The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter III
Treaty of Saginaw

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Lewis Cass, who became territorial governor after the War of 1812, was instructed to be active in securing the cession of Indian titles. The war had brought many soldiers of the Americans to Michigan. These soldiers knew more about the lands and their possibilities for agriculture than did the surveyor-general, who reported that not more than one acre in one hundred, probably not one in a thousand, of the lands in Michigan would ever be usable for agricultural purposes. A number of these soldiers were mustered out of service at Detroit after the war. Among them was John Hamilton, afterwards a resident of Flint. The demand for land by settlers was insistent. Cass was young, ambitious and resourceful. In 1817 he treated with the Indians and got the northwestern part of Ohio and the northeastern part of Illinois. In 1818 he obtained the cession from the Pottawatomies of the rich valleys of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers. A treaty a year seemed to have been the pace he set for himself, and so in 1819 he begun the preparations for the treaty with the Chippewas for the region about Saginaw bay.

The Chippewas had not received all the pay due them under previous treaties and Cass, realizing the difficulties that would arise if he attempted to crease further obligations which previously incurred ones remained unfulfilled, secured on his own personal responsibility from the banks at Detroit the fund and paid the Indians what was due them. The prize was over six million acres of land, situated around the bay of the Saginaw, accessible and promising great future development. This tract was known to be rich in timber and salt. Its fisheries were attractive and its agricultural wealth untold. The position of the Indians was equivocal. They had fought against the Americans during the war just closed. They could expect no considerations of friendship to protect them. Their title was by conquest and they were now conquered, and the right of the United States had the same sanction as their own. The treaty of Springwells had formally forgiven them their transgressions in the war, but there was nothing of good will behind it and the power of the Americans had been demonstrated. They came into the treaty with a consciousness of the weakness of their own position and of the strength of the government against them.

Cass did not neglect any precautions. He had at his command a staff of the ablest men of the army, men who had great experience with the Indians. His interpreters were men who had passed a life among the Indians and who knew the Indian language as well, in some instances better, then their native tongue. Cass brought into his councils the men who of all were best equipped to estimate and know the wants and weaknesses of the Indians, namely, the traders. These men had been brought into touch with the Indians not as enemies, but as friends, and the friendships that had grown up between these traders and the Indians were assets that Cass did not fail to see and enlist. These men could go as the friends, ostensibly, of the Indians, in reality as the paid agents of the whites; while acting in these dual relations, they could, and as the sequel shows, did, help themselves by reserves, and the knowledge they had made the location of these reserves very desirable.

Joseph Campau was then a trader of great experience, located at Detroit, from which point he traded with the Indians in every direction. A nephew, Louis Campau, had been a trader in the interior of the state, but in 1815 had settled at Saginaw. Jacob Smith, of Detroit, located among the Indians on the Flint river at ne-p-me's town, where Montrose now is, and at Mus-cat-a-wing, the present location of the fifth ward of Flint. He was called Wahbesins, by the Indians. He was a great friend of Ne-o-me, the principal of the four chief of the Pewanigos of the Flint river. Smith had fraternized with these Indians; he had an Indian family and was thus more than a disinterested adviser. He went to the council as the friend of Ne-o-me and his activity and influence were perhaps the most effective factors in determining the trend of the treaty. He afterwards received five hundred dollars from Governor Cass for his services, and the interest that he received from the reserves that his family managed to secure was much more.

Many other white men attended the council. Whitmore Knaggs, an interpreter, whose name is frequently seen on the pages of the early history of Michigan; Henry Connor, Wabeskendip, companion of Cass, and a son of Richard Connor, captive among the Indians; Louis Beaufait, an educated Frenchman and a colonel, who in the early fall of 1818 had followed the old trail out into the vicinity of Genesee county and explored the adjacent country; Col. Louis Godfroy, a trader of experience and an officer of ability; John G. Leib, afterwards judge; Andrew G. Whitney, a young lawyer, afterwards became the attorney-general of the territory; Archibald Lyons, an Indian trader, with his half-breed wife; Henry Riley, the "old man," with two of this three half-breed children, John and James, both of whom received reserves, as did their absent brother Peter; Major John Whipple, of the United states army, who in 1816 kept one of Detroit's five taverns; Capt. Jacob Visger, who with three others had secured from some Indian chief, purporting to represent the Indian owners, the grant of thirteen counties at the rate of about nine dollars a county; William Tucker, called "Tucky" in the Abbott history, an interpreter, the son of the celebrated William Tucker, Sr.; John Hersey, called "Hursen" in the Abbott history, who made the second entry of lands in Oakland county; major Robert A. Forsythe, private secretary to Governor Cass, who afterward drafted the treaty.

