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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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1847 Menominee Annuity Payment

From: Watertown Chronicle - November 3, 1847
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Menominee Payment
Traders - Gamblers - The Menominee Country - Indian Landlords

The annual payment of the Menominee took place week before last. The pay ground is situated in a dense forest, on the east shore of Pauwaygan Lake, some 10 miles from the habitation of any white man, and 25 miles northwest of Oshkosh.  The tribe numbers about 2,500 souls. In addition to the cattle and farming utensils to the amount of $500, and $1,000 worth of pork, flour, corn, salt, etc., they had $20,000 in specie equally distributed among them - being about $8 to each man, woman and child.

As usual on such occasions, we learn that a large number of traders, blacklegs and spectators were present - in all, some 300. For some days before the arrival of the Indian Agent, a brisk barter was carried on between the traders and the Indians, for the furs and skins of the latter. Among these we learn there were about 1,000 deerskins, 150 bear skins, and a large number of otter, beaver, muskrat, mink, and raccoon skins.  After the payment, a cash business was commenced with the Indians, and continued until they were drained of their last dime.

There is a law prohibiting the sale of liquor at all payments of this kind, but it is virtually a dead letter. Large quantities of it are annually sold under the eyes, as it were of the government officers. And it is sold, too, at an enormous profit. The Indian's love of the 'fire water' is severely taxed by the traders. At the late payment 10 pounds of pork were made a legal tender for a pint of whiskey. But some of the older heads regarding this as 'too much pork for a schilling,' clubbed together and paid the cash for a barrel. The asking price was something like $175, but they finally obtained it for $147! It would seen that this sum out to have purchased a pure article; but we are told that it was difficult to determine which predominated, whiskey or Wolf River water! 'The Indians,' as a waggish friend remarked to us, 'got drunk and sober on the same drink!'

The gamblers did not reap a very rich harvest. Among the traders and spectators they found but a very few willing to run the hazard of being victimized, and therefore had all the sport to themselves. 'When Greek met Greek, then comes the tug of war.' The battle was bravely contested for a number of days and nights, commencing each forenoon and continuing until long after the 'witching hour of midnight.' The final result may be summed up thus: number of killed 9; number of wounded 6; number of those who escaped with whole hides, bearing off in triumph the spoils of the vanquished, 4; total amount of the spoils, about $300.

The Menominee were once a large and powerful tribe, and owned most of the soil in the territory. We believe they originally owned all the land from the vicinity of Janesville to the headwaters of the Wolf and Wisconsin Rivers. This village is situated within the tract last purchased of them - the late annuity being one of the 14 or 15 already paid then therefore. About an equal number remain to be made. They now own most of the land north of the Fox and between the Wisconsin and the Wolf Rivers, beside a large quantity on the east side of the last named stream. The tract embraces territory enough to make a score or two of states of the size of Delaware. The soil is good, and the timber generally heavy. The principal pineries now in operation on the tract of 22 saw mills, the lumber from which finds both eastern and southern markets - a part of it passing down the Fox and Wolf Rivers to Lake Winnebago, and thence by way of Green Bay to the Great Lakes; the balance finding the Mississippi by way of the Wisconsin. These mills were erected and are worked by white men, who pay the Indians a mere trifle for the privilege.

The Menomonees are rapidly diminishing in numbers. From one of the most powerful tribes of the west, thy have dwindled down to about 2,500 all told. Their intercourse with the whites has sown among them many seeds of corruption, the fruits of which are palpably evident in their thinned ranks and their besotted habits.

The gentlemen we have conversed with attended the payment; speak in the highest terms of the accommodations furnished by the three temporary taverns on the grounds. These were all kept by Indians. The principal one was the 'Washington House,' was a one-story edifice, or rough boards, about 100 feet long and 20 wide. 'Mine Host' was A.D. Dick of the Brothertown tribe. His boarders were exclusively from the 'pale face' portion of the crowd, and averaged 100 per day. His tables, we are told, would have done credit to the Astor, the Tremont, or the St. Charles. They daily groaned beneath every variety of wild game, deer, bear, raccoon, squirrels, wild geese and ducks, prairie chickens, partridges, quails, pigeons, and etc., to say nothing of fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb. In the vegetable line his supply was ample of potatoes, turnips, onions, cabbages, beets, pickles, etc. So much by the way of substantials; his deserts and 'trimmings' were of an order correspondingly magnificent. And all of this was furnished at 75 cents a day, and a berth at night, under his tables, thrown in! Dick is certainly a chief of landlords if not Indians. This is the fifth or sixth year the Menominee pay-ground has been honored by his presence, and if this side of the 'spirit land,' the future payments will regularly find him there.

Restitution for thefts committed by the Indians, is always made at these payments, upon due proof being furnished the War Department - the amount being deducted from the annuities. James Rogan, Esq., of this village, received at the late payment $40 for a horse stolen from him ten years ago, by a band of Menominees.

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