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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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Wisconsin Point War Nears End

by By Harry R. Zander of the Journal Staff - From The Milwaukee Journal - December 14, 1924
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Battle of Three Generations for the Last of the Chippewa Domains Picturesque

Superior - The most desolate and at the same time the most expensive unimproved land in Wisconsin lies here, off the Superior Harbor, a throwback to the primitive days of the United States' conquest of the Indian lands, a bone of contention over which nearly $1,000,000 has been spent already, the center piece of an industrial project involving the future expenditure of between $15,000,000 and $20,000,000.

Two generations have been born, loved, fought, reared families and completed the human span in death since the conflict over Wisconsin Point had its inception. A third generation is springing up, grounded as firmly in the principles of aboriginal ownership of the Point as were those old Chippewas under Chief Osagie, who opposed the dickerings with the white man back in 1841.

There remains only four of the descendants of old Chief Osagie and his counselors who have been adamant against the blandishments and lures of the white invasion. Yet this quartet of swarthy half-breeds, turning up their noses at the loosened purse strings of America's wealthiest corporation, sneering at the oily tongued promises of lives of ease and wealth, ignoring the crushing advance of modern industry upon the wilderness, which has been their fathers' and their fathers' father' as far back as human memory goes, wage with the white men's own weapons their battle for their heritage.

Tribes Defy Steel Company
This heritage, as the average man would view it, is not much. It is 300 acres of desolation over which the snow-laden winds swirl from the long reaches of Lake Superior and the northland. A few jack pines dot its expanse. Wild grasses, brush and sand dunes cover it. It looks like a land that God forgot. Yet in the eerie winds that thresh the cones from the jack pines and whistle through the stubbles growth the red me of the white age hear the voices of a long line of ancestors about the council fires of the happy hunting grounds protesting against the passing of the last of the Chippewa domains. Legends of great warriors and tales of mighty huntsmen ride every breeze that caresses the peninsula and in every gale that lashes the point the red children of a great Indian nation see the wrath of the mighty Chippewas aroused.

It is a wasteland, indeed, yet the unsentimental winds which drive the great $2,000,000,000 United States Steel Corporation, America's biggest combine, envision upon these desolate shores and wretched acres enormous docks to handle its iron and steel shipments.

For more than a third of a century now sentiment prevailed over business and the untutored savages' offspring have withstood the encroachment of the corporation. Recent developments, however seem to indicate that the conflict is almost at an end.

Negotiations Started in 1840
The history of Wisconsin Point, as it touches the subject of this review, dates back to 1840 when the white fathers of the government began to deal with the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa Indians, through Chief Osagie for possession of the land. In 1842 the overtures of the whites were successful and a treaty was drawn up whereby the federal government obtained the 300-acre peninsula with the understanding that the Indians might continue to live there until ordered off by the President of the United States, after which homes would be provided on the Fond du Lac reservation in Minnesota.

Instead of settling all differences over the land, however, the treaty merely marked the beginning of a prolonged era of litigation, armed warfare and general trouble. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the land to make it ready for the big industrial project, working staring and in some case approaching completion in lulls of the conflict during which the Indians' claims were believed to have been finally settled.

Five years after the treaty with Chief Osagie was signed, sealed and delivered, Frank Lemieux or La Swiss as he was sometimes called came down from Madeline Island and married a daughter of Chief Osagie taking up his residence on the point and gradually assuming leadership of the Chippewas. Lemieux was a half Indian and half French, having migrated from the La Pointe settlement on Madeline Island to marry Osagie's daughter.

White Settler Enters Claim
Seven years later, in 1853, during the period of when land speculation was at its height in the Northwest Territory, Joseph A. Bullen, a white man, cast appraising eyes upon the point. In February 1854, he made proof of his pre-emption entry, paid the required amount of cash and got a receiver's receipt for the land. A month later however, in March of the same year, the president ordered the land reserved for military purposes and in the following May the land department issued an order suspending the entry of Bullen. In 1855 the land was released from military reservation and the entry rights of Bullen were recognized by the government.