The Indians of Genesee were represented by their four chiefs, Ne-o-me, who came from his town in Montrose, with four members of his family; Mix-e-ne-ne, and his squaw and two girls, Taw-cum-e-go-qua and Nah-tun-e-ge-chi-zhic; Ton-e-do-gan-ee, war chief and second to Ne-o-me, and Kaw-ga-ge-zhic, the fourth chief, a younger brother of Ne-o-me and who lived far up the river above Mus-cat-a-wing. These four represented the Pe-wan-i-gos of the Flint river. these Indians had not become so far democratic as to have "head men," but "they all moved together in a mass as their chiefs directed," as was afterwards related by one of them. The government of these four was a family matter, three of the chiefs being brothers and the other a near relative.

The most interesting personage there, the one who in after years caused the greatest litigation and who se identity was a matter for determining the title of a great tract of the city of flint, was the half grown daughter of the chief, Mix-e-ne-ne, Taw-cum-e-go-qua, then about "three feet high' as related by the witnesses in the cause of Dewey vs, Campau, and dressed in a calico skirt, a long dress, pantalets and smoked skin moccasins. She was there with her father's family, and probably "hung on the outskirts of the crowd, timidly," with the women and children, for the most part, except when she was taken by Smith and presented to Cass, as one of the children of his Indian friends for whom he was desirous of providing with a reserve at Mus-cat-a-wing. She did not live at this place, but down the river at Pe-won-I-go-wink, as the reservation came to be known, and was there married.

The Place of the treaty was on the bank of the Saginaw river just below where the present court house of Saginaw county now stands. Louis Campau had, under directions of General Cass, build a council house of some considerable capacity, and also had built a small house, or both, nearer the river for the governor and staff. A dining room and office were also prepared in the trading house of Campau.

In the middle of the council house was a platform of hewn logs raised about a foot from the floor, for the use of the governor and his staff of officials, who attended him. Around this platform were left spaces for the Indians, into which logs had been rolled to form seats. General Cass arrived on September 10, 1819. Very few Indians had come although many had camped in the immediate vicinity. Two vessel, schooner and a sloop, had come up from Detroit with supplies and goods, and a company of the Third United States Infantry, under Capt. C. L. Cass, brother of the governor, had come along as military escort. They anchored in the river opposite the council house. The uncertain attitude of the Indians made this precautionary measure advisable. Campau's trading house was at the service of the governor. Here was a dining room and office. Here in the dining room the private council was held, at a short distance from the grand council house. The various conferences at this place determined the treaty. It was a few days after Cass's arrival before the real sessions of the council commenced. They lasted many days and not until the third day did all the Indians attend. The entire number of Indians of all kinds has been estimated as high as four thousand and as low as fifteen hundred. Of the real councilors of the Indians who finally signed the treaty, the number was one hundred and fourteen--chiefs, head men, braves and warriors. These favored ones were the only ones admitted to the council, the women and children remaining in timid groups around the building awaiting the outcome.

General Cass, knowing the Indian love of ceremony, opened the council with due formality, and then proceeded to inform the Indians of the object of the assembly--that is, the object of his government in calling them together. As stated by him, the desire for the welfare of his red children was the motive of the Great Father at Washington; to promote and perpetrate the friendly relations which had been formally declared at the treaty of Springwells in 1815. He pictured the irresistible advance of the white settler; the pressure they would exercise upon the lands of the red children; the driving our of the game, necessitating a different mode of life; that it was the part of wisdom for the chiefs to lead their people into newer and better ways of living; that they should abandon the old things and should adopt the new; that less dependence should be placed on the precarious hunting and fishing, which often failed to being sustenance, and that more dependence should be placed on the fruits of the earth, to be developed by agriculture on the fertile field to be reserved for the Indians sufficient to meet their needs, and to be selected by the Indians themselves; and that the government was willing to buy their lands at a fair, even a generous price, for the use of the white emigrants who would come among them and live as neighbors and friends.

