top of page

6th Book Excerpt: Treaties and the Coming Lumber Trade

The following is the sixth of several book excerpts the LCO News will feature from local author, John Dettloff. The excerpts will be from his  new book.

Detloff has lived on the Chippewa Flowage, near New Post, for over 50 years.  His family has had a small resort just east of New Post for 56 seasons and for 40 years he has been writing historical articles about the flowage, tribal history (especially Old Post), old guides, old resorts, and fishing.

His new book called Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage, released on November 1st, gives a comprehensive history of the flowage going back to the fur trade era. 

According to Detloff, the book profiles in great detail the people of the "Chippewa Basin" (the area that became flooded by the flowage) and talks about the 300 plus people who were affected by and displaced by the flowage.  There were probably 250 plus tribal members and nearly 100 non-tribal members that were affected. 

Lac Courte Oreilles Chief Aw-ke-wain-ze (Old Man), pictured, walked the reservation boundary personally to make sure the lands that were selected had been accurately marked.

From the Book:


     By the time the Wisconsin Territory was carved out of the Michigan Territory in 1836, the fur trade was past its heyday; however, a new industry was beginning to take root that would change the landscape of the region forever… lumbering.  The United States government’s ratification of the Treaties of 1837 and 1842 with the Lake Superior Ojibwe granted them access to the vast virgin timber resources of northern Wisconsin, east central Minnesota, and the western portion of Upper Michigan, once the tribes had ceded the lands to the United States in return for payment and the retention of their right to hunt, fish, and gather on those lands.

     The Treaty of 1837 was signed by thirteen bands of the Ojibwe nation, of whom Paquaamo, the Woodpecker, signed on behalf of the Lac Courte Oreilles band.  In return for the lands that were ceded by the Tribe, the United States committed to paying the tribal bands $210,000 worth of cash and goods: $35,000 of which would be paid in annuities over a twenty-year period.  The Treaty of 1842 was signed by eighteen bands of the Ojibwe nation, of whom Ne-na-ang-be, the Dressing Bird; Be-bo-kon-uen; and Ki-uen-zi, the Old Man, signed on the behalf of the Lac Courte Oreilles band.  In return for the lands that were ceded by the Tribe, the United States committed to paying $126,200 worth of cash and goods: $36,200 of which would be paid in annuities over a twenty-five-year period.

     With the growth of the cities of the Midwest occurring at this time, the demand for lumber was enormous, and the lumber barons knew just where to get it… adjacent to the pine rich rivers and streams of the great Chippewa Valley where an estimated forty-six billion board feet of pine was calling to would-be lumberjacks.  Frederick Weyerhaeuser called the Chippewa a “logger’s paradise” that offered top grade white pine and a ready-made network of intricate waterways available to transport it.  So incomprehensible was the amount of timber in the Wisconsin Territory that most lumbermen considered the pine forests to be inexhaustible.  Great fortunes were amassed by many entrepreneurs in their lust for lumber, while for the rest of the male workforce of the Upper Chippewa Valley, the rough and tumble – and often perilous – lifestyle of the lumberjack took hold.

     At first, the Lac Courte Oreilles and Pahquahwong Ojibwe bands who were tucked away in the woodlands and wetlands to the west of the forks of the upper Chippewa River, didn’t experience any changes.  Lumber crews had been slowly, but surely, working their way up the pineries of the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Lower Chippewa River systems, establishing sawmills, logging camps, dams, and newly developed towns and cities in the wake of their sawdust.  However, in the darker corridors of power within the United States government forces were at work to expel the Ojibwe people from Wisconsin.

     In 1850, President Zachary Taylor canceled the Ojibwe’s hunting, fishing, and gathering rights which the Treaties of 1837 and 1842 had preserved, and he issued orders for the Ojibwe Tribe to remove to Minnesota.  At the same time, the location of the annuity distribution place at LaPointe on Madeline Island was changed to Sandy Lake, Minnesota, and the annuity payments were delayed until early winter.  This ruthless move forced the Ojibwe to make the long journey with their families to the new – more distant – distribution point to collect their money, so late in the year, that the bitter conditions would not make a return trip to Wisconsin feasible.  About four hundred Ojibwe died either by starvation at the camps or attempting to march home to Wisconsin.

     Ironically, five months after Taylor had issued his devastating removal order, “Old Rough and Ready,” the former warrior, President Zachary Taylor had mysteriously died of an intestinal issue, a twist of fate that made Millard Fillmore the new President.  The Sandy Lake Tragedy not only angered the Ojibwe, but it also created much public sentiment in favor of these displaced people.  During the summer of 1852, the primary chief of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, Chief Buffalo, his son-in-law, Benjamin Armstrong, and four Ojibwe braves undertook an exhausting ten-week journey to Washington DC to meet with President Fillmore and plead their case, hoping the President would allow the Ojibwe Tribe to remain in Wisconsin.

