' ' natural politeness and readiness to
oblige, ' ' says Tailhan, ' ' was extended to strangers, ' ' —
gave full proof of these characteristics of his tribe at
the time of the Fort Dearborn massacre (1812). In
that hour of tragic horror he and his French-Indian
wdfe, Catherine Chevallier, sheltered the fleeing whites,
and both are held in grateful remembrance in Chicago
to this day. Robinson was later interpreter for Gen.
Lewis Cass with the Chippewas in the treaty of Prairie
du Chien.

Owen Mackenzie, son of a Scotch-Indian trader,
is celebrated for ''his great feat in bringing the hostile
Blackfeet ('fierce yet gentle' the early French had
found them) to the treaty of 1830- '31, and thus op.en-
ing up their country to trade. The descendants of the
Scotch Colonel Dickson, commander-in-chief of all the


Indians of Mixed Blood — A General View

Indians who fought against the Americans in the War
of 1812, who married a Sioux widow and at the close
of the war became an American citizen and ' ' raised a
family of children and grandchildren of whom any
state might be proud," (letter from the Rev. J. P.
Williamson) — all these are examples of Scotch mixed

Among mixed-bloods whose white ancestry is not
traced is the Cherokee Chief Sequoyah, who by his in-
vention of the Cherokee alphabet turned his tribe from
illiterate savages to literates; thus enabling Elias
Boudinot, a (possibly) full blood Cherokee who
adopted the name of the philanthropist to whom he
owed his education to aid in the translation of the Gos-
pels into his native tongue. Jolly, the half-breed Cher-
okee chief, adoptive father of Gen. Sam Houston and
uncle of his wife, ''very plain, prudent and unassum-
ing in dress and manners, a Franklin among his
countrymen, and affectionately called the 'beloved'
father, ' ' says Nuttall ( ' ' Travels " ) , has yet a bad name
in the Handbook of American Indians for intrigue and
disloyalty to his tribe. But after all is said in praise
of mixed-bloods of British ancestry, their services in
the development of this country sink into insignifi-
cance beside those of mixed-bloods of French lineage.

This is perhaps the best place in which to narrate
the services to this country of that Indian already
named, who inherited both Anglo-Saxon and French
blood — General Ely Samuel Parker of the Seneca
Tribe. Lawyer and civil engineer, forty years Grand


Our Debt to the Red Man

Sachem of his tribe, whose distinguished services in
the Vicksburg campaign won him a place on Gen.
Grant's staff as Adjutant, Colonel and Military Sec-
retary, it was he who drew up the terms of Gen. Lee's
surrender. He subsequently rose to be a general of
cavalry in the United States Army, and after being
Commissioner of Indian Affairs and holding other
national offices, completed his honorable career by aid-
ing the ethnologist, Louis H. Morgan, in writing his
' ' Legends of the Iroquois. ' '


French Mixed-Bloods of the Middle West

IT was not only in regions now Canadian and in
onr own Northw^est that alliances between
French and Indians were frequent ; our Middle
West bears many traces of them. It was but a few
years after La Salle passed that way, leaving a path-
etic memory in Fort Heart-break (Creve-coeur) on
the Illinois River/ that a number of French hunters
and trappers followed Father Marest to the old In-
dian village of Kaskaskia and married among its
daughters. The records of baptism begin with 1695,
all of full-bloods, but soon the names of French fa-
thers appear. Rather amusing is it to discover in those
church registers of Kaskaskia, rescued after long dis-
appearance by Professor Alvord of the University
of Illinois, the difficulties of the good Fathers in
entering names of Indian mothers and godmothers
(names like Marthe Me-tou-nou-eth-amon-co-ne, Do-
matilla Te-hue-gou-anak-iga-bou-cona, and worse) ;
and their desperate resort to the Greek alphabet to
render the unfamiliar sounds.

