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Satz, Ronald N. / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume 79, No. 1

The 1842 Copper Treaty,   pp. 33-49 ff. PDF (5.8 MB)


Page 33


                                                            The 1842
                                                   Copper Treaty
As American lumberjacks felled the woodlands of the Chippewa land cession
     in the late 1830s and early 1840s, reports of vast copper deposits along
the
shores of Lake Superior and the Isle Royale led federal officials to push
for new
land cessions from the Chippewa Indians22 (Bushnell 1839b, 489; Sterling
1840;
Jones 1841; Crawford 1842, 379). The reports of rich mineral deposits in
the north
were well-founded, for the region contained one of the most extensive deposits
of
surface copper anywhere in the world.23 Centuries before the birth of Christ,
Indians
had mined deep copper pits along the shore and used copper in making arrowheads,
fishhooks, knives, needles, and bracelets.24 Chippewa mining was so extensive
that
scholars claim Indian miners probably worked every modem industrial mining
site
dotting the shore of Lake Superior (Fig. 11). In 1837, the Michigan state
legislature
appointed geologist Douglas Houghton as director of its newly created Department
of Geology. Houghton's surveys in the early 1840s triggered American interest
in
the entire Lake Superior region (Keller 1978, 16; Nute 1944, 165; Robbins
1960, 141).
  Many Americans hoped to profit from the copper deposits. War Department
officials wanted to acquire all Indian title to the Lake Superior shoreline,
and those
who hoped to gain patronage positions from the department offered their services
to influence the Indians to remove (Warren 1841). In March of 1841, however,
Gouverneur Kemble suggested that American interests could be served without
purchasing the ore-bearing lands from the Indians. Kemble, a New York foundry
owner25 and Democratic Congressman, wrote to President Van Buren's secretary
of war, Joel R. Poinsett, and then to the new Whig administration's secretary
of
war, John Bell, recommending employing Chippewa men instead of whites as
mine
workers and paying the Indians a percentage of the money earned from the
copper
mining. But Commissioner of Indian Affairs T. Hartley Crawford, who served
both
the Van Buren and the Harrison-Tyler administrations (Satz 1979b), flatly
rejected
Kemble's plan of joint Chippewa and American involvement in Lake Superior
mining efforts because it would have perpetuated Chippewa ownership of the
re-
gion's mineral resources (Keller 1978, 17). Instead, Crawford called for
the ac-
quisition of all Chippewa lands in the region, noting control of the southern
shore
of Lake Superior was "very important" to American interests
(Crawford
1842, 379).
  The Treaty of October 4, 1842 (Fig. 12), with the Mississippi and Lake
Superior
Chippewas accomplished Crawford's purpose by ceding land north of the 1837
cession. Following the cession, copper mining boomed: the region led the
world
in copper production by 1890 (Keller 1978, 17).
  Acting Superintendent of Indian Affairs Robert Stuart of Michigan (Fig.
13)
negotiated the 1842 treaty at La Pointe. Stuart, a former agent of the American
Fur
Company (AFC) who was active in Whig political circles in Michigan (Satz
1975,
162), had indicated a strong interest in economic opportunities in the Lake
Superior
region as early as the 1820s (Nute 1926, 485). The Indians who assembled
at the
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