Haywood, Carl N. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume 75 (1987)
Clifton, James A.
Wisconsin death march: explaining the extremes in old northwest Indian removal, pp. 1-40 PDF (18.7 MB)
Wisconsin Death March: Explaining the Extremes in Old Northwest Indian Removal1 James A. Clifton Throughout the fall of 1850, four offi- in early October, some four hundred died cials of Zachary Taylor's administra- before the survivors could make their way tion conspired to lure the Lake Superior back to their homes by the following Chippewa Indians away from their lands January.3 in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan's This incident was demonstrably atypiUpper Peninsula.2 Two of these officials, cal of the experiences of the two dozen Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing other Indian populations in the Old and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Northwest who were subject to the Indian Orlando Brown, provided the initial ap- Removal policy between 1825 and the proval for the plan, but they did not re- early 1850s.4 On the contrary, judged by main in office long enough to witness its the degree of physiological stress and the disastrous results. The others, Minnesota casualty rate suffered during the relocaTerritory's governor, Alexander Ramsey, tion process, the Lake Superior Chippewa and Sub-Agent John Watrous, were di- case represents an extreme. As such, it rectly involved as prime movers from start deserves special attention, since it and to end. By moving the place for the an- others like it generated much contemnual annuity payments to a new tern- poraneous commentary while exposing porary sub-agency at Sandy Lake on the the interests, aims, and intrigues of the east bank of the upper Mississippi and by diverse denominational, political, ecostalling the delivery of annuity goods and nomic, and ethnic interests directly inmoney, they planned to trap the Chip- volved. Moreover, because it represents pewa by winter weather, thus forcing one extreme, to be fully understood, this them to remain at this remote, isolated Chippewa case must be compared with location, other cases of Old Northwest Indians sub- This scheme, kept secret from both lo- ject to dislocation and resettlement. By cal Americans and the Chippewa, was de- examining the Lake Superior Chippewa signed to break the tenacious resistance of case both intensively and comparatively, these Indians, who had rebuffed earlier we can better appreciate how Old Northefforts to persuade them to resettle in west Indian communities reacted renorthwestern Minnesota. The stratagem sourcefully and variously to American failed. It succeeded only in reinforcing the policy initiatives. In the Chippewa case opposition of the Chippewa to relocation the Indians drew effectively on a variety even though it had killed large numbers of of relationships with and the support of them: of the some three thousand (mostly Wisconsin citizens to oppose the interadult males) who gathered at Sandy Lake locking national, regional, and local patronage system which rather than "set- James A. Clifton is a Frankenthal Professor of An- ,, thropology and History, University of Wisconsin- tlernent pressure, had fueled the drive Green Bay. for their relocation.
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