The Indians heard this un sullen silence. Plainly the agriculture of the white man did not appeal to them. The suggested pressure of the settlers aroused antagonism.

After Knaggs and Connor, the interpreters, had ceased, and an interval of silence had elapsed, O-ge-maw-kete arose and spoke with gravity, but decision. He opposed the proposition of Cass. He was barely twenty one in years, but eloquent and a model of Indian beauty. He was the principal speaker and acknowledged leader of the Indians. Addressing the governor, he said:

"You do not know our wishes. Our people wonder what has brought you so far from your homes. Your young men have invited us to come and light the council fire. We are here to smoke the pipe of peace, but not to sell our lands. Our American Father wants them. Our English Father treats us better; he has never asked for them. Your people pass upon our hunting grounds. You flock to our shores. Our waters grow warm; our land melts like a cake of ice; our possessions grow smaller and smaller; the warm wave of the white man rolls in upon us and melts us away. Our women reproach us. Our children want homes; shall we sell from under them the spot where they speared their blankets? We have not called you here. We smoke with you the pipe of peace."

Others of the chief spoke, among them Michenenanonequet and Kish-kawko--the latter a wily, troublesome person who had come from Canada among the Chippewas of the Saginaw. Here he had, by his ability, attained some considerable influence and, although an interloper, was allowed participation in the council, where by right he had no voice. His vehemence of expression so irritated Cass that he answered with earnestness, reproving the speaker for his arrogance and reminding the Indians that their Great Father at Washington had just terminated a war in which he not only defeated the English king, whom the called their English Father, but also the Indians themselves; that by their hostilities against the Great Father at Washington they had forfeited their lands vby al the rules of warfare, and that he might rightfully rake them without payment of anything, but that he preferred to act magnanimously and pay them for their lands, and at the same time secure to them ample reserves where their women and children could live in security and spread their blankets, receive aid from their Great Father and be taught to make the soil productive.

With this the council closed for the day, followed by a period of conferences--the Indians among themselves, the traders with the Indians, and the traders with the commissioners. Intrigues, threats and advices, all governed by the interests of the parties, filled the interim between the meetings of the council. A day, two, three, passed, during which the Indians smoked and counselled together, as told by the governor, but from all their deliberations, there resulted nothing definite. One baleful influence was removed, however, Kish-kaw-ko, the vehement Indian from Canada, consoled himself by drink, and after the first day's council became too besotted to participate.

If left to the Indians themselves, the council would have been barren of results for Cass. They continued to be silently opposed to any cession of lands. But here the power of the traders was felt. Smith in particular influenced Ne-o-me, who is described by Campau as an ignorant, but kind and well-meaning man. Not only was he powerful with the Pewanigo chief, but he was personally acquainted with about every chief present, each of whom had some act of kindness on his part to remember. He had entertained them and in their need had given them something to aid them. With Ne-o-me it was more. It was a brotherhood in which the Indian recognized his brother Wahbesins as his wiser counsellor. Smith had a tent and Ne-o-me was with him daily. Smith, seeing that the cause of the Indians was desperate, was determined to help his friends and set about securing such reservations as he could for those in whom he was especially interested. Ne-o-me candidly said, as related by Nau-gun-nee, "I know not what to do in the case," and put it into Smith's hands to secure for his family such benefits as he could. Smith accepted the commission and thenceforth used his good offices for the benefit of his friends. So the council seemed to be dead-locked, until word came to Ne-p-me, through Whitmore Knaggs, the interpreter, that the wishes of Wahbesins should be acceded to. Then did Ne-o-me oppose the purpose of the Indians, as expressed by Ogemawkete in council. The dominant influence of Ne-o-me soon brought abut a change in the attitude of the Indians. Beaufait and Campau had also been working along lines similar with Smith's. they, too, had friend to be provided for and they too received promises.