Michel Aco, (Accault) who guided if he did not

^ Joseph Wallace ("Illinois and Louisiana under French Rule") says
that the Fort was not so named because of the desertion of La
Salle's men, but after the fortress of Creve-coeur in Brabant,
lately taken by the French and demolished. This is possible in
view of the fact that La Salle's faithful friend and almost ''alter
ego'', Henri de Tonti, had taken part in that victory; bvit the
question is still an open one.


Our Debt to the Red Man

actually lead^ Hennepin's expedition to the Upper
Mississippi, married Maria Aramapiochicone, daugh-
ter of the chief of the Kaskaskias. She was one of
Father Marest's first converts, and of great service to
him in teaching the children of the tribe. Her son,
Pierre Aco, was the first white (mixed-blood) child
baptized in "Old Kaskaskia;" he lived to be a citizen
of the second Kaskaskia, that "little Paris in the
wilderness," in which, in the 18th century, was gath-
ered more of grace and refined charm than could be
found elsewhere in what is now the United States.

The daughters of the Piankeshaws early inter-
married with the French traders at Ouiatenon, a post
near the later Yincennes, and French blood may still
be traced in the older families of that city, which,
however, in the early days was far from equaling
Kaskaskia in either refinement or charm. It shares
nevertheless with Kaskaskia the honor of having wel-
comed, at much cost, the dawn of republican ideas as
represented by George Rogers Clark and his small
but intrepid force.

In 1790 the people of Vincennes sent to Winthrop
Sargent, Secretary of the Territory and vested with
the powers of Governor and Commander in chief, a
letter expressing a sense of the privilege of beholding
"the principles of free government unfolding among
us," and signed by Antoine Gamelin, Magistrate,
(father, probably, of the future "messenger") with

2 Prof. E. G. Mason ("Kaskaskia and its Parish Records") is of the
opinion that Aco may have headed the expedition of which "that
intrepid falsifier" Hennepin, claimed the credit.


French Mixed Bloods of the Middle West

four additional French and two English names, as
well as those of Francis Vigo, military commandant
and Henry Vanderburgh, major of militia. So ca-
pable were these barely literate people of appreciating
the significance of the new ideas.

The American Government showed itself inca-
pable of a reciprocal appreciation. The French set-
tlers on the Wabash had long been trading with the
Indians, when in the first third of the eighteenth cen-
tury they received from them a large tract of land.
Their right to this tract was never questioned during
French supremacy, but their claim to this land, which
they had held for nearly a hundred years, was not
ratified by the United States, which at heavy cost
they had aided in its conquest of the region. (J. B.
Dillon, ''History of Indiana," p. 10).

French mixed-bloods were indeed long the dom-
inant race in that part of the country. So late as
1855 all the electors' of Knox County, Ind., in which
Vincennes is situated, were French mixed-bloods. "A
very sociable people," says Mr. H. S. Cauthorn, the
recent historian of Vincennes, who, though like other
Americans he fails to apprehend the true character of
the Indian, shows some apprehension of the results
of intermarriage between them and the French.
Their children, he says, "inherited all the virtues as
well as the vices of the French and Indians in com-
bination. From the French vivacity and good nature,
from the Indian wild, roving and irascible traits of
character. ' '


Our Debt to the Red Man

Upon the serious and essentially religious social
consciousness which we have found in the Indian —
a seriousness by no means devoid of the capacity for
humor, — the lightsome gayety of the French was
engrafted with peculiarly happy results. The early
traveller Flagg (''Far West," Western Travels, I,
134), speaks of "that hapx)y harmony with their fer-
ocious neighbors for which the early French were so
remarkable." In soeial relations the result could
hardly fail to be that charm of manner which univer-
sal testimony accords to the French-Indian.

