The Louisiana Chippewa









Looking back at the history of the United States we can see cons struggles for power and control. Who has the right? Who gives the right and most importantly, what is the right? The imposition of the word "civilized" as defined by whites to characterize themselves in opposed to the so called "savage" indigenous people, more particularly Indians was largely the cause for the downfall of racial equality in the United States. It was a definition that gave license to a standard of living imposed by whites that implied racial superiority.

It led to the justification, in their minds,the duty to control, save and civilize the more inferior races and natives of the land. This way of thinking often led to the forced ruling of others, to the betterment of the position of the white men in power, over a new land and its people. Native Americans who were mistaken for Indians in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue became subject to this way of thinking. It was the beginning of the end for the indigenous. From that day forth, an existing pattern unraveled, creating years of genocide to the detriment of many cultures of the New World.


Indian Women

Courtesy smithsonian Institute


This dualistic point of view of "good" controlling the "evil" made a case for pure white males to rule over and control the so called "savage" Indians. Laws and rules were made to create order and bring structure to the primitive. The results being assimilation and ultimately the adoption of the white ethos, belief system, and the loss of heritage.

The Chippewa Tribe, being the focus of this paper, has experienced the negative and the positive effects of this belief system along with the consequences of its laws and treaties in the United States.

The Treaty of 1837 involving the Chippewa has played a major role in the lives of these Indians in the past as well as in the present. The Chippewa Indians are the largest and most important tribe north of Mexico.

The tribe has a population of 30,000 members residing in equal portions of the United States and Canada. The name Chippewa is derived from the name Ojibwa. They also call themselves "Anishinabag" which means original man. They are closely related to the Ottawa and the Cree Indians. They followed the Great Lakes coming from the East, making their first settlement in Wisconsin . The first mention of them in history was through the Jesuit priests in 1640. Many missions were founded in the hopes of converting the natives to Catholicism. Jesuit priest Rene Menard established himself in upper Michigan.

Later came father Claude Allouez and the work continued through the end of the eighteenth century until the priests in the area began to take over. A Protestant effort was begun in1823 by the Methodists.. The majority of the Christian portion of the tribe is Catholic. Just like other western tribes they became allies with the French throughout the colonial period. Through their amicable relations with the French traders they were able to obtain guns that helped claim victory in the many wars that transpired between the Sioux and Foxes whom lived on there West and South.

These wars were responsible for their laying claim to and driving out competitors for the land in the upper Mississippi. They became the lords over the entire State of Michigan , Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota evens into the mountains of North Dakota. They later joined the English against the Americans in the Revolution . The Ojibwa were not farmers because of the cold climate in which they lived. This climate was not conducive to farming and therefore yielded no profits.

They became fishermen and hunters that gathered wild rice, berries maple sugar, plants and hunted for deer, bear, moose ,waterfowl and small game as well as fishing in lakes and streams. These things were plentiful in the area in which they lived. They were also skilled in the use of birch bark in making houses, canoes and other necessities. They lived in rectangular homes or tipi shaped shelters, which they covered with bark. They were champion canoe handlers and remained more in the water than on the land which made them unfamiliar with the horse and the buffalo. In terms of government each Chippewa band was independent.

There were many clans within the bands each having their own war rules, ceremonies and observances. They did not believe in having huge ceremonial gatherings like the tribes that subsisted from the use of the lands for survival. The majority of the bands remain pagan worshipers although much effort was made to convert them to other ways of thinking. by missionaries. The Objibwe way of life for the most part was very self sufficient until the Europeans began their infringements in the form of the taking away more and more of the land and natural resources in violation of treaties and agreements.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century atrocities such as the banning of their religion, the forbiddance of the use of their language and culture and governing themselves has made living very hard for them. They are now experimenting with other means of support such as casino revenues which will has given them back their self-sufficiency, Their first treaty signing with the United States took place in 1785. Unlike many other tribes that were removed in time, they remained stationary.



Miss Indian USA

Due to a number of treaty sales, they are now living on reservations in their home territory. These treaties have led to negative and positive occurrences in the lives of these early "keepers of the earth". A treaty is an agreement so made; specifically, an agreement, league, or contract between two or more nations or sovereigns, or the supreme power of each state; an agreement between two or more independent states as, a treaty of peace; a treaty of alliance. (Webster dictionary)

In 1837 Wisconsin Territorial Governor, Henry Dodge opened negotiations, with a treaty council talking about the cession of Indian land. In this negotiations The Chippewa Bands, Mille Lacs, Fon du Lac, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, St. Croix and Sokaogon, ceded lands to the United States with assurance that there fishing and hunting right remained. Other terms of the treaty were that the United State had to pay fees in money and goods annually. However, the Value of the land was greater then the compensation the Chippewa Indians were given.

And just when they thought their fishing and hunting right were secure the United State reiniged on those terms of the treaty of 1837 revoking those right. There were many cases brought to the State and federal courts contesting the Action of the United States for Violating what they thought were treaty rights. An example of the many cases is the Voigt Decision. The Voigt decision that took place in 1983 Court of Appeals up heal the Chippewa Indians right to hunt and fish ignited a significant amount ofcontroversy causing protests in Northern Wisconsin.
controversy causing protests in Northern Wisconsin.


This particular case started in 1973 when the Chippewa brought made a case against the state of Wisconsin saying the laws enforced by the state put a halt on activities
such as hunting fishing and gathering that was promised to them in the treaty of 1837. When the case was taken to Federal District Court in 1978, the judgement was that according to the treaty of 1854 those rights had been revoked. Therefore the ruling was in the favor of the state. This decision was not final because this case was scene at the Seven Circuit Court of Appeals in 1983,who in turn reversed the decision recognizing that the fishing and hunting rights were neither revoked nor terminated by
the treaty of 1854.

However in order to establish the extent in which the state did have the right to regulate hunting fishing and gathering the case returned to The District Court. Because of the success of this case,
in favor of the Indians, five other bands decided get involved in this lawsuit. The final ruling of 1987 and 1990 were that State had some power to regulate but only with issues of conservation of resources and public health and safety. As a result of this ruling Indians were allotted 50% of resources that's available to harvest. The treaty of 1837 was is broken up into phases. You have Phase I that examine the right stated in the treaty and how they apply to the Chippewa Indians and the States extent of power.

According to the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), in1994 the following
was the ruling in Phase I by the District Court in Minnesota:


1. the treaty right continue to exist today

2. except for commercial timber, the bands can sell the natural resources that they harvest

3. both traditional and modern harvest methods can be used



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