The second assembly of the council found a more receptive representation of Indians. Cass, also, had waived the matter of removing the Indians beyond the Mississippi. At this council there was a great deal of discussion, but it referred to matters of detail, rather than main issues. These had been disposed of by the negotiations in the interval between the two grand councils. Among these it had been agreed that eleven reserves of six hundred and forty acres each should be made at the Grand Traverse of the Flint, to be given to as many Indians by name, such names to be handed in by Smith. At this second council all was adjusted, and its adjournment was only to give time for drafting the treaty preparatory to signing, which was reserved for the last grand council.

It is said in the Abbott history that the talents and powers of Smith would seem to have suggested to Cass his employment as interpreter and negotiator for the government, and that the fact that Cass did not so employ him implied a distrust of Smith. It would, however, seem that some arrangement existed between Cass and smith, and that the course was evidence of Cass's astuteness. Smith as an open employee of the United States would have lost much of his influence with the Indians, which bore such good results. It is very significant tht Cass paid Smith afterwards five hundred dollars for his service at the council. The conclusion is quite justified that he was there from the first as the paid agent of Cass, while ostensibly wholly on the side of the Indians.

The last day of the grand council, on which the treaty was to be signed, was the greatest of all. The council house was crowded with Indians, all being admitted, to the full capacity of the building. While the treaty purports to be between the United States of America and the Chippewa nation of Indians, there were present, and participating, a number of Ottawas, some of whom signed the treaty. Military pomp and ceremony attended the signing. First, Lewis Cass, as commissioner of Indian affairs, signed the document. Next, one hundred and fourteen Indians, being the chief's head men and warriors of the Chippewas of the Saginaw, signed the same. The name of Ne-o-me, signed by another, appeared as Reaune. The totem signs of the Indian generally appears accompanied by the name written by the secretary. The subscribing witnesses were Secretary Lieb and Whitney; Forsyth, private secretary of Governor Cass; Captains Cass and Root; Lieutenant Peacock; Godfroy, Knaggs, Tucker, Beaufait, Hersey, interpreters; John Hill, army contractors; A. E. Lacock,. Richard Smythe, John Smythe B. Head, Conrad Ten-Eyck and Louis Dequindre. This last grand council at which the treaty was signed as above was September 2, 1819, a memorable day whose centennial anniversary ought to be observed fittingly, as it was one of the most dramatic events of our history.