The French mixed-bloods, says Robinson ("Great
Fur Land"), are of "social disposition, having many
children, of which there is usually a daughter who is
sent to a convent school and learns to read and write.
Dancing and the social round occupy them in winter,
leaving the morrow to care for itself. They are fontl
of color but have good artistic taste." This is no
doubt a fairly accurate description of the more nom-
adic group of this class, the bushrangers, hunters,
trappers and others holding subordinate positions con-
nected with the fur trade. We shall see them at their
best in the early narratives of the Green Bay region —
those reminiscences of the Langlades, the Grignons,
the Viauds, the Porliers ("Wisconsin Historical Col-
lections"), in which nearly all the prominent folk
were metis, living with their kindly treated Indian
slaves under the paternal rule of the aged Charles de
Langlade, the French mixed-blood "Father of Wis-
consin." We see them again at a lesser degree of

[54 1

French Mixed Bloods of the Middle West

culture, but with similar characteristics, in the story
of such a town as Prairie du Chien, at the mouth of
the Wisconsin River, the old Indian village sold to
Canadian traders in 1781, which since the later years
of the 17th century had been a great mart for traffic
(Prof. J. D. Butler in Wis. Hist. Col. X.), and which
through all its history as Fort Crawford, Fort Shelby,
Fort McKay, and in its various mutations of govern-
mental relations, French, English and American, to
the end of the 19th century was almost exclusively a
metis town. ^'Old Fort Crawford, a settlement of
French half-breeds called Prairie du Chien," it is
called by Mrs. Charlotte Ouisconsin Clark Van Cleve
in ''Threescore Years and Ten." This revered and
beloved woman, whose recent death is still mourned
in St. Paul, was born at Fort Crawford in 1821,
scarcely an hour after the arrival of her parents on
their way to the newly established Fort Snelling, later
St. Paul, of which Captain Clark was to take com-
mand. In that year the only white people within
three hundred miles of Fort Snelling were shut in the
hollow square of the fort, their only connection with
the outside world being the bi-monthly mail brought
by an Indian on a pony from the nearest settlement,
Prairie du Chien, three hundred miles down the river.
The newly made mother had ample experience of
the kindliness of the metis of Prairie du Chien, into
whose hands she was thrown. The relations between
them appear always to have been friendly. We read
of a visit paid by little Charlotte Clark and her


Our Debt to the Red Man

mother to the friends at Fort Crawford a few years
later, going thither by boat on the Mississippi from
Fort Snelling/

Some notion of the refinement of the French
mixed-bloods at a relatively early period is given by
Zebulon Pike, who in 1805, on his return from explor-
ing the sources of the Mississippi, visited Prairie du
Chien and found ''the furnishings of the houses de-
cent those of the wealthy display a degree of

elegance and taste." Their business enterprise was
manifested in "the trail which they established over-
land ' ' from their town ' ' directly west to Sioux Falls ' '
to facilitate the fur trade with the Omahas.

Mr. Hazard finds in French mixed-bloods "a
clear, but not strong moral sense." The German his-
torian Mommsen found high moral qualities in the
French race. "The French are like their hero, Ver-
cingetorix," he says, ("History of Rome"). "They
have charm, they fight for liberty, they respect the
pledged word, they die for their convictions." The
American people, influenced in childhood by school
histories based upon works of English origin, have not
always entertained so high an estimate of the French
people, but we may now surely admit that the French
mixed-blood has a dual inheritance of a high order;
the idealism, the religious instinct, the social endow-
ment, the genius for loyalty, with other qualities

* It may be mentioned by way of parenthesis that the boat was so
slow that all the children of a large party on board had chicken-
pox and recovered before the end of the three hundred mile


French Mixed Bloods of the Middle West

which in varying degrees cha,racterize both the
Frenchman and the Indian at their best.

If it is to be expected that the outstanding char-
acteristics of both ancestries shall meet in the mixed
race, equally perhaps is it to be expected that the in-
herited prejudices of generations with regard to both
peoples should have perverted American judgment
and blinded American eyes to the true character of
the metis. He is not an angel, certainly not a super-

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 4 of 14)