Monday, August 22, 2022

Michigan Native American Treaties--Paradise Lost

Civilization comes to the Great Lakes?

Thousands of years before the first Europeans set foot in the New World, indigenous tribes were living in migratory groups and large settlements thoughout what became the continental United States. Competition for land and natural resources in America began long before the white man arrived. Great Lakes tribes were feeling pressure from the Iroquios Confederation to the east and the Sioux Nation to the west. 

The Ottawa, Ojibwe (Chippewa), Wyandot (Huron), and Potawatomi settled near Fort Detroit in the eighteenth century and allied themselves with the French first, and then the English, as the Great Lakes area became a pawn of international politics in the French and Indian War against the British. There was much Native American blood shed on both sides depending on a tribe's loyalies. In 1783, Great Britain ceded the Michigan Territory to the nascent United States. 

During the nineteenth century, the Erie Canal opened up the Michigan Territory to settlers with a lust for land. The lucrative fur trade declined due to overtrapping and changing European fashion trends. Michigan pioneers wanted farmland and saw the local Indians as an obstacle, but to legally assume ownership of Indian ancestral land, governmental treaties were written to relinquish tribal claims to the land. 

Tribal leaders received cash, European goods including farming implements, clothing, barrels of whiskey, and empty promises. Once a treaty was signed, duly witnessed, and blessed by the Jesuits, the land was opened to lumbermen, farmers, surveyors, and land speculators from the East. The new American government failed to live up to the terms of its own treaties or its obligations to displaced indigenous peoples.

Pioneer farm in Monroe County.

Early Michigan settlers preferred the tillable fertile areas in the southern half of the Michigan Territory, but once the North was assayed, mining concerns from the East were interested in copper, iron ore, and limestone extraction. It was only a matter of time before the government put pressure on Northern Michigan tribes to cede their land holdings too.

Michigan Native American Treaties with the United States

*Treaty Name         Date     Area of Concern

Greenville              1795    The Detroit area north and south along the Detroit River.

Detroit                   1807    Much of Southeast Michigan.

Maumee                1817    Most of today’s Hillsdale County.

Saginaw                1819    Alpena-Lansing and areas east.

Sault Ste. Marie   1820    Eastern Chippewa County in U.P.

Chicago I              1821   Southwest
equivalent in size to Detroit treaty of 1807.  

Carey Mission      1828   Most of today’s Berrian County in the Southwest corner of Michigan. 

Chicago II            1833   In today’s Berrian County.

Washington         1836  Western half of northern lower peninsula of Michigan and the upper peninsula east of and including Alger and Delta Counties. 

Cedar Point         1836  Today’s Menominee County and part of Delta County.

La Point               1842  The upper peninsula west of Alger County and Delta Country.                                            

* Special thank you to Randall Schaetzl of Michigan State University

Ottawa War Chief Pontiac 

Erie Canal Opens Michigan to Settlement