The testimony of Louis Campau, the trader, given at the trial of the Dewey-Campau case at Saginaw in1860, is worthy of preservation as the sworn account of the treaty in question, and as bearing upon the family of Ne-o-me and the Indians of Mus-cat-a-wing. He said, "I live at Grand rapids; am sixty-eight years old last August. I remember the treaty of 1819. I then resided here. I had then resided here four year before the treaty. I was then trading with the Indians. Joseph, one of the defendants, is my uncle. I had a trading house; this was opposite of the lower end of the bayou; the house now there I built in 1822; it was farther up that my store was. I was here at the treaty. There was old Mr. Riley, Connor, Beaufait, Knaggs, Godfrey, Whipple, Visger, Forsyth, Tucker, Hersey, and a half-breed named Walker, brought from Mon-a-qua-gon. I have seen the treaty and know the witnesses without looking at the treaty book. If any of those are alive it must be Mr. Hersey; I heard this summer that he was alive; I saw him in 1836 in Chicago; we traded then together; think he is the only one living. I was requested by Cass to come on ahead and make suitable provision for a store house and dinging room and council room, etc. The most of the business was at General Cass's office, going in and going out. There was a long table in the dining room, and the private council was held there. The office and the dining room were separated only by a storehouse. There were four log buildings all together, end to end. These were six to right rods from the room where the grand council room was. I think Cass arrived in the afternoon, and sent his agents for the Indians to gather next morning at ten o'clock. This was after all the departments got here--all the principal officers had got here. The next morning they met at the council house. The first council was to let them know that he was sent by the Great Father to make a treaty with them, that he wanted to buy their lands, stating the points, and for them to go back and smoke and think about it; they then worked at private business for three or four days, when he called them together again. After he got the will of the principal chiefs, there was much trouble to get the consent of all. At the second council there was great difficulty; hard words; they threatened General Cass among the rest. The object of the council after they consented to treat, was to state the terms on which he was authorized to treat. From the second to the third council was five or six days. They stayed nine or ten in all. The last council was to read the treaty to them; it was read and interpreted to them. Harry Connor was the interpreter. I was present at the last council; went in the morning, and did not leave until they all left. I cannot tell everything that was done there, for it is impossible to recollect them all. Tribal reservations were first made. General Cass sat at the northeast corner of the shanty; the table was next to him, then a row of logs, and beyond that the Indians--women, children and all. Then after the reservations for the tribes were made, the reservations were made for the half-breeds--first the Riley's, then a Campau, and then mentioned Mrs. Coutant; she was right opposite General Cass, and Connors when reading the treaty pointed her to the Indians as their relative, and when her name was said they responded as though pleased. After the treaty was read and approved by the Indians and signed by them, which was as soon as read, General Cass ordered the money to be brought to the table--it was all in half dollars--for the payment. After the treaty was made, it was sundown, and the Indians all got drunk and nothing could be said by anyone, and General Cass gave the order to be off. The Crow was a good looking fellow--looked like a half-breed; he has a little log house and a store house and a hen house, and tried to imitate the whites as much as he could in cooking, etc. He had a tent he made himself. I knew Ne-o-me and his band after the treaty; knew him well; he traded with me as long as I sold here. Knew Ne-o-me before the treaty from the time I came here in the spring of 1815' knew his hunters; he never had any children that I know of; I paid no attention to any of them unless they were able to trade with us. Ne-o-me was very ignorant, but he was very good, honest and kind. I knew Ton-dog-a-ne well, as well as I knew Ne-o-me; he was the second chief pot Ne-o-me at the time, and afterwards head chief. I knew all the head men of the band who was a hunter; heard them after the treaty converse about the treaty, and Mix-e-ne-ne; also he used to trouble me. I understood the Chippewa language at that time; I was brought up with them from the time I was seven years old. I was sixty-eight last August. I was never in the office; I was in the council room from four in the morning till the evening, and this is a statement of the facts as they took place before my eyes, as I was there after the treaty was signed, and the goods and money distributed, and the Indians were all drunk. Cass and his party left before daylight next morning; the troops before ten o'clock. At the time of the treaty there was no Flint village where Flint is now. Where Ne-o-me lived was called Ne-o-me's village. Where Flint now is was called Musca-da-win. The English called it Grand Traverse. Ne-o-me was a short tick-set man, a little stooped at the time of the treaty' he must have been forty to fifty-five years old."

According to Kaw-ga-ge-zhic, brother of Ne-o-me, also a chief of a band about six miles up the river from the village of Flint, at "Tobosh's" trading house, Ne-o-me was the principal orator at the treaty.

Me-o-me lived at his village, Ne-o-me town, on the reservation in the present town of Montrose until his death, in 1827. He was the last to exercise the real powers and prerogatives of a chief over the Chippewas of our county. His territories had diminished, his people had decreased in numbers, and their old customs had been lost. He outlived his good friend Smith by about two years. In his earlier years he had all the fierceness and blood lust of the wild Chippewas, and extorted a large ransom for a white captive that he had taken, James Hardin, in the war, whom his brother, Mix-e-ne-ne was determined on torturing. Like the Chippewas in general, he was a believer in evil spirits, Munesons, the spirits of the departed Sauks, who still haunted the valleys of the Saginaw and Pewanigowink. The law of retaliation was recognized by the Chippewas, and what could be more natural then that the ghosts of these murdered Sauks should come back to retaliate upon the Chippewas. Ne-o-me, if we credit Campeau's estimate of his age at the time of the treaty of Saginaw, was not much over sixty at the time of his death. He left children and grandchildren. A brother was alive to testify in the Dewey suit in1860. His name was Kaw-ga-ge-zhic. Ne-o-me's daughter, Sa-gos-a-qua, also testified in that suit, and identified Taw-cum-e-go-qua as the daughter of Mix-e-ne-ne. This daughter of ne-o-me was the same for whom one of the six-hundred-and-forty-acre reservations was made at Flint.