Subsequently Bullen sold the Point to the Agate Land Company, a subsidiary of the United Steel Corporation. But Frank Lemieux and Chief Osage's daughter did not relish the idea of heir domain being converted into a forest of machinery and devices, which they did not understand. The others of the already dwindling Fond du Lac Band supported them in their protest.
Years dragged by in weary succession with frequent attempts by Lemieux to contest the Bullen entry and to obtain from the government the title to the land, which he represented was his as Chief Osage's son-in-law. In 1891, however, the patent was finally issued to Bullen on his entry in 1854. Lemieux appealed from this action to the Secretary of the Interior, but the decision was affirmed by Hoke Smith, the Secretary at that time, and Bullen was once more confirmed in his possession.

Defend Land With Guns
Bitter fights ensued, the Indians holding possession of the land at the points of rifles for a considerable period. Quiet and order were restored again and diplomats attempted to pacify the Indians with settlements. Eventually the land was platted on one portion of the point and streets for a town laid out, a city park, called Independence Square, being included in the platting, so arranged to include Lemieux's home, presumable to prevent molesting him.

The old warrior was getting on in years; however, and in 1902 he died, leaving a tangled web of legal red tape to be unraveled by his widow and five children. The widow survived him by only five years, when she too passed away, leaving the children and their descendants to carry on the battle.

Several of the heirs of Lemieux moved to the City of Superior so that their children might have access to the schools but they always maintained some member of the family on Wisconsin Point to protect their title to the land through uninterrupted possession.

The year after the death of Lemieux's widow the steel company's officials and the officials of the interested subsidiaries believed their title clear and all difficulties cleared away. The erection of a connecting rail line from the Minnesota Steel Co.'s plant west of the St. Louis River in Minnesota was constructed, skirting the city of Superior, and the erection of the long bridge from the mainland across a wide marshy stretch to the point was completed. The opportunity to build the largest ore loading docks on any of the Great Lakes appeared to be at hand at last.

Another Settlement Made
But the troubles were not yet over. Certain of the old Indians, spurring on the Lemieux descendants, laid fresh claim to the land, disregarding the Treaty of 1842 and pointing to their uninterrupted habitation of the land since the days when white men were not known here.

The land company, having already spent $300,000 for its title and fully as much more on improvements, demurred and the course was taken to court. After hanging fire for years a financial settlement was made with all the descendants of the original settlers except three children and a grandson of Lemieux, the latter's son Frank Jr., having died leaving a son, Phillip.  A daughter of the original Lemieux, Mrs. Mary La Vierge making a settlement over the land concerned. The three other children contesting the case were Peter and John Lemieux and Mrs. Martineau.

Including in the settlement the steel concern made with the Indians was an agreement that the land company would remove the Indian dead from a cemetery, which stood in the way of its proposed docks, to the Nemadji River Cemetery in Superior's East End. This was done in 1918 and further plans for improvements started by the Steel Corporation's subsidiary.

For of the Lemieux descendants namely the two sons, Peter and John, the daughter, Maggie Martineau, and the nephew, Phillip Lemieux, however, still claim title to the land and in 1920 the brought suit against the Agate Land Company.

Family Retains Square.
Following a lengthy hearing Judge W. R. Foley on October 28, 1924, rendered a decision stating that the Agate Land Company had clear title to the land with the exception of the streets, belonging to the City of Superior, and the small strip in Independence Square, which Frank Lemieux and his descendants actually had occupied since 1846. That bit of land, no more than 150 by 80 feet, was awarded the Lemieux heirs.

Now, attorneys handling the case believe that after the struggle of half a century, the Lemieux descendants will come to an agreement with the steel concern whereby the final bit of Indians land will pass into the hands of the white men, making possible the completion of their plans for extensive improvements.

There still is a possibility however, that the Indians will refuse to accept the decision of Judge Foley and will appeal the case to a higher court. In that event, the battle of he ages will be renewed once more while the steel company's bridge and the network of its proposed docks rot away.

Wisconsin Point Battle Scene

Indians of Wisconsin Point are still carrying their fight to preserve the last of the sacred lands, against America's wealthiest corporation. Pictured above is a group of a group of the descendants of Chief Osagie and Frank Lemieux in the act of removing the bodies of their ancestors from an Indian cemetery to the main land.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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