     The ninety-two-year-old chief and his party did not even have an arranged appointment; they were gambling that the President would grant them an impromptu audience.  After being refused admittance to the President, the dejected chief was finally allowed to hold “council” with Fillmore.  After discussing the issue and smoking a pipe of peace, the President rescinded the removal order and restored the Ojibwe’s hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.  This meeting led to the signing of one more important agreement with the Ojibwe… the Treaty of 1854.

     This treaty ceded even more land to the United States, this time in northeastern Minnesota.  In return, the US government agreed to pay the Ojibwe nation $116,300 in money and goods: $19,000 of which would be paid out in annuities to the members over a twenty-year period ending in 1874.  One of the most important provisions of this agreement was that it not only led to the creation of reservations for seven different bands of the Ojibwe, but it also gave the President the authority to allot eighty-acre land parcels within the reservation to each head of family or single person over the age of twenty-one.  The Treaty of 1854 was signed by ten bands of the Ojibwe nation, of whom Aw-ke-wain-ze, the Old Man; Key-no-zhance, the Little Jack Fish; Key-chepe-nay-se, the Big Bird; Ke-che-waw-be-shay-she, the Big Martin; Nay-naw-ong-gay-be, the Dressing Bird; O-zhaw-waw-sco-ge-zhick, the Blue Sky; I-yaw-banse, the Little Buck; Waw-be-shay-sheence; Quay-quaycub; Shaw-waw-no-me-tay; Ke-che-e-nin-ne; Hawdaw-gaw-me; Way-me-te-go-she; and Pay-me-gewung, signed on the behalf of the Lac Courte Oreilles band.

     Before any of the above-mentioned allotments could be created and awarded to adult tribal members within the reservation – as provided for by Article Three of the Treaty of 1854 – the reservation boundaries had to be established.  Much thought and consideration was given to this matter by the Lac Courte Oreilles council, especially by their primary Chief, Aw-ke-wain-ze (known as The Old Man).

     The ink was practically still wet on the Treaty of 1854 when Surveyor General Warner Lewis for the Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota region ordered the original survey of the vicinity of Lac Courte Oreilles and Pahquahwong to commence in November of 1854, with Henry Maddin, Edgar Sears, Theodore Conkey, Wm. E. Daugherty, and E. J. Bentley, doing the survey work.  The survey – which took three years to accomplish and was quite accurate by the standards of the day – was completed by October of 1857 and approved on February 20, 1858.  On October 20, 1859, the Surveyor General’s Office received a letter from the Commissioner of the Indian Office (the BIA) on behalf of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Chippewa which indicated their selection of where they wanted the exterior boundaries of their reservation.  These boundaries, which were known as early as 1859 and remain the same today, were highlighted in yellow on the original 1858 survey map, following the receipt of the above-mentioned letter.

     Legend has long stated that Chief Aw-ke-wain-ze walked the entire reservation boundary barefooted to make sure the lands that were selected had been accurately marked.  This tale carries considerable truth with it because, in 1863, a government surveyor named Albert C. Stuntz documented coming to the area to locate lines for the Indians at Lac Courte Oreilles.  Stuntz recorded in his diary that Chief Aw-ke-wain-ze pointed out the lands he wanted for their reservation, and they traversed forty miles of line in five days to inspect the southern portion of the reservation.  Strong, tough, and still in prime physical shape for a man in his mid-fifties, Aw-ke-wain-zee, the son of the great Chief Monzodjid, no doubt could have handled such a hike.

     Even though the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe had determined their selection of lands of the reservation as early as 1859, their selection wouldn’t be officially approved by the General Land Office until March 1, 1873.  By that time, many of the original survey boundary marks were indistinct and needed to be re-established, so a follow up survey was ordered to more accurately identify the exterior boundaries of the reservation.  The survey was conducted by Henry Espersen, United States Deputy Surveyor, commencing on July 1, 1876, and being completed on August 5, 1876.  He was assisted by Frank S. Bernard and F. N. Coates, chainmen, and F. J. Scott, axeman.  With that accomplished, the stage was set for allotments to be granted to tribal members; however, that wouldn’t happen for another five years.

(To order a copy of John Dettloff's new book, send a check or money order for $29.95, plus $6 shipping and 5 1/2% sales tax, made out to Trails End Publishing and send it to: Trails End Publishing, 7431 N Flowage Rd., Couderay, Wi 54828.)



bottom of page