Ephraim S. Williams, of Flint, many years after the treaty of Saginaw told the following story: The Indians of the Saginaw had become indebted to Louis Campau, who had traded among them for four years prior to the treaty in the sum of fifteen huddled dollars, and there was an understanding between him and the chiefs that he should receive this money from the funds that might become due to the Indians on account of the treaty. General Cass was also informed of this agreement, and at the time when the money was brought in he called the attention of the chiefs to the matter, and asked if he might pay Campau the sum due in accordance with the understanding. They told him that they were his children, under his protection, and that he should pay the money to them directly, which Cass accordingly did. This attitude of the Indians was by Campau charged to the influence of the other traders, Smith in particular, who, anticipating a harvest of traffic when the Indians came into their money, were adverse to seeing so much of it go to Campau. Smith had, through Kiskkawko and others chiefs of the Indians, very easily persuaded the Indians that their present needs were more imperative then the payment of old debts. Campeau, seeing his money lost, hopped from the platform and struck Smith twice in the face; but further fighting between him and Smith, who was quite willing to fight it out, was stopped by the interpreters, Beaufait and Connor, who interposed and separated the belligerents.

The traders, interpreters and other pacificed the Indians family and they returned to sleep off the effects of their debauch. After they had entirely recovered from the same, they were both tractable and amiable--so ,much so that after the governor and his staff had left, they sent the orator, Mishenenanonequet, to overtake and convey to the governor their compete satisfaction and pleasure at the council and resulting treaty.

The pertinent provisions of the treaty were as follows:

Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Saginaw, in the Territory of Michigan, between the United States of America, by this commissioner, Lewis Cass and the Chippewa Nation of Indians.

Art. 1. The Chippewa Nation of Indians, in consideration of the stipulations herein made on the part of the United States, do hereby, cede to the United States the land comprehended within the following lines and boundaries: Beginning at a point in the present Indian boundary line, which now runs due north from the mouth of the great Auglaize river, six miles south of the place where the base line so called, intersects the same; thence west sixty miles; thence in a direct line to the head of Thunder Bay river; thence down the same, following the courses thereof, to the mouth; thence northeast to the boundary line between the United States and the British province of Upper Canada; thence with the same, to the line established by the treaty of Detroit, in the year one thousand eight hundred and seven; thence with said line to the place of beginning.

Art. 2. From the cession aforesaid, the following tracts of land shall be reserved for the use of the Chippewa Nation of Indians.

* * * * * * *

One tract of five thousand and seven hundred and sixty acres, upon Flint river, to include Reaume's village, and a place called Kishkawbawee

Act. 3. There shall be reserved for the use of each of the persons hereinafter mentioned and their heirs, which persons are all Indian by decent, the following tracts of land.

* * * * * * *

For the use of Nowokeshik, Metawanene, Mokitchenoqua, Nondashemau, Petaconaqua, Messawakut, Chebalk, Kitchegeequa, Sagasequa, Annekeltogua and Tawcumegoqua, each six hundred and forty acres of land, to be located at or near the Grand Traverse of the Flint river, in such manner as the President of the United States may direct.

Art. 4. In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States agrees to pay to the Chippewa Nation of Indians annually, forever, the sum of one thousand dollars in silver, and do also agree tht all annuities due by any former treaty to the said tribe, shall be hereafter paid in silver.

Art. 5. The stipulation contained in the treaty of Greenville, relative to the right of the Indians to hunt upon the land ceded, while it continues the property of the United States, shall apply to this treaty, and the Indians shall, for the same term enjoy the privilege of making sugar upon the same land, committing no unnecessary waste upon the trees.

* * * * * * *

Art. 7. The United States reserves the right to the proper authority to make roads through any part of the land reserved by this treaty.

Art. 8. The United States engage to provide and support a blacksmith for the Indians, at Saginaw, so long as the President of the United States may think proper, and to furnish the Chippewa Indians with such farming utensils and cattle, and to employ such persons to aid them in their agriculture as the President may deem expedient.

The names of the Indians who signed this treaty included the name, "Reaume," meant for ne-o-me, and the village referred to as Reaume's village, was the village of Ne-o-me. Mis-e-ne-ne, brother of Ne-o-me, also appears on the treaty as "Fonegawne," and Kaw-ga-ge-zhic appears as "Kog-kakeshik."

Of the eleven reserves made for persons named, "all Indians by descent," six are names of women, as the ending, "qua" the Chippewas word meaning woman, denotes. The other five are masculine names in the same language.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

You are the 8587th Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since June 1, 2002.